Monday, August 31, 2015

Thrive by letting go of comparisons and toxic load

I’m 33 years old, and in all these years, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been compared to someone else. Someone, who as per the person comparing, is better than me, brighter than me, smarter than me, friendlier than me, calmer than me. Someone who emails more/calls less or more/ watsapps or doesn’t/is a better friend/ more balanced/ far more wiser.

That someone, who like any of us has his/her own set of strengths but also his/her own satchel of weaknesses, but in that golden haze of comparison takes on the halo of an angel and the magic of a gnome. That someone(s) who is (are) just as different from me than a butterfly from a caterpillar, than chalk from cheese, than a dog from a cat.


So, how do these comparisons affect me? Well, till a handful of years ago, these comparisons were like poison-edged darts that not only split open my skin, but also the metaphorical wounds that were bloody and deep. They made me feel like I shouldn’t ever have been born. That I’d rather be someone else than me. That really, if the person making the comparison said so, then I really must be a mutant, with more flaws than the craters on the moon.  That I wasn’t as good as others. Or rather, good enough.

I felt small and humiliated. Weak and insufficient. But most of all, I felt guilty. I was filled with a kind of guilt that’s viscous and sticky like honey. That kind of guilt that makes you want to shed your own skin and be someone else totally. That kind of guilt that you don’t know how to get over.

I plotted and planned of ways to morph myself into that someone that others were always comparing me to. I wondered how I could, like a chameleon, take on the golden qualities of those people. Of how I could be anyone but me.

But not anymore.

The comparisons still flock my way, every now and then, though a little less than more.

I still seem insufficient to some. But I don’t let them undermine who I am. Not anymore. I don’t let those casually flung statements and candy-wrapped comparisons cut me up like they used to.

Yes, they still sting. They still remind me of the reams of comparisons that tied me up in tight knots once upon a time. But now, I let them go.

Now, after all these years of walking through fire and letting my inner steel emerge, I let those who compare go and I let the comparisons go. After almost a decade of living with a partner, who accepts me totally for who I am, who never judges me or loads me up with his expectations, I’ve let the wounds heal and I’ve learnt to be in my own skin. And not just be, but flourish and nurture everything that makes me who I am.

Nothing and nobody, I’ve realized, is worth that much of pain and self doubt and toxicity. 

If someone can’t accept me (or you) for who I am or how I am, when in all honesty, I’m accepting them for who they are with their scars and eccentricities, then, it’s really not worth trying. There are so many more positive things to aspire for in this life of ours that crowding them with someone else’s expectations is so not worth our time. It’s so not worth our effort, and so not good for our soul.

If you enjoyed reading this post, and would like to join my tribe, here's where you can head to: the Facebook Page.

#thrive

Friday, July 24, 2015

A box of books & a simple way you can help!

Hello there! I hope you’ve had a good week. I’ve finally got my sliver of time at the laptop while the little boy’s out on a car ride with his dad.

So picking up where we left off last week, let me just fill you up on an update on the books for underprivileged children project. I’ve been talking to people around, thinking things over. And this is what’s come out of this week’s think through and brainstorming: a name for the project and a small tweak.


Image credit: Image Fiesta

The tweak is this: If you remember, last week I’d mentioned that I’m trying to set up a reading room in my garage; a place where underprivileged kids can assemble five times a week, for an hour or two to read and flip through storybooks. But because I live at a military base where there are a myriad of rules and regulations, and an equally long list of do’s and don’ts, the ‘reading room’ terminology may just drag the whole project down.

So, instead, I’d like to shape this idea into a more portable, more doable project. Instead of a reading room, this will be a box of books. A wooden box filled with gently used children’s books, which will be brought out every weekend for an hour or two for all those kids who’d like to step into the world of stories. There’ll also be a storytelling session or two, and art workshops every other weekend (all for Free!).

Image credit: Scholastic

And this brings us to the name for the project: Box of Books! Three little words that roll out the story of what this initiative is all about. A weekend treat. A box filled with stories. Magic worlds within the covers of a books. A portable library.  

Whatd’ya think?

And I’ll be very grateful for any of you, who donate their gently-used children’s books and magazines to fill up this box. Storybooks, picture books, alphabet books, children’s magazines and travel magazines are all welcome and will find a place in the box and in the hands of eager little children.


Please mail be at chandanabanerjee30@gmail.com or reach me at my Facebook page, if you’d like to send a few books over.
Thank you!

#booksforkids #bookbox #boxofbooks



Sunday, July 19, 2015

Books, kids and a call for help!

In my last post, I mentioned that I’ve been thinking of ways to help others. With my time, resources and ideas. With a portion of my finances.

And the whole thing, this embryo of an idea has blossomed into a little project. A project to make a tiny bit of difference to the lives of the children in a locality in Adampur, Punjab. For now, let me lay out Part A of this project.

I am starting a Reading Room for underprivileged children right in my garage. With books that I have bought and with books that I hope you will be able to send over. Used books. Well-loved books. New books. Books that your children have loved and read and thumbed through several times. Books that have been gathering dust on your shelf. Books that may land up in the junk some day. Books that you may want to buy and send over for these kids (I can send a list).


I’m looking for storybooks and picture books. In English and Hindi. Second-hand encyclopedias and comic books. Amar Chitra Kathas, Champak and Chandama magazines. Old issues of travel magazines (Outlook Traveller, Lonely Planet, to name a few). All of these will be very welcome in this little reading room.

The children who’ll come here will be anywhere between 5 years of age to 13 years of age. All of these are children who go to schools but do not have the spare cash to spend on storybooks – a world that’s still elusive and out-of-reach for them. Their mothers work as domestic helps and their fathers as gardeners, rickshaw drivers, laborers.

The Reading Room will be open for 5 days a week, an hour in the evenings on school days, and more hours over the weekends and school holidays. It’ll be a place where they can look at bright storybooks and thumb through stories. We’ll also have art and theatre workshops in the Reading Room during school holidays.
But for right now, we are looking for books to place on the shelves of the reading room.

Image credit: Bernie's Book Bank

If you’d like to help (and I hope you will!), this is what you can do:

Send us picture books and storybooks that your kids have outgrown

Send us second-hand encyclopedias and atlases

Send us comic books (like Amar Chitra Katha) and children’s magazines (Champak, Chandamama)

Buy a few new children’s books (I can provide a list if you like) and send it over

Gift a children’s magazine subscription

Send us your old issues if travel magazines

Help spread the word by texting/emailing/telling your friends about this Reading Room project.

*Reading material can be in English or Hindi.

Please email me at chandanabanerjee30@gmail.com if you want to help send books for this Reading Room.
If you want to reach me on Facebook, please head over here.

#readingroom #donatebook #booksforkids #bookbank


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Hello! I'm coming up for air...

Hello! How have you been? It’s been months since I’ve been able to hop onto the blog. Life happened. I’ve been toiling away at another job, a job that’s rewarding but all-consuming and often exhausting. It’s been chipping away at my own reserves of patience and vibrance, getting me to push my own boundaries and buttons.

Warning: This is may turn out to be a rant, a much needed one. 



The active and adorable toddler at play...

After months of giving it my all with hardly any time to come up for air, to replenish my ‘well’, I’m wondering how to fit my own passions and aspirations into this rigorous 24 x 7 schedule of taking care of an active 2-year-old on almost a single-parenting position (I say almost because while I have a wonderful husband, his work defending the boundaries of the nation keeps him away from home most of the time).

Pegged back into the ancient role of the one who stays back in the cave, gathering food and looking after the children while the man goes out to hunt, I’m torn between what I need to give of myself to this phase of life and what I want to do. While I’m grateful for each day with my son, I’m also feeling all bound up with the needs and nature of a toddler who always and always needs to be in the same orbit as his mum, clinging to her pyjamas, tugging at her arm, howling away to be picked up, and waking up crying from his nap/sleep when I nip off for a few minutes to attend to another short task. And he howls even harder if I even think of getting a babysitter for a couple of hours, so I can get some work done.

All along I’ve known this – I need to replenish my reserves and nourish my own interests so I can be a better mother. I guess there might be others who can be the most cheerful moms without refueling themselves, but I surely need a healthy dose of time for myself to function well, to give my best to my family, to be a the person I’m supposed to be.

But strangely, between the grueling schedule of my husband’s work and my toddler’s need to have his mother beside him ALL the time, there’s nothing left for me. Not even a stray scrap of time. Just stolen moments, from here and there to read a book or glance at the many e-courses I’ve signed up for.

There are days when I’m ready to explode, to disintegrate into a million pieces, to fade into oblivion. Then there are days when I’m able to reign in all that yearning to write and study and nurture myself with just a beacon of hope that someday soon I’ll get some time to be. That someday I’ll get back to an active writing life, one hour at a time. That someday I’ll re-launch my health coaching business. That someday I’ll be able to go to the bathroom without an audience. That someday I’ll be able to cook a meal without someone howling near my knees. That someday I can wake up early in the morning to do yoga and write my blog without a 1-foot tall person scrambling up from his sleep and crying for me.

But within this chaotic phase, within the span of early motherhood, this is what I’ve been able to fit in, one tiny bit at a time:

I’ve been reading a LOT. Fiction and non-fiction. Children's books and my own books. 

I’ve been doing coloring pages for grown-ups. It’s been therapeutic and lovely to be indulging my love for colors.

I’ve been studying online sitting next to my napping toddler.

I’ve been gardening with my toddler, planting veggies and tending to indoor plants.

I’ve been cooking and baking a lot (with a lot of tugging at my pyjamas and bouts of howling).

I’ve been dreaming of ways to fit in microvolunteering and helping those around me.

What have the past months been like for you?


#motherhood #toddler

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

How to make your own lip balm (and where to source the ingredients from)

I’ve been on a quest to de-toxify our home and find natural, eco-friendly alternatives for some of our lifestyle choices. But let me be honest - I’m not a thorough eco-warrior who has banned plastic totally from her life, cloth diapers her child all the time, grows all her food or eats only organic food, has given up make-up or become totally minimalistic.

I’ve chosen the middle path, which marries some of the conveniences of urban, modern life with some of the wisdom of old-fashioned, DIY, natural living. For now, this works for us.

And this is what the middle path looks like on most days: we cloth diaper our son a few times a day but use disposables too; we grow a small portion of what we eat and source a large portion from the local market; we’re slowly exchanging the toxin-laden home cleaning products for homemade cleaners that are just as effective (a post with recipes on that soon). We compost our kitchen waste and make our own wrapping paper instead of buying the shimmery plastic ones.

We’ve still not given up on our plastic utensils, but are also using more of steel and glass in the kitchen. We try to recycle old plastic bags and carry cloth bags while shopping. And, I’m trying to make some of our body care products – body butters, ‘talcum’ powder, lip balms, mosquito repellents, hand sanitizers and toothpaste. (In case you're wondering why I'm doing this of all things - here's what's in our commercial cosmetics.)

If you’ve been trying to add a dash of green into your life and some of these things have piqued your interest, then you might like to give this recipe a whirl. How ‘bout making your own lip balm and ditching those jars of petroleum jelly or tiny pots of store-bought lip balm?

Our homemade, non-toxic, essential oil-infused lip balm

I do love my Lavender Lip Balm (I’ve adapted the recipe from 'My Buttered Life’). It’s nourishing, soothing and natural. It’s easy to make and takes a small sliver of your Sunday to whip some up.

What you need:
30 gm of Beeswax
30 gm of Shea Butter
30 gm of Coconut Oil
10 drops of Lavender Essential Oil (or an essential oil of your choice)
You’ll also need some small containers to store the lip balm in – I recycle old lip balm containers
A saucepan and a pot

Method:
Before you start, set up all the ingredients on your kitchen counter. Make sure you have everything at hand.

Grate the Shea butter and the Beeswax with a cheese grater, and keep aside.

Now fill up the pot with water and bring it to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to low.

Drop all the ingredients except the essential oil into the saucepan and place it over the hot water. Stir with a wooden ladle when the ingredients begin to melt and meld together. (Don’t let the mixture bubble and boil).

When the Shea butter, Beeswax and coconut oil have turned into a pool of golden liquid, add the essential oil, give it a quick stir and take it off the heat.

Pour into the containers and let it cool.

Label the containers and use J.

P.S. When I wrote about making your own body butter, a lot of you asked me where I source the raw materials from (in India). I buy the shea butter, beeswax and cocoa butter from Ekta Singh of Green Junction. And I highly recommend her products; do check her Facebook page out.

P.P.S. I found the Story of Cosmetics very interesting. It gives you something to think about, right?

Do join the conversation at my Facebook page!

#naturalliving #diycosmetics #safecosmetics

Saturday, May 9, 2015

7 reasons why I love the sari so much

I’ve been wearing saris avidly for the past 6-7 years.

Summer, the season of Kota Dorias

Before that, I’d wear this 6-yards of unstitched garment once in a while, for the thrill of standing out amongst a sea of business suits or because that’s what the dress code (of the formal military parties) demanded. And it was always a tussle to rig-up this garment, do the pleats, and make sure that I didn’t trip on a bit of sari that hadn’t been tucked-up to the right length. 

Fumble. Stumble. Bumble. Three little words that captured the essence of my sari wearing efforts.

But how and when this transformation happened...this change from viewing the sari as a costume to be rigged up occasionally to loving it for its fluidity and grace, and wearing it as often as I could, still leaves me a bit hazy around the edges.

Here I am in one of my favorite Kota doria saris

So, what is it that I love so much about the sari? What is it that’s getting urban Indian women to open their sari closets just when the dust was beginning to settle in? What is it about this unstitched garment that’s slipping a hint of romance back into everyday dressing?

Here are my reasons:

1. The sari makes you feel like a queen, even on an ordinary day, in an ordinary life situation. You may be in a pastel chiffon or in a breezy cotton sari, walking to work / having coffee with a friend / sitting in your home office working on another deadline / picking up your child from school – but just this ream of fabric can make you feel regal & beautiful. Strange as it may sound, but it does help you see the beauty in your day, the beauty in yourself.

2. The sari stands out. Sometimes, not in a very positive way, especially if you’re amidst a group of people who believe that a pair of pants is more modern, more stylish than a sari (I’ve heard plenty of comments in that genre). But it also stands out in a good way, especially now, when urban Indian women are re-discovering their saris. Choosing to wear a sari sets you apart.

Red's the color of love - a wine red jute silk sari

3. Sari-wearing gets better with time. The more you wear it, the more comfortable it gets on your skin. The more you love it. The more you reach for it. With every sari you wear, your confidence in dressing up in the garment grows. It begins to show in the way you stand tall, the way you walk, the way you carry yourself and that sari you’re wearing. It also shows in the way you accessorize it, the confidence with which you style it. This is what I like about it the most – the ongoing banter with style and the sari.

4. The sari is a good conversation starter. Almost every time I wear a sari, it sparks off a conversation. Often about the sari I’m wearing, and sometimes about why I’m wearing a sari when a pair of pants could have been an easier option. But almost always, a sari will start off a conversation.

This one's a serene & soft chanderi cotton silk sari

5. There is so much beauty, and so much choice in a sari. I still can’t understand when people complain about the sari, saying it’s boring and that it lacks variety when it comes to style. If there’s one thing it’s not, thats boring. Every handloom sari on this planet is different. The fabric of each sari is different, so is the color, texture, story, weave. You can wear it in different ways or style it differently. There’s an abundance of choice right there in your sari closet. And so much beauty. Honestly, there’s no other piece of clothing I find more beautiful than 6 yards of story, woven one thread at a time on a loom. The sari is more than a garment; it’s a craft, and it’s a piece of history.

6. You can never go wrong or look ‘wrong’ in a sari. Whatever be the occasion – formal parties, office meetings, work-at-home deadlines, dinners out or a trip to the mall – you can wear a sari without an apology, without thinking if you’re in the right attire. In the same breath, you can’t go wrong with your look in a sari. You don’t have to worry about sucking in your tummy or checking if the buttons of the shirt aren’t popping out. You don’t have to worry if you’re slim enough or too chubby for a sari. You’re always just right for the sari.

An easy-to-wear Garden Chiffon sari

7. The sari’s gentle on you. It’s forgiving in many ways (you may not like to wear a sari, but it’ll still make you look good when you wear one; it hides your physical imperfections - or what you perceive as imperfections). It makes you more forgiving of yourself. It makes you feel good whenever you wear a sari. And, believe it or not, it often brings out the best in you.

What do you love about the sari? Drop in for some sari banter at my Facebook page.

#100sareepact #sari #saree #saristyle


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What I've been reading online

I just realized that I haven’t shared some of my favorite online reads for quite some time. Not that I haven’t been reading online much – in fact, far from it. But for a very long time, I haven’t stumbled across any new blogs or websites that had me excited.

Just yesterday, while scrolling through some posts, I came across this lovely lovely (intentional repetition) blog, which is like a balm for a mother’s soul. 

photo credit: samuel zeller

It’s like a cup of coffee brewed just the way you like it. It’s like a book and a sliver of solitude just when you need it the most. And I love the name too – Coffee + Crumbs. A plate of warm cake, wolfed down and savored with a mug of your favorite coffee. Now that’s the kind of place I like to curl up in and read words that are equal parts wise and warm. So, go on over.

In the span of the same day, I came across another blog and it’s offering of e-magazines that I can’t wait to download and read. It’s about a topic that I dig – Creativity and finding creativity in your current phase of life. For me, this last bit is very important, this tailoring of creativity and toning down of aspirations. Of trying to fit in colors and words, dreams and designs into a life that’s already crammed with the needs and wants of a small human being. It’s a lot like slipping in a handwritten note or a watercolor doodle into a bottle and then letting the waves of life, the currents of today, take it wherever it may. Here’s the blog – Crafting Connections and here’s the e-magazine I can’t wait to download.

And now for a post that ties all of this together. Motherhood and words. Dreams and what you can do now. I have been reading Jamie Martin’s words for the past many months, sometimes in the form of her ebooks, sometimes in the form of blog posts. And I like her steady wisdom, her practicality, her serenity. Here’s a post that spoke out to me with its message just when I needed it the most. It reminds me all over again that it’s okay to do what you when you can in this season of motherhood.

What are you reading these days? Join the conversation on my Facebook page.

#blogs

Saturday, May 2, 2015

How to make your own body butter to nourish your skin this summer

Summer’s on a gallop. The sun’s turning up its heat and we’re already dreading the next few months. It’s at times like this when I crave a little bit of homemade comfort and nourishing. And what better than making a few body care products at home with the freshest of ingredients, all of which are pure and toxin-free.
Summer’s a tricky time – we need to stay moisturized without feeling oily and sticky. 

Homemade body butter whipped up in out own kitchen...

So, when this fiery month comes knocking on our door, it’s time to pack the thick, warming olive oil that we’d been slathering through the cold months and bring out a jar of something that’s luxurious yet non-sticky, moisturizing yet non-oily.

Here at the Bear home (sometimes we’re fondly known as the Three Bears ;-)), we’ve made jars of body butter out of cocoa butter, shea butter and coconut oil, and have been using this as our go-to skincare solution. 



If you’d like to make some for yourself – a jar of pure goodness minus the parabens and the plethora of toxins, here’s the recipe. (We've adapted this recipe from the 'My Buttered Life' ebook series)

Ingredients:
Shea butter – 220 gm
Cocoa butter – 110 gm
Coconut oil – 110 gm

Method:
1. In a double boiler, gently melt the ingredients till they’ve melded into a molten golden liquid. Stir with a wooden spoon.
2. Take this mixture off the heat and cool to room temperature. After that, pop this mixture into the refrigerator for a couple of hours till it solidifies.
3. Pull out the mixture from the fridge and whip it with a mixer till its light and fluffy.
4. Scoop it into your containers and use it to nourish your skin during the long summer months.

And then...use a scoop of luxurious butter to treat your skin every day :-).

#naturalbodycare #greenliving

Thursday, April 30, 2015

What I’ve been up to lately (retiring the 'shoulds' & going back to school)


So, I’ve been gone again. Yes, yes, I hear you (the voice in my head). I should be more regular as a blogger. I should work on reaching out to more people in the virtual world. I should plan my posts in advance. I should freelance more. I should do more.

The shoulds that march through our head like a ticker tape. The shoulds that tie us up in knots and weigh us down with our own expectations. The shoulds that are better left behind ‘coz aren’t we already doing whatever we can in our current phase of life!

After lots of thinking and soul searching, I’ve decided to let the shoulds be. For now.

I am doing all I can in this phase as a mom-with-a-turbo-toddler + Air Force wife (yes, let’s not forget that ‘coz this changes the entire definition of one’s job). Besides my primary job of being the sole caregiver 6 days a week, I’ve been trying to slot in some studies on the side.

A degree in yoga. A stint at a culinary school. A workshop in personal styling.

While each of these are as different and diverse as can be, they give my gray cells a good workout. I love the varied skills I’m picking up, some of these are things that I’ve been wanting to learn for a long time.
The yoga’s not only getting me back into shape lovingly, it’s making me stay grounded and calm (well, most of the time).

It’s at the online culinary school that I’m learning to hone my knife skills as well as my other kitchen skills, one simple instructional video at a time. My aim is to be more self-sufficient in the kitchen and more efficient at prepping/cooking (yeah, impressing others with my food has never been the idea!).

And the style workshop? I’ve been fascinated with discovering our own personal style since I gave birth and didn’t know how to create my own style in this new avatar (read: chubbier). I’ve realized since then that style is a lot about embracing the body we have and wearing what we have with flair. I’ve also been totally besotted with saris and styling the sari to give it a place of honor in the urban Indian arena. I’m just taking this interest a step further by learning from a professional stylist in Portugal, Lena Penteado. I’m also hoping that with this skill, I’ll be able to help my health coaching clients better.

So whenever I get a spare moment between mothering, I pop into one of these online schools or roll out my yoga mat for some learning.

I’m not sure how much time that’ll leave me with for blogging (I’m hoping to get some writing done on weekends when my husband’s home). But I’ll pop in every now and then to write and chat and say hello. I’m still going to write about saris, green living and about my life. But I may not be able to commit to a timetable.

For now, for this season of life, I’ll embrace this saying, “Do what you can, when you can.”

#lifeasmom #backtoschool

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Summer Sari in the Workplace - 7 tips to help you take your sari from the wardrobe to the workplace with confidence

We’re back with another post from the Summer Sari Series. Saris and summer, they belong to each other, irrespective of all those myths and notions we swathe this concept in (“I can’t wear a sari when it’s muggy and hot – it adds to the discomfort!”).


Photo credit: Byloom

And the sari can serve you just as well at the workplace when the season turns up its heat. Whether you work a 9 to 9 job in a 2 by 2 cubicle, you hunt down stories in the villages of India, you work your craft in a home studio or you spend your day in a classroom, a sari can bring a good dollop of style, professionalism and comfort within the cottony folds of its fabric.

So, here are a few ways to wear it to your workplace, wherever that may be.

1. Choose fabrics that don’t crinkle up in a snap. I prefer Kota dorias, Chanderi cotton silks, Maheshwari cottons and Garden chiffons over the crispest of Bengal cottons for the days when I have to spend my days traveling around town interviewing people for stories or when I’m seeking out stories in the villages of India.

Rajeshwari Iyer, a blog friend & sari aficionado, in one of her 'work saris'...

2. Choose saris that provide plenty of movement and feel easy on your being. The quickest way to shun the sari as workwear is to wear one that slips off in a jiffy / feels cumbersome / restricts movement / seems unmanageable. I make it a point not to wear my heavy cottons/party chiffons/slippery silks to the workplace, which I find unpractical for a day filled with traveling and meetings.

3. Wear a sari that looks professional. Oh yes, each sari has a look of its own. Party. Confernecy. Brunch. Evening out. Wedding. If you wear a sequin-encrusted sari or a net sari that belongs to a teeny-tiny halter blouse, you’re not going to earn any brownie points for wearing a sari to the workplace. I prefer wearing handloom saris as well as the practical & pretty Garden chiffons to work over blingy polyesters and butter-soft chiffons.


4. Drape your sari well. By this I don’t meant that you have to work yourself into a tizzy creating perfect pleats. Perfectionism isn’t the goal, but neatness is. Use a few safety pins to hold your pleats and pallu in place, lest the former unravels or the latter falls off your shoulder.

5. Team your saris with the right kind of blouses. Halter blouses and backless cholis look great when you’re wearing your sari to a party. But for work wear, choose blouses that are sensible. Not boring, but smart. Keep those blouses with deep necks and backs for the evening, and invest in a few that you can wear with saris to the work place. Choose moderate cuts, simpler designs and smart prints or neutrals. I like to have 5-6 blouses in my work wardrobe in maroon/black/bottle green/blue/dull gold/beige with embroidery or some interesting elements that I can mix and match with several of my saris.

Priya Kadapa Shah in a sari + blouse combo that's smart + chic

6. While accessorizing, keep the ‘Christmas Tree’ look at bay. Keep those chunky gold and kundan sets for parties and weddings. Choose jewelery made with natural material like beads, silver, wood and fabric that’ll complement your outfit. If your’re a diamond and gold kinda girl, choose small pieces for your work wear.  

7. Get comfortable in your sari – it’ll reflect in your stance. This won’t happen overnight. But if you persist out of love for the garment, there will come a day when you can wear a sari with ease and carry it off with confidence.

So, here’s wishing you the best as you step into the work world in your gorgeous saris. Join this sari conversation at my blog page – Chandana Banerjee: a journal & a journey.

#100sareepact #summersari #sari


Friday, April 10, 2015

Summer Sari Series – 6 Ways to stay comfortable in a sari during the summer

Summer’s already knocking at the door, pushing us to pack up those silks and bring out the breezy cottons. Just last week, I bundled up my raw silk saris and dunked them in the trunk, with sachets of fragrant lavender and sandalwood, with plans of pulling them out of hibernation after a handful of months when the cooler months come waltzing by.

But for this long Indian summer, this season of heat and sweat, I’ve brought out the breeziest of my saris – Kota dorias the color of fresh flowers, Garden chiffons in watercolor prints, Chanderi cotton silks in pastels and a few crisp Bengal cottons.


Style often gets pushed to the back of the wardrobe in this season of the dragon’s breath. With the intense heat crawling up your skin like a slug that you can’t shake off, it’s a pair of shorts and a loose t-shirt that sees us through the season. But every now and then, I get the urge to wear something beautiful, to pretty up, to feel good, to give style a chance. It’s then that I reach out for my summer saris because 6 yards of breezy cotton isn’t just beautiful but just as comfortable.

Suitable for the intense heat of our sub-continent and designed to provide plenty of ventilation, saris can be the most comfortable of attires, if you let it be.

Photo credit: ADIVA

Here are 6 ways you can incorporate the sari into your summer wardrobe and wear it for comfort and style.

1. Choose breezy, breathable saris, which will feel cool on your skin and keep you comfortable. Kota dorias, Bengal cottons, butter soft chanderi cotton silks, even Garden chiffons. Let the synthetic saris with their sequins and bling rest for this season.

2. Pick out saris with pleasing colors…colors that are as refreshing like a glass of lemonade on a hot summer afternoon.  Colors that remind you of freshness and joy, of cool evenings and the sky before the sun rises, of chilled treats and slices of luscious watermelon. I don’t know about you, but when the season notches up its heat factor, I can’t wear prints and patterns that are too celebratory, too bright, too busy.


3. Team your saris with blouses that aren’t too tight or made with synthetic fabric. Sweaty underarms and general discomfort are some of the first things that’ll send you running to ditch the sari for a pair of Capri and t-shirt. The fabric of the blouse is just as important as the fit – wear your cotton blouses/tops or the crochet ones that look stylish and are super-breathable at the same time. Remember, comfort is just as important as style when you’re wearing a sari in summer.

4. If you’re relatively new to wearing saris, start with more forgiving fabric like Kota Dorias, Garden chiffons and Chanderi cotton silks instead of the crispest of Bengal cottons that can get wrinkly in a twinkle if you don’t carry it off well. You can graduate to wearing more of the latter, when you’re super comfortable wearing cotton saris and have got used to the billowy nature of these saris.

5. Change the way you look at a summer sari. A lot of summer cottons can puff out, some more than the others. If it’s this that’s holding you back from wearing saris in the summer, then just reset the way you look at your collection of summer cottons. If the sari billows out, it doesn’t mean you’re “looking fat”, a common lament I hear from women who love their cottons but can’t get themselves to wear them. A cotton sari may puff out when you drape it, but as you go about your day, it settles around you.


6. Accessorize according to the sari and the season. Team your sari with a smart cotton/crochet blouse, a cotton jhola with patchwork or mirror-work, a necklace that’s not too chunky and silver-and-bead earrings. Slip into a pair of comfortable kolhapuri slippers or strappy sandals and you’re ready to take on the summer. Keep your make-up light with kohl, lip gloss and a big round bindi, if you please. (For more Sari Style tips, head over to the Style section of this blog).

Note: Next in the Summer Sari series (#summersari), I’ll be writing about ways to wear those gorgeous saris in this season to work. So, stay tuned for our updates + post your sari questions on our Facebook page: Chandana Banerjee –a journal & a journey.

For more Sari Style tips and posts, head over here.

#saristyle #summersari

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Take a deep breath…

If there’s one thing, one little nugget of gold that I’ve picked up in this journey as a yoga teacher-in-training and as a mother, that’s ‘Take a deep breath…or 5’…depending on what’s at hand.

photo credit: Unsplash

A toddler meltdown, complete with ear-piercing shrieks and big tears and an angry red face – take a deep, deep breath. Uncoil that tight knot in your stomach, unclench your jaws, let the breath flow through you. The tantrum doesn’t disappear, but dealing with it is a tad (and I mean just a tad) easier.

It’s the end of the day, and you’re weary and exhausted after a day of taking care of your kids. All you want is to put the children to bed, curl up and read a good book, and then something happens. The child vomits out a volcano / he decides that he doesn’t want to sleep just right now / wants to whine some more / poops in his diaper again. You want to disappear through a crack in the floor. But you take a deep breath or five more, roll up your sleeves and get down to work.

 You sneak out of the bed after putting your child down for a nap – it took 2 hours to get that done. You run to the laptop and whip out a fresh document to write, and just as you’re about to tap out your first sentence, there’s a wail in the other room. Your toddler has sensed that you’re not beside him and wants you back. You take a deep deep breath, tell yourself you’ll get back to the computer later and go back to curl up with him.

You’re waiting for your husband to get back home after a month long tour of duty. It’s been a tough 5 weeks, what with you being on single parenting mode and the gray winters biting at your heels. You prepare his favorite meal and wait for him to come home. And then, you hear that it’s going to be another week before he arrives. You take a long, slow breath and gather up your strength and soldier on.

Situations like this dot the landscape of motherhood and daily life. Taking deep breaths do not turn the situations on their heads. Taking a deep breath doesn’t mean that the toddler will stop having that tantrum or that your husband will magically appear before you or the child will go back to sleep.

A deep breath just makes what’s on your plate at the moment, a little more doable.

It grounds you when you’re ready to scatter. It lets you hold on when you’re about to unravel.

It helps you keep things in perspective, when you really want to unleash the devil in you (c’mon, we all have that in us ;-)).


Join me on my Facebook page for updates and conversations.

#motherhood

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

6 Ways to make time to read as a mom

I love to read, and I wasn’t quite ready for this prediction from fellow moms – “You won’t be able to pick up a book till your child is in high school, let alone when he’s a baby/toddler.” These words can easily come true, what with a whirling bundle of energy clinging onto you or tumbling around you 27 x 7 and your attention being demanded on various levels all the time.

But strangely, I’ve read more books between pregnancy and now than in any other stage of life. I don’t get to read them in one long, luxurious stretch, but in bits and pieces, during stolen moments and in scraps of time. My Kindle is bursting at the seams with all kinds of tomes that I’ve been reading – fiction, non-fiction, ebooks. And if I’m lucky, I’m able to fit in a magazine or two from the library too.

photo credit: Mikhail Pavstyuk

Now I tell you this not to brag or blow my trumpet in a “look I’m so smart that I can make time for books with a toddler at home”. No, never. I’m just as surprised as you or more, and grateful that I haven’t had to let go of this hobby, this little nugget of nurturing. I haven’t been able to paint much or write as much or sew or craft in this season of motherhood. But, if there’s one thing I’ve been able to hold on to, it’s books and my love for the printed word.

So, how? Not by being the world’s greatest time manager (that I’m absolutely not!). Not by hiring a fulltime babysitter (that I don’t have). Not by staying up through the night (ok…I’ve tried doing that sometimes, but I can’t sustain that).

Here are my ‘secrets’. I’m writing this for all moms out there, who look at books wistfully, waiting for the day when they can pick one up and submerge themselves in the story. I’m sharing my own little methods, so maybe, you can tuck into the odd moment, the leftover minute, the lesser part of 10 minutes to fit in a page, a chapter, a story into your life as a mother and let the words nurture you.

Use those nap times to pick up a book. When my son naps, he still wants me around, in the same room, in the same bed, and right next to him, our heads touching. He is one of those ‘contact babies’ with a super sharp antenna that alerts him every time I try to leave the room to work at my computer or cook the evening meal. So, whatever I want to do while he naps, I must do while sitting next to him. And that’s when I break out a book and read till he wakes up.

Read while breastfeeding. During the first year, it seems that you’re perpetually on the couch, nursing a newborn for a 100 hours. I used to go brain dead with boredom, just sitting it out for hours endlessly, feeding my son at the weirdest of hours. That’s when I started bringing my Kindle to the couch, and read more books in that year than in any other.

Grab a 15-minute short of time after putting your child to bed. How I look forward to that time of quiet when my son nods off for the night. That’s when I whip out my book from under the pillow and read for a little while.

Mine those stray minutes. Even in a mother’s life, there are a few stray minutes through the day. Like when you wake up a few minutes before your kids, or in that sweet but short time when your toddler busies himself with a toy or when the husband’s home. I use these little interludes to get some reading done. Maybe just a page or two, but that’s how reading is like in a mom’s life.

Try some short ebooks. I’ve been hooked onto the world of ebooks for the past year or so. I love how moms around the world are sharing their words through this medium. And how some of these ebooks are such a treat to curl up with.  The other great part is that these are short and easy to finish. So, while I still read novels and non-fiction tomes, I like to download a steady pile of ebooks on my phone and Kindle for the extra-busy moments.

Get your toddler in the habit of ‘reading’ his own storybooks. Start by reading lots of picture books to him. As he starts getting used to the concept of stories and books, he’s sure to ask for a few books to thumb through. So plonk him next to you with a stack of storybooks and read your own book as he looks at pictures of his own. I do this every afternoon and we spend the better part of 20-minutes reading our own books.

Hop onto the blog bandwagon at our Facebook page here: Chandana Banerjee - a journal & a journey

#books #reading

Monday, March 30, 2015

Birthday number 33 – 12 things I’ve learnt / accepted about life, people & myself

As I touch another milestone, another year, I think back on the life lessons I’ve learnt and the little things I’ve accepted, about life and people, about friends and those who say they-are-your-friends-but-are-not.
I’ve changed and morphed, for the better or for the worse. I’ve wizened up a little and grayed some more (much to the chagrin of my hair stylist who still hasn’t been able to convince me to color my hair). 


I’m more comfortable in my skin and in my honesty sans the diplomacy.

I’ve gone through my own fires and the equivalent of hell. I’ve learnt to find my inner strength and the pillar in prayers.

I’m more thankful for what I have now, today, right in this moment – the relationships and love, the things and the abundance. I’m just as content, or maybe a tonne more, in this little world of mine, with this wonderful family of mine, in this colorful & bohemian home where we live and the worlds we create everywhere.

I’m almost 2 years into my journey as a mother, 9 as a wife and 33 as a daughter. I’m embracing my life, with its fault lines and flaws, with its beauty and the bittersweet, with its daily struggles and endless to-do’s.

So, here are the 12 things that I’ve accepted/learnt/embraced this year.

1. Life can throw curve balls at you when you least expect it. It can pull you out of your comfort zone and drag you into the bowels of hell. But when you emerge, first your head bobbing out, then your flailing arms, and then slowly, your entire self, you walk through light so bright and pure, wisdom so rare and peaceful that you learn to live your best self.

2. Not everyone will like you, in spite of what they say or how you behave. But you just make peace with it because hey, you don’t like everyone you meet or party with.

3. You cannot beat yourself up because a so-called friend judged you (you painfully realize that they are so-called friends and not just friends because of this). You just have to stay honest to yourself by being what you are, by doing what comes naturally to you.

4. Some situations and phases are a lot like labor pains – the more you fight it, the more difficult it gets. You just have to accept it and find coping techniques until that situation/phase of life passes (for example, the all-consuming nature of new motherhood, when the concept of ‘me-time’ or regular work sounds just as alien as your best friend from Mars).

5. Never go by the party chatter or the polite exuberance that’s part-and-parcel of socializing. I’m more than a bit wary of this. I’m never sure what’s honest and what’s put-on, what’s real or what’s made-up about party banter. But where earlier, I’d get a headache at anything that was spelled P-A-R-T-Y, I’ve learnt now to ride the wave, to enjoy what’s there to enjoy, and to leave the rest at the doorstep.

6. Honesty and being myself works for me. It may not work for others around me, but at least when I’m not trying to don another persona( that’s often expected of me) or dithering with diplomacy, I and others know where we all stand.

7. There’s so much of contentment and peace to be found within the realms of your own family and the walls of your home.

8. What I really need is 1 good friend to ride through the ups and downs of life with. And I’m grateful and lucky that I’ve found that pal/buddy/best friend in my husband!

9. You go through phases. Sometimes you’re not rational or reasonable, gifted or very good. At other times you’re a better version of yourself – more mellow, understanding, calm, peaceful, joyous. Our phases don’t end at toddlerhood; they ride with us all through our lives.

10. I take time to thaw out and melt into a crowd. Even now, or maybe more now. I can’t just hop out of the car and bounce in with a big smile and a party line. I take my time, standing at the edges of a party, slowly shedding my reluctance, testing the waters with a hello here, a ‘howdy’ there, before I meld in. It may get mistaken for arrogance or indifference, but well, some things are the way they are.

11. I’m a HSP – check it out here. My triggers are incessant chatter, loud noises, too much of time on the Internet, the television blaring in the background.

12. There’s peace and strength to be found in prayer. I’ve been a lousy pray-er. But over the past few months, I’ve been making an effort to pray more often. Not long prayers kneeling in front of the alter with the incense sending out curly wisps of fragrance. But simple prayers, one-line prayers, sprinkled through the span of the day.

Happy Birthday to me!






Friday, March 27, 2015

Composting in your backyard – a quick DIY project

A while back, I decided to take baby steps towards a greener lifestyle.

I’ve tried to make simple changes around the home – create my own body care products, make my own natural cleaning solutions, paint our own wrapping paper instead of using the tinsely plastic ones, plant a kitchen garden, use cloth bags instead of plastic packets, eat wholesome meals. Little ways of cutting down on the toxins and reducing our carbon footprint, while revving up the health quotient of our family. So, when you’re doing stuff like this, you also begin to wonder about composting.

My mom has been vermi-composting for years, but my attempts at it have always failed. Whenever I’ve tried doing this, I’ve ended up with a bucketful of dead worms and a stinky mess. So, I decided to go with the simpler solution – composting my wet kitchen waste without the worms. And it worked! Right now, the big, blue bucket stands in my backyard, turning months of vegetable peels and dried leaves into rich, black compost - a feast for our garden.

So, if this is something that interests you, here’s a small DIY.






1. Take a large bucket with a lid. Drill holes around it and at the bottom of it because composting needs air circulation. Place this bucket in your backyard.

2. Now start collecting all your vegetable & fruit peels and egg shells in a container in the kitchen. Also start collecting dry leaves in a pile in the corner of your backyard.

3. Dump some dry leaves into your composting bucket, and then add a layer of garden soil. Now start dumping the peels and egg shells into the bucket. Make sure that you chop the peels into small bits and crush the egg shells, so they decompose quickly.

4. After you’ve added a layer of green kitchen waste, add a layer of dry leaves and paper. Top this with a layer of garden soil and sprinkle half a bottle of water on it, before adding another layer of green kitchen waste on top of it. Rinse and repeat.

5. Composting needs both, greens and browns to turn rich. So alternate the layers, by adding equal amounts of green waste and dry leaves.

6. Try to give this composting mix a stir with a stick once every week or two, so that the mixture will stay aerated and compost better.

7. Composting, like most good things, takes time, so give yourself and your composting pit a bucket load of time.

Notes:
I compost vegetable and fruit peels, egg shells, dry leaves and grass. But there are a multitude of things that you can compost. Here’s a list of all the things that you can dump into your composting bucket to turn into black gold.

Here’s a website that can give you detailed information on composting.


 #naturalliving #compost #greenliving

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I’m on my way to becoming a yoga teacher and this couldn't have come at a better time

I think I may have mentioned it here and there in some of my posts. But here’s the full ‘announcement’. I’m studying to be a Certified Yoga Teacher! And it couldn’t have happened at a better time. Here’s why.


When I signed up for the year-long course from the well-known Aura Wellness Centre two months ago, I wasn’t sure if this was the time to take on something so intensive. Or, if an online course was the thing to do. Or, if I’d really be able to cope with the studies and the daily practice, what with a turbo toddler to chase after through the day. I was excited when I got my box of study material, but overwhelmed too. How would I master so many yoga poses? How could I read all those books and look at so many videos, and practice regularly?

I wrote to my teacher at the yoga school, and he told me to take each day as it comes, to practice my asanas to the best of my abilities, to enjoy the moment. A piece of advice that works so well for our daily lives if we let go of the desire to control each outcome and go with the flow. That’s when I let go of that coiled-up breath that I was holding onto, and just enjoyed my practice.

I still worry. I still try to visualize the outcome. But not as much. And guess what? I’m enjoying my yoga practice more and more with every passing day. I’m realizing that this course, this practice couldn’t have come at a better time.

With my attention & energy being bisected by 101 things and a roller coaster of toddler moods to skate through, this one thing, this hour of yoga time helps me stay grounded and centered. It makes those muscles work, opens up those knots in my body and brain, and steadies my soul.

It’s helping me let go of some of that post-birth chubbiness, filling me up with a booster shot of energy (which I desperately need in this season of life), and letting me stay calm when a storm whirls around my head. Yoga – just four little letters that help me focus on the now and works like a balm on frazzled nerves.

Ah…so I didn’t mean to write a jingle for a Yoga advert. But honestly, this is what yoga has been like for me. And interestingly, my son loves this mat-time too. He climbs over yoga blocks, thinks I’m a tunnel that he can chug under when I’m in Downward Dog yoga pose, snuggles up to me when I’m right in the middle of a Surya Namaskar, and plays ‘horse horse’ when I’m in Cobra pose. He often shares my yoga mat with me, dragging his current favorite toy or trinket onto it and playing there while I twist myself into yet another pose.

In a year, I’d like to teach other women this amazing art + exercise, create classes where yoga is equal parts fun and practice, and craft a community where people can be their true selves on the mat and in the world. I’d also like to learn Restorative yoga and Children’s yoga - two areas of yoga that fascinate me. But for now, I’ll return to my mat.

What do you like about yoga? Drop in a line here or join us at my Facebook page to continue the conversation.

#yoga #yogateacher

Monday, March 23, 2015

#100sareepact – 6 ways to tackle those excuses and wear a saree more often

I have been quiet on the blog front for this month or more. Not because I don’t have anything to say but because there’s a lot to share and just stray seconds to jot down, find pictures and upload a bunch of posts in. Sometimes life takes over, grabbing whatever slices of online time I have for its own.

But before I reel of all that I have on my mind, I gotta share what’s right on the tip of my tongue. The #100sareepact movement that’s rolling across the merry hills of Facebook and the wide world of the Internet.

Being offline for so much of the time, I was absolutely clueless about #100sareepact. And I am just as alarmed that it’s me, the saree aficionado, who has missed this saree revolution that’s promising to change the way urban Indian women view the saree, one saree at a time, one day at a time.


I stumbled across the #100sareepact, a dare and a challenge, a revolution and a revelation, when some of my readers tagged me, gently letting me know that I’ve nudged them towards their saree closets and saree style. (Thanks ladies, it’s an honor).

So here I am, a bit late but still full of enthusiasm for this rollicking ride, this wonderful challenge that’s nudging even me to step up my saree quotient. To wear them more often in this season of toddler-mommyhood, when a pair of trousers or leggings is what one tends to reach out for than 6 yards of gorgeousness.

If you’re a new mom/toddler mom like me, or a gal who wants to wear sarees but without the frills of it (read: getting more blouses stitched, altering the ones that don’t fit anymore, wearing saris without going crazy figuring out your entire ensemble), here are a few tips.

(Warning: These tips may take more than a dollop of casual + creativity + spunk to try on.)

Psst...I'm wearing a kurti as a blouse here

Problem 1: “My blouses don’t fit me anymore and I can’t find the time to get them altered. So, I guess, I’ll not participate in the #100sareepact.”

Action step: Put aside the blouses that don’t fit right now and reach out for those gorgeous tops, short kurtis and tees that you have stashed away in your closet. Team them up with your saree, preferably wearing a top that complements or is a contrast to your saree. Example: I like to wear printed cotton kurtis with plain tussar saris. Try this tip before discarding it – it sounds crazy but works just fine. I do this all the time.

Problem 2: I have a lot of sarees and haven’t taken them out from my boxes for the past 10 years. I’m not sure if I’m up to the task of hauling them out now for the #100sareepact.

Action step: Choose 10 sarees that’ll suit the season. So, if it’s summer, bring out the crisp Bengal cottons, the breezy Kota dorias and the soft chiffons. Or, if it’s cool where you live, bring out the raw silks and heavy cottons. Bring them out and get them ironed. Bring out the petticoats to match the sarees and arrange all of these in your closet. So, when you want to wear a saree, you don’t have to do the entire drill of dipping into your boxes, rummage for the petticoats, smoothen out the crinkles in the folds. You’ll have what you want, when you want them.

When you’ve worn the 10 sarees, put them back in the boxes and bring out 10 more. Rinse and repeat.

Problem 3: “I haven’t worn sarees for years and I’m not sure how my friends or colleagues will react when I start wearing them.” Or, if you’re like me – “I wear sarees so often that people think I’ve gone crazy and ask me strange questions”.

Action step: Just laugh and let people know that saree is your style. Even add that you’re part of the #100sareepact. And then just brush off those strange reactions. People will get used to you in a saree. And even if they don’t – do you really care or does it really matter?

Problem 4: How do I know what kind of sarees to wear for casual events or formal parties?

Action step: Go with your gut feeling. I often pick that saree up that whispers its story to me on that particular day. You can choose a saree for any occasion or day depending on what color appeals to you, what kind of story you want to create, what look are you aiming for. You can also take the weather into consideration and choose a saree you’re comfortable in.


Problem 5: I want to take part in the #100sareepact but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to wear sarees a 100 times this particular year (this may be your concern if you’ve just learnt to wear a saree / still getting used to being in a saree / are pregnant / have a baby or toddler / are in another country).

Action step: I have this concern too. In this season of life, I’m a stay-at-home mom chasing after a turbo toddler. I live in pajamas and comfy leggings; a skirt or dhoti pants for the days when I’m feeling more vibrant and bohemian. I do wear my sarees to parties and social do’s, but I don’t see myself attending a 100 parties this year. So, what should I do? Drop out of the #100sareepact because I may not be able to wear sarees a 100 times?

I almost thought that that’s what I may have to do if I couldn’t keep up with the pact. But I love the saree too much to not hop onto this particular bandwagon…this merry bandwagon full of vibrant saree-wearers like me. So, this is the deal that I’ve made with myself: I’ll wear sarees whenever I can. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to wear them a 100 times. But I can wear them to my heart’s content within the parameters of my life situation.

I’m going with this motto: wear (a saree) when you can.


Problem 6: I don’t seem to be fitting in what with me wearing sarees so often.

Action step: You’ll never fit in, in a saree, especially in the urban Indian scenario. But you can fit out for your creativity and the stories that your style tells, for your out-of-the-box ideas and your own unique personality – all of this when you drape a saree and step out with confidence.

Are you ready to wear your sarees more often, this year for the #100sareepact and for the years to come?
What challenges do you face in wearing sarees more often? Drop in a line and let me know if I can help.

In the meanwhile, you may enjoy reading these saree stories:


Continue the conversation on my Facebook page.
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