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Montreal , Canada – Jazz, Sewing and More…

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Ah Montreal… my love. You are such a tease. So close and yet so far.

It is where I discovered the first underground mall, and the loveliest of gardens. The fries covered with cheese and gravy – so gross and yet so delicious. The charm of your old city and the lovely people keeps drawing me to you and I keep going back again and again. And to honor you, I even dressed in your colors to celebrate Canada Day!       canadaday

You made me so happy in my recent trip that you inspired me to blog about my travels again! So thank you Montreal for a lovely weekend amidst Jazz and Sewing Friends and Gardens and Yummy Food.

This was not our first time in Montreal. Just for kicks I dug out a photo from 14 years ago which was indeed our first time in this city.

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This was our 5th but Dia’s first and this time we just decided to “hang out” and relax. We weren’t interested in doing any touristy things and that’s what was different this time I think. Coincidentally the International Jazz Festival was also going on so that added to the fun. Oh and if you’re driving to Montreal and Grantham NH is on your way, you HAVE to stop at Farmer’s Table Cafe for a wood fired Pizza! SOO good. What did we ever do without yelp? Beats me.

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On our first day there, we took Uber to The Botanical Gardens where we soaked in the natural beauty. If you’ve never been there, I highly recommend it. Especially if you have kids. Its a great way to educate them about nature. Dia was completely fascinated by it. The orchid section was my favorite as was the bromeliads! Look… a flower growing in a flower!

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Yes, Dia and I are wearing matching dress. Made by me of course! ( like you even needed to ask). This is my first time in public wearing matchy matchy and it won’t be the last. Thanks to dinagideon for encouraging me!

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From there we walked to the rose garden and then the Insectarium where Dia and Gagan really had fun. I was mostly taking pictures. I’m sorry but insects don’t float my boat 🙂

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Dia was a trooper. She walked so much that day.. so I let her have ice-cream for lunch 🙂 We just ate at the cafe (meh.. )

IMG_0183and headed back to St. Catherine for some Jazz Fest Fun. We took the metro back. I love taking public transport wherever I can and I guess when you’re a 4 year old, everything is fun. Dia enjoyed the train ride.

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Back Downtown, we spotted a fountain and there was no going back. Lack of bathing suit didn’t deter this girl from having the most fun! Gagan and I sat on the steps listened to jazz (playing nearby) and it was one of the best afternoons ever.

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Back at the hotel, Gagan and Dia hung out at the pool while I freshened up. We went out to this vegan place La Panthere for dinner which was just ok. Why do all the vegan places smell the same? You know the “crunchy granola” type smell. Anyway… I am not a big fan of fusion cooking so whatever… Dinner was so.. so but I was craving crepe for dessert. Luckily we’re in Montreal so that’s not a problem. We had the best nutella and banana crepe at this little hole in the wall place on St. Catherine. I forget the name. Except that it was heavenly. Ok I found it. Paris Crepe. And its actually on St. Crescent.

Day 2: We took it easy, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at our hotel. Why do croissants taste so good in Montreal? Must be the butter 😉

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By the time we reached Jean Talon it was nearly lunch so we walked around eating lots of fruit samples, bought a bunch of cherries and strawberries and blueberry juice to quench our thirst and had the best buckwheat crepe of my life. I had remembered this crepe from 5 years ago when I was in Montreal last for PR weekend. And decided to re-live it. Dia loved it so much that we had to get her her own – with cheese. Its like Dosa mom! Yes it was. So yummy and delicious. Note to self – try at home. Creperie Du Marche

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This balloon spiderman lasted all of 5 minutes sadly… but it was fun while he was with us.

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From there, Gagan took Dia back to the hotel to hang out at the pool while I met up with some fabulous sewing friends and had another memorable evening! One of the best perks of starting and running PatternReview is the lovely people it connects me to, and I feel grateful for that.

I met up with Anne-Marie on St. Hubert and even managed to do a little fabric shopping at Tissue Marina (full review on PatternReview). From there I took another Uber to Gainzbar with Heather where we met up with about 15 other Canada sewing friends from PatternReview and blogging community.

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I have this annoying habit of getting photos taken in the same spot if I’ve been there before. This is in front of UltraTex.

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And this is from 5 years ago at PR Weekend Montreal 🙂

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Left to Right… Anne-Marie, Me, Rhonda (in the back), Carmen (in front) and Kay

Time flies when  you’re having fun doesn’t it? I relived some old memories and definitely made a few new ones. I had asked for a source for African Wax Print fabric before our meet up and ReneeB and Caroline gifted me some! Monseratt showed us how to needle a thread the way her granddad showed her and it is a life changer. Here’s a video I took of her showing it to us.

I missed Renee(miss celie’s pants) just by a day. Darn it. She blogged about her trip here. I also finally got a chance to meet Carmen Bouchard. And she is as lovely in person as she is online. What a small world we live in!

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Gagan and Dia were having a blast in the hotel so I decided to stay for dinner. Heather recommended this el salvadorian place for pupusas  and Vicki was kind enough to drive us there in her car. The food was to die for! I ate a LOT!

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The late night commute back to the hotel was enjoyable because Caroline and Claire accompanied me. We talked about schools and retirement and sewing and how to get the best view of the city 🙂 Which we tried out the next day at Mont Royal Park.

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We drove there on our way out from the hotel and checked out the lake before driving up to the highest point where there was a short hike up the mountain. It was really lovely and the view was terrific!

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And because we’re foodies and I started the post with food, I feel obligated to end with food also. If you are in Montreal and are vegetarian, you must go out of your way to eat at-least one meal at Lola Rosa We ate at Rue Milton so can’t say about their other location. But hands down the best burrito ever! and I don’t even like burritos.

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Drive back was uneventful and except for the 1.5 hour delay at the border we didn’t hit any traffic.

You want to know the best part about traveling? You get to come home with a lifetime of memories! And that night as lie down in your own bed, don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t fall asleep. You are after all still mentally in Montreal  🙂

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Documenting my life – Day 4 – Your Kids Dressed UP

I didn’t forget about this. Just taking my time with this series and enjoying taking pictures. So the 4th in the series is all about KIDS and dressed up too. I am in a dilemma here. How is one supposed to select from over a thousand photos! No, I didnt take them for this blog, but I figured I have so many nice pictures of Dia (who just turned 1 btw) that I should just use those.

At her birthday party. She was an angel that day.

First Thanksgiving in a dress made by Gagan’s aunt.

First Diwali (Festival of Lights) – October – 2011

Blackberry camera phone. I just love the expressions on her face. I knit this red sweater for her.

Natural light filtering from the window in Dia’s room. It does wonders for this photo. I made this dress!

I think I am going to stop here. There are some of my favorite “dressed up” photos of Dia. At 15 months now she is super active so it’s getting harder and harder to capture her various moods and expressions but we are enjoying every single minute being parents.

Austin and SXSW Part 2

One of the other activities planned during our stay was visiting some of the awesome fabric stores which hosted our 10th anniversary party back in November last year. Benson of TexStyles even threw me a party. I was so flattered and honored. On Friday, despite the rain and chilly temps a bunch of us met at TexStyles and had a great time! This is one of the reasons I scope out local digs. I enjoy hearing the stories. The people behind the stores, restaurants and the shops. Their inspiration, their dreams and their life is what makes their store different from others. I enjoyed playing with fabric and trims at TexStyles while sampling some local chocolate and baked goods. These guye are awesome! I came home with a lot more fabric than I had planned 😉 (Thanks Benson). I enjoyed meeting so many of the wonderful PR members there. Thanks you guys! I can’t wait to sew up some of this gorgeousness.

You’d think that I’d had my full after TexStyles but there was one more stop which I had to make before heading back home. Fabricker! Such a happy place! Don’t let the strip mall fool you. This is a very well designed store with lots of open space, mirrors so you can drape fabric before buying. A really cool “Take a Pattern, Leave a Pattern” console is perfect for pattern-o-holics like myself. April has a daughter Dia’s age so she found plenty of things to keep her busy while Mommy explored 🙂 And we will give Daddy lots of credit for all this too because he is AWESOME! He was a trooper during my fabric store visits.

And here are some more photos from The Common Threads. Our visit there was brief but sweet. I wanted to take home the whole store. But instead, I bought this cute moda print (bottom right) for making a sundress for Dia. Even though the whole stack of Echino wanted to come home with me 😦

 

While we were in Austin, we ate really well at lots of local favorites. I had some of the best veggie burgers in Austin! My favorite was the beet (that’s right, beet) burger Leslie and I had at  24 Diner where I even indulged myself with some Mac and Cheese. Oh yeah, I was having fun. I had a great time with Leslie and Roseana at the Eastside Cafe and during quick lunches at the conference. Thank you to both of you for making this trip so special for all three of us.

Our last day in Austin, we decided to take turns watching Dia at the conference. Believe it or not, it was a lot of fun.  So yes, I couldn’t attend some of the sessions but who cares. Dia made a lot of friends and even collected some toys in the expo hall.

I am convinced that rain follows me wherever I go. How else can you explain 4 straight days of downpour in a state which is supposed to be in drought! And of course here at home it was beautiful and sunny while I was gone. All I can say is “You are welcome Texas!” But no, I am not moving there 🙂 And No, it’s not because you walk around with “Don’t move here” T-shirts on.

It’s because as much as I love to travel and experience other places, I am absolutely and completely in love, and at home right here in Boston.

Austin and SXSW – Part 1

I started writing this post right after I got back from SXSW, Austin, TX but… Life Happens…

 

I just got back from attending SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas and all I can say is WOW! South By SouthWest is a two week long festival/conference/party in the heart of Austin, a cosmopolitan city. From what I hear, over 250,000 people attend this festival every year. This was my first time in Texas so I was really looking forward to it. 7 days is a long time to be away from home and work but we wanted to make it into a mini vacation as well so we stayed a few extra days to explore Texas. I now realise that not only did we not explore Texas, when you go for a conference you shouldnt expect to see the city 🙂 Unless of course you’re twenty somethings… Cause guess what? After the sessions were over, there were parties everywhere! Complete with drinks, music, live bands and good food! Us oldies however couldn’t wait to get back to our cute little cottage to the apple of our eye. Who was a champ by he way. We had an awesome babysitter, Lauren (thanks Leslie) who looked after Dia while we were at the conference center. Was stayed in the historic Hyde Park neighborhood for the duration of our stay. So close to downtown and yet so quiet. We loved it here.

We weren't allowed in the main B&B because of Dia so they gave us this stand alone cottage instead. Worked well for us!

About the interactive conference. I didnt really go with any expectation so I was completly overwhelmed and amazed at the magnitude of it all. Just the line for picking up our badges was a couple miles long snaking all the way around the conference center. It took us two hours just to get the badges. That said, it was beautifully organized with food stalls and refreshments everywhere and since we were indoors and had good company time just flew.

We have our badges!

 

If we were a little more organized we could have picked our badges a day before and saved ourselves a little time. But we were out having fun enjoying the “Tropical” weather. Here are some photos from our day with Leslie and Scot.

Sniffing the Texas Mountain Laurels – umm.. Grape Coolaid anyone?

We all like to smell the flowers 🙂

Doves at the Zilker Park. Dia loved them!

A fun day with Leslie and Scot

Enjoying an afternoon Cuppa Joe at Dominican Joe’s.

 

While Gagan hung out at the Startup Village I was mostly at the Intercontinental which was where most of the marketing and branding panels were held. There was some excellent speakers, some of whom I’ve started stalking. Dr. Pradeep and Derek Halpern to name a few. There was even an interesting panel about why women blog which I enjoyed quite a bit. Oh, and I learned a new buzz word – “Social!”

Every single panel and seminar I attended, focused on social media and social networking and social sharing and social progamming and social partying. I get it, but wouldnt it be nice to look up from your phone every once in a while to say Hello to the person seated next to you? But then again I am OLD.

Sea of people tweeting away!

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I met a few nice people at the conference. Check out dishenvy.com, a new startup about rating dishes. (Not restaurants) Cool. At the blogging panel, there was a woman seated next to me who, did not have an iphone! It’s a miracle! She and I started talking and turns out she is also from Boston and works at the MIT Media Lab, one of the most awesome of labs I’ve ever been to.

We took a break from the conference to drive to Waco (yes, that’s the one!) to meet up with some of Gagan’s college roommates. They were driving from Dallas and Houston with their families to meet with us. Despite the crazy weather and traffic we had a great time! And since Dia was the youngest kid in the group, she got a lot of attention from the others which she absolutely loved. And we got tons of babysitters. Here’s the thing about old friends. Even if you haven’t seen them in the last 10 years, you just pick up where you left off. It was great meeting you guys and getting to know you.

I’d been wanting a pair of cowboy boots for a long time and since we were in Texas… Gagan spotted this huge boot store – Cavenders close to Temple, TX on our way back to Austin. I was blown away. I wish I had taken photos but I must have tried 20 pairs after settling on these ones. The sweet salesgirl with the cutest Texas accent was super helpful. I so adored her snakeskin boots! But for now, I am calling these mine 🙂

Wow, I’ve had a lot to say! It’s getting too long so next up. PatternReview party at TexStyles and other fabric shopping report…

 

Documenting my Life – Day 3 – Me and My Spouse

The whole point of this exercise (besides creating a photo journal) is to improve my photography skills. So I’ve been trying to step away from the “Auto” mode of my DSLR. I wanted to take some kick ass portraits yesterday for today’s post. Well, let me tell you something about my spouse. He does not like his photos taken. Nor does he like to take photos. Except of course if they involve Dia (our 1 year old). But he loves me, so he humors me every now and then. Considering these were taken outdoors with no flash at 5 pm, I think I did a pretty good job didn’t I? And just to prove my point how reluctant he is as a subject, here are some shots.

I used the A/V setting on my camera and dropped the F way down.

 

You can see the background is more in focus (not what I wanted)

 

Finally! I can't believe this handsome guy is my husband!

As for my photos, I was not feeling inspired to take self portraits so I am posting some old photos.

Gagan took this picture on the portrait setting on the DSLR. Not bad!

Documenting my life – Day 2- The Inside of my Home

Home, a 4 letter word which means different things to different people. For me, its about feeling safe and being with my loved ones. It’s a place where I can kick back, relax and not worry about anything.Tricorvar istspan4 = document.getElementById(“istspan4”);var mySpanEmpty = document.createElement(“span”);istspan4.parentNode.replaceChild(mySpanEmpty, istspan4); It is a warm place where we welcome our guests and share a meal with them. This is my home. It may not jump out from the covers of a magazine but it’s mine and I am grateful for it.

 

 

 

 

My Sewing Studio

 

 

 

 

 

A Celebration of Life


A little over two years ago, I wrote about Gagan’s grandmother [here]. And today’s post is about his grandfather – Babaji (Hindi for Grandfather) who in the 11 years I’ve known him has influenced my life in more ways that I can describe.

On April 16th, 2010 Babaji left us but we are left with so much more than just his memories. His legacy so large, so immense, so great that I don’t know where to begin. I have put a lot of thought into whether or not I should write this post, simply because whatever I say about him is not enough. I am never going to find words to describe his greatness, his love, his principals. So this post is my humble attempt to honor him in my heart and with you my friends.

Because of his illustrious career in the Indian Administrative Services, most people knew him (a lot of them even intimidated by him) as a man of principals, integrity and honor. In the 80’s he retired as the Comptroller and Auditor General of India – a Presidential appointment conferred only on those of the highest caliber.

But what most people don’t know is what I am going to talk about today. He possessed some of the finest and rarest qualities in a man. For his family and friends he was an extremely affectionate and generous man who always put their needs before his. I’ve always admired his sense of humor and the ability of taking rational decisions even in times of stress and sorrow. He was a “Karma Yogi”. He believed in hard work and honesty. When Gagan’s grandparents visited us here a few years ago, I had taken the day off from work to help them get settled but he simply wouldn’t hear of it. “Work comes first, Beti” (Hindi for daughter). “We are at home here. Do not worry about us. “. Sure enough I showed up at work much to the surprise of my boss 🙂

The few weeks they spent with us is one of the most precious time in my life when I got to learn from him, spend time with him and hear his stories from back in the day. The red maple in our front yard was his favorite tree! And every afternoon he and Dadima (Grandmother) would sit under the tree enjoying a hot cup of tea. Simplicity of life is what he believed in.

Always a giver, he was a big proponent of education and was on the board of many schools and colleges. It is no wonder that when one of the colleges did a memorial for him today, over 600 people came to offer their respect to him! He was a much loved man. Today while he is no longer with us, he has left behind a legacy which cannot be measured, for he was, simply put…

A G.R.E.A.T Man

Starting next week I will be spending time in India, with family, with Dadima to celebrate his life.

Karva Chauth – My Day of Fasting for LOVE!

So today is the North Indian festival of Karva Chauth. On this day all married women fast the whole day and pray for their husband’s good health. This may sound cruel to you but it’s actually fun because fasting is only just a part of it. It’s also a day when women get together, put henna on their palms, get dressed in finest of their saris, wear jewelry and basically the works! It’s a girls night out or in.. just without food or water 🙂

When did this custom start? I don’t know thousands of years ago… Here’s how the legend goes. My grandmother tells this story on each karva chauth day and I thought I’d share it with you all.


The story of Karva Chauth

There was this young bride who had 7 brothers who loved her very much. Traditionally the first Karva Chauth after marriage is celebrated at the mother’s house so she was with her brothers and her folks at their house on the day of Karva Chauth. Now the fast is broken at Moon rise. Towards the end of the day when the brothers saw their sister was thirsty and hungry they tried to coax her into eating something. But the girl was determined. She wouldn’t break the fast. So the brothers thought of something. They created a “fake moon” by burning some fire behind a white sheet and called her sister and said “Look look the moon is out!” . Poor sister, was easy fooled and she did her prayers and broke the fast but the minute she had her first bite she gets a message from her in-laws house. Her husband just had an accident! She burst into tears and the brothers realized what they had done. They apologized to the sister but she was a mess! She went to everyone to help her and tell her what she could do. Prayed for days and one day a woman comes to her house and says to her. “I am the goddess of Karva Chauth and I am very pleased with your devotion. Your husband will recover in no time and from this day onwards all married women who keep this fast with devotion will have a long and happy married life”. So there you have it.. Karva Chauth…

Now lets get to the fun stuff. So yes, here in the US, my sister in law and I get dressed in our saris when we are back from work, wear makeup, bangles and everything. Keeps us distracted from the growling stomachs. We ask our husbands to pick up lots of good Indian food from our favorite restaurant so that when we see the moon, we can just jump right in. And when the moon comes up we look at the moon first through a sieve and then look at our husbands through the sieve. It’s very romantic! The husbands then give us water with their own hands and together we eat. It’s kinda cool.

What is not so cool is cloudy nights when we can’t see the moon! Today however seems like a really nice day so we’re hoping it’ll be early dinner for us 🙂 It’s 4:50 PM and I am doing really good. The trick is in keeping yourself busy.. really busy.

Fun stuff!

Diwali is only 10 days away!!!!

I will post some photos tomorrow.

UPDATE

Here are some photos. This one’s with my Sister in law (in pink) and her Mother.

The MOON! Finally!!!

Moon Viewing and Worship

Hubby Viewing!

SIL and I

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