How Was India?

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Picture By: Tony Rath

I’m still thinking about it. Grateful, happy, confused – so many feelings for this place. It was a wonderful opportunity to see how love, family and weddings are celebrated on the other side of the world (wedding post). I enjoyed visiting the South, watching the world float by on that little boat; people in Kerala live a life that is much slower and different than my own. It was nice. Very peaceful. City life is electric here, the sounds, tastes, colors, wealth, poverty, joy, sickness…everything always stirring and competing for your attention. It makes you feel compassion for the whole human experience, leaving your heart hurting in both good and bad ways. The truth is, India is as harsh as it is accepting and inviting- depending on who you meet and where you go. All you can do is go with the flow, relax and remain open. You’re bound to have an incredible adventure.

India was exciting loud and crowded. There were days when walking down the street was fun and days when it was overwhelming. The taxi and rickshaw drivers weaved in and out of head-on traffic, lots of near collisions and narrow escapes. Exciting and scary…but a no good story is ever shared from an experience lived within your comfort zone.

I witnessed beautiful, moments – children playing in the water while their Mother washed clothes in the river or the strangers who rushed to help the boy who fell off his motorcycle. Most people are extremely hospitable, kind, caring and welcoming. There were also sad and confusing moments – so many sick people begging for money or the little girl crying for food while we danced in our silk saris at the Baraat. It’s hard to process both extremes at the same time.

India made me cry and laugh and on more than one occasion, India made me sick. Over the course of our trip we experienced lovely things and difficult things – I’m thankful for being exposed to both.

I’m glad we got to be a part of this place for a few weeks, even if we were just outsiders looking in. There is something special here that I haven’t seen or felt anywhere else. I can’t quite explain it, nor do I claim to understand it.

We were lucky enough to have a talented photographer – Tony Rath (and his rad family) join us at the wedding. He did a wonderful job at capturing the life and spirit of India. He was kind enough to let me share some of his pictures with you. I added a few of my own pictures along with some fellow travelers of India to help depict the moments I wasn’t bold/brave enough to  capture on my own. Here are a few fantastic shots.

(*links are under each picture giving credit to the original photographers / no link means they are my own).
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Picture By: Adam Cohn

^Most streets in the cities we visited looked like this one. It was fascinating watching people scurry around. Organized chaos.

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Picture By: Tony Rath

^Tony has a gift for taking candids without being intrusive. He says, “I have rarely seen such raw joy, friendliness or genuine helpfulness. Bengalis would give you the shirt off their backs if you needed it…” well said Tony

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Picture By: Adam Chon

^Paan was the wackiest thing we ate in India. It’s a digestive aid, that you eat after having big/spicy meals. Paan is a preparation combining betel leaf with areca nut and sometimes with tobacco. It is a tradition in South India and nearby regions to give two Betel leaves, areca nut and coconut to the guests (both male and female) at any auspicious occasion. It made my mouth go numb and tasted like sweet toothpaste. Very interesting. I heard there are lots of variations and “make your own” paan carts all over India.

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Picture By: Salvo Pappalardo

^We spent 5 days in Alleppey (Kerala’s Backwaters) where we rented a boat and learned how to cook Indian food! It was such a blast and one of my favorite parts of the trip! I’m working on a whole post on how to book a boat of your own, where to go and what to look for. The task seemed intimidating before we left for India, but it’s quite simple once you arrive…here is a post with tips and advice to book your own adventure.

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Picture By: Mat McDermott

^Flowers, flowers everywhere! The wedding was dripping with long garlands of bright yellow and orange flowers. I think my favorites were the delicate little white ones the women wore in their hair.

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Picture By: Rom

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Picture By: Tony Rath

^A taxi driver takes a nap in Kolkata. The metered-cabs are mostly the “Ambassador” brand manufactured by Hindustan Motors (now out of production). Modeled after the British Morris Oxford, the Ambassador was the first car to be made in India and was once a status symbol. They have a fun 50’s vibe and many look/drive like they’re just as old. My favorite taxi ride was one we took to New Market from a taxi with both side mirrors sheared off.

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Picture By: Tony Rath

^You can’t escape the traffic in the city. But we didn’t mind… it’s all a part of the experience. Little kids hung out of bus windows to energetically wave at us. We’d smile and wave back which sent the whole bus into a frenzy of waving. People get really excited when they see foreigners.

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Picture By: Tony Rath

^An example of the strong, beautiful women of India,  Tony and his son Daniel “followed a nomadic camel herding tribe for half a day in a remote area near the Little Rann of Kutch. The women cooked breakfast, cleaned camp, herded pack camels, spent two hot hours packing the camels, and led camels along trail men left hours earlier, moving the 25 sheep and 50 camels in the herd. They move 10-15 kilometers every day, to find browse for their animals, then do it all over again.”
And I thought cleaning the house was daunting…India was a well needed reality check.

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Picture By: Carlospenalba

^Ganne Ka Ras fresh sugarcane juice is pressed on the streets. Sometimes it’s mixed with ginger and lime.

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Picture By: Tony Rath

^A sneak peek of the Jalan/Grams wedding in Kolkata. It was a dream… so romantic with bright colors, music, flowers, laughing, dancing and FOOD! Our first time attending an Indian wedding – an extraordinary experience.

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^A mellow moment sitting out on our 2nd deck, enjoying a warm breeze and the sound of rustling palms, cicadas and parrots.
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^Cruising through the narrow canals of Alleppy’s backwater villages with my Danny and trusty guide. One of our more relaxing days.
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^Our rice boat captain and King of the Sea King. We escaped the city and flew to Alleppey in Kerala for a lazy river cruise in the hot jungle and rice fields of the South. Ask for the Sea King at Finishing Point…they won’t steer you wrong. Fabulous crew and friends.
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Picture By: Suresh Eswara
^Rickshaws galore… walking, pedal or auto.
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Picture By: Evgeni Zoto

^Masala Chai, black tea with a mixture of aromatic Indian spices, herbs, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, ground cloves, ground ginger, and black peppercorn is an essential part of everyday life in India. The higher the pour the better!

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Picture By: Rajesh India

^Chai from a clay cup — that astringent earthy taste, mixed with sweet-gingery-milky tea is the taste of India. I would have 3 or 4 cups a day! Potters spin small cups out of river clay. The cups are dried in the sun and delivered to chai stalls. We inevitably ingested a bit of melted clay with each sip. I’d like to think it enhanced the chai’s character and provided a daily dose of multi-mineral supplements, right? God made dirt…dirt don’t hurt. When you’re done, you smash the clay in the street and they dissolve back into the earth.

Family Ride on a Sunday along the Tank Bund Road (east shore of Hussain Sagar Lake) - Hyderabad, State of Andhra Pradesh, India - 26 July 2009
Picture By Janetandphill

^It was a common sight to see a family of 4 or 5 riding on one motorcycle – men, women, infants, children and elderly! Most women rode sidesaddle and clutched onto their children while dodging cows, traffic and other obstacles. Motorcycles and rickshaws rule the road – 2nd to livestock of course. Beeping is a must here and the main way of communication between drivers. The lines on the roads (if they’re even present) are more of a suggestion, no one uses blinkers (or tickers as they call them) and most cars don’t have seat belts. It’s a wild rush!

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Picture By: Rajesh India
^Yummy street eats
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Picture By: Takehiko Ono

^Tropical fruit for days – strung perfectly together with twine or stacked neatly in rows. You can have vendors make you a glass of freshly pressed juice or buy a whole bag to take home.

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Picture By: Hugh Mitton
^Grocery shopping?
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Picture By: Alan Morgan

^A “Shopkeeper of a Kinari Bazar flower shop has time in the early morning to read a newspaper and watch the passerby before the afternoon rush.”

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Picture By: Dan.Be

^We would often see children running and playing by themselves while their parents worked. Older kids would take care of younger kids. Little girls struggled to hold their younger siblings in their small arms. All the kids loved to say hi, wave or laugh when we smiled at them.

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^We woke up at 2:30AM and drove to Agra with our new friend Bandarhi – sipping masala chai’s along the expressway and watching the peachy sunrise over a glowing Taj Mahal. What a magnificent sight it was. It felt like a dream.
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^The clouds were having a flash dance party a few miles off in the distance. We slept so well that we missed the downpour on our little boat. We woke up to misty windows, a red sunrise and wet jungle. Just gorgeous!
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^ A video clip of our time in India. More posts, tips and pics to come.


A Week in Massachusettes & Virginia

A few weeks ago, Dan, Grandpa and I traveled to Boston for work. We had the best time exploring the city, eating some amazing food and learning about Boston’s history. Here is a little clip I made… mostly shots of D and me running around town during our time off. After a few days in Boston, Gpa flew back home to CA and Dan and I took a puddle jumper to Shan and Justin in Virginia {my newlywed best friend just moved to Virginia Beach with her Navy hub, where they’ll be stationed for the next 3 years or so}! It was so nice to see our buds and check out their new home. All in all the trip was a blast…

I’ll make a list of places we checked out at the bottom of the post. Hope ya enjoy it 😉 We sure did.

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During out time off, D and I bought a day pass for The T and explored Boston and the surrounding cities. We made our way over to Cambridge and checked out Harvard yard. We even sneaked inside one of the student buildings to take a look around. Wow…so cool! Giant fireplaces and fancy old velvet furniture…pretty much Hogwarts. Yes? We grabbed a cup of coffee and chai at Cafe Gato Rojo and moseyed around the school grounds. It was amazing…the trees here are spectacular and the buildings are gorgeous!
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On our way to Faneuil Hall we found the cutest narrow brick street with old houses. The street didn’t even have a name! We thought it was an alley when we walked by — almost missed it.  I loved how dark it was… surrounded by the towering buildings one street over, it felt cozy and I really loved the warm glowing lamps at the end. Oh and those leaves!
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^^^We followed the Freedom Trail around the city and relearned some US history. The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile long path (brick line) through downtown Boston, Massachusetts that passes by 16 locations significant to the history of the United States. It winds between Boston Common to the USS Constitution in Charlestown. We saw graveyards, sites of the Boston tea party and massacre, Paul Revere’s house, churches, buildings, and a historic naval frigate. Interesting, leisurely and cheap! It’s an easy stroll trough the city with interesting things to learn about on the way.
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^^^Dan and Grandpa on the move to catch our morning bus to work. I thought it was cute, so I snapped a picture — the young and young at heart work’n side by side. Love you both.
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After our convention in the city, Dan and I had the option to stay and explore the Boston more or fly to Virginia to see our Shanny! The cost of plane tickets or hotel in Boston were the same so…of course we chose Shan! Awww I miss this girl. We’ve been best buds forever…my newly wed friend moved to VA with her hub Justin who serves in the Navy. We miss them tons, so I was fun to visit and check out their new hood.
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S and J took us to First Landing State Park to explore the magical swampy lands of VA. So gorgeous! I am in love with that Spanish moss!
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Massachusetts
Legal Seafood
558 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02111
617-692-8888
*Fresh seafood! Try the fried oysters and seared sea scallops!

Yankee Lobster Co.
Boston, MA 02210
b/t C st & Trilling Rd
South Boston, Waterfront
*Great place to get lobster rolls and bisque

Harvard University
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 495-1000
*Gorgeous campus! Fun to walk around especially during fall.

Café Gato Rojo
Basement of Dudley Lehman Hall, Harvard Yard
CambridgeMA 02138
* Student-run Café Gato Rojo is a magical place to imbibe the highest quality specialty coffee or tea. A fun place to sip coffee with students.

Haymarket Farmer’s Market
96 Blackstone St
BostonMA 02109
*Historic outdoor greenmarket specializing in fruits & vegetables, open Fridays & Saturdays.

The Freedom Trail
*A 2.5-mile-long brick path through downtown Boston, Massachusetts that passes by 16 locations significant to the history of the United States – the Old State House, Paul Revere’s House , the site of the Boston tea party, massacre and bunker hill monument to name a few. A pretty neat way to see and learn about US history.

Boston Common
139 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02116
* Also known as “the Common” is a central public park in downtown
Boston, Massachusetts. Dating from 1634, it is the oldest city park in the United States. The Boston Common consists of 50 acres of land. A great place for walking, jogging or picnics

Jacob Wirth
31 Stuart St, Boston, MA 02116
(617) 338-8586
* Offering German cuisine in the Theatre District since 1868.

Bella Vista
288 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113
*Yummy Italian Food.

Mike’s Pastry
300 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113
(617) 742-3050
*Best Cannoli’s I’ve ever had. Their other stuff looks amazing too! Even wowed my Grandpa 😉

Winsor Dim Sum Café
10 Tyler St
BostonMA 02111
b/t Beach St & Kneeland St
Chinatown
* Fun place for cheap Dim Sum.

Virginia

Chrysler Museum
1 Memorial Place
Norfolk, Virginia, 23510
Free museum with incredible art!

Waffletown USA
2113 Pleasure House Rd
Virginia BeachVA 23455 *Small town feel waffle house. Great for breakfast.

First Landing State Park
2500 Shore Dr, Virginia Beach, VA 23451
(757) 412-2300
*Lovely park for walking or jogging.


My Best Friend’s Wedding

My best friend got married to her Navy man a few months back! I’ve been holding off on the post, because I wanted to share some of their gorgeous wedding pictures too! Thanks for letting Danny and me be a part of your special day! We love you both so much and wish you all the happiness in the world.

A little MOH love to her best friend and groom. 
A small slice of my cheesy speech… 

“It is impossible to not see the love, respect and friendship between you. It is the kind of relationship we should all aspire too…one that pushes you to be your best, to trust in your partner and to live by the motto — home is where your heart is / or home is wherever I’m with you. 
Love is powerful – it’s the virtue that holds all others together. Whatever plan God may have for your future, you will know with certainty that he gave you each other to get there as a couple
to love each other 
to support each other 
and to make each other stronger 
Cheers to Justin and Shannon and their greatest adventure yet.  May you both grow more in love each day and be surrounded by the support of family, friends and God’s immeasurable love.  Cheers to a lifetime of happiness.”

A little wedding clip I put together:
“All I Do Is Dream of You” by Debbie Reynolds and Bobby Van {S and J’s 1st Dance Song}

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My Best Friends Wedding
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Photography: jmfoto photographic co.  | InvitationsMinted  |  Venue: Twin Oaks Garden Estate  | Catering: Twin Oaks  |  Floral Design: “Petite Bouquet” | Linens & China: Twin Oaks | Wedding Dress:Allure Bridals 9121 | Suit Rentals: Men’s Warehouse & Navy Dress Whites  |  Hair & Makeup: Annie Mergenthaler & Camille Smith 


Shan’s Bridal Shower

My best friend is getting married and I am her Matron of honor! So neat. She was my Maid of Honor and now I can be hers. I can’t wait to see her get hitched to the man of her dreams in a few short weeks. Here is a little clip of our French Bridal Shower we threw for Shan {they are honeymooning in Paris – Ahhh si fabuleux}. We all love you so much Shan and we are excited for you and Justin to begin your grand adventure together. I am blessed to have you as my friend. You really are the crème de la crème.
My Best Friends Bridal Shower


Springtime in Paris Bridal Shower Watercolor Invitations

 Springtime in Paris Bridal Shower Watercolor Invitations

My Mom and I are throwing my best friend Shannon a Bridal Shower in a few weeks. Shanny and her man Justin are planning on honeymooning in Paris so my Mom and I thought it would be cute to throw Shan a Springtime in Paris Bridal Shower Brunch. We thought it would be fun to paint the invitation with French-esque scenes to make things extra special. As I was searching for some Frenchy inspiration I stumbled upon the Michael’s Springtime in Paris Contest. What a coincidence! So I entered the paintings into the #Springtimeinparis #Contest. Cross your fingers! I hope it wins! 5 glorious days in Paris — cooking, sketching, florist lessons, and a private tour of the Louvre. Awwww swoooooon.  Oui se il vous plait.

Here is a fun little blurb that I sent to Michaels:
I’m in love with France and everything Parisian – the culture, food and art etc. It would be a dream of mine to take my Mother to Paris with me. She has always wanted to travel but has never had the opportunity to do so. I would love to be by her side as she experiences her first overseas adventure (and to Paris of all places); to one of the worlds most exciting and beautiful cities — the crème de la crème for 1st time travel. We are both very creative people and this trip would be absolutely dreamy. I could picture us having the best time exploring the Louvre, admiring art, cooking French cuisine and arraigning gorgeous bouquets. These artistic classes are right up our alley. I would love to take a stroll through Montmartre, buy some crusty bread and cheese from a local fromagerie and some bubbly champagne. We could sit in the park by the Eiffel tower, enjoy our goodies and watch its lights twinkle.  I know that Paris would bring out the best of our creativity and friendship and give us memories that could last a lifetime.

*Any visible addresses are fictitious.

Ok, so it’s a few weeks later and I didn’t win. Bummers…but congrats to all the winners. You guys did a fabulous job! Here is the link if you want to check out their amazing work.