Jaipur, and a Pop-up Shop!

The drive from Jodhpur to Jaipur was 6 hours plus a stop in Pushkar, and the whole time, visions of textiles floated in front of my eyes. Jaipur is a city that is absolutely booming these days. We’ve been going for 10 years and we’ve really noticed how much busier and more touristy it has…

The drive from Jodhpur to Jaipur was 6 hours plus a stop in Pushkar, and the whole time, visions of textiles floated in front of my eyes. Jaipur is a city that is absolutely booming these days. We’ve been going for 10 years and we’ve really noticed how much busier and more touristy it has become (there were giant tour buses at every turn- ugh). But my favorite supplier of blockprinted fabric and vintage kantha quilts is in Jaipur, so I will always return. I am hopelessly devoted to this decades-old, family-owned shop, whose business is run with such integrity. I am super picky about what I purchase while in India because so much is mass produced and cheaply made. To find a place that you trust is really special. I spent about 4 hours sourcing goods for the pop-up shop, and the boys were with me the whole time. The staff was so sweet, entertaining the boys by teaching them all about blockprinting, and letting them give it a whirl. From there, we had about a day and a half left in Jaipur. We managed to fit in a few outings, although I’ll be honest, our visit to the City Palace left a bad taste in our mouths and pretty much killed any desire we had to tour other spots. It was an absolute mob scene, with large tour buses unloading hundreds of people. The tour guides had microphones and flags to lead their huge groups. And you couldn’t walk three feet without getting whacked by a selfie stick. We snapped a few pictures (had to get my Christmas card locked up!) and then ran for the hills. Perhaps my favorite places in Jaipur are those that still have a somewhat undiscovered feel. The Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing had that feeling. I left the boys at the hotel so that I could geek out over the history of block printing, and when I arrived, I was the only one at the museum. They had to flip on the lights for me! On the roof of the museum, a man sits and carves blocks. He’s been doing it for over 40 years, and his tools and knowledge were passed down by his father. Watching him work left me awestruck. The blocks that he carves are true works of art. One day, when my kids have flown the coop, I’ll study blockprinting in Rajasthan for six months, I swear it. I imagine my day starting at sun up (I’ll have magically become a morning person) with a cup of milky, sweet chai, and I’ll spend the day studying the art of carving, and learning about natural dyes and hand stitching the results in kantha-style quilts. My day will end with photography walks in the golden light. Yes, I have it all planned out. But back to reality…after the Museum, I decided to seek out this cafe and bar that I had been seeing all over design magazines and blogs. Located inside the Narain Niwas Palace Hotel and designed by Dutch designer Marie-Anne Oudejans, Bar Palladio takes its inspiration from Mughal design, and it is truly breathtaking. And just down the street is Caffé Palladio Jaipur, where I ended up having a late lunch, and the best iced chai and almond cake ever! In all our time in Jaipur was lovely, though I was more than happy to move on to our next destination, Varanasi. The famous quote from Mark Twain reads, “Varanasi is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” It was truly as if we arrived at the most mystical, spiritual place on earth…more on that next. In the meantime, I promised a peek at the pop-up shop goods that will be launching tomorrow morning, Friday, March 31 at 10am EST. There is only one of each item, so if something catches your eye, move quickly. There will be kantha quilts, yards of blockprinted fabric, wooden blocks, leather shoes, vintage door hangings, notebooks and more. Hope you’ll stop by tomorrow at 10am, when the link will go live! If you live internationally and are hoping to order, shoot me an email so we can figure out shipping (christine.chitnis@gmail.com). Also, orders over $100 will receive a free blockprinted zippered pouch (while supplies last!).

Bombay, Jodhpur and Pushkar

Two weeks in India, over 80 hours of travel on planes, cars, boats, and tuk tuks, 5 cities, and a few cases of Delhi belly, all with a 4 and 6 year old in tow, is an experience that can leave you at a loss for words. I had the best intentions to write down…

Two weeks in India, over 80 hours of travel on planes, cars, boats, and tuk tuks, 5 cities, and a few cases of Delhi belly, all with a 4 and 6 year old in tow, is an experience that can leave you at a loss for words. I had the best intentions to write down my thoughts as we traveled, but I found myself fully immersed in the experience instead. Now that we’re home, I’m excited to reflect back on our trip and share some of the details with you. Because we covered so much ground, I figured that I’d break it up into the first week of our trip, where we visited Bombay (and celebrated Holi!), Jodhpur and Pushkar, and the second week, Jaipur and Varanasi. Yep, all that in two weeks! Our time in Bombay was mainly spent seeing friends, celebrating Holi and recovering from jet lag. It was really tough with the kids. They would take a nap at around noon, simply because they couldn’t keep their eyes open any longer, and then sleep through until about 2am. I’ll admit to having a bit of a freak-out on the third day, wondering if we’d made a big mistake taking the kids on such a long journey across the word. Finally, on our fourth day, I had to get tough and make them stay awake the entire day. Luckily, it was the day we celebrated Holi, and they had spent the best afternoon soaking each other and everyone else with waterguns and colored powder! They were exhausted at just the right time. They went to bed at 7pm and slept through until the morning. From that morning on, we were good to go! And just in time for our second stop, Jodhpur, the blue city! When we first arrived in Jodhpur, I was confused and slightly panicked… where was all the blue? I kept asking my husband, “Ask the driver, where is the blue?” Come to find out, there is a new section of town and an old section of town. The sprawling new section contains very little blue, while the old, narrow, winding section of town is where you’ll find the famous blue. Cars can’t really maneuver in the old section, though motorcycles, tuk tuks, cows, bikes, dogs and people all share the space. To really see the blue buildings, you have to set off on foot and wander through the streets and alleys. On our first night of wandering, we happened upon RAAS Hotel, an oasis in the middle of the crowded chaos. I will never forget the crisp glass of white wine I enjoyed on their rooftop lounge, overlooking the Mehrangarh Fort with the sounds of horns and revving motorcycle engines in the distance. It was one of those perfect travel moments, and I can still taste that first chilled sip of wine. The next morning we set out to explore the Fort, as well as Jaswant Thada. Of the two, Jaswant Thada was my favorite. That might be due to the fact that my husband fell on the slippery marble floors at the fort. Why they were wet mopping the floors during peak tour hours, I have no idea (you can’t apply logic when traveling in India). His ankle swelled right up and continued to bother him for the rest of the trip. He never once complained, but I know it was really uncomfortable for him. I’ll pause for a moment here and tell you that while this all looks very dreamy, the reality was our kids were tired and they weren’t super into exploring forts and such. India is difficult with children, especially those that are used to open space and the freedom to run and play. I found myself saying no and careful every other breath because of fear of zooming cars, crowded streets and parking lots, and general chaos. We would usually take a 3-4 hour outing in the morning and spend the rest of the day at the hotel pool, where the kids could run, play and burn off energy. It looks like we covered a ton of ground, and we did, and our kids were absolute champs, but we really had to pace ourselves in order to make the experience enjoyable for them. And I think our strategy worked, because when we neared the end of our trip, my son said, “Mama, I’m not ready to leave India.” We originally planned to spend two more days in Jodhpur, but it is actually a small town that can easily be seen in a few days. So we decided to drive to Jaipur, stopping in Pushkar along the way. It was a six hour drive and the scenery was spectacular. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it!) the boys were sleeping on our laps for most of the ride, meaning I couldn’t jump out of the car and capture all the photographic moments. And there were so many. We passed dusty villages where the women were at work carrying water and crops on their heads, dressed in brightly colored saris. We passed bright yellow fields of mustard plant that stretched as far as the eye could see. One day I will make this drive at my leisure and stop a hundred times to capture these moments. We made it to Pushkar just in time to visit the Brahma Temple, the only one in India. Pushkar is a desert town that borders Pushkar Lake, a sacred Hindu site containing 52 ghats (stairways) where pilgrims bathe. After our puja (a prayer ritual) we had a vegetarian lunch – the entire town, because of its holiness, is vegetarian- and the freshly made, hot off the fire roti smothered in ghee, made for the most delicious meal. Another two hours and we arrived in Jaipur, which is where I’ll pick up later this week. I know many of you had questions about our itinerary, and how to travel India with kids. I am happy to answer any questions you have, so please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll get right back to you. Also, I managed to sneak in some amazing shopping, so my pop-up shop will be launching this Friday, March 31 at 10am EST. Stay tuned for a sneak peek of some of the goods on my next post!

2014: A Look Back

Happy New Year!  I hope you welcomed 2015 in style.  I was in bed, wearing a ratty bathrobe and sound asleep by midnight but we did enjoy a big family dinner where we all got dressed up and ate some fabulous food.  All in all, it was perfect.  I hadn’t planned on looking back at…

_MG_6077Happy New Year!  I hope you welcomed 2015 in style.  I was in bed, wearing a ratty bathrobe and sound asleep by midnight but we did enjoy a big family dinner where we all got dressed up and ate some fabulous food.  All in all, it was perfect.  I hadn’t planned on looking back at the year that was…but I thought that such a year required a bit of reflection and as I scrolled back through my posts, month by month, it occurred to me that 2014 was quite a year.  Settle in…this is a length one!

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Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 1.59.02 PMJanuary: We kicked off the year by spending a month in India and Bhutan.  It was truly the trip of a lifetime and remains my most cherished memory of the year.  When I returned home, I launched my first pop-up shop, which was super fun.  That led to selling my wares at Squam and another pop-up shop later in the year.  I’d love to do more of these in 2015!

_MG_7396February: We renovated our cold, dark attic and turned it into a light-filled studio where I spend my working hours writing, photographing, sewing and knitting.  This place is my sanctuary.

_MG_8010March: I finished my first real sweater, Antler, with short rows and shaping and all those knitterly things that I have come to know and love through the course of this year.  This sweater remains my greatest knitting achievement and my most worn handmade piece.

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_MG_9210April: We spent the most heavenly ten days in Dominican Republic with my parents and younger brother.  It was the perfect break from the freezing spring that we were experiencing back in Rhode Island.  Luckily, we made it home in time to catch the blossoms.  The weeks where our beautiful town is in bloom are always some of my favorite of the year.

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PROMO-IMAGE-PITCH-PERFECT-THE-ART-WIDE-700-WEBMay: I made my yearly pilgrimage to Brimfield Antique Show.  I think I bought $2 worth of quilt scraps, but my favorite part is taking pictures of all the interesting things you find at the show.  It is always sensory overload, but I can’t help being pulled back year after year.  I also kept busy teaching Pitch Perfect, which was such an amazing experience.  I will be teaching the course again this year, online through Squam.  I can’t wait to tell you more about it soon!

_MG_0210June: Ahhh, June.  The weather is finally warm, and I take my yearly getaway to Squam.  I always look forward to my time here, and every year I am so grateful that I get to be a part of this amazing community of makers.

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_MG_2646July: My most favorite month of the year!  Every year we spend the entire month in Northern Michigan with my family (I even wrote a guide to the area here).  It is a true old-fashioned summer; swimming in the lake, playing on the beach, visiting the dunes, riding bikes into town for ice cream, spending time in nature, watching my boys running wild and free with the kids along our dirt lane, learning to water ski, eating our weight in cherries….the stuff of life.  Northern Michigan, specifically our family cottage on Torch Lake, is my happy place.  And how lucky is Vik that he gets to celebrate his birthday “Up North?”  It is my most favorite place in the whole world and we are so darn lucky to spend our summers there.

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_MG_3163August: It is all about the garden in August.  All the good stuff is ready to harvest, including cherry tomatoes, my favorite.  You can feel summer beginning to wane in August, and that is always bittersweet, but August holds such beauty that it is worth staying in the moment.

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_MG_5473September: What a busy month, full of new experiences.  Vijay started school, which was very tough emotionally for both of us but has turned out to be the best thing we could have ever hoped for.  I started contributing to Gardenista, which has been such a privilege and has given me the chance to explore some amazing gardens and shops.  My husband and I went on an overnight trip to Vermont, our first time as a couple ever away from the kids for a night.  And I made a quick trip to Squam, arriving just in time for the fair and a day of relaxing.  Yes, we were on the move in September! I also made reading a priority again, and you all chimed in with amazing suggestions.  I’ve been making my way through the list and have yet to be disappointed.  Expect plenty more book reviews in 2015.

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_MG_7267October: As we settled into our new school routine, which consists of preschool on Tuesday and Thursday morning, we also celebrated Vijay’s fourth birthday with all of his sweet classmates, and the local fire station.  It was a PARTY!

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_MG_8634November: What a gorgeous fall we were blessed with in Rhode Island.  It was sunny and sparkling almost every day, and the leaves were absolutely riotous.  I paid a visit to Tower Hill Botanic Garden for Gardenista and had the most amazing time wondering around their fall gardens.  I also finished my favorite sewn wardrobe addition…this quilted vest from The Purl Bee.

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_MG_0093December: Here I thought December was such a slow and peaceful month, but we traveled to Chicago for Thanksgiving (returning the 1st of December), then I took off for Martha’s Vineyard to finish up a few book details, and after decking out our own small tree, we packed up and headed to Michigan for Christmas and the New Year.

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sewnAll in all, it was an amazing year.  In addition to all of our travels and all the excitement, it was the year that I felt my work life finally dropped into place.  I was hard at work on my second book, which is so near and dear to my heart, I contributed regularly to Edible Rhody and Gardenista, I taught Pitch Perfect, and launched a few pop-up shops.  2015 is going to be filled with even greater accomplishments…I can feel it and it makes me so very excited.  2014 was also the year of making…between sewing and knitting I pretty much have made a complete wardrobe, and with each piece I gain a better understanding of my fit and personal style.  Above are just a few of my favorite makes of 2014.

I try to keep this a place of positivity and beauty, so it is interesting to scroll through these posts and see so many of the harder emotional things missing.  But it is also a beautiful reminder of how much we have to be thankful for and how unbelievably blessed we are as a family.  If 2015 is half as gorgeous, we’re in for a great year!  And after that look back, I’m excited to move forward.

Rajasthan

This is why you endure the lengthy travel, airport meltdowns, Delhi belly and crushing jetlag- to get pictures of your cutie stripey kiddos posing among the ruins of a 15th century Hindu temple.  All kidding aside it felt like our travel mojo really fell into place while journeying through Jaipur and Udaipur.  While still bustling,…

_MG_6741This is why you endure the lengthy travel, airport meltdowns, Delhi belly and crushing jetlag- to get pictures of your cutie stripey kiddos posing among the ruins of a 15th century Hindu temple.  All kidding aside it felt like our travel mojo really fell into place while journeying through Jaipur and Udaipur.  While still bustling, crowded, sensory-overloading cities, they offer such beauty to the willing traveler.

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_MG_5986One of the challenges of this trip is the amount of travel involved.  From Bhutan we flew to Delhi where we stayed for a night before catching a flight to Jaipur.  There are long car rides in hair-raising traffic back and forth from airports to hotels.  Travel in India, whether by car, plane, boat or camel is not easy.  This calls for serious stamina, both from us and the kids.  The boys have been amazing- beyond amazing, really.  I am immensely proud of them for their adaptability and adventurous little spirits.  We are faring far better than I ever dreamed we would.

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_MG_6110On previous trips we’ve tried not to fall prey to all the touristy stuff, but I’ll confess that is often the stuff kids love.  Elephant rides, camel rides, boat rides, toy train rides….you catch my drift.  While at first I’m rolling my eyes, it always ends up being a blast simply because of the boys unabashed exuberance.  Such was the case when we took an elephant ride up to the Amer Fort along with the hoards of other tourists.  The boys were pretty chuffed at the idea of riding an elephant (!!!) and of course once we were there, I was the one going insane over the painting- the colors, the patterns, the architecture.  This is what I love about the region in general- the colors.  The women in their bright saris against the dusty landscape, the brightly painted homes, the little shops packed to the brim with this and that.

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_MG_6525Perhaps our favorite outing was one that happened by pure chance while driving in the outskirts of Udaipur.  We wanted to see some of the rural landscape and villages.  When a herd of goats passed us by, I asked to stop- the scene was just too beautiful to miss.  Our “quick stop” turned into an afternoon of touring the goat-herders farm, and being invited for lunch at another family’s farm where our boys played trucks with their five boys.  Without knowing us, they fed us and welcoming us into their lived for the afternoon (poor Vik- everyone wants to hold him- from Bhutan to Udaipur- he can’t escape it and our rule of thumb is if you can catch him, you can hold him!).

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_MG_6713We’re back in Delhi now (hence the blog post- internet again, hooray!) and I think we’re all pretty beat.  I’m hearing reports of freezing temps and blustery snowstorms back home, but I am still missing Providence.  I miss good coffee, chocolate chip cookies, our family and friends, down time to knit and watch my shows (Downton Season 4 I’M COMING FOR YOU!), driving my own car, big leafy green salads and sleeping in our own rooms…and not necessarily in that order!  And for those of you that have asked, I am planning a post of traveling with kids- some of the offbeat things that worked for us- and I promise it won’t be all those super obvious ones (pack snacks for the plane- wow, really, would have never thought of that!?).  I’ll also be laying out some of the realities of our trip- it is not all marigold garlands and baskets of roses…traveling (especially in a third world country) has its challenges, and when you add kids in the mix, things get really interesting.  More on that in a bit.  To all our friends back home…stay warm and cozy!

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Delhi, an Epic Case of Jetlag and Taking it all in

Here is something they don’t tell you about traveling half-way across the world with kids. It’s not the 14 hour flight that kills you, it is the jetlag that lasts for days afterward and causes the kids to wake and sleep at all hours of the day and night, mattresses from places like Leesa are…

_MG_5061Here is something they don’t tell you about traveling half-way across the world with kids. It’s not the 14 hour flight that kills you, it is the jetlag that lasts for days afterward and causes the kids to wake and sleep at all hours of the day and night, mattresses from places like Leesa are always a godsend during these times. We got lucky- our boys slept for most of the flight, making the traveling leg of our journey shockingly easy. The real fun started once we landed in Delhi and discovered how many different ways you can pass time from 2am-7am in a hotel room.

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_MG_5083I think we finally figured it out, after forcing the kids to stay awake all day yesterday they successfully made it through a night and woke at 7am. For the first time since landing, we are all feeling a bit refreshed and ready to take on the day. Not that our bone-crushing tiredness has held us back from exploring. Oh no- we have already been to a few temples, seen the ruins of the 6th city of Delhi, pushed our way through crowded markets and done a bit of shopping (just wait ’til you see what I’m bringing back!!).

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_MG_5051India is such a mixed bag- it’s hard for adults to take in all there is to see, I can only imagine what it is like through the eyes of a child. Vik is too young to understand most of what he sees, but Vijay is taking it all in and trying his best to process. He has so many questions, and his emotions have ranged from excited to terrified. He is a sensitive soul, and the crowds, noise and chaos are hard for him to take. He also is my little herd dog- he is always wanting the “whole family” together- mama, dada, baby Vik and Vijay. He loves taking a head count to make sure we’re all together. So it is very hard for him to see children without mama’s and dada’s, and he is smart enough that I don’t try to sugarcoat the truth.

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_MG_5110_2“Where is his mama?” he’ll ask, his eyes wide with sadness. How do you possibly explain such things to a three year old? And so we’ve sought out “safe havens”- quiet playgrounds and gardens where the boys can run around and feel safe. This is all I know how to do.

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_MG_5143Delhi is difficult with young children and I must say, we are very much looking forward to making our way to the smaller towns on our itinerary. The traffic, congestion and noise of Delhi will not be missed. Yet there is so much to see, and I am trying my best to take it all in with my camera- mostly when the boys are napping, or taking a swim at the hotel. When I have them with me, I try to focus my attention on them completely- but oh, how hard it is with so much visual stimulation.

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_MG_4904For now, my friends, I am wishing you all a blessed and peaceful Christmas. It is an odd feeling to be so far removed from snow, twinkling lights and Christmas trees, not to mention the loving embrace of our family. But onward we go, seeking out our next adventure during this wild month!

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A Blessing

As the birth draws closer, I find myself reflecting on my journey through pregnancy. It seems like a lifetime ago, but in March/April of this year, we were in India, and I was in my first trimester. It was a difficult trip because I was experiencing terrible morning sickness, and the (normally heavenly) smell of…

Udaipur PujaAs the birth draws closer, I find myself reflecting on my journey through pregnancy. It seems like a lifetime ago, but in March/April of this year, we were in India, and I was in my first trimester. It was a difficult trip because I was experiencing terrible morning sickness, and the (normally heavenly) smell of spicy curries was enough to send me running for the door.
Udaipur PujaBut it was a beautiful trip as well. We took time out of our busy travel schedule to have a puja (blessing) for our child. It was a long ceremony (2 hours!) and I didn’t understand what was being said…but I appreciated the beauty of the ancient rituals, and I was moved by the many offerings made on behalf of our baby.
Udaipur PujaI thought it might be fun to show you a few pictures of the ceremony… Let’s hope the blessing extends to the birth, which I am hoping will be healthy (and quick and painless too!).
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I’d Still Choose You

Your wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event. You choose the one you want to spend your life with, don the white dress, proceed down the aisle and say your “I do’s”…. And then the real fun begins; pick up your underwear, clean your dishes, pull your weight around here, do I have to ask you again?!?…

The blushing brideYour wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event. You choose the one you want to spend your life with, don the white dress, proceed down the aisle and say your “I do’s”….Newly Weds....again! And then the real fun begins; pick up your underwear, clean your dishes, pull your weight around here, do I have to ask you again?!? You know, the typical everyday life of a happily married couple. But what if you could do it all over again?IMG_2329 I had that chance a few days ago when Vijay and I fulfilled a two-year dream of celebrating our marriage with a Hindu ceremony. Vijay was raised by a Catholic mother and Hindu father, and his dream, ever since our engagement, has been to have an authentic Hindu ceremony in India.IMG_2277So, in a gorgeous temple here in Jaipur, we recommitted ourselves to each other. Although the ceremony was in Hindi, with Vijay translating bits and pieces, I felt that I understood the core message…the promise of a lifetime of love and faithful commitment.Promising And so, with my vows, I recommitted myself to my husband, the man I have built a life with over the past two years. As I looked into his eyes, and listened to him repeat his vows, I realized that I am as every bit in love with him as I was the first time around.
Rose petals at our feet As we were walking away after the ceremony, he leaned in and whispered…”If I had to do it all over again, I would choose you. I will always choose you.”Walking away