Archive for May, 2010


source:  unknown haveli

So I’ve been pouring through design magazines and websites for inspiration as we build our new home.  We’re contemplating putting in a jhoola (swing), and I found so many lovely images that I’m now wanting to put one in every room of the house!  Seeing these jhoolas takes me back to the summers I spent in India –  I’d nap or read on them or just play games with my cousins.

source:  Naureen Bokhari

A jhoola is a common element in many traditional Indian homes.  I particularly love the symbolism behind them:  it’s as though the chains of the jhoola are links with the heavens above.  (Now I’ll confess the Telugu word for swing is ooyala but since we don’t have very many common household words that start with the letter “jha,” we’ve adopted the Hindi word.  Plus, jhoola is just a beautiful word!)

Pictured above is a custom-designed jhoola by Jay Jeffers (my absolute favourite).  Below are 2 playroom-ready jhoolas: by Modern Convenience and the infamous Eero Aarnio hanging Bubble Chair .

And jhoolas can be modern too!  Check out the Wabi Lawn Swing by Italian-designer Francesco Rota.  (Source of image on the right is unknown).


I’m always searching for fresh and interesting music to play in our house.  I just happened to catch a random episode of Music Voyager on PBS one night featuring music from the “Delhi Underground,” when I came across the East India Company band.  It’s a group of 5 guys all originally from Assam and Northeast Inda, and who are now based in Delhi and travel all over India (and a handful of other countries, including New Zealand).  They blend traditional and folk music with rock, reggae and electronica.  Awesome!

You can check out some of their tunes on the band’s website.  My favourites are Boitha Maro (a traditional Assamese folk song that’s a tribute to the region’s fishermen) and Dum Mast Kalandar (orignally a ballad from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan).

The band’s lead singer – Angaraag Mahanta (known as Papon) – has this snake-like voice that I can’t get enough of.  I haven’t been able to locate any of his albums for purchase yet, so the kids and I have resorted to YouTube (Nanda Geet is my son’s favourite).  Not bad, but I’m determined to get my hands on an album…


This post is authored by Ms. Alpana Aras-King, a San Francisco-based photographer and creator of Storybox Art.  Ms. Aras-King has worked with top ad agencies worldwide and specializes in maternity, newborn, family and children’s photography.

1.     You have 24/7 access to your kids, so you can photograph them anytime.  Keep your camera handy for candid moments.  You can capture smiles, pouts and anything in between.  The pictures below are random moments captured in my son’s day to day life.

2.  You don’t need a fancy camera to shoot photos.  If you have a good point and shoot, turn off the flash when you shoot.  If you have the budget to purchase a DSLR, you can find one at Costco, Best Buy, etc.  The picture below was taken with a simple point-and-shoot camera.

3.  Avoid asking your child to “say cheese” or forcing him/her to pose – it will get you a fake smile for sure.  Having a well rested child with a full belly helps.  Make sure to keep it light and fun!

4.     Find a shady spot if you can to take photos.  Subjects in the sun tend to squint their eyes and you can end up with some harsh shadows.

5.     Photographing groups or young mobile children can be difficult.  Be creative.  For example, if you are out on a beach, plant the child in the sand temporarily to capture the moment.  Make sure to take several photos as someone might blink or have an expression you may not like.

© 2010

Storybox Art is available for sessions throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and for a limited number of sessions in Chicago, New York and Mumbai. Become a Storybox Art fan on Facebook to stay tuned about upcoming sessions and news.

Gnaana Giveaway!
Author: Gnaana

Our guest blogger, Storybox Art, is hosting a gnaana giveaway this week!  Be sure to put your name in the hat by Thursday for a chance to win some gnaana goodies!

Winner will receive:

The Chota Chef Recipe Cards
A Chota Apron



This post is authored by Ms. Alpana Aras-King, a San Francisco-based photographer and creator of Storybox Art.  Ms. Aras-King has worked with top ad agencies worldwide and specializes in maternity, newborn, family and children’s photography.

Down Memory Lane

Through my journey of becoming a photographer, one thing has been a constant:  I have always loved and will treasure my family’s old photographs.  Every time I go back to my parents’ home in India, I open our old photo box and browse through the yellowing black and white photos.  My dad used to take photos of us with his box camera, but he also hired professionals to photograph our family and home.

My business Storybox Art draws inspiration from that precious photo box that always lives in my heart.  It is my connection to history, and I think everyone should have their own box of memories to reflect upon.  Yes, custom photography is an investment, but it’s one that you will cherish down the road.

Understanding Your Investment.

Making a decision to hire a professional photographer is certainly a luxury.  Custom photographers are available in a variety of price ranges from $100-$450+ for the session fee, and print & product packages that range from $500-$4000+.  Getting Uncle Hari to take some family photos for a celebratory biryani meal may seem like a quick and easy option, but you probably won’t get heirloom art.  While you can and should continue to document your own memories, the value of hiring a true professional to capture poignant moments in your life is priceless.  Good photographers worth their salt have spent a lot of time cultivating their craft.  They have invested in their equipment and have the technical and artistic expertise to visualize your story.  Besides, they know how to make you look good – shooting from flattering angles and touching-up if needed!


Tips on Picking a Professional Photographer:

1. Review their portfolio and see if their art resonates with you.  Most professionals have a website that showcases their work.

2. There is a range of pricing for photography.  Typically, the costs involve a sitting or session fee and, in addition, the cost of prints and products purchased.

3. Have a friend recommend their family or child photographer.  You can get a firsthand account of their experience from start to finish.

4.  Ask if the photographer can assist you with making some key decisions – such as selecting clothing, locations or deciding on which products and print sizes are right for you.

5. Don’t pick the cheapest photographer. It is true that you get what you are paying for!  These are your forever memories so splurge if you have to.  Your custom session will be a tangible keepsake of that moment in time.

© 2010

Storybox Art is available for sessions throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and for a limited number of sessions in Chicago, New York and Mumbai.  Become a Storybox Art fan on Facebook to stay tuned about upcoming sessions and news.


Remember those thali “meals” plates used in virtually every roadside restaurant in India?  You know – with the rasam in one section, and yummy curries and pickles in the others?  Well, they’re being  reincarnated in the West and marketed as “innovative” and “eco-friendly” dining dishes for babies, toddlers and kids (and no wonder – with all the bad press about BPA and melamine).

par exemple:

Above is a Stainless Bus Platter by Din Din Smart.  $17.99
Below is Reed & Barton’s Sea Tails Baby’s Divided Stainless Whale Plate ($34.99) and Lavish & Lime’s Children’s Divided Food Tray ($16.00 CAD).

And for a good laugh, check out greenandcrunchy’s post about an Ohio mom’s shopping experience in the stainless section of an Indian grocery store.  Apparently, her kids fight over who gets their meals in the masala box (pictured below)!  So dust off those thali plates or get thee to an Indian store!

image by greenandcrunchy


As a matter of principle, I don’t give my kids last night’s leftover rice – even though it’s been refrigerated.  It’s probably a habit that developed in my family:  “give the kids fresh rice.”  And being Indian and all, of course we eat A LOT of rice.  So I’m wondering about the reasons for this.  And why would leftover rice be bad just for kids?

Apparently, rice in raw form (be it brown, white, basmati, whatever) contains spores of a bacteria called Bacillus cereus.  These spores can survive the cooking process and germinate into bacteria when cooked rice is left standing at room temperature.  Reheating the rice doens’t destroy the bacteria either.

I’m admittedly a bit skeptical of all of this – I remember the summers I spent in my grandmother’s village, where it was common practice to eat leftover rice (and my grandmother didn’t even own a refrigerator).  I’m sure this was and is common practice in many Asian countries.  Maybe everyone had built a resistance to the bacteria?

Food safety for handling cooked rice is not something you hear a lot about in the US or elsewhere, but check out the advice from the governments of New Zealand (Food Safety Authority) and the UK (Food Standards Agency).

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to take any chances.  Here are some best practices when it comes to handling leftover cooked rice:

  • Refrigerate the rice as soon as possible after cooking and consuming – ideally within 1-2 hours
  • * When reheating, make sure it’s steaming hot all the way through (and avoid reheating more than once)
  • * Keep leftover rice in the refrigerator for no longer than 1 day before re-using
  • * Be careful of leftover takeaway rice – you don’t the history of this rice before it got to you

I think I’ll stick to these rules – nothing is worth a day of vomiting…


Looks like wall decals are here to stay – for a while at least.  They’re popping up everywhere these days – kids room and family spaces.  Here are a few that’ll take you back to India…if you dare!  (Most of these are available in several colors.)

Above is the Taj Mahal.  $80
Below – left to right:
Bidri Elephants $29.99
OM $24.00
Peacock $22.00

Below – left to right:
Ganesh €33,35
Lotus $25.00
Buddha $39.99


Our May Newsletter is out, and our activity this month will get your kids to sharpen their listening skills by tuning into some of the most inspiring sounds of nature:  bird calls!

First, download and print our Bird Call Bingo sheet (1 for each “player”) – either on your home printer or a glossier version from a local photo processor:
Home Printer:  8.5 x 11
Photo:  8 x 10

Familiarize the kids with the bird calls by playing  a few rounds of the clips below and then identifying the relevant bird on the sheet.  When you’re ready to play the game, give each player a pile of edible bingo “chips” – nuts, goldfish crackers, pieces of fruit, etc.  Then, play one of the clips at random.  If they correctly identify the bird, they get to eat their “chip”!  After a few rounds, your kids will be able to distinguish between cardinals, sparrows, finches and doves – a great snack-time activity!

Belted Kingfisher
Lesser Goldfinch
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Rosy-Faced Lovebird
Baltimore Oriole
Eurasian Collared Dove
Western Bluebird

In India, legend has it that the call of grief produced by a male Saras Crane upon the loss of its female partner inspired Valmiki to compose the epic Ramayana.  You never know what can inspire your kids to compose their own magnum opus!

Baby Beri
Author: Gnaana

After having dressed the likes of Bill Clinton, Prince Charles, Hollywood (Nicole Kidman and Andy McDowell) and Bollywood (Madhuri Dixit, Rani Mukherjee and Preity Zinta), Ritu Beri has moved on to perhaps her toughest clientele ever – kids!  Beri – the famous Delhi-based designer (the first Indian designer to present a line in Paris in fact) – launched Baby Beri earlier this year.

The celebrated collection features both Indian and Western wear – colourful, eclectic and gorgeous – in true Beri-style.  It’s less “Toddlers and Tiaras” and more of a filling of a void in high-style clothes for Indian kids.  Her lehngas and sherwanis for girls and boys are certainly a sight to behold.  You can check out her collection (and order) exclusively at (click on the hearts at the bottom of the page after you enter the site).

I can only imagine what my grandmother would have to say about all of this…