Sunday, June 29, 2014

Weekend trip to the Okanagan

(The hills are alive....with the sound of Maaayyyaaa!!)

Almost immediately after our return from our big trip to Venice, we left for yet another trip - this time a quick weekend in the countryside of B.C. - more specifically, the Okanagan area.

We ventured up to the Okanagan for my uncle's big art show opening at the Kelowna Art Gallery. His art show was called Nature Morte, in which he documented his time spent up in the Okanagan and specifically growing apples. The show had some gorgeous pictures of the process of growing apples, the impact on community, as well as portraits and landscapes of the apples through the seasons.


The art show was Maya's first art show opening, and she just loved it. She was walking around the gallery like a pro, pointing at all the apples. It would have never occurred to me to bring her to an Art Gallery for fun, so I was surprised she really enjoyed it and behaved herself nicely. She really is a visual learner, so of course she loved it!


My aunt and uncle have a house up in the Okanagan where they grow apples on their orchard. They also grow other fruits like cherries, apricots and strawberries too. The day after the art show, they had a nice luncheon on their property. They have a beautiful house with a lake view, with bountiful fruit dangling from the trees. It was gorgeous.


We decided to spend the weekend up there instead of rushing back to work. I don't know what it was about it - but it was SO relaxing. I find it quite rural up there - literally there is nothing to do...but that is the point! There is something about being surrounded by nature (360) that is so calming. I really loved it.


After living 24/7 in the city (which is becoming more cramped by the day) and dealing with the constant hustle and bustle of city life - it was really nice to go to a nice open space where people have so much greenery and wide open spaces around them. It was so great for Maya too, to run around on these huge lawns and pick fruit right off the branch.


It's funny...because usually we are so busy planning these big trips to Italy and India....that we forget that there are such nice little vacation spots right in our back yard!



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Friday, June 27, 2014

The TamBrahms take Venice!


Having been to Venice so many times over the past decade, it is always fun to witness people who are seeing for the first time - through fresh eyes...

This was my inlaws first trip to Venice and it was really interesting to see it with them.


Going to Venice was a lifelong dream for them. Shortly after they got married, my inlaws went to see a Bollywood movie that took place in Venice. My FIL whispered to my MIL, "Someday we will go there...." And he never forgot about it. He had wanted to see Venice - in particular - more than any other place in the world. He considered it one of the great world wonders - a city floating on water - how could it be?

Before our trip, he had so many questions. How does Venice not sink? How is it possible that it was built?


They arrived in Venice by train, and anybody who has been there knows that the train station is right on the water. You come out of the station, and it's like "wow....Venice.." on the doorstep. We took a water taxi from the train station which took us through the grand canal and my inlaws were speechless. The view of the city from the water taxi is quite intimate. You're on the canal level, looking up at all these details.


My inlaws also really liked the apartment we stayed at. It looked over the little canal so my MIL was always looking out the window at the gondoliers drifting by. There was a Chinese family staying opposite us, and the smell of fried something totally got my MIL's taste buds going!

The first night we went to a little restaurant around the corner and we had fresh vegetable risotto. Throughout our trip, my inlaws were really impressed by how fresh the food was.

The next day, we went to Torcello for Maya's birthday, and it was perfect. My MIL said that was her favorite day - all of us being together.


The next day we took them to visit the Rialto area, and we went to the market and made friends with the Bangladeshi fruit vendors. Both of our groups couldn't understand each other's Hindi, but we managed! Then we took the Traghetto across, just for fun! My MIL was a bit scared going across - being so close to the water with no life vest! That evening we did a lovely sunset gondola ride. The gondolier explained historical facts of the city, which my FIL loved.


The next day we took them to the grand San Marco square where we fed pigeons. My MIL loved feeding them and their pecking from her hand kept tickling her, which broke her infamous "grumpy cat" expression and I got some great pictures of her smiling! We also went to the Basilica and my MIL loved the Byzantine gold on the ceiling.


We also showed them the Bridge of Sighs, and they went up the Campanile di San Marco. At first they refused, saying they already had gone up so many towers in Italy - but I pressured them to go up this one and I told them it was totally worth it. In Venice, the towers give an amazing viewpoint of the top of the churches and the canals. It's not your average tower...

The next day we took a water taxi out to Burano and walked around the little town. We had lunch at this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant. That's where my inlaws discovered Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe (oil and pepper) and fell in love! The great thing about Italy is you can walk into any dingy dhaba and have fresh food - much like India!


The next day we took the Vaporetto (water bus) from San Marco to San Giorgio Maggiore island and went up the tower. Then we returned to San Marco and toured around the magnificent Doge's Palace. My inlaws were amazed at the craftsmanship of the ornate ceilings. My MIL kept saying that she wished she knew something about Christianity to understand the paintings. I said I didn't know it either, and she felt better! Being an avid mystery reader, she also loved touring the ancient prisons inside the Palace.

(Eating Tiramisu)

In terms of food, my inlaws had LOTS of new discoveries. My FIL loved all the fresh green salads. My MIL loved pesto pasta and Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe. She loved Panella - which was like a pakora. Her Indian sweet tooth loved Tiramisu, Ricotta Gelato, and Mandarin Sorbet. And both my inlaws were crazy about the strong Italian espresso.


Husband ji had only been to Venice once prior (last year) but he knew his way around like a pro. My FIL is notorious for never getting lost, no matter what country he is in, but even he was too confused by the Venetian streets. It was like a maze to him. He was pretty impressed that husband ji knew his way around so well. Like father, like son...only better!


I loved seeing my inlaws tour a new place for the first time and try out new things. I think my MILs fear of both water and Italian food has greatly reduced! It was nice to spend time with them in a different setting (ie. outside of Canada and/or India)

It was an unforgettable trip!


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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Maya's 2nd birthday in Torcello


You know those days in life where everything turns out to be beautifully perfect? That was what it was like for us on Maya's 2nd birthday...


We were all in Venice - on a joint family vacation - and we decided to spend her special day all together on the nearby island of Torcello.


Torcello is this gorgeous little island off the coast of Venice that was home to some of the first settlers in that area. Now it is like a little ghost island with abandoned villas and overgrown gardens. Many people are drawn to this quiet island for the church - the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta - which featured gorgeous Byzantine mosaics and is one of the oldest in that area.


There is also a famous restaurant on the island called Locanda Cipriani that has a gorgeous garden with roses, marigolds, and exotic flowers.



We started the day by dressing Maya up in one of her new little Italian dresses. Then we took the water taxi to Torcello, and passed some of the many lovely islands including Murano and Burano.


We had a lovely lunch at the Locanda Cipriani under an awning of greenery. There was a major heatwave that day so it protected us from the hot sun. After, Maya ran around in the garden and collected sticks and stones. My MIL especially loved the flowers in the garden, being a former Biology professor.


For her cake, we had a little slice of apple cake with vanilla bean gelato.


After we blew out the candles, I became my usual self (the emotional basket-case) and started crying. (What is it about motherhood that makes me feel constantly emotional?) I just thought of what a big girl she had become, what a great kid she is, and how lucky I am to be her mum....


Click HERE to read what we did for her birthday last year....
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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Our joint family vacation to Venice, Italy


We recently did a trip-of-a-lifetime by traveling all together as a family to Venice, Italy. And by all together, I mean with BOTH sets of parents!!!


We wanted to go for many reasons, including: to celebrate my dad's great diagnosis, to go on a family vacation, to celebrate Maya's 2nd birthday, and it was my inlaws' lifelong dream to visit Venice.


Having everyone in one place - a foreign destination - with all of us off work and enjoying the time together, being present in the moment...was SO wonderful.


Venice has been my parents' favorite travel destination for almost a decade. They rent a beautiful apartment in Cannaregio that has Fortuny fabric on the walls and looks over a little canal. Last year, we also went to Venice for Maya's first-ever vacation, and husband-ji's first trip to Italy. This current trip was also my inlaws' first ever trip to Italy, and to Venice.


Venice is a really amazing city for kids. It's like the whole city is a huge playground, with squares they can run around at every corner, tons of pigeons to feed and chase, endless gelato...and the best part is: no cars!


We had some nice one-on-one time with my parents before my inlaws arrived, then we had nice family time all together, and then my parents' left for Rome, so we got some one-on-one time with my inlaws too. It was a win-win.


This year, we got to do a lot more sightseeing because Maya was more flexible and wanted to play - anywhere and everywhere! We did San Marco Square, the Rialto, Burano, Torcello, San Giorgio Maggiore, Palazzo Ducale, a family gondola ride....and a ton of walking around and discovering.


And although husband-ji and I didn't get any alone time, I felt it was a very romantic vacation for us. He was so helpful with her that it really reminded me of what a great dad he is, and a great husband, and that when he is off work - he does help me out a lot with her.


I was so happy to see my inlaws and spend time with them. Maya really bonded with my FIL which was adorable to see.



This vacation went so well that I would love to do it again - meet once a year in a foreign destination & all be tourists together! It really was the trip of a lifetime...



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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Differences in traveling on a joint family vacation

(Joint family vacay!)

We recently got back from a lovely vacation to Italy with both sets of parents (joint family ish-style!), which was the first time we all traveled together to a destination where we were all tourists. I wasn't sure how it was going to go because both sets of parents are POLAR opposites in their traveling styles.

My inlaws traveling style (mostly my FIL) is extremely fast-paced. He likes to "finish off" 10 things in one day, like an episode of The Amazing Race. He plans the trip by looking at top ten lists of must-see tourist spots and likes to take a picture in front of every one of them. He likes to read about the places extensively before he visits, so all he needs is a "quick snap". This is partly due to the many Indian passport and visa woes, he may never get the chance to go again. So he likes to pack it ALL in, in one go. He is more energetic, but it is very tiring for my MIL and she often complains and looks like "Grumpy Cat" face in front of each of the top 10 monuments.

Come to think of it, once upon a time....dear husband-ji used to be like that too! When we took our first vacation together, I used to call him the "travel monster"! Hahahaha!!!!! Like father, like son!

My parents, on the other hand, like to go on vacation to relax. They both like to sleep in, wake up slowly, and go out for a few hours in the afternoon. They like to wander around and explore the city, without any particular destination in mind. Both my parents are artistic, so they get a lot of creative inspiration this way. If they do make plans to do something - it will be to tour a museum and go to a restaurant. They often have both lunch and dinner by sitting in a restaurant for hours, slowly eating their meal, and people-watching on the street in front. When my parents travel, they like to get lost, and they are on no particular schedule.

Husband-ji & I's traveling style is probably a mix of both of the above. We both love to photograph, so we may do one or two sites per day. We like to wake up early in the morning and explore, and go out and take pictures of the city's daily life. Then we like to have a leisurely lunch and dinner. Our main goal of the trip is both to relax, and take photographs. But now that we are parents, our traveling patterns mostly depend on Maya. Now that she is older, she tags along with us like a little buddy.

Everybody has different traveling styles and when you travel as a group you can really sense any incompatibilities in this area. Sometimes people travel with each other and they never want to do it again! So, knowing how different we travel, I wasn't sure how it was going to go....it WAS our first time, after all!

Luckily, everything went smoothly. By the time my inlaws got to Venice, they had already done a tour of Italy, so they were exhausted. We had also rented an apartment in Venice, so it felt like a home they could relax in. My parents tagged along with us for the main meals, and then we took my inlaws around Venice (husband-ji is practically an expert now!)

I was relieved that such diverse personalities gelled together so well and effortlessly. Go figure!

Stay tuned to hear more about our Joint Family vacay!!


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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Glimpses of Fatherhood

One of the most beautiful things to watch - when sharing your life with somebody, and growing old together - is watching your spouse become a parent.

Husband-ji wasn't the one carrying the baby or birthing her, but he was there with me every step of the way. In a sense, it is more scary for a man, since they are essentially handed the baby at birth, with no clue as to what to do.

When Maya first came out, husband-ji was right beside me, and immediately he said "AWWWW" and we both started crying, as this little being both looked at us intently. He cut her umbilical cord, he inspected the placenta, he bottle-fed her late nights, he ran out to the drugstore to get more diapers/formula/wipes. He came home at a moment's notice if anything was wrong, even flying cross-country from a business trip.

He has been a faithful co-pilot to me in this parenting game, often times being a shoulder to rely on when I'm at my wit's end.

It has been amazing, seeing him become a father. He is everything I could have hoped for and more...

Here is a celebration of his journey...

(The first time he held his baby)

(Sound asleep)



(Whispering her name, 21st day Naming ceremony)
















(Maya's first birthday)









Happy Father's Day, dear readers!


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