Christmas Décor


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Christmas is round the corner.

If you have still not decided about the decoration for the coming event, here are a few eco-friendly and cost effective ideas to do up your place. Make sure that your attempt at beautifying gratifies all the senses.

Collect the outer leafy covers of maize and sort them out in terms of size. Bring out your water colours and brushes and streak the leafy covers in various hues and leave them to dry. Staple each whorl to the tip of the last whorl to desired lengths and hang them up as festoons.

Collect coconut husks and tear them apart with your fingers till they appear uniform in texture.

Spread them evenly on a newspaper. Bring out your turmeric or powdered food colours. Sprinkle the colour over the husk. Repeat the process with various colours of your choice. You can use the coloured husks as the flooring of the manger.

Bring out all the Xmas and New Year cards that you have received. Tie a string across the manger area and clip the cards on the string at equal intervals. You could fasten balloons in the gaps to add to the festive look. Bring out all the unused plastic water bottles and cut them in such a way that the conical part is separated from the rest.

Fill the cylindrical base with different coloured waters (use food colours or paints) and place them strategically in the main décor or as a border. Float multi-coloured sequins in them during the day and lighted candles in them during evenings.

When placing lit candles in open areas, place the conical section of the bottle sans the cap over them so that they serve as a unique transparent lampshade. Fill small plates with chocolates and toffees wrapped in bright colours as little mounds and place them between the candles. These can be given away to young guests and refilled from time to time.

If you have interesting pictures or posters relevant to the holiday season tape them onto the background wall tastefully.

Flower arrangement need not always translate into bouquets; buy a couple of yards of strung marigold or chrysanthemum which are likely to last for a couple of days in this weather and hang them as festoons. The smell of these flowers will keep the mosquitoes and flies away.

Light incense sticks and place them in potted plants, so that the ash can spill into the soil besides making the area fragrant.

Play soft instrumental music to please the ears while filling the home with harmony.

It is Festival On A Plate


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ETHEREAL

Radha Prathi shows you how to make beautiful designs on your aarthi plate for a festive occasion.

Festivals, weddings and traditional rituals are great occasional excuses to highlight your creativity and lap up the appreciation that gush forth from your guests. While rangoli and flowers are the traditional decorational elements to go on the aarthi plates, there are still many other ways to ornate the plates. The most important thing to remember is that these plates need to be readied a few days in advance and kept aside for use later.

Here are some ways to make your aarthi plates a highlight for the next festival:
n If you plan to use a plate with engraved or embossed work on it, clean the plate thoroughly and get it polished it if it lacks luster. Apply a coat of coconut oil on the inner area of the plate and use a sieve used to filter tea leaves and spread bright red vermilion (kumkum) onto it evenly. You can also use different Rangoli colours of your choice, ofcourse. Use a new ear bud and trace the outline of the existing design with an even hand. You will find the ear bud wiping out a thin line of vermilion to reveal the design on the plate.

* If you have sparkle colours, you can clean up the polished plate and apply sparkle colours as a thin line along the existing design. Then, allow it to dry completely before use.

* You could make sugar syrup by dissolving two teaspoons of sugar in half a glass of water. Then, dip a new ear bud in the syrup and trace the outline of the existing design on the engraved plate with an even hand. Then gently pour sugar on the plate such that it covers the surface, without disturbing the plate. A couple of minutes later, pour out the sugar gently. You will find sugar crystals stuck along the design, making the plate appear as if it were bejewelled.

* If you want to use flowers, use rose petals and tulsi leaves or dhavanam leaves as they can lend fragrance with beauty. Wet the plate that you plan to use with water and place the petals and leaves in a pattern of your choice.

* If you wipe the plate with a drop of rose essence or attar before wetting the plate the Aarthi will turn out to be more aromatic.

* Take plain rice and add a drop of enamel paint in a colour of your choice and mix it with the rice such that the rice colours uniformly. (If you use fabric paint or food colour instead of enamel paint make sure you add a drop of cooking oil to the rice to give it the requisite sheen.)Then use a sketch pen to draw a design or Rangoli of your choice on the plate and fill each portion with different colours.

* Colourful bindis or radium stickers, of different shapes and sizes, which glow by night could be stuck in floral and geometrical patterns along the borders or restricted to the centre.

* If you are good at free hand drawing you could use permanent markers to draw intricate designs of your choice on the plate. When erasing the same, apply oil on the plate and allow it to soak for a while before washing it off.

* If the Aarthi plate is large, you could buy small sized glass bangles in different colours and pile them up tastefully and divide the pile into two and place them on opposite ends of the plate and then gently let the pile fall so that the bangles fall over one another forming small ellipses. You could adjust the space between the bangles so that they cover the entire area.

Tip: If you implement these ideas on a silver or brass plate, the effect will be ethereal when you place a pair of lighted lamps on them.

Christmas Clean Up and Colour


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Radha Prathi explains how articles and accessories available at home, can be used to create an economic, yet, new look for Christmas.

Recession or not, month end or year end, money crunch can do nothing to dampen the Christmas spirit unless you will it to be otherwise. The season’s spirit can be expressed in many different ways. For instance, sprucing up your home could be one of them, especially if you happen to do it yourself.

All of you at home, no matter to which age group you may belong, can see through this process with a little planning and co-operation. This thrifty move will work on family bonding, will go easy on your purse and will give you a better understanding of the place you live in, and the people around you.

Using the occasion

ASSORTED
It is said “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”. Use the occasion to spring-clean your home, room by room, till it is spic and span. First of all, take stock of all the items in a given room and decide what you need to retain and what you could give away or trash.

Then clear the place of cobwebs, dust and insects. If you have cupboards and shelves with metal or wooden interiors, you could give them a fresh coat of paint, laced with insecticide. Feng shui and Vaasthu Shaastra also emphasise on this facet. You could always give away the things you no longer need, to the ones who can put the same to good use.

If you are clumsy with hammers and nails, then do not be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Avail the help of a professional mason or a carpenter to set right the little anomalies around the home, and also to fix nails and accessories like magazine stands, mirrors or little shelves that have to be fixed on to the walls.

Allotting the right space

Once your entire home is cleaned up, begin your Christmas décor. The size of your home should not prove to be an obstacle to your endeavour. If you have a large home, allocate a room for Christmas décor, but if you happen to be living in very small quarters, apportion a part of a room or living space for the décor.

Free the area of furniture and the usual items of décor that highlight the place, in order to make a remarkable difference when the place is done up for the occasion.

Decorating with saris

Once the Christmas spot has been decided, check the walls and the windows of that place. It should not matter if they appear a little faded or old. Look upon them as an opportunity to implement your creativity. Bring out some colourful lightweight synthetic saris from your wardrobe. Use your elementary needlework skills and attach three or four saris with a running stitch, from end to end, so that you have a good length of fabric with a good contrasting colour scheme. The length can be increased or decreased according to your requirement. Fix vacuum holders in zigzag points with an approximate distance of two feet along the walls of the decided Christmas area, at least eight feet above the ground. Then pleat the sari length wise and pass the pleated sari at even intervals over these fixtures and clip them on with a clothes pin to keep them in place. You could tie blown balloons or pin multi coloured tassels at strategic points on the curtain. Once the walls are draped with waves of bright and beautiful fabric, you can be rest assured that you have set the stage for the rest of the decoration.

Bring out your potted plants. If the pots appear old and mossy, apply a coat of white or red lime, to give them a facelift and line them along the wall at equal distance to give a green, eco-friendly touch to your decor. Since the pots are likely to be indoors for at least a week or so, you will do well to place them on terracotta plates so they do not soil your floor when they are watered. You can place the flower bouquets you receive during the festive season in the intervals, to brighten the area. Just in case you do not plan to have a Christmas tree, you could weave the glittering ribbons or serial electric bulbs over these plants. If you do not have many or any potted plants, do not lose sleep over it you can always buy some of them from a nearby nursery or from the plant vendors who are constantly strolling around the city, selling their wares from push carts. After all, Christmas is a season for ringing in the new and you will be appreciated for ushering some greenery into your home.

Natural settings

Place your Christmas tree amidst this setting and decorate it with festoons and little bells or wind chimes. Though readymade synthetic trees are available in the market, which can be dismantled and used again in the following year, it is preferable to buy a real live potted tree. You can plant it in your own garden or gift it to someone who has a garden.

Flower arrangements can enhance the loveliness of the area. Since Christmas decorations will have to last for a week or ten days, make sure you buy more of longer lasting flowers like Chrysanthemums, Rajnigandha, Zerberas Zinnias or Lavenders, apart from the regular roses and your favourite flowers. Make sure you replace or remove the wilting flowers on a daily basis, otherwise they are likely to spoil the show.

If you plan to have a crib, then place the Christmas tree towards a corner and spread the hay on a low divan or a mat as the stage for the crib. The divine scene of the birth of Christ in a cattle shed in Bethlehem, can be spread on the segment of the floor covered with hay. Place lighted candles in candle stands randomly or set them afloat in large earthen bowls, to give that ethereal look with relative safety.

You will realise that one could still have a wonderful Christmas with minimum expenditure and maximum involvement, which will not only make your Christmas merry but can pave way to an organised, healthy and happy new year which lies ahead of you.

Lighting Up Your Lives


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A woman arranges oil lamps and flowers around a Rangoli during the celebrations ahead of the Hindu festival of Diwali in Ahmedabad. Reuters

The effect of tiny gentle flames quivering in the dusky hours of chilly November nights has the power to warm up the cockles of the most indifferent hearts. Diwali perhaps could not have cast a similar spell on the Indian populace across the globe, had it been scheduled to be celebrated at some other time of the year.

We are fortunate to be living at a time when we have the choice to pick and choose from a plethora of lamps that come in all shapes and sizes, not to mention the range of materials. Traditional oil lamps, diyas filled with candle wax just ready to be lit, electric lamps, gaily coloured serial bulbs, lamps that flicker on the strength of batteries, LED lights, neon lights, we have them all. All you have to do is, pick the ones that please you best and light them up in every corner of your hearth and home and create a festive atmosphere.

The humble lamp made from baked clay looks best when they are put on pedestals or decorative lamp bases. They serve the practical purpose of keeping your floor from soiling, in case the oil spills. Besides, they also act as an aesthetic caution to people who may stumble over them inadvertently when placed all over the flooring.

Traditionally, colourful Rangolis made flour and flowers form beautiful lamp bases. Yet these days, not many people have the time or enough space to make several Rangolis in and around the house.

When you give a personal touch to the decorations, the result will be not only be unique but can also be a very fulfilling experience. You can achieve this end by decorating all the odd plates using ornate sticker bindis, flamboyant wedding cards, plastic flowers, laces, ribbons, sea shells, sequins, mirrors, marbles and several such trinkets found around your home.

* Lamp bases for oil lamps and candlewax diyas are best made from plates of non inflammable material.

* Paint a beautiful colourful rangoli on a large tray or plate and use it as a base.

* Bring out all the old and faded artificial flowers in your home and wash them clean. Pluck out the petals one by one and paint them using a bright fabric colour. Once the petals dry, they can be pasted very close to each other along the circumference of the chosen plate. If you have artificial leaves at your disposal, they too can be used for decoration in the same way.

* Bring out all the marbles at home and arrange them in a design of your imagination, before placing a lamp on it. You need not worry about accidental oil spills, because marbles are washable.

* If you have pistachio shells or sea shells around the home, paint them in different hues and paste them along the circumference of the plate. If you have little mirrors used in embroidery, toss them in the inner circle. They will enhance the brightness of the flame by reflecting them.

* The Aishwarya Rangoli (If you do not know the design, refer to it on the internet) is traditionally used on Diwali to usher in the wealth bestowed by goddess Lakshmi. A few meters of golden coloured lace pasted along the lines can lend grandeur to your lamp.

* Bring out a brass plate, polish it well, and paste kundan stones, ornate bindis or sequins on it in a pattern of your choice, before placing the lamp on it.

* If you have a sundry collection of coins, wash them clean using a dishwash soap and sort them out in terms of size and shape. Arrange them in the pattern of a rangoli on a plate and place the lamps. This is quite a creative way to represent goddess Lakshmi, and with some luck, welcome more of her.

* The lamp bases of electrified lamps or battery operated candles require less caution and give more scope to creativity.

* Painted ice cream sticks can be arranged aesthetically on hard boards or handmade paper and embellished with laces.

* Cut out the border designs of wedding cards and make a collage of them on hexagonal cardboard cutouts.

* Colourful paper can be cut out into petals, assembled as a large flower and glued together before using them as a base.

* Cups and plates made of betel leaves can be painted upon, and placed at even distances before placing bulbs of a serial light or LED lights in them.

Give A Creative Gift This Season


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Buy two! Get three free! Shop for Rs 3,000 and take home a free toaster! Buy a flat-screen television and get a washing machine free! Order a cake with us and get party snacks free! EMI facilities on branded clothes, shoes accessories! Conditions Apply! 

The air is filled with a sense of enthusiasm and fervour gently coaxing people into the spending mode.

Jingles! Hoardings! Video clips! Print ads! Pamphlets! Advertisements of every sort are being featured across the country in every possible manner.

Recession and GDP (gross domestic product) seem to take a back seat even as they herald the festive season. The Christmas spirit has set in.

It is now that even Scrooges relax their tight fists and display uncharacteristic generosity. Thanks to the spirit of Christmas!

However, if you want to give a unique gift this season you could make it creative, trendy and useful if you only gave it a little thought about it, for gifts are symbolic of your love, hope and trust towards the recipient of your gift!

According to the Bible, the Magi or Wise Men, followed the guiding star and found the newborn baby Christ in the manger who they foresaw would eventually become the King of the Jews.It is said that they presented him with gold, frankincense and myrrh symbolic of kingship, asceticism and suffering.

Though the gifts appeared to be ambiguous, the spirit behind them made them special and futuristic. They heralded joy, hope and peace – the hallmarks of a well-meaning gift.They wrapped up the essence of Jesus Christ and his personality.

If you want your gift to make the right impact, you could give potted plants or seeds of flowering plants and vegetables and spread the “green word” around.

Or, you could use your skills in arts and crafts to create a beautiful gift or a greeting card for them. Just in case you are not the arty sort, you could write a sincere handwritten appreciative note punctuating it with some heartfelt gratitude if you think he or she deserves it apart from any other item you think your recipient may fancy.

It is quite possible that some people who are reading this piece may find the suggestions a trifle old-fashioned in spirit.

But one should remember that the Christmas spirit is around two millennia old but the mystique of the “Gift of the Magi” has not lost its charm.

Merry Christmas

Eco Friendly Merry Making


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New Year is round the corner. If you are yet to decide about the decoration for the coming event, here are a few eco-friendly and cost effective ideas to do up your place. Make sure that your attempt at beautifying gratifies all the senses.

Collect the outer leafy covers of maize and sort them out in terms of size. Bring out your water colours and brushes and streak the leafy covers in various hues and leave them to dry. Staple each whorl to the tip of the last whorl to desired lengths and hang them up as festoons. Collect coconut husks and tear them apart with your fingers till they appear uniform in texture. Spread them evenly on a newspaper.

Bring out your turmeric or powdered food colours. Sprinkle the colour over the husk. Repeat the process with the colours of your choice. You can use the coloured husks as the flooring of the manger.

Bring out all the Christmas and New Year cards that you have received. Tie a string across the manger area and clip the cards on the string at equal intervals. You could fasten balloons in the gaps to add to the festive look.

Bring out all the unused plastic water bottles and cut them in such a way that the conical part is separated from the rest. Fill the cylindrical base with different coloured waters (use food colours or paints), and place them strategically in the main décor or as a border. Float multi-coloured sequins in them during the day and lighted candles in them for evenings. When placing slim lit candles in open areas, place the conical section of the bottle sans the cap over them so that they serve as transparent lampshades.

Fill small plates with chocolates and toffees wrapped in bright colours as little mounds and place them between the candles. These can be given away to young guests and refilled from time to time.

If you have interesting pictures or posters relevant to the holiday season, tape them onto the background wall tastefully.

Get a huge cardboard carton, fill it with all the sundry objects lying around, which may not be directly relevant with the Christmas season, to declutter the place. Instead of stowing the carton away, use it as the canvass to display some precious photographs sourced from your family album and place it at a vantage point. Do not be surprised if it turns out to be the conversation piece that will take you down the memory lane.

Flower arrangement need not always translate as bouquets, buy a couple of yards of strung marigold or chrysanthemum, which are likely to last for a couple of days in this weather and hang them as festoons. The smell of these flowers will keep the mosquitoes and flies away. Light incense sticks and insert them in potted plants, so that the ash can spill into the soil besides making the area fragrant.

Play soft instrumental music to please the ears while filling the home with harmony.

Music Therapy


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Learning classical music introduces the learner into an amazing world of music.

When the venerable bard said, “If music be the food of soul play on,” he was probably not aware of the fact that Indians had already realised the value of naada bramham and had even designed a meticulous way to celebrate it.

Ancient Indians believed that when the sun shone on the stellar constellation of Sagittarius the ‘Brahma Muhurtham’ set in, ushering in a new day to the very gods. This short phase of early dawn in the life of the Gods stretches out into a month in the life of us who are mere mortals.

The Dhanur Maasa which falls between mid December and mid-January has been celebrated in a very unique manner in South India. When one would ideally like to stay up late in bed, traditionalists get up before the crack of dawn, bathe and cleanse themselves and offer prayers to the Gods. The Dhanur Maasa also doubles up as a month where young girls can showcase their talent by drawing beautiful rangolis outside their homes and also display their ability to sing. In fact the entire month is celebrated as the ‘Musical Month’ in Chennai when venerated classical musicians and instrumentalists fill the air with their cadence.

The unique feature of this festive month lies in the fact that it is celebrated in a very exclusive way. Temples open their doors way before the first ray of the sun appears in the horizon. Earthen lamps are lit not only in the temples but also at the doorsteps of the homes of people to light the way for wayfarers during the misty hours of the morning. Classical music concerts are held for an hour or two in the wee hours of the morning to celebrate the precious moments of the ‘Brahma Muhurtham.’

It has been proved that music has therapeutic values. The electronic world has made the world’s best music available on a platter. Yet not everything seems to be well in the world of music. Gone are the days when the parents and the family of the child spent quality time with their young ones visiting live classical music concerts thereby inducing a love and respect for traditional music. Today music at best means film or album music to the growing youngsters. They relish loud and fast music with insensible and sometimes crass lyrics. Perhaps if parents introduce the child to classical music a lot of aspects of the child can be honed.

Learning any type of classical music be it Karnatic, western or Hindustani will introduce the learner into an amazing world of music. It will be an eye-opener for them to know that there are infinite possibilities to use the seven basic notes of music in various permutations and combinations. They will imbibe a sense of time (tala/beat) and precision in the course of learning. They will understand the science and mathematics behind classical music. Once they grapple the subtle nuances of the basics they will be able to adapt to any other genre of singing like folk, pop, ghazals—the list is endless.

It is high time to introduce the children to the world of music to overcome their personality disorders like lack of focus, indiscipline and occasional delinquency.