Preserving Childhood Memories with Paintings

9x12 oil on board by Jaya Perrier

Remember this post about my girls’ shared room from a while back? I love that the girls still share their room, two years later, at ages 7.5 and 6. It’s their little sanctuary where their personal story plays out -- they laugh in unison, bicker endlessly at times (ahem), and make a hundred goofy memories together.

I wanted to find a way to preserve these memories visually. While photographs are works of art, in this particular case, I had something more delicate and subtle in mind than an interior shot of the room. Something more evocative and captivating to tell their stories when they grow up and eventually have their own rooms (they are already talking about separate rooms but I secretly want them to keep sharing -- isn’t it more fun that way!?).

Inspired by this beautiful derivative watercolor by my childhood friend Jaya, I knew what I wanted. I approached Jaya to create a watercolor painting and sent the below photograph for reference. Jaya convinced me to go for an oil painting instead, and I completely trusted her creative judgement. And so, after going over a few details, the process began.

Interior Design: Barbara Vail

A few weeks ago on a random Thursday evening, I got a surprise message from Jaya with a picture of the final outcome. I was absolutely mesmerized to see the whole scene come alive in such a beautiful way! The vibrant colors, intricate details, and her impressionistic style added the much needed visceral punch, and transformed that little corner of the room into a work of art, quite literally.

It’s a gorgeous 9x12 oil on board on its way from Montreal to Boston as we speak. I cannot wait! It puts a smile on my face everytime I see it : ) I’m excited to frame it and preserve it forever, knowing one day my girls will appreciate it just the same.

Thank you so much Jaya for turning my vision into a reality with your stunning work! I absolutely love it! Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

P.S. You may also enjoy wall art ideas for kids' room.


Travel with kids: Top 15 US Family Spring Break Destinations

These may not be your typical spring break destinations, but they are my top choices when it comes to family-style domestic travel. This list is a combination of places I’ve already visited (and would like to revisit with kids) and places I’d like to travel to some day. As you know, I’m no beach bum, but if I can guarantee a pool or some beach time to the girls, they’ll be happy to play along. What matters is that we are all together and having a good time, right?

Winter survival strategies definitely helped me get through the colder months, but now that spring is almost here, I’m craving warm weather and a change of scenery. 

We like to enjoy New England in the summer months because it has so much to offer, making spring the perfect time of year to travel instead. Plus, a few of the destinations below are way too hot in the summer anyways.  

There are so many interesting places to visit -- wasn’t easy capping it off at 15! Take a look and share which destinations are on your travel radar!

1. Santa Fe, NM - From city’s Pueblo-style architecture to delicious restaurants and art galleries, this city has so much culture to offer. My husband and I visited more than 10 years ago and I know my girls would appreciate it now that they’re older.
2. St. Augustine, FL - The nation’s oldest city with lots of charm. I’ve never been, but love to sometime soon.

3. Hilton Head, SC - A tranquil island with beautiful, sandy beaches and outdoor activities. We visited for the first time in 2012 when my oldest daughter was 10-months-old. This is a very relaxing & peaceful destination, which the girls would surely love because of the beaches.
4. Williamsburg/Assateague Island, VA - Colonial Williamsburg has been on my list for quite a long time. A little road trip combining Williamsburg with Assateague Island to check out wild horses and coastal bays would be so fun!
5. New Orleans, LA - All that jazz, beignets, and its cajun and creole cuisine. What’s not to love?
6. Nashville, TN - I’m not entirely sure what to expect, but the music scene and local culture are enticing.

7. Oahu, HI - Or any of the Hawaiian islands for that matter. I hear it’s beautiful, sunsets are bursting with color and there are tons of activities (hikes with amazing views, snorkeling, kayaking to name a few) to enjoy.
8. San Francisco, CA - I love SFO! A family road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway with stops along the way sounds like an ideal vacation.

9. Portland, OR - Who wouldn’t want to drink all that yummy coffee?
10. Sedona, AZ - Scenic and breathtakingly beautiful. It’s known for its hiking trails and nearby canyons. A change of pace but much needed adventure.

11. Palm Springs, CA - I’m still not over the magical energy of the desert and its midcentury modernism. I’d happily venture back any day.

12. Washington, DC - The heart of so much American history. Being able to share this experience with the family would be an insightful trip, especially with museum visits!

13. Yellowstone National Park - A road trip with astounding views rolling past the windows, immersing ourselves in nature. As important as it is to appreciate cities and their glory, nature will always offer its own captivating beauty.

14. Savannah, GA - Remember last year’s spring break trip to Charleston? Years ago, we only spent a few hours in Savannah but I’d love to go back and experience this picturesque city.
15. New York City - Last year, I made a list of 25 things to do with kids in NYC. We are not even halfway through that list yet and well, as the saying goes, New York is always a good idea!


Starting an art collection

Remember my post about beginning an art collection for kids? I shared my thoughts on gifting pieces of art or experiences for special days, rather than items with a short impression. Last year, I gave my older daughter Neve these beautiful 4x6 oils on canvas by Boston artist Sorin Bica for her birthday. This year, it was my younger daughter Ona’s turn to get her 6th birthday artwork from mommy. And this time around, I didn’t have to look too far. 

One of our oldest family friends Rashna Madon gifted Neve her very first piece of art about seven years ago when she was a newborn. On the back was a beautiful handwritten note: “ To little Neve - your first piece of original art - may you have many more. Love…” This was hands down the most thoughtful gift Neve received as a newborn. We have moved twice since then, and it always finds a prominent place in the girls’ room.

Neve's first piece of art from Rashna

A few years later, when Rashna’s work had a dedicated Facebook page, I started following it. I came across a captivating ink on paper she had posted sometime in July 2018, saved a picture of it on my desktop, and knew I didn’t have to look any further for what I wanted. 

I contacted Rashna to commission her to make a similar piece of art as the one I had saved for Ona’s birthday. Rashna was getting ready for an upcoming show at the time so we decided to wait until things were less busy. The show was in NJ in November 2018 and unfortunately I couldn’t physically be there but my dear aunt (and one of Rashna’s closest friends) was attending. My aunt was kind enough to help me ‘virtually’ pick out an artwork and, lo and behold, we found the original one I had loved. I bought it right away and received it recently once the show was over.

Isn’t it so lovely!? It’s 5 x 7 ink on paper. Ona loves the whimsical creatures and I especially love the tree (reminds me of India) and all the brilliant, intricate details. Her work is folksy, playful, and has a narrative. It depicts nature, animals, and the harmonious coexistence of living creatures in a given environment. It brings me peace and joy every time I look at it. 

Thank you so much Rashna! I’m so glad this work made it to its permanent home. We are absolutely loving it and enjoying it everyday! Follow Rashna on Facebook.

P.S. You may also enjoy 10 resources to help you buy art for your home.


3 things that make me smile

These are my grandparents documented circa 1949. A month ago, in February, they celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. Yes, 70 epic years of togetherness!! My grandfather hadn’t been well lately, and this morning, I woke up to a phone call that he passed away. While I’m sad and we’ll all miss him dearly, I’m happy that I saw him recently in India in January and was able to spend time with him.

What makes me smile is this photograph of him and my grandma, every. single. time. It’s jovial, mischievous and an ode to a simple and noble life well-lived. We will be thinking of him and the rest of our family in India as we celebrate 87 years of his life.

Photo Credit

After talking to my parents this morning regarding my grandpa and dropping off the kids at school, I went straight to the gym for a much needed pick-me-up. I saw an elderly lady on the treadmill. I’m not sure how old, but I’m guessing in her 80s. Her cheeks were rosy with makeup, and she was wearing a bright red leotard with light pink ballerina tights and white sneakers. You guys, I cannot tell you how much I adore, and am inspired by, her. I had seen her a few more times previously in her bright leotards and cool, nonchalant demeanor. And she gets me every time!

When I saw her this morning, I just couldn't get over her cool outfit. I jumped on the treadmill right next to her and she looked at me and smiled as if saying “girl, I got you.” On a particularly dull morning, working out next to her was an uplifting experience, and it definitely made me smile.

I wish I had her picture, but instead I pulled one off the internet to give you a visual.

Changing generations, my younger daughter Ona got this plastic cup with some soil and red kidney beans from school for her birthday at the end of January. I was confused to see just a handful of kidney beans and some potting soil in a cup but I kept watering it. Eventually, my husband, the official plant sitter of the family, started taking care of it. Who knew kidney bean seeds could grow like this (Sorry, elementary school science teacher)? We started to monitor its growth and seeing how much it has grown in just over 4 weeks makes me happy. And green, the color of life, nature, renewal always makes me smile. Especially now that spring is almost around the corner!

What's making you smile today?


Family Lifestyle Blog: Travel Treasures

San Diego, 2017

For years, I have enjoyed bringing home souvenirs from our travels. Rather than buying t-shirts or refrigerator magnets, I prefer to hold onto memories through treasures that go beyond everyday use.

Italy, 2017

Whether it’s a piece of art or home decor, or a simple framed photograph taken during your travels, these are the pieces that deserve a special place in your home. They help to tell a story. 

Photograph waiting to be framed. Paris, 2018

To create an atmosphere filled with glimpses of your favorite destinations and global adventures.

German midcentury table. Italy, 2017

I’ve shared some of my favorite travel tokens that are now proudly displayed in my home. What is one of your favorite unique finds?


Breakfast Parfait Platter

A couple of years ago, one of the first things the girls enthusiastically started helping out with around the kitchen was making their own parfaits. I would simply put out three bowls filled separately with yogurt, berries, and granola and give them their own bowls or glasses to fill as they please. They had fun ‘layering’ the ingredients and making their own parfaits. This quickly became an ongoing weekend ritual for quite a few weekends.

A few days ago, while we were snowed in and school was canceled, I was trying to figure out a multiple-course breakfast of sorts - yes, the girls need 2-3 snacks/meals until lunchtime if we don’t make an effort to leave home early enough in the morning! I soon realized this would be the perfect time to bring back parfait making!

I assembled the ingredients, provided one bowl of berries each to avoid any conflict over how many berries they each got, and added eggs for some extra protein. It was that simple (& colorful), and was wiped clean in no time!

Parfait may not be super filling for them anymore, but it worked great as breakfast #1 of the day on our slow, snowy morning.


My 8 years of blogging journey

Photo Credit: Ma Chérie Studios

I can’t believe I started writing my blog in 2012 - a whopping 8 years ago, today! My older daughter Neve was 7-months-old when I wrote my first blog post. I remember that winter well. It’s still the mildest winter I have ever experienced in New England. There was practically no snow on the ground and the temperatures were consistently in the 50s and 60s, even during peak months. I have fond memories of my long walks in the city, pushing a stroller with a snug baby inside. 

I never really shopped online before the girls were born. I enjoyed the process of walking into a store and feeling and holding the clothes before I bought them. With the arrival of a new baby, and less leisure time on my hands, I gradually started exploring online shopping. I spent time reading street style blogs and discovering new brands while nursing Neve for hours. This opened a whole new door of possibilities and before I knew it, I wanted to start my own blog.

I was already dabbling in photography at this point, and I soon realized I needed to hone my photography skills in order to produce high quality pictures for the blog. I absolutely loved sharing fun things I found online and trendy people I came across in the city. So I enrolled in a photography school soon after, and despite school work (and eventually a photography business - who knew!) and baby #2 on the way, I still kept blogging.

What started as a simple fashion blog morphed into a children’s fashion blog and more recently, a lifestyle blog of things that inspire me, places that fascinate me, and foods that gratify me. 

I’ve blogged on and off over the past 8 years, all while juggling other demands in my life. After much deliberation of whether or not I should continue writing I’ve realized that I really enjoy blogging. I love discovering and sharing the unique. From fashion finds to cultural nourishment, I hope to inspire and connect with other like-minded parents in a simple, honest way.

This blog is my perfect reminder to spend more time enjoying meaningful activities and share snippets via photography. It satisfies me and sometimes when I lose my inner drive, I reread old posts to feel invigorated and re-centre.

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