Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy birthday, Ajji!

Ajji with baby brother Sunshine.
Though she never admitted it,
he was her favorite grandchild
It is a special day for the Sunshine family. My paternal grandmother - or Ajji as her grandchildren fondly call her - would have been 92 years old today. 

I have been fortunate to have a lot of strong women in my life, but Ajji was like no other woman I have ever known. She was the rock that kept our family anchored to reality. She was the glue that bound us. She was selfless and compassionate - constantly taking care of everyone around her. She was very, very smart - I like to think that my interest in strategy as an academic is due to her influence. She was strong - she lived through the partition, married a difficult man, had two eccentric sons (I love you dad and kaka, but admit it, you are eccentric) - but I never heard her complain even once (and I heard her cuss someone out only once in my entire life time). She was thrifty, creative and a brilliant cook - nothing ever went to waste in our home.  And I think she was a closeted feminist. She was all that I want to be when I grow up. 

She taught me so much. She taught me that beauty comes in different shapes and forms, that you have to treat others just the way you want to be treated by them (a very important lesson in a country like India), that being selfless is sometimes the best way to tell someone that you love them.  

She passed away 5 years ago and I am so glad that Mr.  Sunshine was able to meet her. I wish our future Sunshine child could have met her -  her/ his life would have been so much richer with her in it.

Happy birthday Ajji! We all miss you so much. And as my little brother said, you would have been so proud to see all your grandchildren doing so well. Thank you for helping us do that.

Ms. Sunshine

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Screen shot of my Pinterest profile

Have you heard about Pinterest? It is an online pin-board, where you can "pin" anything that you find interesting, pretty or inspiring on the web. All "pins" are visual, and directly linked to the website they were originally on, so you don't have to worry about bulky bookmarks or writing long descriptions on the bookmark link.  All you need is a Pinterest button on your bookmark bar and when you find something you want to save for future inspiration or use, just click the button and save it. 

What makes Pinterest even more fun is that is sort of a social networking site - you can "follow" friends through Facebook who are already on the website, or you can start following people you don't know.

In other words, Pinterest is awesome. It is a mood board, a scrapbook, a bookmark list, an Amazon universal wish list and Facebook all together, only better, and oh so addictive!

Unfortunately, right now you still need an invite to join - you can get an invite on the website or email/ message me and I can send it to you.

If you are already on Pinterest, find me here, and follow me. I'll follow you back.

Ms. Sunshine

Happy Thanksgiving!

Give thanks print by HENANDCO

Coffee dipped, hand stamped tags turned into napkin rings.
We used the back of the tag to write down
what we were thankful for
In one of my earlier posts, I wrote about how Mr. Sunshine and I hope to incorporate traditions and the culture of places we have lived in (and hope to live in) in our lives. Thanksgiving is one of those uniquely American celebrations that we want to hold on to and make it a Sunshine family tradition. I love Thanksgiving - I love that it is all about family and friends, and about acknowledging all that we have in our lives. Of course, I also love that it is all about the food. This is the first time in several years that we won't be having a thanksgiving meal on Thursday - we have a tiny celebration planned for Sunday dinner - and I can't wait to have our very first Thanksgiving in Norway! I just have to figure out how to bake three dishes in our tiny little oven, with only one baking dish.

Last year at our first family thanksgiving, all of us wrote down what we were thankful for, and read it aloud after dinner - it was a lot of fun, and emotional and touching. There may or may not have been some tears involved (see second picture). I had hoped to make it a thing to do at every thanksgiving in the future, but then we moved. So this year I am just going to post all that I am thankful for (in no particular order) on the blog. Also, this is by no means an exhaustive list.

I am thankful for:

  • My friends and family, who bring sunshine in my life
  • Hot showers - any one who has had to bathe using a bucket and a mug knows what I am talking about
  • My grandmothers - ajji and nani - for teaching me that strength of character comes in different forms
  • My parents who let me be who I wanted to be
  • My brother for being the best sounding board a girl could ask for
  • Letterpress printing - for letting people make amazing paper products
  • Avocados - for adding that extra oomph to any dish
  • Books - for who would I be without books
  • NPR - for keeping me informed and entertained
  • Pretty dishes - so that the ramen that I make looks like gourmet food :-) 
  • The Internet - really, how else would I procrastinate?
  • Coffee - for keeping me sane
  • Friendly TSA agents and airport staff - because flying is stressful enough without having to deal with rude airline staff
  • Freedom of Speech - this one speaks for itself
  • Mr. Sunshine - he is my world
  • Pretty wrapping paper - because it is even better to receive gifts wrapped in pretty paper
  • Buntings - because, well, they make me happy
  • Handwritten mail
  • Mr. Sunshine's family - for making me a part of their family
  • Saris - because I have never seen a woman who doesn't look gorgeous in one
  • Tea - because it calms me
  • Google Maps and Google Translate - because without either, I would be getting lost everyday in Stavanger. How did immigrants in the days before Google or the Internet survive?
  • Nice smelling soap - because there is nothing like smelling pretty after a bath
  • Hair dryers - because nothing annoys me more than air drying my hair
  • The sea - because its vastness makes me realize how small my troubles are
  • Nutella - because it makes everything taste better
  • Sunshine - because when you live in a town where it rains every day, every day the Sun shines is a precious day
  • Modern medicine - because without the anesthesia my last dental surgery would have been hell
  • Happy babies in airplanes - because everyone who have flown in a flight with a crying baby knows that feeling of frustration - you want the child to shut up, but can't do much about it
  • Teachers - because even though they have the most important job in the world, they seldom get any thanks for it
  • My best friend PRR - because, well, he is the nicest person on earth
  • Everything we have - sometimes I tend to complain (and worry) a lot (sorry, Mr. Sunshine) about how I wish things could be different, or about how I wish I didn't have to make certain decisions. Then I have to stop and remind myself of all that I (and we) have. We have love, and laughter. We have friends and family that love us and care for us. We have everything we need. And I am thankful for it!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!

Ms. Sunshine

You are my world print by EeeBee and Write more letters print by Mary Kate McDevitt

There's More To Life Than Books print by Angie Muldowney and Keep Calm and Google it print by PrintLand

Coffee and Tea Prints by Gayana Danilova

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Home is wherever I am with Mr. Sunshine!

View from just down the street from our new home

We finally moved in to our own place on Tuesday! We are renting it, so it's our own as much as a rented apartment can be, but it is definitely more permanent than our previous living arrangements in Stavanger. Also, now we can decorate the place and make it cosy :-) And we can unpack and not worry about packing everything up again - at least for the foreseeable future. 

We are still waiting on our shipment to arrive. Hopefully everything will come in one piece. Mr. Sunshine and some of his colleagues have been regaling me with stories about missing and lost shipments. I may or may not have had visions of our crate floating in the sea, and our box of books at on the seabed. I better not jinx it though - I need my books, and my dinner plates, and all of my bird prints, and everything else that I thought I couldn't live without, but now can't remember what they are.  

Winter is definitely here in Stavanger - or at least I think it is. The days are getting shorter and colder, and there is Christmas stuff everywhere - every home store is full of God Jul (or Happy Christmas) decorations. In the US, I had a rule: no decorating for Christmas (or buying any decorations for that matter) until after Thanksgiving. I was going to follow my rule here too, but then I broke down and bought a Christmas tea towel (because, every kitchen needs tea towels that change with the season) and an advent calendar candle. Advent calendars seem to be a big deal here. I had never seen one until I got here, and now I think they might be the greatest idea in the world ever, and I am only just slightly exaggerating. 

Noel Tea Towel from Kid

Advent calendar candle

Speaking of decorations, I came across these big red hearts hanging off a tree on the lake in Stavanger Sentrum. I am not sure if this is part of the city's Christmas decor or an art installation or someone balloon heart bombing the tree. Whatever it is, it made me smile.

Red hearts hanging from a tree in Stavanger Sentrum

Pretty red hearts brightened up a dreary day 

Birds and hearts

I also stopped by at the Salvation Army store a few blocks away from home and look what I found:

Thrift find. Bowl from Stavangerflint found at Fretex (the Salvation Army) store

Friday, November 11, 2011

Life list

Print by FreyaArt on Etsy
Last year, inspired by Making it Lovely's 30 before 30 list, I drew out a list of 30 things that I wanted to do before my 30th birthday this past February. Of course, like all my best laid plans that never go anywhere, the list remained unvisited. My thirtieth birthday came and went and much of the items on it were never accomplished.  A few days ago, almost 9 months after my birthday, I came across another list by Making it Lovely, who was motivated by mightygirl's mighty life list, and was inspired to make one of my own. 

I don't know how many of my goals I will accomplish - some of them may be loftier, and much more difficult to achieve than others. I may or may not finish everything (or nothing) that I aspire to in this list. In the future I may delete some of my goals because they do not appeal to me anymore. I may also add new things I would like to do in my lifetime as I discover new things to do and places to visit. I may forget all about this list like I did with my previous list. Only time will tell.

What is the point of this list, you may ask. Let me make this clear - this is NOT a bucket list. There are too many things to do and discover in the world, that I could never have a bucket list that was finite. I see this list as reflecting my place in life today. It is a collection of things that I want to, would like to, and can do, given the resources (time, money, energy) I have. Also, making the list has helped me discover a lot about myself - sometimes one doesn't know what they want, until they think hard about what they want. 

Here is my list, in no particular order of importance

  • Ice-skate without falling over
  • Refurbish/ paint/ upholster at least one piece of furniture
  • Learn how to swim
  • Take the trans siberian train
  • Go bowling
  • Play a game of poker, and win it
  • Visit the Museum of Modern Arts
  • Bake a cheesecake from scratch
  • Have an engagement style photo shoot done
  • Read all of Leo Tolstoy's works
  • Build a table from scratch
  • Make a quilt
  • Watch all the movies on Time's top 100 all time movies
  • Go on a bike ride with Mr. Sunshine
  • Adopt a child
  • See a full solar eclipse with Mr. Sunshine (I saw one as a child with my family - it was the most beautiful thing I have seen in the world)
  • Play the Violin
  • Look over the Kremlin from the Red Square
  • Wear a full length sequined evening gown, and rock it
  • Shave my head
  • See the aurora borealis
  • Make flavored vodka
  • Wallpaper a wall
  • Write a book
  • Make a 1000 origami cranes
  • Backpack across China
  • Get a peacock tattoo
  • Own a home with a graden
  • Own a Catherine Holmes bowl
  • Have a baby
  • And another
  • And maybe one more
  • Crochet a granny square afghan
  • Visit Jerusalem
  • Throw a birthday party for myself
  • Teach our son (if we have one) to sew and knit
  • And since I need to teach him, learn to sew and knit
  • Go to a broadway show
  • See a penguin
  • Win an election
  • Have a conversation in Norwegian
  • See Peles castle in Romania
  • Start a tradition with my future nieces and nephews
  • Own an inspiring piece of art
  • Renew our vows - what can I say, I love any excuse for a party
  • Go to antarctica 
  • Fix a fixer upper house with Mr. Sunshine
  • Own saris from different parts of the country
  • Stay in a river boat in Kerala for a week
  • Own an Eames rocking chair in yellow
  • Give a year of my life to volunteer
  • Wear a sari Maharastrian style
  • Do a night tour of paris
  • Go fishing
  • Cook fish caught by me or Mr. Sunshine
  • Learn how to walk properly while wearing heels - right now I walk like a penguin, when I wear heels
  • Host a new years party
  • Make a family tree
  • Design and plan a wedding
  • Move to a country in Africa
  • Start and host a movie night
  • Gift everyone a gift of homemade food gifts for a year
  • Decorate a three tiered cake
  • Meet John Stewart, Steven Colbert, Barack Obama, Ira Glas
  • Write about the life of my grandmother and her sisters
  • See a fjord
  • Host a christmas dinner
  • Start the tradition of doing one thing, one specific day, each year for the rest of my life
  • Own all of the books from the Penguin Great Food series
  • Get our pictures taken in front of the Taj Mahal
  • Visit all 50 states in the US
  • Eat a macron at a cafe in Paris
  • Stay in a lighthouse
  • Host a photo booth party
  • Teach a child to read
  • Open a book/ flower/ art/ crafts/ home store in a cafe
  • Learn how to make rotis properly
  • Go to Rio during Carnival
  • Celebrate our 25th anniversary
  • Walk around Prague
  • Get another degree (in something)
  • Make sushi at home
  • Do more random acts of kindness

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

This and that

Around and about in Stavanger

Outside an art gallery. 

Also outside the same art gallery

Jelly fish

Sculpture in Stavanger Sentrum

Cars can climb up walls here!

One of the many stores in Stavanger Sentrum

A view of one of the Islands surrounding Stavanger. Hundvag

Candies :) at a food fair in Stavanger Sentrum 

China from the UK


The Tananger Marina

View of Tananger from the Marina

If look hard enough, you'll find a lighthouse in the picture

Stavanger Stadium

Near the Stadion

Clothes line

Gamle Stavanger (Old Stavanger)

The Norwegian Canning Museum

View of Stavanger Sentrum from Gamle Stavanger

One of the many streets in Stavanger Sentrum

Colorful buildings

This made me giggle!

A skateboard store


Hot chocolate and raspberry cheesecake

The Chocolate Girl

Book and Booze 

We have seen this at a number of places in Stavanger. We still have to find out what it means.

Foggy day

Monday, November 07, 2011

One month!

This post was supposed to be up on Saturday, but I just didn't get around to it. I tend to become lazier than usual over the weekends - it's weird, I know! 

We made it through our first month in Stavanger! We are enjoying our time here, and are slowly getting used to the city and to living in Europe  - I have to pinch myself every time I say that, just to make sure I am not dreaming! The first few weeks we were here, everything seemed dream-like - it was as if we were not part of the city life, and were looking over it from above. It was almost like an out of body experience. That has changed now. Now, we feel like we belong here, like we are part of the city, and that we can call it home. And Stavanger is a very welcoming town. Almost everyone speaks English and are generally patient with you, when they find out that you don't speak Norwegian. There is a fairly large expat community that is very active, and very helpful. There is even a small Indian community in town. The mass transit system is great, and one doesn't need to drive anywhere. And most importantly, everyone here seems for the most part, happy and contended with their lives. Maybe it's because they live in a beautiful town with so much to do (when it is not raining that is), or it could be because of the oil revenues that the city rakes in, or because of the socialized health care system, or because the country has consistently been ranked in the top five countries to be a woman in (this year, according to the World Economic Forum, it is ranked number 2*). Whatever it is, I hope it rubs off on us :-)

We do get homesick sometimes. Funny, how the idea of home is so amorphous and malleable for people like us - Mr. Sunshine once called our lifestyle a nomadic one. Any place can become home. Both of us have families in India, so home is rightfully where our parents are, but lately when I think of home, I think of Houston. Where Mr. Sunshine and I set up our first home together, where we forged some of our strongest friendships, and where we discovered our love for Mexican food. We miss being able to go to Kroger at 7 PM to pick up wine for dinner. Wine in Stavanger can only be sold by one retailer, which closes shop at 5 PM on weekdays, and 3 on the Saturdays. Everything is closed on Sundays. Even grocery stores. We miss being able to drive to Walmart at 4 in the morning to pick up suitcases, or bikes, or whatever one would need at 4 AM. We miss the array of cheap, but oh-so-delicious ethnic food that Houston has to offer. Most importantly we miss our friends, who made our time in Houston so much more fun. We miss you, come see us soon! 

Ms. and Mr. Sunshine

Hausmann, RicardoLaura D. Tyson and Saadia Zahidi. 2011. " The Global Gender Gap Report 2011" World Economic Forum Report, available at

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Week 3 of 52 weeks of mail

Gah! I forgot to take pictures of the mail I sent last two weeks. I need to be more diligent about taking photos from now on.

These go out today to two of my favorite cousins in Houston. N & N we miss you!

Aren't these cute? Lately, I am finding myself being attracted to all things vintage. It's weird how tastes and design sensibilities change, develop and evolve as one grows older. 

Ms. Sunshine

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

It is almost calendar time!

How is it November already? It seems like it was January 1st just yesterday! 

I have a lot of plans for 2012, one of which is to start the tradition of getting a calendar for the new year. Growing up, my grandmothers would send us Hindu calendars (one in Hindi and one in Marathi) at the beginning of each year, a tradition nani (my maternal grandmother) still keeps up. I haven't bought a calendar in years, and I think 2012 is the year for me to start. 

Since we are both non-religious, the Hindu calendar is not for us. I want something that can be doubled up as art - what is the point of a calendar if you have to hide it? Remember how everyone used to hang up their calendars behind doors? 

There are so many pretty calendars around that I am having a difficult time making up my mind. So inspired by a few of my favorite blogs: decor8, papercrave, ohsobeautifulpaper here is a round up of some of the calendars that I am currently obsessing over. I might just have to buy a few of these - one for each room in our new place. I wonder what Mr. Sunshine will have to say about that.

ETA: I might have to do a series of calendar round ups - there are way too many pretty ones out there for just one post.

Geometric calendar by Pawling

Modern pattern calendar by monkeymindesign

Geometric Shape calendar by ArtisEverything 

Graphic calendar by snug

Year of the Type calendar by twotrickpony via ohsobeautifulpaper

Cross stitch calendar by pistachiopress

Colorful ribbon style calendar by vanhoosedesign

Colorful calendar by khristianahowell 

Moon Calendar by Marginsedition

Cut out numbers calendar by Present and Correct

2012 calender by esla

Custom date calendar by spreadthelove. Also, best year ever calendar. This one is on the top of my list!

Rain boots calendar by InkspotWorkshop

Colorful illustrations calendar by SamOssie

And there have to be some birds on this list. 

 Birds of a feather calendar by joliejoliedesign via ohsobeautifulpaper

Funny birds calendar by ModernPOP

Owl calendar by Gingiber

Peacock art print calendar by Smock

Little Colorful Peacock calendar by Etsy seller dekanimal

I have been on a tea towel kick lately. The idea of having a pretty fabric to dry my dishes makes me happy, and combine a calendar with a tea towel, and I am in pretty things heaven! Here are some of my favorite tea towel/ linen calendars.

Bicycle calendar by lisaruppdesign

Vintage inspired linen calendar by  midmoderngoods

Tea towel calendar by twobrunettes

Tea towel calendar by lillastudio

                            Linen calendar by  bookhouathome

  Pasta shape tea towel calendar and the  knitter's calendar by KatherineCodega

Tea towel calendar by cicadastudio

I am such a big fan of repurposing goods, especially pretty paper products.

Wrapping paper calendar by VictoryPaperDesignsWhat a fun calendar! Use this calendar for the year and then use it to wrap goodies at the end of the year

Postcard calendar by epetitelefant.
Each calendar page has a postcard that can be detached and mailed to family and friends

I have a thing for perpetual calendars. Why buy a new calendar every year when you can have one pretty one!

Waterspouts and Chimney Tops Perpetual calendar from uponafold

The pose temps perpetual calendar by Papier Tigre

1960s wall calendar and 1960s block calendar by Present and Correct 

Love and Life calendar by BrigadaCreative