Message in a bottle – Papercutting

Message in a bottle

This is my first papercut art after my return from my long stay of two months in Kolkata, India.

Maybe it was still the influence of the relatively warmer days spent in India, and the many water bodies around Newtown, an area in Kolkata. I wanted to do a theme around a water body, with waterlilies. Upon searching for photos with waterlilies on the net, I came across this beautiful image captured with Thai child monks. Unfortunately, I cannot give the credits to the photographer as there was no information or links provided! But this photo gave me the inspiration to the particular mood I wanted for my art : simple, pleasant, heartwarming and charming. I must add that I came across several absolutely stunning photos of waterlilies, and most of the photos were taken in south east Asian countries.

I made several sketches, I am never be satisfied with my first go, and for the moment, at least I got the  girl on the flower done. Why the bottle with the message in it? No particular reason, I wanted a certain interesting look to what the girl would be doing.

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Who could she be handing out the bottle with the message to? A postman!! A fishy postman. Well, I did start off with a fish postman, but I wasn’t very satisfied with how my fish looked. Once again, I was influenced with my recent trip to Bengal, India. To me, Bengal is all about the fishes. It is a part of almost everyday diet of the people. I had the chance to visit a Book Fair in the city (amazing how in this age of everything electronic, book fairs can still be so popular!), where there were also amongst the book stalls, many indigenous artists selling their work. Here is a shot of the artists below. There were various motifs displayed,  but I was attracted most to how they captured fishes. The most popular fish artwork is a pair of fishes getting married, and a big fish coming and eating the little fishes ( he is angry because he was uninvited) :

 Too bad, the fish idea didn’t work for me. I asked on my Facebook page for suggestions and someone ( my cousin it was) suggested ‘How abt a big frog with his mouth open and a really long red tongue twisting up to grab the bottle..’

And I thought, Yesss this is much more interesting. So I made a female toad, and she’s a post personnel collecting the bottle. How cute, and it makes sense too!

Thank you dear cousin, you made my art so much better!

I love taking photos of my finished artwork, and I decided I needed to have a water lily next to my frame for the final photo. But hey, we are in the month of March, and water lilies grow only during summer. I had to made do with this fabric water lily which actually looks quite convincing. I love the shade of deep pink that matches so well with my frame! But hey, what’s that cat doing here? This cat was so curious at what I was upto, it came over so politely and sniffing gently at the flower and then the frame. After it’s curiosity was satisfied, it just sat away and kept watching at what I was upto.

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Calcutta sketches – my grandaunt

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What’s this art about? Here’s one of my quick under-an-hour sketch that I made of my grandaunt. Well, the time taken for sketching was shorter because she was watching TV and unable to stay still for long. The flouncy pillow behind her adds to her cute feminity. Psst…little added info on her : she loves wearing lipstick everyday!

What did she say when she saw herself?..

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Nothing. She just gave a genuine pleased smile, which made me happy. Here she is holding a big plate of sun dried cauliflowers which she is preparing to make pickles of, a big favorite in the family.

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Steaming hot cauliflowers, anyone?!

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Calcutta sketches : Morning prayers

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What’s this art about? It’s a classroom somewhere in India and morning prayers are being held in the class. This is a little unusual, because morning prayers are usually done in the wide courtyard or in a big room that fits all of the school together. My art was inspired by a photo from the local newspaper where the students of each class prayed for the children who died in the Peshawar shooting (by the Taliban). There was a big gap in the second aisle so I decided to fill in the gap with the figure of a teacher standing. The figure is me actually in my Indian attire of salwar kameez, and my big glasses do make me look strict like a teacher :) .

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A snapshot of happy smiling faces of schoolchildren in India.

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Calcutta sketches : Stories within storeys

It’s been such a while that I paid serious attention to improving my sketching skills.. The last two months I spent in Calcutta, I tried to get some time off from looking after baby T to spending some time with my pen and artbook.  Here’s just a very few that I (miraculously) managed to get done. My aim during the sketches was to complete them in a time gap of under an hour. This was to help get me started with my sketches instead of getting bogged down under too many details of the work. Here’s one work for today.

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What’s this art about? I live in a residential community block in Calcutta, where big blocks of building are squeezed next to each other, with a garden and a playing ground in the center. When I look out of my window, I only see these tall buildings all around. So many people with so many stories taking place in these apartments. The day I drew this, something horrific had taken place in one such building. A woman died. She committed suicide by lighting herself on fire. I felt quite sad to hear the story. I have no idea what made her take such an extreme step, but she must have been in deep pain. I added her in my artwork as a way to let myself remember her. The title of this sketch is ‘Stories within storeys’.

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10 things I didn’t know about being a new Mother

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The nine months that led to the big event… not just the birth of a healthy baby but the birth of a Mother!!! Oh, and not to forget, … a Father! :) The last few months before the big event had me getting very creative. From stitching curtains to making birth announcement cards, and this little embroidery of my baby swimming inside of me.

I’ve had sweet cravings all throughout…

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And cravings for momos..

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I had gifts coming in even before my little one was born. Here’s a gift from a lovely person who’s gesture touched me a lot even though I have never met her or know her well.. She’s the lovely Angela and you can check out her beautiful blog on creativity here at Pretty Little Things in a Box.

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Here are some things that I DID NOT know .. at all… about being a new mother… I think I may not be the only one who stayed in the dark for so long..! Here’s a list of some very important things I learnt in my initial journey as a new mother right after delivery.

1. Colostrum, what is it? Until the day I delivered, I was under the impression that my breasts would produce milk right after the baby was born, or at the most, delivery of the placenta. I discovered that for two to three days following delivery, there is NO milk, rather a waxy substance secreted from the nipples. This is called colostrum, and they are Extremely good for the baby (absolutely nothing can replace the goodness of colostrum). I was almost sad for my baby that there was no milk, but the nurses educated me about colostrum and how good it is for the baby. The baby will also lose weight the first 3-4 days, this is completely normal, after which there will be a steady weight gain.

2. Seriously frequent feedings : The first two months is probably the most strenuous. That’s because baby needs to be fed almost every TWO hours, yes, both day and night! At night, the baby would sleep perhaps at a stretch of four and half to five hours before waking up for feeding. Up until today, I have always maintained a record of his feeding times, and when I look back at the journal of the first two months, I see about 10-12 feedings per 24 hours. This exhausting feeding routine took a huge toll on my already frail body after delivery. Especially poor posture during feeding makes things worse. My knees and my feet were so stiff, I thought I’d break them if I fell. Luckily my Mom arrived at that dark hour, so if you too need help please do not feel shy and ask the help of anyone who could be with you physically all the time during this period. You will need help mostly for the cooking. Not only does your body need to be well nourished for the milk you will be producing for your baby, but you need the nourishment yourself get strength.

Here’s what my record looked like. I would record the feeding times, the diaper changes and even sleep and bath. Gradually over time, I only recorded the feeding times. There are days when the exhaustion and sleep deprivation can get to you and you just can’t remember feeding details, so it’s always helpful to note them down.

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2. Burping baby : Do Not Forget to burp your baby!! Whether breastfed or bottle fed, the baby needs to be burped. I was not aware of this, I hadn’t even come across it in the famous baby book, ‘What to Expect when you are Expecting’ that I had been reading religiously during my last few months of pregnancy. Trapped air in the tummy leads to discomfort that can hurt the baby a lot. I even read that poor uneducated mothers in India often lose their newborns due to not burping them after feeding.

3. GER : Babies should be held upright for sometime after feeding. GER, or  Gastroesophageal Reflux is a case that all newborn babies have. What is the GER about? As adults, we have a muscle located at the top of the esophagus, and this muscles ‘closes’ or contracts after we have eaten or drunk, hence preventing food from sliding out from the esophagal tube. This muscle is not developed yet in babies, which leads to babies vomiting out all the milk he has drunk. In order to avoid this, the best is to burp the baby and to hold him upright for as many minutes possible after feeding. Before being aware of this, I have actually seen my baby vomiting out huge sharp jets of milk, at one point almost coming out from the nose as well. Not only does this motion hurt him, but it’s also a good waste of milk. GER is painful for babies, so please look out for signs of babies gulping as this would mean they are trying to swallow back the milk that rises to their throat.

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4. Respect night hours : Having read a lot about ‘nappy rashes’ and how painful they can be to babies, I was very particular about changing diapers frequently, almost becoming a little manic about it. Here’s what I learnt soon : you can change the diapers as frequently during the day time when baby is awake but you should stop at night… UNLESS you are sure baby has pooped then you have no choice but to change it. Ideally, diaper changes should be done every 4-5 hours during day hours. I make the last diaper changes around 7 or 8pm and I wait until the next morning around 6am, when baby is awake, to make the next diaper change. I learnt the hard way that diaper changes during night hours can disturb the baby’s cycle a lot. Babies get angry and you can expect some furious wailing and tears when taken to the changing station. It’s best not to change diapers at night, period.

5. Socks for tiny hands : Babies have nails growing even when they are in the womb. A week after delivery, my baby was scraching his poor little face with his almost razor sharp nails. The nurses had advised me not to have them cut the first two months at least. Looking at those miniscule fingers and the fact that those fingers were always so active shaking and trembling, I would not have had any courage to use the baby clippers (yes, please do not use adult clippers!) on them. It is very important to wrap his little wrists with baby socks. That way no harm done to that precious face. Here’s him held by my Mom, notice the socks on his hands.

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6. Baby bed : To co-sleep or not is the question. In India, it goes without discussion that babies sleep with their mothers on the bed. Dad will have to go find an alternative solution to the bed. Here, in France, I was actively discouraged from the very start to have my baby sleep next to me on the bed. The reasoning was that since babies are so fragile the mother may do a lot of damage if she rolls over her baby accidentally at night, given how exhausted she already is. Well this made sense to me. But yes, I did end up co-sleeping the first month and half. Looking back, I know my baby felt extremely reassured to have my body so close to him. But unfortunately, co-sleeping wasn’t working out for my comfort at all! I am  the kind of person who moves around a lot in bed, so having my tiny dot of a baby next to me was a big source of tension, I remained stiff and unmoving the whole night so as not to wake him up.

Well, a friend recommended me an excellent idea : the baby bed adjoined to the parent bed. This is how it looks like :

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This way, parents are happy and so is baby! Please note: the baby bed has to be devoid of toys or objects! The toys placed in this photo were placed only for a pretty photo!  The bed has to be secured very very firmly to the parent bed, with zero risk of accident. I found this bed on the French equivalent of e-bay called Le Bon Coin, and it cost me a mere 30 euros. The bed should have a firm mattress, and no pillow (to avoid risk of suffocation). This bed made my life a whole lot simpler. I could move around in bed, and when feeding time approached, I would feed baby and then put him gently back into his bed. You can have a night lamp next to you with dim lighting when it comes to night feedings.

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7. Sleeping on a pillow : If you have opted for the idea of a co-bed, here comes the next problem… something that all new parents seem to face. You’ve fed the baby, finally rocked him to sleep, all the while maintaining a stiff body posture so he doesn’t wake up, and then very carefully you lift the baby and walk across to his cot, you raise the baby and just about ready to gently plop him, when the tiniest fraction of hurry wakes up baby and he’s starts to wail… oh no, this means you have to start all over again, this is indeed a nightmare!

Against all contrary advice, I went ahead and opted for something that made my life much easier and I wished having thought of it earlier. When feeding the baby on my lap, I would place my baby on a big soft pillow. This is a special pillow that’s slightly bigger than him, and it’s almost flat. It’s basically an old pillow, and doesn’t have any fullness in it anymore. Once the feeding is done and baby has gone to sleep, all I had to do was gently lift the pillow and place it on the baby bed. The baby sleeps on the pillow all night. The gentle curves of the pillow would ensure that if baby brought his thumb to his mouth, the thumb would remain in place. Now, I know this would sound controversial, to have a baby sleeping on a pillow, but I used my judgement on this, I was 100 percent sure that my baby was safe, and I would suggest that you use your judgement on this too. I found using the pillow idea made my life much simpler when placing the baby back to his bed.

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8. Breastfeeding techniques : Well, I wish I had read on my favorite book ‘What to Expect when you’re Expecting’ the specific way I could breastfeed along with the feeding positions a bit earlier. It was only in my third month that I got savvy on the best way to breastfeed. Please have a read below on the best way to breastfeed. The content of our milk, as the excerpt rightly says, is not uniform, and this can be noted the way baby suckles. There is a change from the first 5 minutes which is rapid suckling to a slower one. Even when you change breasts, the rapid suckle in the initial five minutes can be observed.

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As to the feeding position, the lying on the bed position wasn’t working out for me at all. Though relaxing initially, there’s a lot of tension involved later of how to change breasts. Trial and error method taught me the best position, that is sitting with legs crossed under me. I would have my soft big pillow on my lap with baby on it. Under each of my knee would be a cushion each to support the weight.

9. Sleep deprivation : Before my baby came along, I used to wonder what was the big fuss when new mothers would complain about not getting enough sleep. In my mind I brushed it off as mothers who weren’t organised enough or couldn’t take control of situations. I always thought everything would go almost as smooth as my normal life before. My ‘normal’ life before was where sleep featured dominantly in my daily life. Going to bed early was always important for me so I would get my good 9 hours of beauty sleep to tackle the next day. I would be the grouchiest person if I didn’t have enough sleep. Here’s the good news and bad news when baby comes along… the a baby changes totally your ‘normal’ daily life pattern. Not having enough sleep is amongst the many changes. Not getting 6 hours of straight sleep the first 3 months is absolutely normal. Welcome to the new normal! :) The good news? I don’t know if other mothers would agree with me, but right after having my baby all the way until now (my baby is over 6 months old) I feel my body doesn’t require as much sleep as before! Shocking considering how I used to be before! Somehow I don’t mind even if I’ve slept badly, or had just a few snatches of sleep. For my baby I am always smiling no matter how tired I am. I think this is probably fixed by Mother Nature herself, for mothers to be wired for no sleep once baby comes around. Having said that I do look forward for my baby to grow up quickly so I can get some longer hours of sleep!

10. Chapped nipples and stretch marks : I really doubt if there’s any cream invented yet that can really help remove stretch marks… I have tried several brands, famous and not, and I started them from my sixth month onwards to know that nothing works. It’s all in the genes. If your Mommy or Daddy had stretch marks, so will you. Yes, perhaps one can try and keep the skin area moisturised well enough but there’s no wonder cream that can 100 % be stretch-mark proof. There is better news for chapped nipples : The initial days of feeding a newborn can lead to nipples almost cracking which can hurt bad. I am sure there are several good creams out there, but I used Lansinoh, a British brand, and extremely safe and good. It can be applied even before feeding and there is no problem at all even if baby takes it in. It’s 100 % natural and hypoallergenic.

So there is my list, all the things I had no idea of, and I hope they can be of help to you new moms out there! :)

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Birth of a baby, and the end of a blog

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For my readers and for those wonderful bloggers I have got to know in the past year and half I have been blogging, here’s a wonderful news : my baby has finally arrived! :) With the new role of being a mommy, and the many things I have yet to learn of everything to do with babies, and learning how to be a good and efficient mommy, sadly, I don’t have the time to be a good blogger! I have decided to permanently stop writing, though this blog won’t close entirely. There are certain blogs I like checking into every now and then, and it would be with pleasure that I look in on them at times.

Wishing you all the very best! :)

Vibrant Spring, and Tino, watercolour 3

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Though Spring arrives officially in France in a week’s time, it already feels a lot like Spring. The skies have been clear blue with the sun shining brightly now for many days in a row. For most of my life, before I settled in France, I never really paid attention to nature, or the flowers or vegetables that grow in particular seasons. I decided to pay a lot of attention to all the green things growing around me this year. I discovered daffodils are Spring flowers, and they will grow only for a month. I notice them growing everywhere. The first shoots of Spring are definitely the daffodils, daisies and pansies. I can tell because I see them growing by the sidewalks, in the forests, in gardens etc.

When I was in school, I remember I had to study Wordworth’s poem ‘The Daffodils’. He seemed so happy to be in the midst of daffodils and I always wondered how it must feel to see so many yellow and I guess, pretty flowers all around you (In India, I doubt daffodils are Spring flowers, and I was brought up in India). Here’s the first paragraph of the poem to get you jogging your memory if you had to study this poem too :

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

I made my watercolour inspired by the daffodils growing in profusion around my house. When I saw Tino, a white and grey cat, one day playing amongst the flowers it gave me the idea to get the drawing started. I am happy to note that I can see a slight improvement in my watercolour techniques compared to my previous two.

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Here’s Tino below, along with the daffodils and my pink watering can!

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