Food, Travel, Design and the occassional wordiness

Design: repurposing wine corks July 27, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kolika C @ 11:02 pm

Repurposing into fabulous trivets, as you can see below. Perfect way to provide a heat resistant, spill-proof catch-all trivet or coaster. Oh and you wine aficionados what better way to show off what you’ve gulped down since last night. Need a tutorial? Easy peasy, use watersafe wood glue to stick them any which way you like.
Herringbone is my new favorite pattern of course. And very good for a standalone structure!


Design: The Magnolia Project May 29, 2014

Magnolia Stained Glass Project _ Final step installation

Magnolia Stained Glass Project _ Final step installation

Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 1 Design

Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 0 Inspiration (Spring 2014 blooms)

When my son was about two months old I started the Magnolia project. The idea was to make two stationary stained-glass windows for the wall that separated our master bedroom and his new nursery. My goal was to create a space he could call his own, but have as much sound and light flow through as possible. Stained glass, or any glass, in my opinion, is born to play with light and we have to honor that. My design had to be unique enough to tell our story, calming and peaceful to match our bedroom and above all, fun for my baby to grow up with. I didn’t necessarily want intricate details, but they made their way in, anyway. About 9 months ago, the day I first found out I was pregnant with Josh, we planted a magnolia tree in our garden. Pardon the dramatics and the cliches, it really was coincidental because after moving into our very first, new home, we were focused on getting the landscaping done before it got crazy hot. It is a sweet coincidence you have to admit. First time we were planting a tree- a sign of permanence, of settling down and taking roots. C’est la vie. When it came time to choose a design for these windows, I researched quite a few water themes and art deco designs (if you know my style you know that is what I naturally gravitate to). It was the middle of February- smack in the middle of a cold, long, dreary New England winter. I needed spring, I longed for the branches of trees to turn pink and purple again. I was longing to cut glass, go out, even considered a manicure. And as I have previously mentioned the best manicure often happens when you’re cutting, grinding, shaping glass. Thus my table saw the light of day and the designs got sketched and erased and edited and sketched again, bringing on to paper and then on to glass, branches of a magnolia tree.

  I had once read somewhere, that ‘planting  a garden is believing in tomorrow’. I hope Josh grows up learning to play with light and  learning to believe in tomorrow. And I wish for many many peaceful nights of deep sleep under the pink boughs of magnolia…umm, I don’t think the latter is going to happen right away.
Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 2 Cutting

Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 2 Cutting

Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 3 Staging

Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 3 Staging

Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 4 Foiling
Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 4 Foiling
Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 5 Soldering

Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 5 Soldering


Hand eye coordination: On driving in MAsshole land December 26, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kolika C @ 11:43 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

I can’t sew aka operate a sewing machine and have been complaining to my mother and to whoever would listen, forever. My Mom thinks however that I totally can if I wanted to since I have good hand-eye coordination.
Wrong, I said.
But you drive well, she argued (she doesn’t drive).
I was going to counter that with “but you don’t need hand-eye coordination to drive”. Then I remembered I live and drive in Massachusetts. And Masshole-nation needs way too much use of the middle finger and rolling eyes. Hence hand-eye coordination.
Maybe I can sew after all.


Design/ Gardening: Repurposing plastic bottles for multiple gardening projects September 22, 2013

Filed under: art,home and garden,Upcycle & Repurpose — Kolika C @ 8:34 pm

Urban gardening with repurposed plastic bottles

Urban gardening with re-purposed plastic bottles



Got bottles? Already tried regrowing green onion bulbs? Too early for daffodils?

Cut them up for multiple uses in your garden.


Fostering 104: Bunnies & Babies

With a recent question from a potential applicant that got me thinking. She is an experienced bunny owner, who unfortunately lost her bun few months ago. Concurrently planning on expanding her family, she was worried how having infants and eventually toddlers would change her abilities to appropriately care for a bunny.

Let’s preface with a few simple facts:

  • Bunnies unlike cats do NOT spread toxoplasmosis; so they are safe to handle during pregnancy and nursing.
  • Bunnies are very easily litter trained (just clean their box once every 2 days a 15 minute commitment!)
  • Bunnies need time commitment, but that not as active company as most dogs and some cats do; for starters, they don’t need to be walked outside.
  • Bunny shedding is not specially harmful to humans (in normal non-allergic circumstances), in fact it’s more harmful to the buns themselves, if they ingest the hair than to us. (Easy combat measure: Quick, regular vacuuming)
  • Bunnies wouldn’t attack a baby out of jealousy or territorial feeling (male bunnies attack other male bunnies but no known inter-species hate)
  • Kids and toddlers need to be trained on handling bunnies, not the other way round
  • Bunnies are relatively more contained than dogs or cats and most bunnies love the security of their cage for nap/ rest, eating and potty time.

Assuming that as a prior bunny owner, you already know what goes into caring for a bunny. Besides, food and shelter and the preliminary physical needs, I always profess abundant (2-5 hours at least) of passive company; whereby the bunny plays outside its pen or cage with humans in the room/ bunny space. That way they can come to you if they want to. Some bunnies like more active company and play, most don’t. Different personalities–just like people! So really depending on your bunny and the area, you could be reading/ watching TV/ eating/ fiddling with your phone/ clean the house while they play around you and enjoy your company. Of my 2 bunnies, one is more destructive and the other absolutely the opposite. So if your bunny is very destructive, my recommendation is to be more watchful and protect your books and wiring, but I don’t constantly need to run after her. My favorite things to do while I’m hanging out with them– my morning stretches, yoga, reading, working on a un-wired charged computer :)

How does having a infant/ toddler change things? My guess, firstly, is that you’d be busier than you are now; but you know your lifestyle and plans the best. So maybe you’d be able to spend a couple hours in the bunny area, within a few weeks/ month of having your baby? Maybe your partner or family member can fill in that void, if you can’t? Maybe the 5 hours is too much to ask, but  is 1-2 hours doable in 30 minute phases?

Please note a big change in routine throws everyone off, but if gradually introduced, bunnies adapt pretty quickly.

Bunnies are great pets for growing families, when adults are the key-caretakers. Bunnies are nice, if anything, passive to kids and relatively easy to manage. However, I strongly believe bunnies are not gifts for kids, or pets for kids. Adult supervision is necessary at all times. And, kids need to learn proper handling. They need to learn to be respectful and kind to these very fragile but dignified fluffy friends.

In my opinion, bunnies who come into a family before the baby, gets time to acclimatize with its surroundings so the introduction of a baby does not throw it off. So I wouldn’t worry about behavioral problems or stress acting out, unlike a territorial dog or stressed out cat. But again, gradual change of routine, if any, is always helpful and proves more successful in long-term stability of the bunny and the baby’s bonding.

Bunny handlingPS: As a first time expectant mom (to a human baby) and mother to 2 bunnies and a dog, the idea of peaceful and happy inter-species coexistence of is top-of-mind. While I haven’t actually held a baby in one hand and the bunnies and dogs in the other…. yet, I am reading, watching, asking and learning constantly. Because there is very little I want more than my 4 kids to be healthy, happy and peaceful together. If I am missing something, let me know, I’m all ears.


Rising above…what? Part 2 September 20, 2013

Filed under: Marketing,Mouth full of potatoes,Penn State — Kolika C @ 1:00 pm

Rise Above

Continuing from where I left off in Part 1 about Penn State and Smeal and detesting the lack of personalization, I’d like to take a step back and talk about the history of the 2 words:  “Rise Above”. These were (probably) coined for a student organization called Smeal for Life. And coined with much less thought or prerogative than it meant to me.

Like most everything else Smeal, Smeal for Life was much ado about nothing. But I was happy doing social media marketing for them. And for the most part, people were good and nice. Smeal for Life funded a work-study program which helped me financially for a few months (and hence, temporarily my morale). I didn’t understand why they existed or their goal, didn’t like their name or their design and I didn’t agree with everything said, done and discussed. I have a feeling it is another of those student organizations with some dough in their pocket, some administratives on it’s helm and I’m sorry but I really think it exists to “create jobs” for some people (I was a byproduct of that institute and I am thankful!). The organization doesn’t necessarily need to exist. But, it helped me and I am thankful. And if by creating this organization, Smeal was able to foster a stronger sense of belonging etc., it was totally worth it. But if it existed to make posters of the Honor Code and enforce Professionalism among the undergrads and MBAs at Smeal College of Business, lets just say it was a weak effort at best. Smeal for Life celebrated these weeks called Integrity week and Professionalism week when students–grads and undergrads in poorly designed white T-s walked the halls and asked people to come sign these huge banners of well-conceived, ill-illustrated, slogans of anti-greed chastity. It was my part of my job to play one of those white T-ed students and I didn’t mind. By then I learned to shut up and work hard, without letting a drop of Kool-Aid sink into my blood.

And in those weeks, buttons of “Rise | above” would be given out.

Besides the “We are”, these words “Rise | above” have meant more to me than anything else. I strive to live by these 2 words. In school, at work, at home. In life. Probably rising above a lot of things more than what the initial “author” had imagined, when he coined this for Smeal for Life. I loved the design. I loved the simplicity and the strength of those 2 words; amazed at how much that meant to me on a daily basis. Especially in the make-belief business-school world where we were swimming and floating in BS, the notion of rising above was exhilarating. Rising above pettiness, judgment, greed, small community needs like what-you-hear, what-others-think, need-to-please, fear-of-missing-out… everything. Not to mention, Rise | above speaks somewhat elusively to people like me who couldn’t care less about the top or being #1, but are enticed by the illusion that it’s lonely at the top. Who wouldn’t want to be lonely!?


Among other things “Smeal-kumbaya”, I hated signing the Honor Code and promise to be honest and professional. Not that  being proper didn’t mean a lot to me. (Those who don’t know me in real life, I carry myself way better when no one tells me what to do; piss me off and I’ll be uncouth just to spite your high horses) I didn’t hate the signing because I was dishonorable or anti-establishment (I have a penchant for logical rules!). I despised the act simply because, in my opinion, a signature didn’t make me honest, I made me honest. My integrity came from inside, from my pride–pride of my family, my upbringing, my intelligence and knowing right from wrong and from having my priorities straight. Pride of being me.

Like my relationship with God is personal not communal, like my conversations with my dog are privileged, like my connections with my friends are not for public elaboration, my being honest is personal and I would argue that scribbling one’s name on a temporary* poster is NOT what kept me from going astray. But then it is just that- an argument.

You see, my early years were in an educational culture, where cheating was rampant; where corruption oils all gears. But that never made it okay. Just like every woman who grew up around me had been touched or molested, most multiple times and never for once meant that any of us enjoyed or condoned it. The rampant dishonesty irked me and the fact that it was a casual affair that was expected of everyone, nauseated me. And when I tried to express my disgust and question the system that fueled it, I became the weird one to my peers, even my teachers and administrators–the gatekeepers of honor. I was the anomaly. Only I was not. There were others- very few, very rare, very far between but there were other students and professionals who weren’t cheating, who were doing things it was supposed to be done, who focused on doing right more than being right.

When I came to a community where honesty was a way of life and trust the foundation, it was a huge relief for me. It was the antithesis of a culture-shock. I was finally somewhere I morally, emotionally and soulfully belonged. I was living in perpetual shock (not sure if there is a word for it) and finally I was out of it. I was where I was supposed to be, doing things, the way I wanted to. Please don’t assume that honor takes a back seat because of my nationality. If anything it has always been higher on my priority list because I had to keep pushing for it, against the tide. I want to reiterate this loud and clear that my apathy for signing the Honor code has nothing to do with my ethnicity or what I am “supposedly used to”.

Coming back to the signing, did we really need an Honor Code? Signed by everyone and then hung on the wall? When someone behaved “dishonorably”, cheating on a term paper or being a social screw up, did it matter that several months ago s/he had signed their name on a cheaply designed poster? Does a signature really mean anything? Could we have risen above the need to dole out advice? The need to be spoon fed on right and wrong? Shouldn’t you have tried to bring in students with an inherent sense of righteousness? Who wouldn’t need it? I remember one of my professors stopping class to say that as expert communicators, behaviorists and marketers it was our responsibility to hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards; because we got to touch the most precious of all commodities–the human mind. Not sure how far we’ve come to become the experts he would reached in his lofty  dream but conceptually he couldn’t have been more right. And I have nothing by respect and reverence for that “teachable moment”. Only I think the horizon needed to be broadened a lot more. We all touch the precious human mind, no matter what we do or where we went to school and if we were lucky to sit in a class where “Uncle Ralphie” presided.

In a world where everyone is looking out for number one, who's taking care of number two?

A lesson from the dog park:

Somehow, in post-MBA life, the frameworks in various geometric forms** (you know the triangle, the 2X2 matrix, the diamond etc.), the faux claims, the ill-designed posters claiming honor, the naiveté of “managing people”, the uniformity of expectations, never seem to be forgotten, but the mantra of responsibility, the wisdom you might have gained from your pre-MBA life–your personality, your upbringing and childhood lessons, tricks your learned on ýour lower-paying pre-MBA job that no longer makes your Resume etc. somehow just escaped. My claim is to rise above making the MBA your one-stop shop for all of life’s big lessons. I would like to think we can rise above the need for “number one” and focus on cleaning the “number two”.

For me personally, I know I took more away from Rise | above than I did from the Honor Code. I really hope we could rise above and just keep aiming higher.

* Temporary: Since it will hang on the wall for the 2 years you are in school and will be replaced by someone else’s pledge to honorable living.

**for the uninitiated every interconnected list with a number of items was portrayed in a n-gon where n is the number of sides


Rising Above. Living Penn State. Part 1 September 18, 2013

Let me start with making one thing clear. I love Penn State. And I do that because somewhere in the chemical web of my mind, I prize ‘sense of belonging’, ‘pride’ and ‘freedom’, not necessarily in that order. And Penn State (or my 2 stints of grad school there) gave me all that and more.

“More” includes my current romance (we can’t talk about the future but, it has been the most successful one so far. After all in 8 years, he went from my boyfriend to fiance to husband and now the to-be-dad of my to-be-baby). Penn State is where I adopted my dog-Brownie, my best friend and my soul-mate. In a lot of ways, Penn State saw more “firsts” than my hometown did–experiences like living on my own for the first time, earning my first salary, buying my first car, more importantly, buying my first “real” camera with my first salary! Not to mention, this was where I learned to live completely alone, continents away from family and friends who meant the world to me.

Penn State is where and how I outgrew them. And Calcutta. (Something I never in my prior life of 20 years, thought I could).

So to me, Penn State has always been more than football. It is my coming-of-age story. In fact, “football” triggers only the following imagery for me: chilly Saturdays warmed up in glorious sunshine and orange leaves, thronged with white-out sweatshirts and the delicious smell of tailgate. Yum.

So all the recent debacle of football over academics affected me much less than the average PSU undergrad or alum. What saddened me is the stupidity of the nation and the world that plays into the hands of media and lets it be our judge and jury. And the role of media is crucification of lives and beings for ratings and ads. And that is true for every time you watch the news (about whatever) and form opinions based on it. @$$holes. Sorry.

And it saddened me some when JoePa died; he was, after all exactly my grandfather’s age and I miss my grandfather. And when Graham Spanier was fired from his role as President. I saw him perform with what I didn’t know was the Blue Band on the street, on a late Fall Friday afternoon in 2005, when I was waiting for the R-bus on College Ave. Whatever administrative faux pas and horrible acts of crimes were perpetrated, I am always mildly disturbed when my bubbles and pleasant imagery is played with. To me, Penn State was a place where the President played music with some old guys on the street. Penn State was Happy Valley.

So all that makes me a Penn State loyalist. I walk a block from my home in Huron Village, Cambridge and I see a black car with an alumni sticker on it, my first reaction is I wish I could leave a note–something in the lines of “me too”. See all I want to do is reach out to the Lion in you, not necessarily befriend you or go watch a game with you (seems like the only thing alumni do together, oh and network… blah!) I just want to say, hey I know where you spent a few years of your life, probably your greatest years. I know that you know what Happy Valley is. We drove and walked some of the same streets and now we are both doing the same again on Concord Avenue in Massachusetts. That’s it.

That is also part of why I went back to get my second Masters from Penn State. Not because it was “a great program”, “ranked xx by xx” but because it was home. And also because my husband was in the last year of his PhD there which meant we could finally live together and it could cost a lot less than trying to settle somewhere else and try to figure out logistics of marriage, jobs and school. Oh and an MBA would be nice. Because I had dreams.

I didn’t like Smeal (College of Business). In fact, I have/had no sense of belonging there; in my favorite Brand Management Professor’s words, I am not a Smeal-loyalist. I felt that being Smeal took away from being Penn State. (And the business school worked on it tenaciously, in order to create a brand for themselves, they forgot a brand they had.) Even when I was there, every chance I got, I spent it in a non-Smeal, Penn State zone, mentally and physically. From formal training in stained-glass to failing miserably at wheel-thrown pottery, walking on campus, choosing Blue Spoon deli over Blue Chip or just visiting my old office in the Food Science building, chatting up my ex-advisor etc.

For the most part, I hated the MBA program. I loved the teachers, really LOVED, well most of them. I loved what they brought to the classroom. I enjoyed the overall energy, the pace and urgency like everyday we were going to war, the workload. I appreciated being in a group of people who were right-here-right-now like me.

But I really despised the in-your-face, kumbaya and coyingly sweet Kool-Aid. I hated the utter naivete and ignorance that the real world was talked about, especially by people who had obviously lived that world and frankly should have known better! These weren’t 21 year olds! An average age of 26 with 5 years of work experience, demands a little more maturity (for lack of a better word), I thought.

I loved our Saturday evenings when friends got together in our tiny living room and played Uno and Poker and Mafia and other silly games, where romance/s flourished, +1s added and stress melted, all over a bowl of salsa and chips. I liked the fake camaraderie too, to an extent, also the need to be “proper”, but I hated the forced need to belong, the constant policing and mostly, the need to define success the same way everyone else did, I really hated the lack of personalization. I hated living each others lives.

I hated being a statistic. I know I came in as a GMAT score, as a diversity factor (one of 2 in 23 Indian students, without a prior job in the software industry) and I left as a salary ($_xx,xxx within x months of graduation). Unlike my fellow international students, I wanted an MBA not just because my goal was to get a job and a life in America (I already had one that I thoroughly enjoyed). I wanted to learn persuasive but subtle advertising that would work for low-budget and no-budget non-profit causes; I wanted to drill into the consumer’s mind and make food (and other consumables) that spoke to them. I wanted to make (and sell in order to make more) art. I wanted to make more money. And of course I wanted to change the world. duh.

Funny thing? I did many of those things and I know I can do the rest in the future. I learned the lessons I wanted and needed to learn, picked the brains of my choice, chatted with people I wanted to connect to and changed my world. No regrets. What I wish though, is that they (the professors and mentors) talked a little more about fit and choice; that it was okay to pick and choose who you want to be, what you want to learn and how. Penn State was about freedom for me, remember? I just hope my Smeal educators practiced a little bit of that too.

There were forms and research and discussions about how important personal values and fit was in happiness. Did you forget to teach the same to your career counselors? Or did you somewhere lose faith in what you preach? Because like the rest of the world you judge people by what they are and not who they are? Maybe you could take this cue to rising above the definitions we seem to want to live by. Title over role. Money over happiness. Size over value.

Rise above the title, package and size of the company and focus on what makes me give and get my best.



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