Peacock Pavilion

The next quilt in my “Travel Log Quilt Series” is one of my favorites and there are several reasons for that….. firstly, it came from a trip to India which is one of our FAVORITE places to visit. Secondly, it is a peacock and I have a major crush on peacocks, and thirdly, it was the first time I had made a collage style quilt.

Story First

In 2008 Michael and I first visited India. We were only there for 10 days but quickly came to love the people that we met and the places that we visited!! We spent most of the time in the city of Bangalore, but for 3 days Michael and I were escorted to the state of Tamil Nadu, visiting the Mudumalai National Park. As we were traveling back to Bangalore, our host suggested that we stop at the Mysore Palace and, as usual, we were game for anything!!

The palace was gorgeous…..

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….and we were so excited about seeing inside, but there was a problem…… a BIG problem for me…..

And they were serious about no photos….they wouldn’t even let us take cameras inside the palace. We had to check them at the door!!

The palace itself is gorgeous, as you can see from these photos that I found online…..

….but the most beautiful part was a great hall that had the most amazing stained glass dome with PEACOCKS!! I stood looking at the amazing windows and couldn’t stop thinking about the quilt that I wanted to make. I even ventured the thought that I would surreptitiously take a photo with my phone but the sight of a guard holding a machine gun quickly quelled that idea!

Instead I made a quick sketch….

…. and figured that I could find photos online when I got home. I WAS WRONG!!!

I searched and searched and the best photo that I could find was this one…..

Between it and my “drawing”, I was able to come up with the basic design….

Time for the quilt….

Now I had to figure out what fabrics to use and, at that time, I didn’t have a bunch of solids in my stash. I was super excited to visit my local quilt shop and find these gradation fabrics from Caryl Bryer Fallert…..

….and even better to find out that they were on SALE!!!!

I made an idea board with photos of peacocks…..

….and started playing!!

Unfortunately, I don’t have step by step photos of the process but I did have a wonderful time placing the fabrics and then machine stitching over them with beautiful threads. After I had finished with the design I then added the bias tape “leading”.

The final step was to add lots of quilting and the back really shows the designs…..

I used a monofilament thread in the bobbin and was pleased with the result…..

I love the final quilt…..

….and it is an incredible reminder of a fun trip!!

Project Planning

As I have been working on various Quilts of Valor, I have been thinking about new projects to start and I had two in mind…….

The first is an inspiration that I had when we were in Chengdu, China back in 2016.  There was an office building next door to our hotel and at night there were long strings of colored lights shining brightly on the building.  These is a very bad quality photo that I took to remind me of my inspiration…..DSC08558

The colors would change from blue to red to yellow and sometimes the light lines would split up……DSC08552

Again a horrible photo but it was best that I could get from inside my hotel!!

So, I have been thinking about how to make a quilt that has these same slivers in it.  Here is where I am so far…..IMG_5466

…but this ain’t cutting it.   I am not sure if the slivers that I am using aren’t bright enough or what, but I am not happy with it. 

I have been wondering if it would be more interesting if I completely pieced the black/grey backgrounds first (maybe in a brick style) and then made the slivers go from top to bottom.  The biggest problem with this will be that every time I add a sliver, it makes the edges wonky.  

And, looking at this photo, I think that the slivers may need to be a bit wider and maybe I only want to use the lighter orange ones????  I have been trying to use some silks that I bought in India in 2015 but they may not be the right colors…..

SO…..since I am sort of stuck on this one, I turned to my other inspiration.

On the same 2016 trip, we spent some time in Trivandrum, India, and one of the things that I wanted to do was to get a Henna tattoo.   IMG_8752

As I watched the young woman applying the Henna designs to my skin I couldn’t help thinking that the technique was similar to free motion quilting…..of course I viewed this exercise thru my “quilt-colored glasses”!!

So, I have been combing the internet looking for henna tattoo patterns  with the thought of making a “white on white” quilt using those designs.   I didn’t really want it to be white but was thinking about more of a tan-on-tan.  

Yesterday I bought some appropriate fabric and decided to make a sample to see how it looks, and I am SOOOO happy with it……

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I was thinking about doing some Trapunto work on it but decided instead to try using two battings.   I placed an 80/20 batting on the bottom and a fluffy batting on the top.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the bag that the“fluffy” one came in so I have NO idea of exactly what type of batting it is, but it works and I have enough for the big project so…..who cares!!

Now I need to spend a lot of time designing what this 40 inch square is going to look like.   I am pretty sure that this sample design will be the center of the medallion and I am planning to put peacocks in each of the corners, but who know what else will be added to it!!

I also have to figure out a way to get the design onto the fabric.  I have a light box but it is too small to do a big piece.  I will have to put on my thinking cap!!!

So, no finishes, but a couple of FUN starts……    more to come!!

The comings and goings of whimsy……

 

whimsy  –   ˈwɪmzi/  –  noun
 

playfully quaint or fanciful behavior or humor.
 
 
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When we were traveling on this past 8-1/2 week trip, we started noticing that, on certain days, we were less tolerant of the differences that we saw.   We started saying that, on these days, we had “lost our whimsy”!!!
 
Let me give an example…..  on a whimsical day, we would see a small child standing in front of her Father while riding on a scooter and say “isn’t that cute”.   But, if we saw the same scenario on a “non-whimsical” day, we would break into a diatribe about how dangerous it was and how the Father shouldn’t allow it to happen.
 
As the trip wore on, we realized how fortunate we are to live in a place where there is a lot of standardization in how things are done.  That was probably the thing that most often caused our whimsy to wander away. 
 
The classic example was the day that I wanted to buy a Coke in the hotel restaurant.   First I went to the restaurant and asked for the drink.  The waitress didn’t know how I was supposed to pay for it so she called a supervisor.   The supervisor wrote up a paper ticket and walked it into the lobby to the front desk.  From there, the desk clerk put it into the computer and printed out an invoice that I finally was able to pay.  I walked away with a slightly bemused expression and a now warm Diet Coke!!!
 
 
 
With that being said, let me review the trip.  Being an Accountant, I am enamored with numbers, so  let’s look at the numbers of the trip……
 
19 airplane flights
 
15 hotels (and new beds)
 
31 Taxi rides in China alone!!
 
An unknown number of car rides (with driver) in India
 
4 boat/canoe rides
 
84+ teaching contact hours between Michael and his students
 
3,746 photographs!!
 
Umpteen banquet or buffet meals!!!   The problem with these is that you just get a small amount of a bunch of different tastes and smells and you come away feeling like you haven’t had a full meal.    We took the opportunity to order ala carte any chance that we could!!!
 
 
All in all, it was a good trip but we were both happy to arrive back in our Georgia home!! 
 
Except for a quick trip for Michael in December, we don’t have any trips planned for the near future.  However there is a possibility that next year we will spend 4 months in India!!!   We will wait to see if the grant is successful……
 
 
And for now, life goes on with work, house cleaning, gardening, catching up with friends and family and, hopefully, a little bit of creative time too!!!!!
 
 
Thanks for traveling with us!!!
 
 

Exploring the Backwaters of Kerala

 

The second part of our Kerala vacation was spent on a Kettuvallam, a type of boat which were originally used as grain barges but have been transformed into floating cottages with each having 1 or more bedrooms, a Western toilet, kitchen and dining area.  Once again Jai, of Sanchari Holidays did a marvelous job of hooking us up with Gokul Cruises .

Our driver picked us up once our ferry from Coconut Grove arrived at the dock and drove about an hour to the town of Alleppey which is the 7th largest city in Kerala.  We were told that it is called the “Rice Bowl” of India because it is below sea level and the conditions are perfect for growing rice.  We were met there by a company representative and put onto our own private boat (which, unfortunately, I dont have a good photo of!)…..IMG_9226

We explored the boat, checking out our bedroom…..

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the simple and compact kitchen…..IMG_9117

and the magnificent dining/living area……

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As you can imagine, the first plan for the trip was to check out these chairs…..IMG_9316

…..AHHHHHH….such bliss!!

We joined the queue of boats slowly passing thru the canal…..

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…and started to enjoy the daily life that was passing by us…..

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One of the first things that we noticed were the myriad of canoes that also plied the water, each with their long shanked motor……

IMG_9150We wondered about the length of the shank but then saw someone running thru an area of vegetation floating on the water and noticed that all he had to do was lift the motor out of the water and the vegetation would shake off.  Very ingenious!!

I loved the scenes on the sides of the canals, including this laundry hanging lazily out to dry….IMG_9154

This boat carrying silage approached…..

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…but we were amazed to see that it was not a wide boat but simply a single canoe carrying a wide load…..

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We were entertained by this boat filled with umbrella wielding passengers….

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Our captain asked if we wanted to stop at a fish market and buy some Tiger Prawns to have for dinner and we answered with an immediate “Yes, Please!!”.  As we approached the docking area, all three of our crew members would come to the front to help guide us into shore….

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They would beep the ship’s horn and immediately others would come out from the fish shop to help us dock..

The store (and I use that term loosely) was very basic and the fish were stored in these huge coolers…..

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We selected our four Tiger Prawns (which I never knew were BLUE) …..

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….hopped back on the boat and we were off again.

On closer inspection of the prawns, they looked like tiny sea monsters ….hopefully very TASTY sea monsters!!!….

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A little further down the canal and it was time to stop for lunch with yet another docking.  They presented a marvelous lunch highlighted by a small crispy fish…..

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….and accompanied by a myriad of curries, vegetables and, of course, rice…

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We spent a bit of time in the kitchen while they were cooking and I was intrigued by this utensil….IMG_9135

….wondering exactly what it was used for.   I found out a few minutes later as one of the crew started grating coconut with it.   I like this video because it not only shows the tool in action but also the big smile on the gentleman’s face!!!…

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There was a much larger Houseboat next to us as we ate lunch and we enjoyed listening to the rock music and laughter that came from the bunch of young men occupying it.

We had been told that there would be a tour of one of the smaller canals which the houseboat couldn’t get to.  We were expecting a small motor boat but were pleased to see a canoe arrive as our transportation.  Our guide rowed calmly along for about 5 minutes…..

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….and then handed me an oar.  I quickly passed it on up to Michael and he proceeded to help with the rowing work…

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Our guide was actually quite fortunate as Michael knew HOW to row and was able to do a lot of the work.  We passed other canoes where the passengers were doing more to hinder the rowing than to help it!!

It was very interesting to be closer to the shore to be able to observe life along the river.  Every home had a small opening that led onto the river and most had a large rock in pride of place….

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It didn’t take long for us to understand that this was the “washing machine”….IMG_9251

The noise when women were washing was very recognizable….

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In many places we could see over the shoreline berm to view the rice paddies in their full glory…..

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As we floated past, we got a closer view of river life and I have to say, that it looks like a hard one!! IMG_9299 It seems that everything is done along the river’s edge, including bathing, dishwashing…..

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… recreation…..IMG_9283

…and food provision…..IMG_9295…although it was interesting to see that many houses had a satellite dish perched on the corner of their homes…..

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I am not sure why these pots were stuck on the ends of long poles, but it reminded me of pirate movies where skulls were set out this way to warn others not to enter…..

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We returned to our boat and a very sweaty (but happy) Michael took a photo with our canoe guide…..IMG_9306

The guide immediately climbed back into his canoe and headed off to the next boat for yet another tour…..

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Now it was time to just sit back and enjoy the trip and we made the most of our relaxing time.  It was fun to listen to the sounds of the canal, from the “slap, slap, slap” of women washing clothes, to the “tap, tap, tap” of men using machetes to open coconuts, the “ beep beep beep beep” of water taxi’s moving quickly thru the canal and wanting all of the house boats to get out of the way………IMG_9356……and the occasional cry of a vendor as he floated upstream hawking  his boat full of wares….

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It was also interesting to pass the other boats and smell the aromas of their cooking, wondering if their lunch was as good as ours had been!!

Many people would wave as we passed and I think that they were not particularly used to seeing white people along the river!!  One young girl waved shyly to us and when we waved back, the whole family joined in the waving!!

This group of men were rebuilding the wall and “dock” in front of one house….

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One of the funnier sights was when a canoe decided that it needed to cross the canal in the middle of a long line of boats…..

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He would paddle as fast as he could as all of the Houseboats made adjustments to their engines to allow him time to pass.  We did discover during this episode that our captain “was a honker”!!!

We passed one LONG snake boat (Chundun Vallam) which was being prepared for the races associated with the Onam Festival……

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Unfortunately these races fall on Sunday so we will miss them!!

I loved seeing this little girl practicing her rowing……

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…and we laughed as this man quickly rowed up in his canoe, attached himself to the boat and allowed himself to be towed along…..

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As it got later in the afternoon, the canal traffic increased greatly…..IMG_9426

…and before we knew it we were ready to dock for the evening.  We tied up in front of a smallish house,  along with 2 other boats from the same company.  An electric cord was pulled off of the boat and plugged into an outdoor socket.  We were told that it cost 70,000 Rupees ($1,050) for the plug to be installed and that each boat paid between 350 amd 500 Rupees for each night that they spent there.    It is quite an ingenious way to earn a bit of extra money!!

Soon we were told that our Prawns were about to be cooked, so we hurried to the kitchen to see them being placed into a small skillet with butter, covered and cooked for 10 minutes.

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While we waited for the delicacy, we enjoyed the sunset that quickly colored the sky…..

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Our delicious meal centered around the perfectly cooked Tiger Prawns…..

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…and we greatly enjoyed every part of it…..

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After dinner, we relaxed on the deck, happily watching the Geckos cavort around the ceiling of the boat…..IMG_9490

When it was time to head to bed, we found that they had closed our door and turned on our air conditioner so that our room was extremely comfortable!!

We awoke the next morning and were treated to a wonderful breakfast of toast (made by holding the bread over an open flame), omelet, vegetables and fruit…IMG_9491

All too soon it was time to cast off and head for port again.  We enjoyed floating slowly down the Backwater, but signs of civilization started creeping into the views….

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We soon docked in our spot amongst all of the other boats…..IMG_9507

….took a final photo of our wonderful crew…..

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….and met our driver for the return journey to Trivandrum.

The drive back was slow and deliberate, taking 5 hours to travel 154 kilometers (92 miles).   We laughed at several signs that noted that we were in an “Accident Prone Area” and to “Drive Slowly”!!!

We arrived back at our hotel mid afternoon and immediately started re-packing for our return trip to China on the next morning!!

We both felt that this trip was a magnificent way to end our time in India.  We were well cared for and the time was just SO relaxing!!!

Coconut Lagoon

On Tuesday (the 6th), Michael finished up the last of his teaching duties in India so we took a few days off to do some serious R&R.  Based on various travel shows we had seen, we really wanted to visit the Kerala Backwaters, a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast.   Trying to wade thru all of the possible trips was a monumental task, so we contacted our friend, Shirley in Bangalore and asked if she had any suggestions of someone to help us.  She pointed us to Jai at Sanchari Holidays and he did a magnificent job organizing our 4 days of fun.

We were picked up by our driver early on Wednesday morning, having no real idea of where we were going.  The only clue was that it would take 4 to 5 hours to get there so we figured that we must be heading North (since 5 hours South would put you in the ocean!!)

The trip was difficult with several detours and lots of traffic jams.  There were very few stoplights and the traffic was being directed by policemen.  Most of them were pretty ineffectual, waving their hands around with no one really obeying them. 

Seeing snippet views of the ocean and a myriad of fish sellers reminded us that we were following along the western coast of India.

Our first stop was at the Coconut Lagoon Resort, which can only be reached over the water.   Our ferry arrived about 15 minutes after we got to the jetty and we started our journey…..

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…..passing this group of women doing laundry and washing dishes in the river…..IMG_8869

We looked excitedly at a a series of small cottages that we passed, saying that those looked like fun.  Suddenly, we took a sharp turn into a narrow canal and realized that we were staying at the resort with the cottages….how perfect is that!!!

As we  pulled up at the outdoor lobby, we were serenaded by a man playing a traditional flute……IMG_8877

As we registered, we were given flowers and then the (extremely fresh) coconut milk arrived……IMG_8879

We were escorted to our gorgeous cottage……IMG_8889

….with a magnificent room…….

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As we were oohing and ahhing over the room, she proudly opened the door to the bathroom (which I thought looked like an outside door) and exclaimed that “it’s an open air bathroom”……

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I am sure that we had bemused looks on our faces but we found that it was a very comfortable bathroom, even when sharing it with Gecko’s……IMG_9103

I had a nap while Michael spent some time sitting on the front porch.  The manager happened by and started talking to us about the resort.  He was basically apologetic that it was more rustic in nature but we assured him that we loved it that way.  We had noticed that various trees on the property had signs saying who had planted them.  Michael asked about it and the manager asked if we would like to plant one .  When we excitedly said yes, he immediately sent over the grounds manager and a time was set for the next morning!

As we were sitting there, I noticed that the sky was starting to get a wonderful red tinge to it, so I grabbed the camera and headed to the edge of Lake Vembanadu, the largest lake in the Kerala Backwater.  The views as the sun went down were magnificent…..IMG_8926

….and became increasing brilliant as time went on…..

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This was my favorite photo of the evening……

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It was well worth the walk!!

We enjoyed an excellent buffet dinner, a great sleep and awoke the next morning ready for our daily adventure.

We were met at 9:30 by the groundskeeper, Jijo, and hurried off to plant our banana tree.  He had already dug the hole and had the tree ready to plant.   He told Michael that he must first take off his shoes and face to the East as he put the tree in the ground……IMG_8966

Michael only scooped in a few handfuls of dirt before Jijo moved him away and finished the job for him.  I guess that you cant let the paying guest get sweaty and dirty!!!

I added the water (under careful supervision)….. IMG_8977

….and the deed was done.  Jijo told us that a plaque will be printed and put with “our” tree!!!   We found where Jude Law had planted one (Michael swooned over this one) and it was rumored that Paul McCartney had planted one as well, but we never saw it.   So, I guess we are in good company!!

The next task of the morning was to visit the Butterfly garden.  This was unique because it wasn’t an enclosed area but, instead, was a natural area that hosted plants that the butterflies loved and returned to religiously.  We had fun trying to catch the butterflies with the camera lens….. IMG_8992

They were fairly elusive, although we did get a good photo of this beauty….

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While we were sitting in the gazebo we also caught sight of another of the local inhabitants…..

IMG_9001If you look carefully, you can just see the head of a small monitor lizard.  Unfortunately, he took off and we never got a good look at him.

We continued to wander around the property, taking photos of the beautiful scenery.  I really like this picture with the reflections in the water…..

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There was always a steady stream of fishing boats along the shore…..

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At lunchtime, Jai had organized for us to to enjoy a traditional meal called the Sadhya.  It is served during the Onam festival which was actually going on while we were in Kerala.  It is a 10 day festival that commemorates the home-coming of King Mahabali….more about that later!!

We were escorted to a private table by the lake, a banana leaf was placed on the table and the food started to arrive.   We were assisted by the Executive Chef (Naveen) and he talked us thru each of the foods that we were presented, telling us the history of the food and why it was part of the meal.

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Before long our banana leaf was full of delicacies…..

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….and it was time to start enjoying the flavors.  Naveen told us to eat from left to right initially and then to eat anything that we wanted.   He also told us that we must use “God’s Utensils”….ie  our hands….. to eat with.  The dishes included dried Plantains, Jaggery, pickles, bitter gourd, and a whole host of curries, each with its own delicate taste.  The item on the upper far right is white Pumpkin and we were told to use that one as a palate cleansing food.  Our drink was Sambar which is a Yoghurt with spices and herbs.

We ate until we couldn’t have another bite.  It was such a fun experience to enjoy the food and a beautiful view of the lake!!

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By the way, all of the tables in the resort had the same centerpiece….a little pot of rice plants!!  It was simple and very effective.  I may have to try it at home sometime!!

I have found one design that HAS to become a quilt some day…… 

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I will add it to my idea list!!

Before dinner, there was a program of traditional dance called “Kathakali”……

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It is in the “story play” genre meaning that the sole dancer (usually male)  tells the story thru dance, song and speaking.  Here is a bit of it…..

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We didn’t stay for the entire performance but moved over into the restaurant for desert and coffee.  We were still full from lunch so there was no need for additional food!!

The entertainment in the dining room was a little more to our taste……

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As we walked back to our cottage, we marveled at the beauty of the resort…..

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On Friday morning it was time for us to move to our next Kerala adventure and we were serenaded with drums and given a proper send off……IMG_9107

It was the end of a perfect visit and we left with the thought that we WILL return….for longer next time!!

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Now, before we go further, let me talk about the Onam Celebration.  As I said, it celebrates the  the homecoming of King Mahabali.  The entire festival lasts for 10 days with each having it’s own importance.  One of the interests of each day is the building of a Pookkalam which is a floral carpet.  Tradition dictates a few basics of how the Pookkalam should look, but individual touches are added. 

We saw our first Pookkalam at the hotel in Trivandrum on Sunday……

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It was very simple and fun. 

On Monday, it became larger and more intricate…..IMG_8785

Tuesday brought this one…..

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And, Wednesday dawned with this lovely 3 dimensional beauty……

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Unfortunately someone had already scuffed it up!!

This was the day that we arrived at Coconut Lagoon and this was their offering for the day…..

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I failed to get a photo of the one for Thursday, but Friday was made of vegetables and was amazing…..

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Returning to the hotel on Saturday showed us this one…..IMG_9514

When we left on Sunday, this wonderful peacock was on the floor…..

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This photo isn’t great because it was VERY early in the morning and I hadn’t realized that my camera lens had fogged up until it was too late!!!

They were such fun and I eagerly looked forward to seeing the new design each morning.  I would really have loved to see them making it but it was always done late at night.

IF we come back next year (which is possible), we will look forward to celebrating Onam in the fullest way possible!!