Mural Mania

Wrapping up a couple of small design projects this week! For some reason, Hyderabad seems to be smitten with contemporary art. The team at Plan has been working on two spaces. One, a cozy coffee shop at the Jubilee Hills Club in Hyderabad named Blend, and the other – a TV channel’s office space. Two very different spaces with contrasting character.

Blend Coffee, Jubilee Hills:

Concept – A contemporary doodle. We had a real fun talk with the visionaries at Blend and they wanted Plan to come up with a quirky, modern and fun doodle to go on one of the central walls that forms the coffee shop’s boundary. After a lot of designs which had us representing coffee beans and everything coffee in different ways, the clients finally came up with a suggestion that was very different, and not the least bit “I’m a coffee shop”.

The Blend guys wanted something very ‘youthful’, to cater to their customer demographic and that’s when we came up with this abstract design. Five days of hard work (manual labor), some eco-friendly paint and a coupla’ sleepless nights and voila, Blend has a sweet new artsy wall.


2. Hyderabad Local News Channel TV5’s office space:


TV5 is a local news channel in Hyderabad that wanted us to use very graffiti-esque typography with neon colors to create a ‘motivational mural’ for their creative department. With 3 days to come up with a design and execute it, this was one of our all-nighter projects. Good thing is that the client (TV5) wanted a very very minimalistic design with more of inspirational quotes on walls than graphical representations of all things motivational; and what you see above is what we came up with. The only bummer is that I was low on phone battery and nobody carried a camera, so we couldn’t really get a proper picture of the completed mural. We’ll probably request the client to have us drop in one of these days and take a good picture of the space 🙂

The zentangle coaster experiment

I was at my local Home Depot the other day picking up some tools, when I found some really cheap 4″x4″ ceramic tiles. I picked up 4 of them and thought of turning them into coasters. So I brought them home and decided to use my handy little sharpie to draw some zentangles on them just for fun, and this is what I came up with.




Now, these are just random scribbles, just to get a feel of how my hand moves on the tile. What I noticed was that the Sharpie is not very durable and tends to fade away/ smudge when you wipe it with a damp cloth. So I tried two things to make it water proof. One was to spray it with a clear glaze I bought from a local crafts store, and the other was to cover the coaster with transparent contact paper. The clear glaze didn’t really work too well and it pretty much smudged the entire tile (see the top left coaster in pic above). The rest of the tiles, I covered with contact paper. It’s working fine for now, but I think, the next time I make these coasters, I’ll probably be using Glass Paint Markers and spraying them with a coat of clear glaze to give them a glossy finish.

Will document this better next time round 🙂


Aloo Paratha

" What's 'taters precious, what's 'taters, eh?
Po-tay-toes. Boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew "

Well the one thing Sam Not-so-wise forgot to mention are Parathas! Good ol’ taters make for amazing, yummy bread aka Parathas. In India, we call ’em Aloo Paratha. Deconstruct the bread, and you have some yummy potato curry stuffed into whole wheat dough. Nutritionwise – you’ve got your daily dose of fibre and some good carbs. Yup, potatoes are good carbs. They have potassium, Vitamins B1 and B6, folates and even Vit C and  some fibre too! So eat my lovelies, eat your potatoes. (Just, er..don’t OD on them, too much of anything is bad *wink*)

Here’s my version of the good ol’ ‘Tater Parathas. How I go about making this yummy thing is to make the stuffing first and then some dough to stuff it into.

Ingredients for Stuffing:
Chopped Onions: 1/4 Cup
2 (or more) Green chillies
1″ Ginger
2-3 Garlic Pods
2 Medium sized potatoes, boiled and grated (roughly 1-1.5 cups)
Cumin Seeds (Jeera): 1 tsp
Turmeric: 1/4 tsp
Dhania (Coriander/ Curry Powder): 1 tbsp
Red Chilli Powder/Paprika/ Chili Flakes -and- Salt: According to taste
A pinch or half a pinch of Garam Masala (optional)
Some fresh Cilantro and half a lime/ lemon
(All the proportions of the ingredients are based according to my taste. If you want to up the onions, or the garlic, go for it! The paratha’s gonna be just fine)

For the Dough (Makes 4 Parathas):
Whole Wheat Flour (I used Aashirvad Atta we get in Indian stores, which I’m pretty sure is not entirely gluten free. So If you’re allergic to gluten, please use gluten free whole wheat flour)
2-4 tbsp of oil (any kind)
Lukewarm Water

Heat a pan and add about 1-2 tsp of oil to it.Once hot enough, add some cumin seeds and once they start spluttering, add in the ginger, garlic and green chilli paste.

Stir this around till the paste is slightly golden brown and then add onions
Once the onions are translucent, whip out the handy little masala box and add some cumin powder, turmeric powder, coriander(curry)powder, paprika and salt to taste. You can also add a very tiny pinch of Garam Masala to add some dimension to the mixture

Saute the mixture for another 2 minutes till the onion is golden brown and then add in the grated, boiled potato
Mix everything together, cover it and cook for about 2-3 minutes. (Adjust salt accordingly). Once done, turn off the flame, add some freshly chopped cilantro and add a dash of lime juice. Once cooled, make golf ball sized balls and keep aside (Keep tasting the mixture, and add/don’t add lime – remember, its all about how you want it to taste)

Next, we prepare the dough. Get some flour (you can also use refined flour if you like, but you won’t get any fibre) and mix in 2 tbsp of oil and some salt to it.

To the dry mixture, slowly keep adding lukewarm water till the dough is kneadable and soft. Coat on a dash of oil onto the kneaded dough, cover and set it aside for 5 minutes. Remove the cover and divide the dough into 4 golf ball sized spheres.

Take the dough-ball and start rolling it out. Make sure the center is thick and you’re rolling out along the edges, so the edges should be thinning down as you roll out. Place the potato mixture onto the rolled-out dough and pull the dough upward to cover the potato mixture like a pouch and pinch off the excess like in the picture below. Once that’s done, the paratha is ready to roll (pun intended)

Sprinkle some flour onto the worksurface and place the pinched side of the ball down and start rolling it out. Keep dusting with flour so the paratha doesn’t stick to the surface and roll out till you can see the mixture peeking through the dough

Heat a griddle and transfer the paratha onto it. As it cooks, brush some olive oil or ghee onto the side facing up and flip the paratha over. Brush the oil/grease onto the other side and let cook till golden brown spots appear on both sides. (Little oil/ghee is good for you, so put it on your paratha. Ghee speeds up digestion and is healthier than butter. It also works as a catalyst and helps your body absorb vitamins and minerals from food better. So a tablespoon a day of ghee is actually good. Ghee’s available in most Indian stores and even Trader Joes is carrying it these days. So, pretty easy to lay your hands on a bottle)

And voila! your paratha is ready! Team this with a dollop of spiced yogurt or raita, mint chutney or even plain ol’ tomato ketchup!

A very Portal themed Save the Date

So, the boy and I are getting hitched this year end on the 28th of
December, and I’ve been thinking of some quirky invite that defines our personalities.

My first instinct was to do things the normal clichéd way. Take a picture of us on the beach, meadow or what-have-you, holding up a save the date board and then photoshop in some text with all the deets. But, but, but, we hit a snag.

The boy works in San Francisco and I was living the happy life in India, so a pre-wedding photo shoot was not possible. This is where me being an architect came in handy. This mighty profession mightn’t really fetch me the moolah, but it sure does help me save some on paying a designer, and not to mention, just designing something, even something as small as a biz card, gives you a high 🙂

Anyway, ranting and digressing aside, I came up with this invite and thought I’d put it up online, so people who’re looking for some fun save-the-date ideas can use this as inspiration.

Let me quickly detail out what my scope and constraints for this project were like:

  • It had to be “non-girly” so the boy can share it with his friends, without complaining about how much pink there is in the card *rolls eyes*
  • Had to somehow convey the wedding venue details and be a reflection of our personalities
  • The boy and I share a common love for video games and he popped the question when we were playing Portal 2, so I really wanted the invite to have a very strong portal theme 🙂
  • It had to be something that could be designed in a jiffy and I really didn’t have the bandwidth to create too many complicated images

So after a million re-iterations, here’s what I came up with:

Portal themed wedding Invite

Portal themed Save the Date

The background is basically a blueprint of one of the projects I’m working on and kind of adds some character to an otherwise plain grey BG without being too harsh on the eyes. The portal icons, I recreated in Adobe Illustrator. Added some elements like dimension lines and the XML tags to define the both of us and our profession.

We basically used this to send out email and Facebook invites and this is how it fit on the event page. The image measures 815×315 px and this is how it looks on the event page and as a post:

Portal themed Save the Date

How it looked as the Facebook Event’s cover picture

Easy Portal themed wedding Invite

Screenshot of how it shows up as a post on Facebook

Funnily, this one invite made my architectural firm’s door ring and we had a lot of our friends requesting us to create Save the Dates for them. I guess my graphic design career is taking off now!

I know I did a lot of web browsing for Portal themed invites and couldn’t find anything that was easy to design. I’m hoping this one would provide some kind of inspiration for others like me, looking to design something fast without having to invest too much in a digital drawing tablet 🙂

Thats all for now!

Yalla bye

Borderlands 2: To OP or not to OP?

I’ve been a major major Borderlands fan ever since I started playing the game. I’m very picky about games and I consider finding that one perfect game to play almost equal to finding a soulmate. Or maybe I’m just a crazy nerd who finds way too much comfort in virtual reality. So, this post is basically my experience OP-ing it up in Borderlands 2.

First off, there’s just way too much confusion about what OP is in Borderlands 2. Initially, when the game released, you had a normal play-through which let you get to level 25-30 and then you had to play it in True Vault Hunter Mode (TVHM) to get to level 50. 2K Games then increased the level cap and let you go up till level 61, if you purchased the Ultimate Vault Hunter Pack 1 (Included in the Season Pass). Then, they introduced the Ultimate Vault Hunter Pack 2 (which costs $4.99) that raises your level cap to 72 and offers over powered levels.

Once you purchase this content, a new area called “Digistruct Peak” should appear on your fast-travel. You can play the game in UVHM, and do quests and all to get from Level 61 to 72 in the regular manner. Once you get to level 72, you go to the Digistruct peak and finish the challenge, which is basically fighting enemies in a stupidly HUGE arena. Once you finish a round at lvl 72, you unlock Overpowered Level 1.

Once you gain an OP level, make sure you exit the game, log back in and increase the difficulty and then begin the next round. You go on doing this 7 more times till you beat the enemy waves in the arena and you’re OP8! Doing this challenge is extremely frustrating and dying a million times just makes  it even worse. Also, with each round, you have to have guns/gear scaled to that level and the enemy drop rates during the challenge are abysmal. you’ll only get some random stupid green guns from enemies. The only way to get a decent-ish gun is to spend your Eridium to generate loot chests in the arena. You’ll gain access to these chest-spawning junctions in the middle and the ends of the rounds. This is best done with more players, or atleast that’s what I feel. Its way too overwhelming to complete the levels solo.

Ok, so back to the big question. Should you or shouldn’t you even bother getting to OP8?

The only reason I did it, was to use my OP8 Sandhawks, a friend traded with me 🙂 Also, there are a bunch of gamers who’re doing a crazy number of legendary infinity drops in the game and mostly all the loot they drop is OP8. So I kinda’ got excited picking up some of this loot and really really wanted to use them, so had to go through the ordeal of getting to OP8. So if you’re like me and are stuck with legendaries you can’t use unless you have advanced to a higher level, you SHOULD do the digistruct peak challenge.

Another pro to OP8 is that when you get back to normal gameplay, you can choose to scale down the difficulty level of the game. I found this to lead to a less stressful gameplay, especially when you’re running solo. I love playing solo and its just so much less stressful beating the super badass bosses like Terramorphous and Hyperius when they’re somewhat scaled down a coupla’ levels.
Also, I have some decent legendary and seraph gear and am not looking to farm anymore, so being OP8 and playing lower level enemies feels so good!

If anyone needs help, and an extra player (I play the Siren) getting through the digistruct peak, I’d love to help out. My xbox gamertag is neuwin.

Day 3: Kusadasi

After all the Istanbul exploring, we took a night bus to Kusadasi. Since we were doing the ‘culture soak’ this time round, we decided to camp at a cozy little family owned restaurant. The name of the place was hotel Albora. Its run by a super sweet Turkish family and even though the accommodation was a tad modest than a 5-star hotel, the warmth of this family more than made up for the lack of luxury.

It took us about 8 hours to drive from Taksim to Kusadasi and we reached in the wee hours of the morning. Too tired to do anything, the boy and I crashed, but the others went scuba diving and some of the girls went to get a Hamam (Turkish Bath). I didn’t really want to go scuba diving, because, that’d take time, and unless you’ve done it before or have practiced breathing with the scuba regulator, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to go into the water. I was kind of leaning toward getting the Turkish Bath, but I wanted to read up some reviews and hit up the internet. I didn’t find too many good reviews about the Hamam places in the area, so decided to skip going to any. [On another note, I talked to a local friend of mine and she suggested the Cemberlitas Hamami in IST city for an authentic Hamam experience. Apparently, other places are way too touristy and some are just rip-offs. I think its always best to meet with a local friend and go with them to make sure you’re not taken for a ride.]

So back to Kusadasi – We woke up in the evening and decided to walk down to the shopping center which was about 2-2.5 km from our hotel. It started to rain mid-way and thankfully there was this taxi-stand kind of place we ran to and took a taxi to the shopping center. The shopping place is meh. Lots of clothes’ stores with fake Pradas, Guccis and all that. The boy was having trouble with his shoes not coping with all the walking we were doing each day, and wanted a new pair, so after browsing around, we finally chanced upon an authentic Nike store. An hour and several tries later, his royal highness found the perfect pair. Sir happy feet and I then decided to grab a bite somewhere on the docks, but then there were a lot of sea-food places, and I’m a vegetarian and the boy (AN) isn’t much of a sea-food fan, so we decided to walk back to the hotel, just in time for dinner.

The best part about staying at hotel Albora was that the owners’ wife and mom(I think) made some delicious Turkish food for us. And since we were a group of vegetarians, they were kind enough to make sure a lot of the stuff they put out was vegetarian. [Such wonderful people, I was so touched by their warmth, I can’t rave enough about them :)]

Spread out for dinner was cucumber and carrot salad, lettuce and spinach salad, tomatoes, a coupla’ varieties of zatziki, and some freshly baked bread. The main course was tomato çorba, rice with a side of potatoes and peas curry and chicken in gravy. Dessert was some store bought chocolate mousse. Simple and hearty meal. Just perfect to call it a night.

Istanbul: Day 2

Day 2 in Istanbul was all about a tour of the Topkapi palace, Sulemaniye Mosque and the Bosphorus.

We did all the monument seeing with the help of a tour guide. I’d probably not go the tour-guide route the next time, because I found sticking to their schedule of showing you different touristy places in a day doesn’t fully allow you to experience a space at leisure. You’re always pressed for time, and have to hurry all the while. (I have to say that the guide we had was very sweet and knowledgeable, but I, being a person who likes to dwell in places for longer periods of time and experience it according to my own pace, was feeling somewhat rushed, and not completely satisfied with the tour)

The Topkapi Palace

The Topkapi Palace

Next stop was the Topkapi palace, and like all other historic monuments in Istanbul, it had a character of its own. The landscaping was straight out of a dream. One look at the place and you knew the people who lived here were the epitome of royalty. The architecture was supplemented by amazing Iznik tile artwork. I loved walking around looking at all the olden-day artifacts and was slightly bummed we couldn’t make it to the harem, because of time and the long lines. Oh, and the clothes section is a must see. They are gigantic and weirdly proportioned. Interesting to know how the Ottomans wore them exactly. Next time, I’d probably dedicate an entire day to stroll around this magnificent palace.

Tulips in full bloom at the Topkapi Palace

Tulips in full bloom at the Topkapi Palace

We then made our way out and enroute, grabbed some simit from the street vendors to munch on, and went to meet a family that has been making iznik pottery for ages. (I wish I could remember the name of this place, but I can’t. Will update the blog once i remember for sure.) A tour of the workshop later, we took off to Eminonu for a cruise around the Turkey Strait. The strait is the water body that connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara; and it is this that gives Turkey its unique geographical trait of lying in 2 continents (namely Europe and Asia)

The cruise basically let us see both sides of the city and it’d have been really beautiful had it been sunny and warm, but it was extremely extremely windy and cold, so I basically bundled myself up and left the deck to go make myself warm.

Next we went onto check out the spice market and catch the whirling dervishes at the Hodja Pasha Cultural Center. I was really excited to see the whirling dervishes, and the program began with 4-5 dervishes coming onto the floor and bowing toward the direction of Mecca. The music started playing, and kept increasing and decreasing in intensity with the speed at which the dervishes were spinning. The dervishes begin spinning slowly in a pattern, and then gradually pick up pace and start spinning on one leg. I didn’t know what I was expecting, when I went in to watch the show. I wasn’t exactly ‘moved’ and I was sitting in the front row, which was really close to where they were spinning and I felt like I was interrupting someone’s prayer. Also, watching them constantly spin, kind of made my head hurt. I noticed a LOT of people in the crowd doze off. The experience probably would’ve had a more profound effect on me if I were to experience the delirium they did, maybe. I don’t know.

The spice market was like another grand bazaar, but I found they have a better collection of scarves here, and if you’re a spice person, you should get some of the cool stuff they have here. We have better spices  back home, i.e India, so I didn’t really bother to buy any.

Tea and spices at the Spice Market

Tea and spices at the Spice Market

Oh, but I found the different flavors of tea available to be nice and got myself a pack of the apple tea. And interestingly, although people rave about the Haci Bekir store to have the best Turkish Delight, I found some great tasting ones at the Spice Market. Reason why I liked the ones in the spice market is because I found a lot of the lokum(turkish delight) to have been made with honey, instead of sugar. To each his own I guess, so if you’re okay with sugar in your lokum/turkish delight, I’d suggest going to the nearest Haci Bekir store and if not, best to grab some at the spice market.