Food Memories from Travels: Homemade Muesli Recipe

Muesli is like cereal – you can eat it for breakfast (or any time at my house!) but without the processed sugars, preservatives and other fake chemical stuff that’s often in cereals. It’s natural and it’s good for you. I got the muesli habit during a Tuscan vacation. I would eat muesli, yogurt and fresh fruit for breakfast right at this table here, soaking up the sunshine and overlooking the olive groves:

Tuscan Villa Outdoor Veranda Dining

Ahhhhh! Who wouldn’t want to keep remembering that when they got home?!?

During most overseas trips I discover a new food habit. In Italy years ago it was muesli. (I already had the wine drinking habit!) I came back from Morocco last November with a raging pomegranate addiction, and started sprinkling pomegranate seeds on muesli and yogurt and … well, everything. The best!

Yummy Homemade Muesli Recipe

But muesli is not easy to find. Even at Whole Foods the cereal aisle is dominated by cereal. At my local Whole Foods there was one box of muesli. For awhile. Then they stopped carrying it. My muesli obsession fell away. Recently I found muesli at Fresh Market. But it’s a little 12 oz box and its cost seems like it’s priced by the gold market.

So … how to secure an ongoing cost-effective supply chain of muesli into my kitchen?

Granola is easier to find but granola doesn’t cut it. Granola is not muesli. Granola often has sugars and oils in it. I question whether it’s really healthy. I’m in my mid-40s now and can’t eat like I used to any more. Sad fact of plunging middle age metabolisms. So I’m looking closer at hidden sugar, fat and empty calories lurking in my eating habits.

So, to guarantee access to muesli, why not make it yourself? It took nearly 7 years for me to get that bright, now obvious, idea. I’m giving the idea away to you, right away! Here’s typical ingredients in muesli and you can get most of them in the bulk food aisle at Whole Foods and other stores:

Homemade Muesli Recipe

  • Grains – 1 heaping bulk bin scoop each of mixed grains like rolled oats, flaked barley, flaked rye
  • Seeds – a handful toss of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, other larger seeds you like
  • Nuts – a few spoonfuls of nuts to your liking, like almond slivers or crumbled walnuts – choose softer nuts that aren’t too hard on your teeth
  • Dried fruits – toss a handful of dehydrated fruits to your taste, maybe choose a mix of 2 fruits like dates, apples, raisins, pineapple, cranberries
  • Flavors – a handful of dehydrated coconut flakes, a spoonful of savory “breakfast” spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice

Homemade Muesli Recipe

Choosing for Texture and Good Looks

I choose a mix of textures so there’s not too much powdery flaky stuff. That wouldn’t feel pleasant to eat. That’s the main complaint people have about muesli – they say it’s dry and mealy. Not this recipe! I make sure I take full flakes and grains from the bulk bin, not ground-down powder. And the mix of different sizes and textures keeps the muesli from feeling mealy in your mouth.

I also choose different textures and colors so it looks interesting too. Like green pumpkin seeds to break up all the brown and beige. And I found the cutest little brown nuts at Whole Foods – they are called hunza sweet apricot kernels and they say “Himalayan” on the label. Just slap Himalayan on the packaging and I’m a sucker and I’ll happily pay too much for it!


You can leave the ingredients raw or lightly toast them. Toasting brings out some flavors (and great aromas too). Spread the ingredients over a baking sheet about 1/2″ thick, then pop them in a 300-degree oven for about 10 minutes. I left mine in longer. Just keep a close eye – you want it to brown just a bit but not start burning. You can toss it mid-way through the oven time if needed.

Toasting Homemade Muesli Mix


I actually just found out while researching homemade muesli recipes that you can eat muesli hot or soaked. I’m sorry I can’t offer much advice about that. I’ve always had a weird thing (okay call it a quirk!) that I don’t like any liquid at all on my cereal. I don’t get how people can put milk in their cereal! It seems so gross to me. I have to eat cereal dry. So there’s that.

Annnnnd … I loathe raisins. I will spend a lot of time picking them out of muesli so not a single raisin falls into the bowl. It’s really irrational. So the beauty of homemade muesli is you can make it the way you like it! Save yourself all the raisin-picking-outing time.

Homemade Muesli with Yogurt and Pomegranate Seeds

I always throw fresh fruit on my muesli/yogurt combo: diced apples, pomegranate seeds, blackberries, blueberries, sliced bananas, maybe diced honeydew. You can see I’m thinking of fruits that aren’t too juicy … because the muesli/cereal can’t get wet and mushy, right?!

You can use any yogurt you like. I’m partial to Stonyfield low fat or no fat “smooth and creamy” – either plain or french vanilla.

Homemade Muesli Recipe



A Trip to Sulawesi: Toraja Patterns

This uniquely patterned wood headboard found on Pinterest yesterday reminded me of an “online trip” I took to Sulawesi a few years ago, to the villages and homes of the Toraja people. It’s not just coffee that comes from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. There is pattern and design too. You should see. You must see! So come, let’s go to Sulawesi …

Patterned Wood Headboard via Christina Watkinson

First, see the houses these panels come from:

Toraja Houses

You can see the headboard up above has the remains of these colorful patterns:

Toraja Patterned House via Indonesia Traveler

Toraja House Patterns via Incito Tour Flickr

Here is a view of the arching architecture of these homes, surrounded by rice paddies:

Toraja Village in Sulawesi photo by Peter Connolly

The house style is called tongkonan, the Toraja tribe’s traditional house. The height and ornamentation communicate the owner’s social status.

Toraja Home

Here you can see how deeply carved the patterns can be. Sometimes the paint colors fade, but the carvings hold the pattern forever:

Carved Toraja House Shutter

What’s interesting to me is how other societies will take the decorative pieces of these homes and display them as a sign of wealth and the owner’s social status. That’s not a conscious move — “I’m gonna use a Toraja panel as a headboard to show you how well my investments have done! Hear my mighty wealthy roar!” – sounds pretty silly! But it takes being in a certain circle, usually involving a well-traveled interior designer, to even know these things exist. They wind up in settings like this and published in Elle Decor:

Toraja House Panel

You don’t find Toraja style knock-offs at Target. And it costs to source and ship these things around the world.

This is part of a huge 8-foot architectural panel on 1stdibs priced at $11,200:

Toraja Panel at 1stdibs

The dealer explains that the auspicious patterns carved into this panel include the Pa’tangke lumu or “moss branch” motif with five stylized buffalo heads. The ornamentation was meant to drive away evil influences. But the buffalo is also a symbol of wealth and prosperity. When funerals are held, families sacrifice buffalo and keep the horns. Wealthier families can sacrifice more buffalo. So houses that have more buffalo horns displayed on them are a sign of higher status and wealth.

This painting by French painter and sculptor Emmanual Michel captures a Toraja woman:

Femme Toraja by Emmanual Michel

The patterns they carve and draw have meanings. As with many cultures, they wish for fertility, good fortune and happiness and harmony for family.

Remnants of these panels can be turned into mirrors:

Toraja Panel Mirror

Mounted for tabletop display:

Toraja Panel Remnant at Andrianna Shamaris

Crafted into tables:

Toraja Panel as a Table

Framed as wall art:

Toraja Panel Framed at Andrianna Shamaris

I hope you enjoyed this trip to another world of patterns!

Sources: 1. Christina Watkinson, 2. Ronrada at TrekEarth, 3. Indonesia Traveler, 4. Incito Tour, Flickr, 5. Peter Connolly, Flickr, 6. Jakarta Post Travel, 7. Unknown, 8. Elle Decor, 9. 1stdibs, 10. Emmanual Michel, 11. One Kings Lane, 12. Andrianna Shamaris, 13. Jenny Bigio, 14. Andrianna Shamaris


An Epic Battle for a Creative India pied-à-terre Bathroom

It’s been a looooong time since I’ve shared ideas for the India pied-à-terre here. If you are new here and wonder “What is that?” here’s an explanation. You know all the DIY blogs where bloggers are installing kitchens, building bathrooms, adding architectural trim and pining over perfect doors? Well we tried to do that on the other side of the planet, from Chicago to Chennai! No, we don’t have super long stretchy arms and legs to reach from here to there. We tried to get things done through other people. It didn’t work out so well. I try to be positive here, so you haven’t heard even 10% of why we quit and let the place sit empty.

After a two (three?) year break, maybe memories get fuzzy, maybe we are crazy, but I think we’re gonna get back on it in 2015. We’re gonna find a good team and we’re gonna get this thing done!

Current Bathroom Status

First up … for the apartment to be habitable, we need one bathroom finished. The kitchen is “thisclose” – we just need to install the faucet, hook up gas, run the water, plug in the fridge and then whip up some masala dosa, vada and idlis! Yay! (Actually more likely we’ll order Domino’s pizza after all that work. Yes they have that there. And they do deliver! With packets of ketchup! ???) Here’s the kitchen nearly done, with a real live owl sitting in it:

Owl in the India pied-a-terre Kitchen

You can see the serendipitous, superstitious story of the owl here. And now that skinny strip of copper tile trim bugs me, but oh well. The line will be broken up by things we put on the counters.

The Great Bathroom Debate

Now, we are debating what to do about a bathroom.

This whole pied-à-terre-finishing business could probably become a “He Said But She Wants” reality show.

Watch the husband say: Let’s not get into what you want them to do. Let’s just stick a sink in there.

Watch her dismay: Just stick a sink in there? But what about my ideas, it was supposed to be awesome! Creative! Unusual! You can’t just stick a sink in there!

Bathroom Inspiration

See the husband steady his two feet on the floor: Yeah I know you have that wood thing you want to use. But we have to get it done.

Carved Wood Door Frame from India

Stubborn wife volleys back: We can get it done. I can show them what to do. I’ll haul a table saw myself in my suitcase. We can check it in, it’s under 50 pounds. I’ll do it myself!!! Girls can saw! RAWRRRRR. 

Bathroom Vanity Inspiration Photos

Husband isn’t having it: Let’s keep it simple. Like a pedestal sink.

Pedestal Sink

Wife absorbs the crushing blow: Pedestal sink?!?!?!?!?!!!!!  … (wife is processing how to deal with this crushing blow to creativity … she’s a fast thinker) … Okay. You’re right. We just need to get a bathroom done. We can do a pedestal sink.

Husband looks grateful, willing to compromise: You can do something creative in the other bathroom.

Wife stands up, heads for laptop, muttering under her breath: You want a pedestal sink, I’ll show you a pedestal sink …

Wife finds this … how about THIS pedestal sink?!?

Hammered Copper Pedestal  Sink from Signature Hardware

From Signature Hardware. It’s only about $1,000. LOL. Plus getting the thing to India. I am accepting donations. Let’s say it’s for the Cause for Creativity!

Don’t make me bring out the Armored Indian War Elephant for this battle. I know where to get one!

Indian War Elephant Armor

Yes elephant suit of armor does exist, as if they need it!

Elephant Suit of Armor

EDITED to add: Over glasses of wine, goat cheese and eggplant appetizer, she raised the idea of the copper pedestal sink. Surely the wine would ease the idea? But he is not goin’ for it … not yet … main objection:

He said: How are we going to ship that to India?

She said: Oh but we know someone in Delhi who can make this pedestal sink happen!

Yesssss … we had the India apartment’s kitchen copper farmhouse sink made in Delhi and shipped to the apartment within India. That was a whole saga of a story though … actually getting the guy to make the sink (his mom got sick, there were holidays, there were festivals, so many excuses despite him being a manufacturer supplying U.S. retailers) … getting the sink shipped and received (postal service shipped it back, no one was there to sign for it even though signature was not requested or required) … the sink finally arrived 1 hour before my husband had to leave for the airport and return to the U.S. We left the sink in the care of our contractor, with YouTube videos to learn how to install it! That was dangerous.

Do we want to go through that again?


Spa-aaah Style

My husband just returned from India with video of the India pied-à-terre. That is our “second home” apartment in Chennai that’s currently half-finished, but that may change in 2015!

What struck me while watching the video was the cool calmness of the white walls. If done right, white doesn’t have to be boring or clinical. What I like about it is, it feels both bright and happy and as calm and soothing as a spa. When I walk in the door of the India pied-à-terre, I want to go “ahhhhh” and shut the door and leave the over-stimulating world of India’s urban streets outside. It’s invigorating when you’re in it but it wears on you.

Here’s some spa style as inspiration …

Pattern can help a white space be interesting not boring, like at the Royal Mansour white spa:

Royal Mansour Spa

Spa at the Royal Mansour

Indeed on the Royal Mansour’s website, they say:

“A door opens, the outside world slides away. What is left is pure calm.”

I didn’t know that was there when I wrote the words above! So they created this space with the same vision. We visited the Royal Mansour just a few months ago and I honestly can’t remember now if we got to see the spa. After awhile I was overwhelmed with all the pattern there!

Nook in Royal Mansour Spa

You can see they used a dark beige to add pattern while keeping the overall effect  white. The patterned screens are called mashrabiya in Morocco. They are like jali in India. So I’m keeping that in mind for our India apartment.

Texture and warm wood also help to make a neutral space interesting. The India apartment already has teak windows and some teak furniture, and textured tile.

Teak and Texture in Neutral Spa-Like Space

Again there’s texture in this bathroom featured at Lonny, but what’s also interesting is the inset shelf or niche is not the usual small shape. Details like this make a difference when the space is otherwise so unadorned:

Neutral Bathroom via Lonny

This next space has some similarities to those above: warm wood that is a prominent detail in a different shape. And the figurine – an apsara or rice goddess, I can’t quite tell. I’m not sure about a Buddha in a bathroom, so I’d hope it’s more like an apsara. It’s a little global touch I love:

Calm Spa Space

Here is another white, light and mostly unadorned space but the pattern and the shapes keep it interesting:

Moroccan Spa-Like Space

If you study what’s NOT here in these photos, there isn’t a lot of stuff and clutter. Clutter is the killer of calm. I’ve written before about the importance of restraint if you want a calm feeling.

Bungalow 8 in Mumbai, Now Closer to Home

I’ve salivated over Bungalow 8′s style for a long time. It’s a home decor, fashion and jewelry store in Mumbai. The store blends India design with a style sense from all over the world. You really can’t tell this is in Mumbai — it could be London or New York.

Bungalow 8

Bungalow 8 Mumbai

Bungalow 7 Style

I like Bungalow 8 because I like mysterious, different, global mixed with industrial. Unfinished concrete walls along with finely carved wood. Gold in a little bit of rubble.

Problem is, they are in Mumbai. And when I go to India, I never get anywhere near Mumbai.

But right now Bungalow 8 products are available at ExclusivelyIn – a shopping site that brings India style to you online. Here’s a sample of the selection, but they are selling out fast, so scamper over to ExclusivelyIn if you like these:

Bungalow 8 at ExclusivelyIn

Another option is Shop Latitude which is carrying Bungalow 8 right now too. I am soooo tempted by so much there, especially the jewelry. If I were going to Cabo next weekend, I’d load up on these things:

Bungalow 8 at Shop Latitude

They have pretty blues and pinks too! I just chose the neutral things I like. Shop Latitude tells you a bit more about Bungalow 8′s design sense on their blog.

These photos of the company’s founder, Maithili Ahluwalia, show hallmarks of Bungalow 8 style: flowy dress, necklaces with big personalities, a scarf worn here as a head wrap. The style looks effortless, cool and comfortable in steamy Indian cities.

Bungalow 8 Founder Maithili Ahluwalia via Marie Claire India and The Sartorialist

l, Marie Claire India; r, The Sartorialist

If you’d like to know where Bungalow 8 pops up around the world, including pop up shops as well as online, follow them on Facebook.


Today’s Home Decor Textile Trends in Scrapbook Paper

I’ve been working on a super-big super-secret project with scrapbook paper. (It’s a great way to add pattern and color to wall art, home decor, picture frames, etc. – see my scrapbook paper DIYs and Pinterest board for ideas!) While researching scrapbook paper patterns, I realized many of today’s textile trends can be found in these papers.

So with some Mod Podge and a few minutes of time, you could turn picture frames, trays, coasters, book covers, so many objects into trendy textile patterns!

Etsy is a great place to find digital scrapbook papers with coordinating colors and patterns …


This is a different color than you usually see for ikat. A pretty in pink ikat scrapbook paper pack from VNdigitalart Etsy shop:

Ikat Scrapbook Paper Pack from VNDigital Art Etsy Shop


This is the Tru-Su Blue Suzani scrapbook paper pack from TaajDigital’s Etsy shop:

Suzani Scrapbook Paper from TaajDigital Etsy Shop


A set of Moroccan scrapbook paper patterns in rich colors from MyPixelPrint Etsy Shop:

Moroccan Scrapbook Patterns from MyPixelPrint Etsy Shop


There’s even geometric tribal-inspired scrapbook paper, like these coordinating patterns available at Grepic Etsy shop:

Tribal Scrapbook Paper from Grepic Etsy Shop

Block Print

Yes there are even Indian block print scrapbook papers! Like these from Digigraphics Etsy shop:

Indian Block Print Scrapbook Paper Pack from Digigraphics Etsy Shop

This is just a tiny sample of patterns available. You can Google or search these terms on Etsy and you will find more colors and designs.

If you haven’t used digital scrapbook paper before, you get a digital file you can download. Then you print the papers either at home on an inkjet printer or at a print and copy center. Fed Ex Office and office supply stores like Staples, OfficeMax and Office Depot have copy centers. You can submit your file online to print, or you can take files to the store on a flash drive.

Wanna See a Crazy Mix of Moroccan Patterns on Gift Boxes?

I came back from Marrakech in November with patterns swirling in my head. We can see all these pictures on Pinterest, Flickr and Google Images, but it’s different to be there in person, surrounded by Moroccan patterns on six sides — on not just four walls, but floors and ceilings too! Here’s a small sample of patterns I “collected” almost like a botanist collects plant cuttings when traveling. Then, I will show you how the patterns inspired some painted gift boxes …

Patterns at the Bahia Palace:

Patterns at Bahia Palace in Marrakech

At the Saadian Tombs:

Patterns at Saadian Tombs in Marrakech

At the Royal Mansour, written about previously here but now I got to see it in person:

Patterns at Royal Mansour in Marrakech

Oh, I have so many pictures, but it would be like making you sit and watch a slide show and I wouldn’t do that to you (anyone here old enough to have watched a relative’s vacation slide show in their living room?!). At least not unless I can give you some great popcorn and your preferred drinks. Because I can’t do that through a blog, those are pictures of just three of the coolest pattern combinations out of many I saw.

Inspired by all these patterns, I pulled out some Moroccan and Indian stencils from Royal Design Studio and played with them:

Indian and Moroccan Stencil Patterns from Royal Design Studio

And this is what I created with them – Moroccan leather gift boxes!

Stenciled Moroccan Leather Gift Boxes

Moroccan Stenciled Gift Boxes

If you want to make gift boxes like these, visit my how-to tutorial at I share a supplies list and the steps to do this there. I also share sources for where to find leather and other supplies.

These are paper maché boxes you can get at any hobby store like JoAnn, Michaels or Hobby Lobby. I glued pieces of leather to the boxes. I painted stencils on the leather and on the paper maché. You don’t have to do the leather part — you can paint right on the boxes and you’ll get the same look.

The keys to getting this mixed pattern look are this:

  • Use several colors of paint – each box above has three colors. And your leather can also add another color.
  • Choose a mix of three (or more!) very different stencil patterns.

When choosing patterns, I took some cues from the Marrakech pictures. If you study the little three-picture “slide show” above from Marrakech, there’s something all those scenes have in common. They each have geometric tiles. And they each have curvy scrolly shapes in carved stone.

So I took inspiration from those patterns, and chose a mix of geometric stencils and scrolly medallion stencils. And I mixed all these patterns together on a single box. If you want to have fun playing with patterns, doing it on a small project like this is a good way to do it. It’s less overwhelming than say, doing a whole wall with a crazy pattern mix like this.

Or, you could mix patterns on canvas or wood and make wall art!

So check out the tutorial at if you want more how-to detail. If you like this idea but haven’t visited Paint and Pattern before, you might find a lot more you like over there — it’s a whole online blogzine about paint, stencils and patterns! I post projects there about twice a month.

And I hope this helps you see more potential with patterns and to be braver to try a crazier mix. I admit I’ve been shy about lots of mixed patterns but visiting Marrakech really opened my eyes.