Tag Archives: Saree

I Wear: Independence Sari

Independence Day fell close to a weekend this year. And it was also a sunny, dry day in the middle of a wet August. I took the opportunity to pull out a garment that I added to my wardrobe on another Independence Day four years ago – the sari.

I won’t talk about all the merits of the sari and how it suits Indian weather and body structures. But I will say that it gets better and easier with practice. I’m almost entirely sari-normalised now in that I don’t consider it a special garment to be brought out only among fanfare and tripped around in awkwardly. I reach for a sari as easily as I reach for a pair of trousers or a favorite top. It does tend to reduce in the monsoon because of the filthy city I live in and the fact that I prefer cottons which don’t dry as easily.

But here’s the look that it only took me 20 minutes to get on, right before I went out on a family dinner for Independence Day!

I Wear:

  • Red and white cotton saree: Bengal cotton
  • Lace croptop: Lokhandwala market
  • Painted wooden earrings: Bangalore airport

If you enjoyed this style post in video, check out the other I Wear posts and videos.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

I Wear: Sunday Lunch With Family

Mum bought me this gorgeous saree. It’s quite unlike the usual collection you’ll find hanging in my house. It’s silk but not a kanjeevaram or one of the classics. The pattern isn’t just geometric (which mum hates) but abstract as hell. And only when I draped it, did I realise it had added quirk by way of a different colour on either side of the pleat-bunch. Then I learnt from a friend’s comment on the Facebook picture that the pattern is inspired by artist Piet Mondrian’s style.

If you’ve been following my (admittedly sparse of late) style posts, you’ll already know that sarees with blouses-that-are-not are my signature. This one is a sheer, ribbed black top that mum got me a couple of years ago, that I haven’t worn since it looks a bit too tweeny-partygirl even for me. But with this saree, well, see for yourself…

What I wore to Sunday lunch and movie with the family #IWear #saree #style #fashion #colorblock #geometric #Sunday

A post shared by Ramya Pandyan (@ideasmithy) on

I Wear:

  • Mondrian print saree: Handloom & Handicrafts exhibition
  • Sheer black top: Chemistry
  • Blue ballerinas: Clark’s

* Check out the other I Wear posts and videos.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m onTwitter and Instagram.

I Wear: Indian Wedding

*This is a sponsored post.

Two of my friends got married this week. I attended a ceremony that lasted over 6 hours, included a pheras-around-fire ritual, several small in-family practices, a wedding dinner and reception. And this was actually an Indian Wedding Lite. I didn’t have much time to dress or even plan what I’d wear, considering it was a speed tracked wedding (7 days to organise, invite and conduct!). Also, it was in the middle of a  weekday in oppressive, pre-monsoon June in Mumbai.

I went to my saree cupboard, of course. Sarees are my staple wedding wear. And the past year of saree experimentation have given me a mean confidence about a quick drape. I picked out an old favourite, my first ever Kanjeevaram saree, actually. I chose this one because its blue/green colour would be different from the traditional red/pink/purple hues that dominate Indian wedding guest attire. Also, with its stripy design and brown-gold border, it defies the kanjeevaram tradition of plain hues with gold buttis and  border.

I’ve been struggling to find good blouse alternatives for sarees and the last year has been full of experimenting with tee-shirts, croptops and even a blazer once. But for a wedding, I wanted to go a little more traditional (convention having being defied adequately in choice of saree). I wore a chilli green readymade silk blouse that I found available under a brand called Ethnicity. The fit is good, the colours vibrant and the design, just the right blend of saucy and conventional.

And finally (or rather, primarily), the accessories. The jewellery would have to be gold or close (I went with minakari) to match the saree border. My regular steel strapped watch would clash with the gold/yellow/brown tones. My latest timepiece came in handy. I have a new Jord Woodwatch in an unusual Cherry wood shade. It went beautifully with my attire. The watch is entirely made of wood, including its strap so it didn’t conflict with the material/fabric ensemble either. Here’s how I looked:

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I Wear:

  • Blue-green striped kanjeevaram saree: Nalli, Chennai
  • Chilli green silk readymade blouse: Ethinicity (available in InOrbit mall)
  • Minakari jewellery: Central Cottage Emporium, New Delhi
  • Woodwatch: Ely Series (Cherry), JORD

*JORD wood watches can be ordered at their online store. The one I’m wearing in the photograph is here.ely-11-front-angled

 

Unimpressive Me

I had dinner with two nice but very boastful people. This much is okay. I don’t grudge them their successes. And it’s always good to see people take pleasure in things that make them happy. But I felt a heavy somethingness push me into the corner (where the water-on-glass fountain thingy leaked, stained my saree palluv and left blue marks on the marble floor). When I walked out, I realised it had been just as heavy as Mumbai’s pre-monsoon mugginess that settles on skin, clothes, hair, working spirit and weighs it down.

I’m starting to feel unimpressive in most social situations these days. And this unimpressiveness seems to automatically translate to inappropriateness. I’m not allowed to underwhelm. The most interesting things I can find to say, are about people I know, who are doing impressive things. But what, they ask me, are you doing with your life? And tonight, I want to say,

What am I doing with my life? Why, living it of course.

I feel too tired, too weary, too bored, take your pick to perform. Sometimes, when the pressure is too much, I take out my past and flash it around. It’s not great and it’s fast losing value but at the moment it still passes for currency. Yet, it’s an experience that drains me. Nostalgia always does, doesn’t it? And I feel that pathetic something that oldish people must feel, trying to keep a bygone past alive.

There are the ideas that keep coming my way, pitying sometimes but then growing in intensity to eagerness. Everyone is so eager to open my eyes to something that will make my life impressive. Travel, they say, you’re a free bird, why are you stuck in the shithole of Bombay? I don’t have an answer, I truly don’t. But why should I travel? Shouldn’t that have an answer too? ‘To see the world’ is not an answer. At least it doesn’t answer any questions that I’m asking. If I’m travelling so that I can have a cool Instagram feed, a flashy resume and a handful of interesting stories over dinner, hey that’s great but it’s not answering anything. And frankly, I don’t feel upto making the effort. Getting up and getting through the day smiling is effort enough and reward enough, as far as I’m concerned.

Last week I tried out Secret, an app that I thought I might really like, given its anonymity. Within an hour I found nobody was talking about me or even saying things that I felt a part of. I wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or disappointed. And it struck me. The girls, those unnamed girls (but everyone knows who they are), they are the new MEs. Eight years ago, some guy ran a slightly offensive blog pitting all the big women bloggers in a horse race against each other. Of course, I was one of them. Newspapers ran stories about the new thing young people were doing and my face was on the pages of national dailies, being quoted as a pioneer. I know now that around the country, several young men crushed desperately on a quirky, sombre woman they only knew as IdeaSmith. But that’s not me anymore. The world has moved on to newer news and younger, fresher, more vibrant, more energetic faces.

No, wait, that’s not quite what I’m trying to say because it sounds as if I’m sad. I’m really not. That’s a life I lived when I lived it. I don’t live that life anymore. I’ve performed the tricks, danced through hoops and done the requisite impressiveness. I have been the belle of the ball, the star in the room. And I’m not anymore. Never mind whether I could be or not. It’s that I just don’t feel like doing it anymore – it’s too much effort for things too fleeting.

A few days ago, someone I met recently said that he enjoyed conversations with me. But I wanted to protest,

“We don’t have conversations. We trade wisecracks.”

These are fun to do, no doubt. We show off our wit, our think-on-feetness, our cool references and our hotshot selves. Then what? I’d really like to know the person this is, after all the sparkle has settled. What does he like to eat when he is bored? Who does he think  of when he is unwell? And I’d like to tell him these things about me. But I can’t. He’s off and running, to seek several someone elses who can impress him.

I wish the world didn’t expect me to continue performing. I’m not expecting to be impressed anymore either. I’ll settle for a nice conversation. I guess I am settling down to 35 after all. Unimpressive is not fabulous. But it is comfortable.

I Wear: Saree Funk

I’ve adopted the saree as my new go-to garment. I mean, mum has such an awesome collection that my wardrobe quadrupled overnight! Quadrupled because the saree can be worn in so many different drapes and styles. I grew up watching mum deftly drape sarees of cotton, chiffon, georgette and silk for the nights out. And when I was tall enough, I’d play dress up with her cast-offs at home. The saree is as versatile as it can get – it spans the entire range from girly-frothy to staid lady to seductive temptress.

I’ve worn sarees as an adult – for college presentations and then it was relegated as my wedding guest attire. Here’s one instance that I wore it the ‘regular way‘ (I know the photo on the left is bad but I was being plagued by trolls at the time of posting and needed to preserve some shard of anonymity) and another where I funked it up.

full lehenga1

But I wanted more occasions and a broader spectrum of fabrics and colours to experiment with. So, I figured, why not do with the saree what people have been doing with the salwar-kameez for the last fifteen years? The salwar kameez has attained that hallowed individualised status where every woman picks a cut, colour, fabric, length, fit and style that suits her. The saree offers at least the same range of options, if not more.

My biggest problem has been finding a good tailor to stitch the kind of blouses I want. Still, this problem is a blessing in disguise, given that it gave me the idea to funk up my saree look with what was already in my wardrobe. Necessity being mother of invention and all, I dug out my fitted tops and teamed them up with my sarees. Here are some of the things I’ve been trying.

It started with this, on Independence Day, with a saree too transparent for mum to want to wear it. I wore it with a plain green sleeveless top.

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Then there’s the orange and white saree that found its soulmate in a red mock-halter top that I don’t really like wearing with jeans. I wore it in December, on a cool day, with a leather cross-body handbag and a shawl draped over one shoulder.

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This beautiful grey silk saree that mum picked up in Delhi worked like magic with a purple-and-grey tartan croptop.

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And emboldened by the success of the above, I dared to wear this on a cold evening out with the family – a turquoise corduroy blazer with a cream printed Moonga silk.

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A couple of other things that I’ve tried that I don’t have good pictures for here – a denim skivvy with a pale blue saree (see picture below), a white lace croptop with a green saree and a black studded leather top with a grey silk saree (this one I really wish I had a picture for!).

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Update: I wore this the very next week. A return to the traditional but funking it up by going retro. I believe this style was very popular in the 70s, especially among the pioneering careerwomen. It’s a Bengal cotton saree with a slinky, sleeveless blouse and the same cross-body leather handbag I’ve carried in the earlier pictures.

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The saree is really just a really long length of fabric. It’s really not very different from wearing an ankle-length skirt and a dupatta. Pins in the right places and some practice make it a perfectly comfortable outfit to wear. If you’ve mastered the basic pleats-at-waist and shoulder drape, there is a whole range of things you could do with it. Here’s your basic saree drape (yes, it really is as simple as they make it look):

I Wear: Wedding Belle Or How To Spice Up The Saree

This is a from a wedding in the family. Well actually, the wedding of the best friend’s kid sister, both the girls being as close to me as blood-tied family, anyway. The wedding extended over a weekend and passed in a flurry of sweets, dancing, guests and ceremonies.

I wore my trademark kanjeevaram to the wedding ceremony. (See a previous occasion here). But for the evening’s reception, I decided to spice up the old saree style. After all, the saree is simply a length of cloth and it can be draped in many different ways.

The saree in question, is a cream silk that I’ve co-opted from mum’s collection. It is hand-painted with circular motifs, a border of fading splashes and a palluv with a Radha-Krishna theme. This usually goes with a black silk blouse with a gold border.

Instead, I decided to wear the saree like a lehenga and switched the blouse for a short silk kurti. The kurti is from FabIndia and has a simple red-and-white border to complement the saree. I pleated the saree with about an inch distance between the top of each pleat (instead of lining them all together), to give it a box pleats look.

My plan was to drape the saree in the regular way and just let the palluv fall down my right shoulder, instead of bringing it across the front to drape over my left shoulder. But the gorgeous palluv design would be lost in that drape. Letting the palluv down over the arm only looked dowdy. So I improvised at the last minute and brought the remaining length of the saree, meant for palluv across my front.

The palluv is actually bordered too with the splashey design, making the Radha Krishna design sit within a rectangular frame. I centered the design right in front of the pleats and tucked in at the waist, a bit higher than usual, so the box pleats would show below. The corners, I folded along their painted ends and tucked into the waistband too.

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A last minute addition to the look, was a silk dupatta, of the same material and colour scheme as the saree. I wore it over my left shoulder, something that confused a lot of the guests, since they couldn’t figure out what I was wearing, where it began or ended. 🙂

I didn’t want to carry a clutch or a heavy handbag, considering all the running around I’d have to do. So I strung a cloth mini-jhola across my torso. It blended right into my top in the front and nestled comfortably under the dupatta on my right. A peek-a-boo flash would only reveal an intriguing little pocket on the side of the outfit, since it matched the colour scheme too.

What do you think?

I Wear: Kanjeevaram Cool

I first started wearing sarees in my early teens. My mother would host a haldi-kumkum function for the ladies of the colony during Navratri. I was deputed to assist her in shopping for, packaging the giveaways, receiving guests and serving them. Over the years, I graduated from pavadai (Southern lehenga) to pavadai-dhavani (Southern choli-odhni-lehenga ensemble) finally ending up in a podavai (saree).

Of all the special ‘days’ at college, traditional day was one of the highlights. People arrived in bullock carts and on camels. Costumes ranged from the colourful exotic Meghalaya gear to Kerala mundus to heavy Rajasthani ghagaras. But I stuck to the relatively staid sarees, experimenting only with the style – handpaints, blockprints etc.

At b-school, we were expected to wear sarees for presentations. I borrowed heavily from my mother’s collection of printed silks and starched cottons. Incidentally, I was the first one in my batch to break that norm by wearing trousers to a presentations and eventually, interviews. At work, I wore a saree on a couple of occasions, dailywear fabrics in sensible but classy prints or embroidery. But the commute and the long hours took their toll and I fell into the more practical option of western wear and salwar-kameezes.

My mid-twenties were a flurry of engagements, mehendi functions, sangeet ceremonies, wedding nuptials and receptions. Since the earliest of these were of relatives, mostly in Chennai or further South, my dressing mirrored the local norms. Everyone wore kanjeevaram sarees, embellished according to the closeness to the wedding couple. That’s when my mother began ‘collecting’ for me.

On the weekend, I attended the wedding of my yoga teacher’s daughter. It gave me a chance to dig into my well-preserved saree stack, carefully collected across a few years. This is what I chose:

Pink kanjeevaram saree with peacock & tree buttis

It’s a rich pink somewhere between the flash of fuchsia and the somberness of maroon. There are peacock and leaf buttis embroidered in gold zari over the entire saree.

Kanjeevaram: The buttis and the border

 

The magnificent palluv

The saree palluv is a waterfall of gold zari embroidery, echoed in pattern and style on the border. The blouse is a matching fabric with sleeves of gold zari. It was stitched a few years ago, in the ‘typical’ saree blouse fashion. I’m considering getting it altered by shortening the sleeves to just the zari. I rather like the idea of modern styles for the saree blouse. But with a traditional kanjeevaram saree, the richness of the fabric and the zari makes it a pity to skimp cloth on a strappy blouse.

Matching blouse (fabric came attached to saree)

At family weddings, there’s enormous pressure to conform to locally acceptable (read Chennai) norms. But this wedding happened in Mumbai and was of a friend, which meant I had a lot more freedom – over colour, jewelery and presentation.I was hugely relieved to not have to ‘drip with gold jewellery’ as the average Indian wedding seems to demand. Gold looks awful on me, never mind what I’d look like with patches of the colour (and metal) over me. I also don’t like the idea of walking around advertising high-value possessions.

Black-silver enamel and pearl minakari earrings

Minakari came to my rescue. I love the intricacy, and colours of this Rajashtani design. It’s not terribly expensive so is practical to wear in a city. This set is in the rather unconventional (for Indianwear) colour of black. The heart-shapes are bordered with silvery enamel and edged with pearls. I figured it would be just right to offset the rich pink of my saree.

Black raw silk clutch and black enamels/pearl minakari set

I used black for the rest of my accessories too. My clutch was a Cottage Emporium raw silk one borrowed from my mother. Footwear was a pair of strappy black Catwalk sandals. Incidentally, if you are new to saree-wearing, one important tip is to put on your footwear before donning the saree. That way you get the height of the pleats, folds and palluv just right.

And on my wrist, a black men’s watch from Titan (I’m told it’s inspired by a Rado design). This watch belongs to my father but I stole it from his wardrobe ages ago. I like how the big masculine design looks on wrist and I like to say that it’s a metaphor for how a slender, female arm can bear the burden of time just as well as a man can. 🙂

Black men's watch from Titan

Diva in Kanjeevaram

I like to wear my saree well-pleated and neatly pinned up to avoid any accidents. I spent the better part of an hour getting the pleats on this one right, not just the ones at my waist but on and over my shoulder too. Usually I pin the pleats at the back of the palluv a little under my shoulder. The tricky bit is that when the front is covered just right, it results in the palluv turning the wrong way at the back and showing the underside instead of the gorgeous upper design. So I pinned it (in my usual way) at the back, making the topmost fold broader than the others, to ensure that it wouldn’t fold. And in the front, I refolded the pleats again to fall just right and pinned under the shoulder at the same place in the front. I still need to polish this technique (as you can see, it currently results in the palluv standing up a little floppily over the shoulder) but I think this is definitely the way to go for future saree occasions.

In addition to all of these, here are a few touches of my own personal style. Firstly my hair, freshly cut the day before. I think the short, bouncy style really embodies me and I’ve sported various versions over the past four years. It adds a modern touch to the traditional ensemble. Then there’s the tattoo. I envisaged just such an occasion, being able to show a flash of a roaring dragon tattoo against the demureness of a saree. What do you think? Did I succeed in bringing Divadom to the saree too?

I Wear:

  • Pink kanjeevaram saree: Kanchipuram (the birthplace of the kanjeevaram saree)
  • Black strappy sandals: Catwalk
  • Black raw silk clutch: Cottage Emporium
  • Black and pearl minakari set: Janpath market, New Delhi
  • Black men’s watch: Titan

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

* Cross-posted to Divadom.

Blurring The Boundaries: Gangaur Celebrations

In the decade of my twenties, every minute was spent efficiently and economically in the pursuit of corporate success. Through preparing for b-school, picking up internship experience, management college and my snakes-and-ladders route through the corporate world, I thought I was whizzing through life on a fast track. The reality was that life was passing me by while I was out collecting paychecks and racking up a good resume.

In this past year and a half, I’ve had a chance to do a whole lot of things. The writing has increased tremendously, in quantity and I’m hoping in quality. I’ve been active on the cultural circuit in Mumbai. I’ve had time to really explore the people I’ve accumulated in my life and taken them from email addresses and phone numbers to fulfilling friendships. And then there are the quirky, unexpected, fun things that have come my way.

Last year, I judged a blogging event at K.C college’s annual festival. Having been a regular on the campus cultural circuit myself, you can imagine just what a kick this must have been.

This year, I’ve been a judge again but in a very different setting and a completely off-track one from the rest of my life. A friend invited me to judge a fashion show at the Gangaur celebrations of her (Marwari) community. I didn’t even know of the existence of this festival till this event. My impression was that the Western Indian states were devout followers of Krishna so I was surprised to find a profusion of lingams, snakes, Ganga and other such Shiva-related symbolism around.

Gangaur is celebrated shortly after Holi. It is a ladies’ festival, honoring the male-female relationship by invoking Shiva and Parvati. My friend’s advice was to ‘dress Indian’ and I figured a silk saree would be quite enough in the burning afternoon heat. Imagine my shock when I entered a hall, choc-a-bloc with hundreds of Marwari women all dressed to kill. Gold, diamonds, chains, bangles, heavy jhumkas and all manner of jewelery that it was possible to attach to the human body was all around me. The sarees and even the occasional chaniya-choli were a profusion of silk, net, zari, sequins and chamkis. I’m sure I stood out and for all the wrong reasons – I was wearing a pale green/cream printed silk saree with zero gold. (Sorry B, I should have thought of that!)

The program began with a series of dance dramas, each one featuring a different story linked to Shiva. We went from a stunning Ardhanari dance to the birth of Ganesh to Sati’s sacrifice. The audience (me included) were particularly impressed by this last one and their depiction of a yagna on stage, using coloured paper, lit from beneath and a fan to make the paper dance like flames.

Shiva kills his own son not knowing who he is - The birth of Ganesh

Shiva has been an intriguing figure of Hindu mythology for me. At the event, I was introduced to other facets of the belief system I was completely unfamiliar with. For example, did you know that there’s a story with Krishna and Shiva? Apparently Parvati visited Brindavan for the dandiya celebrations. Shiva was unable to accompany her, it being a strictly ladies’ festival. However, he missed her too much so he disguised himself as a woman and joined the dance. Mid-way through, his ghunghat slipped and his non-female nature was revealed. Luckily for him, Krishna (also present in defiance of the ladies’-only-rule) embraced him and announced him as the god in their midst.  And I always thought of these two as belonging to different universes.

The dance-dramas were followed by the fashion show. The contestants participated as couples, dressed in traditional Marwar finery. The men of course, were women dressed as so. They were graded on costume, jewelery, body language and couple synchronization. I was too busy staring open-mouthed at the grand display and scrambling for my marking sheet to take pictures. So the impressive Gangaur celebration only exists in my memories now.

The event had its share of glaring glitches. The judges weren’t briefed on what they were going to see or what they should look for. The compere (who was just whichever lady managed to grab the mic at that time) didn’t remember to introduce the judges till after the prizes were announced. By the then, the majority of the audience had made a beeline for the food being served up downstairs, the winners too busy congratulating each other. So the first judge (lady to my left) was introduced, followed by the chief guest giving her blessings to the winning pair. Then second judge (lady to my right) was introduced, after which the photographer jumped up on stage and insisted on shooting the winners with the judges. By this time, the only people in the hall were all standing on stage and it seemed best to leave as soon as one could. The third judge (me) didn’t get introduced at all but I couldn’t help laughing at the thought that the normally fiery me had been overwhelmed by a hall full of middle-aged Marwari housewives.

But you know, that was SOME experience. Mumbai carries the mark of the Gujarati-Rajashtani-Marwari culture just as much as the Maharashtrian and Goan touches. I studied in a Gujarati college so some part of me resonates with this business community’s world view. But at a much deeper level, this function showed me that there’s still so much that is alien to me. I wouldn’t have felt quite so out of place in a Tamilian festival, even if I have never really lived in the state. And then again, something connects me to a community that shows its devotion to a deity that intrigues me. The distance doesn’t signify non-relatability.

I live a fairly ‘Westernized’ life with every urban amenity possible, speaking English with my family and friends, juggling careers that are unfamiliar to the average Indian. Religion has its own neat, little compartment in my organized life. Even living right at the heart of a cultural melting-pot like Mumbai, my life is clearly charted from relatable point to the next, neatly avoiding anything that doesn’t belong in this utopia. The chaos is well-managed. But on occasion, it spills over and all I can do is marvel. The colour, the drama, the costumes, the people at the Gangaur celebration, they were all over the top and they also felt familiar, like home. While getting swept away in the sheer grandiosity of the experience, all I could think was, India doesn’t do anything by half-measures. This is not something that cynicism can snatch you away from.

Ideamarked: October 2010

Did you notice that I don’t have a blogroll anymore? No, I’m not going anti-social on you. I have a number of reasons for this.

  1. I found that blogs drop in and out of existence more frequently than I can keep up.
  2. Not every post on a site or a blog may be of interest.
  3. I’m not sure that most of my readers check the blogroll.

On the other hand, I know that more and more people are sharing links on Twitter and Facebook. There’s already a massive overload of information bombarding you if you’re online. So I decided, it was time for a change.

Now, did you know that The Idea-smithy was on Facebook?

So is my other blog, The XX Factor and that’s where I actually tried this first. The XX Factor Facebook page gets not just the blog’s posts but also links to other related stuff on the net that could interest my readers (dating, relationships, battle of the sexes, gender humour).

I’ll be doing the same thing with The Idea-smithy Facebook page from now on. And so that the readers of my blog who aren’t on Facebook don’t miss out, I’ll do a periodic post that’s collates all or the best of (if there are too many) what I’ve been linking to, on the Facebook page. Link-love continues but in a different format. So here’s what interested the Ideasmith this month:

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