Wednesday, December 29, 2010

tiffin carriers

going to pondy bazaar in the t.nagar neighborhood of chennai is like walking through a maze of everything and anything you ever wanted. that is if all you ever wanted were cloths, shoes, plastic buckets, sticker bindis, hair pins, safety pins, sweets of all kinds, fresh flowers and fruits, street foods, saris jewellry and of course "ever silver" - the name that a certain type of metal is referred to. we stepped into Rathna stores to buy some thali plates - the ones that have seperate compartments for each dish and i was just amazing by the quantities of items they had. my favorite area was where the tiffin carriers were. tiffin carriers are perfectly designed containers for storing all you need for "meals" - rice, sambhar, rasam, a kuttu and a curry, curd, pickle and appalam.

Monday, December 27, 2010

fabric flowers

i love being send on a mission. my sister, who is getting married in august, is making fabric hair clips and boutonierres for all her guests, so she's asked me to pick up a variety of fabrics here in india for her project. luckily i stumbled upon dastkar andhra's exhibition which is running now in chennai. they are an ngo that works on preserving natural dye traditions as well as handloom fabrics. i ammended my purchases there with some lovely silks from RaSi, a mylapore insitution next to the Kabbali Koil. using the inspiration board she gave me i selected a number of fabrics. i had a lovely assortment of green shades for the leafs, but unfortunately they got sent back to the US with my mom! maybe we'll get a photo of them soon to post.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


after marriage it is customary to make a visit to one's paternal village to seek the blessings of the ancestral god or "kula devam" (pictured above). ours is in semmangudi, a town made famous by the legendary carnatic vocalist semmangudi srinivasa iyer.

we made a visit to the home where my great grandfather used to live. it is still in it's original condition, with a gorgeous and huge lime tree in the courtyard.

i love seeing our village. it is just one lane with houses on both sides, the typical tamil nadu village home with pillars in the front and a courtyard inside and low ceilings through the walkways.
we also have a very interesting practice of honoring any sumangalis (married women) in the family who have performed sathi by paying a visit and doing a namaskaram (prostration) to the poovada pani. no photos of this somewhat mystical practice.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

treasures from anokhi

hi friends! we've south india where we'll be spending the next few months. it is just wonderful to be back here. the weather is so pleasant in december, though the first few days of our arrival were completely washed out due to the leftover monsoon rains. i've been enjoying the coffee soo much, the food and especially the guavas, which are in their prime.
no trip to india would be complete for me with out an immediate stop to Anokhi to get some beautiful salwar sets and miscellaneous textiles. each year i am impressed with the new prints they have and increasingly zero waste production.
Anokhi has been know for over 40 years for it's environmentally and socially responsible business practices, employing women, paying fair wages and using organic cottons and plant dyes.
Everything is hand embroidered and hand block printed. They have shops all over India, but their homepase is in Jaipur where they also have a textile museum.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

there are capers and there are poor man's capers

i think the caper bush is such a beauty. the leaves are solid and round, with a dark green sheen. the tutu-like flowers are white with lavender colored stamens. the buds of the caper bush are what is used in capers. the buds are picked when young and then pickled in brine to make those delicious yummy capers that we put in our pastas and salads, etc... if the buds are let to flower and fruit the fruit is the caper berry and can also be pickled, used in jams and curries.
BUT news to me was that nasturtiums have been called "poor man's capers" as you can pickle the young green seed pods to make a similar tasting tart treat! fascinating i say! nasturtiums are a wonderful plant for a garden, they grow fast and easily and the colorful flowers are edible and make a great addition to salads or garnishes on deserts. The leaves are beautiful and design-worthy in arrangements.

Monday, August 2, 2010


Ok, so I know I just said that Amaranth was my favorite plant, but now it's Elderberry. With medicinal, edible, and dye properties it is a winner!

here are some images from a recent dye experiment. this was with the leftover berries from my sister's Elderberry Cordial.

I put about 2 cups of elderberry mush with water and brought to a boil. I then added a few pieces of handwoven nettle fabric and some silk-wool scraps. I boiled for 1 hour solid. Then, I turned off the heat, covered and let sit over night. In the morning I removed my fabric, rinsed and enjoyed the gorgeous wine-color!!

The slight difference between the elderberry dyed nettle (left) and natural (right)
I loved this two tone effect on the wool silk!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

J'adore Amaranth

A Rose and an Amaranth blossomed side by side in a garden,
and the Amaranth said to her neighbour,
"How I envy you your beauty and your sweet scent!
No wonder you are such a universal favourite."
But the Rose replied with a shade of sadness in her voice,
"Ah, my dear friend, I bloom but for a time:
my petals soon wither and fall, and then I die.
But your flowers never fade, even if they are cut;
for they are everlasting." ---- From Aesop's Fables

I think amaranth is one of my favorite plants. In permaculture we talk alot about stacking functions and the amaranth is truly a multi-functional plant indeed. You can use the flowers to make a gorgeous dye. You can grind up the seeds make plant based paints. You can eat the highly nutritious grains. You can eat the highly nutritious leaves. The plant is so gorgeous it makes your eyes hurt. It can be a cut flower. Time go to plant some amaranth in my garden.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lawsonia inermis

all of these beautiful images by paige green photography. thank you paige!!

henna or mehendi or maradhani is the dye from the plant Lawsonia inermis. The plant is native to Northern Africa, Southern Asia and parts of Australasia. We used to have a tree in my grandparents house in Chennai. The leaves are dried and powdered then mixed with water and sometimes eucalyptus oil to form a paste. The paste is then applied to the skin. When dry a mixture of sugar and lemon is applied to avoid the henna from chipping off. You can keep henna on any where from 30 minutes to overnight. For the wedding I kept mine on over night. It was the darkest 36 hours after application. It is such a beautiful art with rich designs from many cultures. The plant can also be used to dye clothing.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

wedding detour

imogen the florist. we ordered bunches of local, organic wildflowers from the nearby full belly farms. imogen did a beautiful job assembling them into the centerpieces. 

zarah and valentina hanging up the handmade love flags that jaia and i stitched from beautiful sari fabric scraps and turmeric dyed bamboo fabric

meredith's lovely calligraphy on the name cards. when i was in india in february i got the name cards printed on handmade jute paper and the beautiful little bejeweled boxes from a local handicrafts shoppe.

hi friends, if any of you are out there. i'm going to put up a series of photos from the recent wedding! i can't help but. it was a beautiful weekend of events. i know when i was out looking for ideas and people's experience there was very little in they way of merging south indian ritual and tradition with local, organic, DIY. so here's my attempt. i'm starting with a few set-up images from our saturday pre-wedding dinner and reception at the headlands center for the arts in marin. it is a beautiful historic building, with lots of charm. we got there early morning and my "swat team" of friends and family helped with all the set up. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

they just don't make stamps like they used to.

not that i have time for a new hobby, but i am simply in love with these vintages botanical stamps. they are so beautiful, have botanical names, and some even have messages like " plant for a more beautiful america." i got these from Verde Studio on etsy.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

fibers & dyes

look at these gorgeous colors from nature! they were made by students of Sasha Duerr Fossel's Soil to Studio Class, Garden volunteer Cynthia Dakopolos and yours truly. I am so inspired by the depth and range of each one. The photos don't do justice, so please come visit the fiber & dye exhibit at the UC Botanical Garden.

back to basics

I started this blog to explore the wonderful/essential relationship we have with plants in our daily lives. And I have been a very bad blogger. So here's my public decree of commitment to keeping up this blog! There's surely no lack of beautiful things to post!