About Me

Someone who fell in love with the natural world early on and has been smitten ever since. A blade of grass, a mighty mountain, a tiny raindrop, a roaring waterfall, all fill me with awe and wonder. Nature feels home, filled with warmth and love. It pains my heart to see this home being ravaged. This blog is an effort to find tweaks in modern living to preserve the sanctity of this home. I sincerely hope that you join me in this green karmic journey.

Wednesday 31 July 2013

Hawaiian Themed Green Birthday Party - Part 4 - Goody Bags

A friend had handed out return gifts in self-made newspaper bags. I was hugely impressed and decided to toe the green line. Fortunately, I could outsource the job to D and he came out with flying colors. We chose glossy supplements of newspaper. To give a Hawaiian feel, a hibiscus picture was pasted on each bag. We did not get time to color the flower. Gifting crayons as a part of goodies might have been a good idea but I desisted. (See my post: Of return gifts and goody bags).

In order to go the whole nine yards, I even made the glue at home. When I was a kid, we used lai - a boiled mixture of maida (white flour) and water. I wanted to recreate it.

How to make homemade glue:
1 cup flour, 1/3 cup sugar,1.5 cups water, 1 tsp vinegar. (The ratio of flour to sugar should be 3:1.)

Mix flour and sugar. Then slowly add a little water to form a lump-free paste. Add the rest of the water, vinegar and put on slow flame till the paste thickens. Cool and store in an airtight container. It can be refrigerated and used for a month or even more. Try it out for yourself. Vinegar is to preserve the glue. If you are using up the glue immediately, you can skip it.

What went into the goody bag:
Though I could not avoid buying plastic totally, I tried to be more meaningful and minimal. Girls got slipper-shaped hairpins and floral hairbands, bubble blowers and candy. Boys got play dough, bubble blowers and candy. The green thing I wanted to do was to give an aloe vera plant to each kid (aloe vera is found abundantly in Hawaii), in a pot customised with the kid's name and decorated with a tiki mask. I got the plants too but finally faced severe time-crunch. Had it been included in the goody bag, this is how it would have looked. 


The mask is not eco-friendly though as it is made of plaster of paris.
For future, I am making a list of green things that can go in a goody bag. If you have any suggestions, they are welcome with an open heart :)

With this write-up, I finally come to an end on the series on Anya's green birthday party. I had a lot of fun putting together this party. An interesting fact is that the nearer a party is, faster the ideas pour in. But then, I inevitably run short of time. Hope to get green ideas in time for her next birthday party.

Hawaiian Themed Green Birthday Party Part 3 - Food & Entertainment

Welcome drink:
What could have been more natural and befitting the theme than tender coconut water! We bought dozens of tender coconuts, decorated them with umbrella cocktail sticks and placed them below surfboards towards the entrance. As soon as a guest came, she was welcomed with a lei. Then D carved an opening in the coconut and served it to the guest. 

Table decor and food:
Incidentally, I had bought a woven-palm-leaf mat and baskets from a recent trip to Kerala. The mat came in handy to cover the dining table. Sides of the table were covered with banana leaf skirt. The cake table was also decorated with the same skirting. In addition, baby pineapples, bird of paradise were put on the sidewall. Unfortunately, we don't have a picture.

Since the party was at home, I used steel plates for kids and Corelle for adults. (I had to keep my finger crossed throughout the snack time but it was worth it). One of the best purchases I have made are these colorful Ikea kids cutlery sets. Though they are plastic, their reusability saves the day. 

The only disposable thing I used were glasses. I kept a few steel ones but had to have disposables at hand which I made sure were paper. From next party onwards, I am  quite tempted to request parents to carry water in sippers/bottles for their little ones. In that way, I will have to keep glasses only for other drinks. I wonder if the suggestion would be well received and more importantly, acted upon.

Other than cake and ice-cream, food was mostly made at home. We made pav bhaji, pineapple pasta, fruit salad, a coconut-capsicum salad, and idlis. One thing which I was quite proud of and can't help boasting about were volcanoes fashioned out of papads. The plan was to light some coal and put under each volcano to give a smoking effect but like many other ideas, this had to be shelved due to lack of time. 

Kids had a go at hula-hoop. Adults tested their flexibility at limbo. I used a bamboo pole where one end was held against a wall and the other by my niece. Guests had a gala time and surprisingly were so good at it that we had to revise the lowermost marking to decide upon the winner!

Monday 22 July 2013

Hawaiian Themed Green Birthday Party Part 2 - The Decor

Think Hawaii and images of exotic beaches, swaying palms, hula girls, orchids, garlands, parakeets - all crop up in your mind. Planning a luau is fun and before doing that, it's good to get acquainted with a smattering of Hawaiian vocabulary. So I went ahead and learnt these words:

Aloha = Welcome
Luau = Party
Lei =  Garland
Hula = Hawaiian dance form
Hula girl = A girl who performs Hawaiian dance called hula
Mahalo = Thankyou

There are so many  decor ideas for a Hawaiian theme, the choice is mind boggling. I decided upon surf boards, a hula girl cutout, coconut tree and a few hibiscus flowers. The idea was to take a picture of each family against a backdrop of coconut trees and hibiscus flowers wherein Dad would hold a surfboard, Mom would have her face in the cutout and the kid would hold a ball. This picture would later be sent  to guests along with a thank you note. In the end, the picture idea didn't work out and I had to be content with these being only decor pieces.

A neighbour had discarded a few thermocol sheets. They came in handy.
I cut out two surf board shapes and painted them with colors leftover from a wall painting job. A few hibiscus flower print outs were colored and stuck to the boards.

A couple of waves were fashioned out of hand made paper. We stationed tender coconuts under the surfboards.

Similarly, a hula girl was fashioned by joining two thermocol sheets. A grass skirt was made with craft paper and her leis made of paper streamers.

Finally, for the coconut tree, the leaves were cut out from a sheet of hand made paper and the trunk made from thermocol.  Thermocol was surprisingly easy to join with the help of fevicol and a few allpins.
I had bought these cute little coconuts from a trip to Mathura long back. These now adorned the coconut tree and the look was complete.

 D also painted a few hibiscus flowers on a sheet.

To complete the colorful look, paper streamers were hung from all sides of the ceiling. We also blew a few balloons and I insisted on tying the ends with a thread rather than forming a knot. The logic was that the thread could be untied and the balloons reused for a later occasion. I faced a lot of opposition from fellow members but I must say that they complied and we could retrieve a few balloons using this method. I wonder if there are environment friendly versions of balloons?


A cardboard box was decorated on all sides with Hawaiian motifs. The goodies included floral hairpins, erasers, pencils, chocolates and paper confetti.

After racking my brains over leis, I finally decided upon fresh flower and paper leis. I bought pink (oleander) for girls and yellow (marigolds) for boys. To the credit of guests, most of them were sporty enough to wear them for the whole party.

I was happy with the fact that most of the decoration stuff was made of reused thermocol, handmade paper and paper streamers. 

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Hawaiian Themed Green Birthday Party Part 1 - The Invite

The inspiration for Anya's second birthday party came close on the heels of her first one. A hibiscus flower gave me the idea for a Hawaiian theme. But when it came to finalise, I was still confused between this and an animal one. Finally, I reasoned that it was better to do a Hawaiian theme while I was still calling the shots. In another year, her choices would rule and she might not be interested in this theme. So Hawaiian it was!

I must now admit that I also wanted to do a Hawaiian theme because I was enamoured by a "message in a bottle" invite. So as soon as the theme got finalised, the hunt for an ideal bottle began. Incidentally, just a few weeks back, we had started a garbage segregation system at our complex and while dealing with the recycler, I spotted Bacardi Breezer bottles. I knew I had found my bottle!

After the bottles were soaked and cleaned, they were ready to be decked. For this, I got some sand and filled the bottles one quarter with sand. I also fished out sea shells from my collection and dropped a few on the sand bed.

Then came the task of penning an invite. I am a DIYer and no DIYer worth her salt would like to cut and paste a rhyme. After acquiring a dash of Hawaiian vocabulary and a couple of days of brainstorming, I managed a poem. Here it goes.....

Time does fly, we just can't figure how
It's already time for Anya's 2nd Birthday luau

Oh, how we miss her babyhood days
Even as we enjoy her new endearing ways

She is full of fun, frolic and adventure
Ready to explore every nook and corner

One such journey she would like to make
When she invites you to Hawaii to cut her cake

Be dressed in Hawaiian attire for some hula fun
And we all will have good time by the ton

Date: 23rd September, 2012
Time: 5-8 pm
Place: Carnation Island, Hawaii
Dress Code: Think Hawaiian

Prizes for best dressed adults and kids

I cut a sheet of paper 4 x 10 inches, scribbled the poem and scrolled it up. Then I took a long piece of grass string and tied the scroll with one end. The other end of the string was tied to an artificial flower which also acted as a bottle stopper. The idea was to pull up the scroll by gently tugging at the flower. I didn't know where to source a cork for the bottle, so I came up with the idea of a flower. This bunch of yellow flowers was with my sis-in-law for years and she wanted to dispose them off. Initially, I wanted to use fresh flowers instead of fake ones but the logistics wouldn't work out. The invites had to be hand-delivered on different days and I couldn't be sure of a fresh flower at hand every time. Anyway, the flowers were being reused, so I settled on the artificial ones.

I tied a grass string bow on the neck of the bottle. The end result looked good and I was quite happy.
After burning some mid-night oil, I managed to finish 5 invites.

It was a good start for an eco-friendly party. All the material used was either natural or reused : glass bottle , sand, sea shells, grass string, a sheet of paper and a flower.

Monday 15 July 2013

A Tribute To Hankies

Gone are the days when you would find a scented handkerchief in a lady's purse. Hankies have been replaced by the more clinical and unromantic tissues.This has robbed wannabe Romeos of at least one opening line: "Shayad aapka rumaal gir gaya hai" (I think you have dropped your hankie).

My earliest memory of nursery class is a picture of all students dressed up in uniforms, a hankie attached neatly to their shirts.Very handy and accessible! By the end of the day, we wouldn't present such a nice picture, what with ruffled hair, dirty dresses and missing hankies.There was a lost and found department that never ran out of lunch boxes, hankies, ribbons et al.

When we grew up and started learning embroidery at school, a handkerchief was the best canvas to display our new-found skills upon. Given its size, motif on a hankie was easy to complete and was an excellent testimony to our expertise. Our art would travel places with the owner and be appreciated. I gifted a couple of hand-embroidered hankies to my Mom on her birthday and she absolutely cherished them. When she lost one, the pains she took to trace it back! 

In those days, when my elder cousin sisters approached their twenties, they could be seen making sets of crocheted, embroidered and laced hankies.This was a subtle hint that they were getting their trousseaus ready. A set of six of each kind was mandatory. Everybody would admire these pieces of art and the skills of the girl would be appreciated. 

I am nostalgic at the disappearance of this dainty accessory from the wardrobes of most modern girls. The world has warmly embraced the convenience of tissues. The hygiene and disposability of a tissue wins hands down over a handkerchief, which is after all, nothing but a glorified piece of cloth. My friends in the western world haven't seen a hankie in ages and the new generation isn't even aware of the concept. But think of all the trees we could save if we stopped cutting them down to manufacture tissues! I know my plea falls on deaf ears, but ladies, if not for anything else, revert to hankies to bring back old-fashioned romance and give Romeos a fair chance.

PS: A slightly different version of this piece was published in The Times of India in 2009.

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Green Karma To My Rescue

Here is an incident from a recent trip which reaffirmed my belief in karma, in this instance, green karma

We had planned a trip to Singapore in June 2013. Just a day before our trip, my friend informed me about a haze encapsulating the country. Haze is a recurring phenomenon in South East Asia. In Indonesia, fires are used to clear land on plantations and can burn for weeks because of peat deposits below the surface. This smoke gets blown to neighboring countries and chokes the air. Google showed the pollution levels to be at an all-time high in Singapore, in fact, the highest in 15 years. "Oh perfect! Why me, Bhagwanji? What have I done to deserve this?", thought I. I have always been a green soul. I am a champion for carrying own bags for shopping, using packaged food sparingly, turning off lights and taps, conserving RO water, avoiding disposable products, disposing waste responsibly, spreading green message wherever people are bothered to listen .....and I still get punished for someone else's green sins? Not fair! I felt a little cheated. But that's how life is. To top it all, my husband and 2 .5-year-old daughter had a fever and were on antibiotics. So it was turning out to be a double whammy.

We boarded our flight with masks in our bags and a prayer on our lips. The flight landed at Changi airport at 8 am. When I looked up, a weak sun was trying to welcome us but it failed to cheer me up. Singapore in a haze and we in a daze.......things didn't look very promising. Interestingly, I didn't feel any discomfort in breathing. Maybe, we are used to high levels of pollution, we joked. 

We reached Singapore on 20th June 2013 and PSI (not to be confused with Psy of Gangnam style - PSI stands for Pollutant Standards Index) reached 401 at 11am the next day. Tourist attractions started putting up cautionary notices - shows would be canceled if PSI crossed 300 marks, they said. It sent our sightseeing schedule into a tizzy. Singapore zoo and Jurong bird park are famous for their shows and I didn't want to miss those shows. So we spent the first-day visiting the Japanese garden and IKEA. The next day, we planned a hike to Mc Ritchie's Park. The logic was that the green cover would protect us from haze-pollutants and spending a day here would buy us time so we could see the zoo and bird park on clearer days. 

Luckily, on the third day, the PSI levels came down. We hurried to the bird park lest the situation change in the next few hours. All the shows took place. We had survived another touristic day! In the coming days, we always consulted the PSI status before planning an excursion. It got better and we never had to miss a show or an attraction because of the haze. Lady luck was on our side and I like to believe, it was because of my green karma. It isn't that I would have stopped being green had the haze hazed our plans but it always helps if something good happens to oneself. 

So when I thanked God for a  successful trip, I secretly took a little credit for it because after all what goes around, comes around! 

Monday 8 July 2013

Green Toothbrushes

A favorite pastime of mine is to think of ways to enhance green living.

One such musing led to an idea of replaceable toothbrush heads. When we change our toothbrush, we chuck the whole thing. If we can buy a replaceable head, we can reuse the handle, thus saving tonnes of plastic. Isn't it a clever thought? Why hasn't someone made it till now?

I was thrilled by my 'invention' and googled the idea. I was both disappointed and glad to know that the product already existed. Disappointed because this invention wouldn't be accredited to me and glad because there are many more passionate people who are applying their minds to sustainable living.

But again, this product is available in the US and not in India.
When would we get it here? Anyone listening?