Photo on 2011-12-06 at 11.49 #2

I Love Soapstone

Hello Beautiful people,
Its been a while since I have put pen to paper , and I must say that I have really missed writing and everything else connected with my blog.
As you all know ,I love writing about hand made things and especially hand made articles that are made in India.You must have also noticed on my website, that there are a few Items made from soapstone and so this article is dedicated to the amazing soapstone.
I guess I have a streak of adventure in me and I have always loved travelling, which lucky for me I have been able to do a lot of. It all started with my dad, who was an officer in the Indian army and he had postings for approximately two years each in different cities and states in India.Globe
So, here I am, sitting comfortably, in my room with my coffee by my side, while it rains cats and dogs outside,thinking about how I should start writing the article. I have so many Ideas buzzing around in my head.So I decided to start with India, which is in itself a sub continent and  huge, so what better way to jump start your travel adventures, than, in your own country, which, by the way is an amazing land.
When we were younger, my dad used to tell us tales of his experiences and travels as it was during the second world war. He had postings in the UK, Eygypt , Nigeria and a few other countries. It was all so very facinating and different, that I decided from the tender age of three, that I would not be living in any one city or country, but would make my way around the world and experience everything that I heard about from my dad for myself.
Now Im older, and happily, I have managed to do a lot of what I had promised to myself, but in doing so, I also realized that I had a precious gem in my own backyard. My own country, India, was waiting for me to explore her, see her in all her glory and experience all that she is. India…

Elephant Well I guess thats enough talking of other things so let’s get  back to the blog,  as otherwise I will be flying of at a tangent the whole time :).I decided on soapstone as I found it very fascinating, the way such beauty is created with something as mundane as stone. Each time I visited Agra, I saw many shops selling these amazing intricately carved elephants, miniature Taj mahals and Globes and other things made from this amazing product.

I started researching   the topic and managed to get some really good information, from Wickipedia.
Soapstone (also known as steatite, or soaprock) is a type of metamorphic rock, which is largely composed of talc and is rich in magnesium. It is produced by something known as dynamothermal ,which occurs in the areas where there is a lot of movement underground.The dynamothermal changes rocks by heat copy-Logo-Totally-Bananas-Final.jpgand pressure, with influx of fluids, but without melting. It has been used as a medium for carving for thousands of years.
Soapstone is relatively soft because of its high talc content. Softer grades may feel soapy when touched, hence the name. There is no fixed hardness for soapstone because the amount of talc it contains varies widely.If a rock cannot be scratched with a knife blade it is not soapstone.29
Soapstone is used for inlaid designs, sculpture, coasters, and kitchen countertops and sinks. The Inuit often use soapstone for traditional carvings. Some Native American tribes and bands make bowls, cooking slabs, and other objects from soapstone;
14Soapstone is sometimes used for construction of fireplace surrounds, cladding on metal woodstoves, and as the preferred material for woodburning masonry heaters because it can absorb, store and evenly radiate heat due to its high density and magnesite content. It is also used for counter tops and bathroom tiling because of the ease of working the material and its property as the “quiet stone.” A weathered or aged appearance will occur naturally over time as the patina is enhanced.
Tepe Yahya, an ancient trading city in southeastern Iran, was a centre for the production and distribution of soapstone in the 5th–3rd century. It was also used in Minoan Crete.In Rio De Janeiro the outer layers of the Christ `The Redeemer sculpture are made of soapstone.Although Soapstone comes from all over the world, it is primarily derived from Brazil, China, and India.  Some Soapstone comes from Australia, Canada, and Germany as well.  Each area has its own unique beauty and colors. Soapstone, which on the hardness scale is rated at one, compared to a diamond, which is ten, is nonetheless quite hard.  It is also non-porous so it will not stain, like granite or marble.  Water can not penetrate it, nor will it tear apart from freezing.Rio_Brazil_2009_635
Quarried like Granite and Marble, Soapstone is a steatite stone, with its primary components being magnetite, dolomite, chlorite, and talc.  It ranges in age from 300 to 400 million years old.  True Soapstone is inert.  Alkalis and acids, which affect granite, marble, and slate, do not affect Soapstone.
Soapstone has a greasy or waxy feel, hence the name soapstone or soaprock. It possible to find major soapstone deposits in southern and east Africa, North and South America, northern Europe, Asia and India. Soapstone has had many names through history; depending on the region in which it is found, it may be known as steatite, combarbalite, or agalmatolite.  True soapstone is resistant to both heat and acid.Native American populations carved soapstone artifacts long before the arrival of European explorers. Museums worldwide house examples of their sculptures, some completed with no tools other than flint. Zimbabwean soapstone carvings range from small objets d’art to massive life-size sculptures.images_7Unknown_6-3 Palewa and gorara stones are types of Indian soapstone.Soapstone has been used in India for centuries as a medium for carving. Mining to meet world-wide demand for soapstone is threatening the habitat of India’s tigers. In Brazil, especially in Minas Gerais, due to the abundance of soapstone mines in that Brazilian state, local artisans still craft objects from that material, including pots and pans, wine glasses, statues, jewel boxes, coasters, vases. These handicrafts are commonly sold in street markets found in cities across the state. Some of the oldest towns, notably Congonhas, Tiradentes and Ouro Preto, still have some of their streets paved with soapstone from colonial times.

Some Native Americans use soapstone for smoking pipes; numerous examples have been found among artifacts of different cultures and are still in use today. Its lack of heat conduction allows for prolonged smoking without the pipe’s heating up uncomfortably.Soapstone can be used to create molds for casting objects from soft metals, such as pewter or silver. The soft stone is easily carved and is not degraded by heating. The slick surface of soapstone allows the finished object to be easily removed.
Soapstones can also be put in a freezer and later used in place of ice cubes to chill alcoholic beverages without diluting. These are called whiskey stones.
It is a mineral that forms in the earth’s sedimentary layer through metamorphosis. Heat, chemicals, and pressure affect the composition of one or more of its original components and produce a dense, non-porous rock. This natural stone is composed mainly or entirely of talc; however, some deposits also contain mica, quartz, tremolite, or chlorite. A soapstone carving may be a decorative item like an official seal, sculpture, or artwork; imes with mottling. Black soapstone is native to Canada, Malawi, and Zimbabwe; green soapstone is the most common color in India. Alaska has white and black soapstone; China has pink.Unknown-32
Due to its high talc content, soapstone is easier to carve and polish than many other stones like marble and jade. The simplest, small soapstone carving does not require special tools; generally, the stone is soft enough to shape with an ordinary common pocketknife. Creating objects of art or decorative household items from larger soapstone rocks and blocks often requires tools like chisels, files, saws, rasps, and lathes. A soapstone carving can be kiln-fired to increase its durability. Many sculptors finish carvings by sanding and polishing them with wax or oil to increase the sheen.
In China and India, soapstone was used for ornaments and domestic utensils.Indians have used soapstone for ornaments and domestic utilities for the past 7500 years.These days Soapstone is used for decorative purposes rather than functional.Carving
It can be ed cut and finish with common wood and masonry tools.
Soapstone sheds micro organisms.It is typically honed to a 320 grit finish and can retain heat without breaking.Soapstone Facts: It can be chilled and retain the cold.
Soapstone is either massive or flaky depending on the talc and chlorite content.
Natural talc is white, yellow, gray, pale green or pale blue and soft.
Chlorite is a group of rocks forming minerals which are soft and usually green. They can also be white, yellow, red, lavender or black.
In Norway, soapstone was considered a valuable commodity because the quarries were often referred to as silver mines.Soapstone is safe to use in your oven. This is a soapstone fact! Soapstone is among the most indestructible and lasting rocks.The beauty of the Hoysala temples , in India,particularly, their intricate carvings owes a lot to one material – Soapstone. Unlike granite, sandstone and marble used in the construction of most of India’s ancient monuments, soapstone is softer with some peculiar properties that set it apart from the former materials. To give you an idea , the softer version of the soapstone can be carved even with your finger nail.images_22

Technically soapstone contains magnesite, dolomite, chlorite and talc . The content of talc is what gives the soapstone its soft property. Also unlike a lot other stones (marble for example ) , soapstone is inert to chemicals. That is neither its surface color nor the texture changes with exposure of chemicals. Even if it does, the change happens only on the surface layer that can be easily polished off.
Caring for your fine, Soapstone sculptures, and/or carvings, should take little more than a careful dusting now and then.
To determine if the piece that you have in your collection is true Soapstone, and not resin made from a casting mold there are two simple tests that you can conduct.  To determine if your piece is a form of resin or plastic, heat up a standard straight pin, (the pin needs to be red-hot), then push the pin into the bottom of the piece in question.  If the pin melts its way into the material then it is definitely NOT Soapstone.  The other test that you can perform is to scrape some material off from the bottom of the piece.  If it is real Soapstone, these shavings will have no odor and will feel like talcum powder, slippery to the touch.images_20
Caring for your fine, Soapstone sculptures, and/or carvings, should take little more than a careful dusting now and then.
So there you have it.Its pretty easy to maintain and looks gorgeous. Beauty and functionality in one.
On this note, I shall love you and leave you. Be safe in whatever you do…..

I Love Tea/Chai

Photo on 2011-12-06 at 11.49 #2Hello beautiful people,

I hope every one has been fine and doing well since our last meeting .If you remember, the last time I wrote about Indian Tunics and Kurtis. This time I wanted to feature another article that you will shortly find on Totally bananas. Indian Tea .

I  think that every one of us is familiar with tea as we all drink it, some more than other’s I’m sure. In India , in every street corner you will find a Dhabba or tea stall as they are more commonly called where they are busy making tea, all kinds of tea, (with milk, spices, sugar or shakkar and even Gur or Jaggery )Tea is made both at home and outside. Outside the home, tea is most commonly and easily found at the ubiquitous tea stalls that dot just about every street in India. The tea stall has become a part of the urban landscape and a cultural institution.220px-India_-_Varanasi_chai_tea_-_1420

As you all know I am a coffee addict but even I cannot restrain myself and say no to a good cup of chai. My childhood days can be remembered drinking a hot cup of chai in the winter all cuddled up in a jaipuri quilt hearing the rain beat down on the roof, chatting with friends. These days I sit here on my own on a really cold day with my quilt wrapped around me and reminisce about the good old days gone by, missing my land of birth and those days I make a hot cup of masala chai and it keeps me warm and brings a smile to my lips..Chai is India, sitting in the train and hearing the chai wallah screaming Chai, Garam Chai (Chai, Hot Chai) at every station and serving it in little clay pots.The tea just tastes different. So tasty, the taste of home in fact…220px-ASSAM_LANDSCAPE-teaworkerredshirt

India has quite a reputation throughout the world for its tea plantations mainly in Assam, Darjeeling, Dooars, Cachar, Sylet Hills, Khangra, Kerela, Nilgiri, Terai and Travancore. The culture still continues, and especially the Darjeeling, Assam and Dooars tea has immense popularity worldwide even today.

The world of tea has hardly changed in the past century in the Darjeeling, Assam and Dooars region. The culture surrounding the huge tea plantations is a unique phenomenon, and is a lifetime experience.220px-Darjeeling_Tea_Garden

There are several stories about discovery of Tea in India, but the most widely accepted story goes back to about 1815, when  the confirmation of Tea was declared, specifically called the Assam Tea.copy-Logo-Totally-Bananas-Final.jpg

It was almost 175 years ago, the race for growing tea in India began. One of the major reasons was that the Assam Tea was much superior to the Chinese Tea and the English entrepreneurs could easily grow it here in India, and sell the finished product abroad. The plantation consisted of pure Chinese plants, pure Assamese plants and also mixed plants producing the best of the Indian Tea. Within no time, tea, which was a secret known only to the Singpho community, turned into huge plantations and a global business.  

In the process, a new kind of society developed based on these plantations. The owners and management force were called the ‘Planters’. They were in those days mainly English, Scottish and Irish. They tried to create a small world of their own, which could be similar to their home, yet tuned with the local culture and atmosphere. They created a ‘Bungalow Culture’ which still can be experienced and a well trained local man power who could serve the Memsahibs and Sahibs.

There are two forces in the tea gardens or estates, the management and the labour force. The labour forces were mainly tribal people from Bihar, Bengal, Assam, Orissa and Nepal. The best part of the tea laborers were and are still, the women, who are better recognized then the men in this industry. A part of the profits were used to create shelter, medical services, children’s crèches and schools etc. The lives of the tea labour villages are most of the time better than most of the agricultural villages in the East and Northeast part of India. Their original culture, along with the tea culture has given birth to a folk practice, which is very much a character of a tea plantation.

The history and culture behind the everyday cup of tea can only be discovered after living a couple of days in the tea gardens.

The cultivation of tea in India  has a long history. Commercial production began with the arrival of the British East India Company, at which point large tracts of land were converted for mass tea production. The widespread popularity of tea as a recreational drink began in the 1950s._DSC0132

Today, India is one of the largest tea producers in the world, though over 70% of the tea is consumed within India itself. A number of renowned teas, such as Assam and Darjeeling, also grow exclusively in India. The Indian tea industry has grown to own many global tea brands, and has evolved to one of the most technologically equipped tea industries in the world.

India used to be the top producer of tea for nearly a century, but recently China has overtaken India as the top tea producer due to increased land availability.

The major tea-producing states in India are:  Assam,West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Sikkim, Nagaland, Uttarkhand, Manipur, Mizoram , Meghalaya, Bihar,  and Orissa._DSC0127

The cultivation and brewing of tea in India has a long history of uses . The practice of Ayurveda  resulted in a long standing tradition of tisanes, (an infusion  of dried herbs, used as a beverage for medicinal effects). Traditional Indian kitchens have long utilised the medicinal benefits offered by various plants and spices such as Basil (Tulsi), Cardamom (Elaichi), Pepper (Kali Mirch), Licorice (Mulethi), mint(Pudina), etc., and traditionally, tisanes made with these plant leaves and/or spices have been in use for centuries for maladies ranging from the serious to the trifling. Tea also serves as a 

vehicle for these traditional tisanes. The taste of chai (sweet and milky) helps disguise the stronger and more bitter flavors of some of the medicinal additives, while other, more pleasant flavors such as cardamom and ginger add a pleasing flavor and aroma to the tea along with health benefits._DSC0125

The consumption of tea in India was first clearly documented in the Ramayana (750-500 BC). It was indigenous to eastern and northern India, and was cultivated and consumed there for thousands of years.

Tea cultivation in India has somewhat ambiguous origins. Though the extent of the popularity of tea in ancient India is unknown, it was thought  that the tea plant was a wild  in India and was  brewed by local inhabitants of different regions. One can only speculate that tea leaves were widely used. Many of the origin myths for tea are found in Chinese mythology, and the first verifiable records for tea consumption also point towards China.

In 1598, a Dutch traveler, Jan Huyghen van Linschoten, noted in a book that the leaves of the Assam tea plant were used by Indians as a vegetable, eaten with garlic and oil, and as a drink.The same year, another reference to tea in India was recorded, by a different group of Dutch explorers._DSC0133

In the early 1820s, the british began large-scale production of tea in Assam. Beginning in the 1850s, the tea industry rapidly expanded, consuming vast tracts of land for tea plantations. By the start of the 20th century, Assam became the leading tea producing region in the world. Seeds were procured from China in the beginning some planted in the hill districts of South India, and some in the hill districts in Kumaon in North India and Upper Assam on the north east frontier. It was only later that the indigenous plants were used. Today, the Chinese strain produces Darjeeling and the indigenous  Assamese variety produces the remainder of the tea produced in India.

Typically, tea in India is consumed with both milk and sugar. but the tea leaves are not prepared separately by being steeped. Instead, the tea leaves are boiled along with certain spices, and then boiled again after the addition of milk and sugar. Sometimes the tea leaves themselves are used as flavoring. In fact if you ever visit a village you are treated like royalty and the tea that is offered is made entirely of milk. They just add tea leaves and sugar to milk boil it and serve it to you in tiny clay pots especially made to serve tea in.There are many varieties of tea available  these days.120px-TeaCups

Orthodox Tea(Leaf Teas)

This tea is blackish / brownish in appearance and is comprised of four main categories:

Whole Leaf:-Long and Wiry,

Broken:-, smaller in size.

Dust:-The smallest particles-powder.

In the cup, Orthodox Teas are generally bright and brisk. The whole leaf grades are lighter than the broken. In fact, the smaller the leaf particle, the more color and body it infuses.

CTC Teas(Granular)

This tea is blackish / brownish and the   process of manufacture makes the tea granular. CTC brews quickly and makes a full bodied gustier cup than Orthodox Tea.

Green Tea(Leaf Teas):-These teas are processed differently and are greenish in leaf color, giving a very mild pale yellowish green liquid.

White Tea(Leaf Teas):-These teas are hand processed and semi-fermented. Only the delicate buds (middle leaf) are used.

Darjeeling Tea:-Teas grown on the misty heights of the Hill District of Darjeeling, popularly known as the ” Champagne of Tea’s” are famous the world over, for their exquisite aroma and taste. The premium Darjeeling Teas are generally mild in character and have distinctive natural fruity or Muscatel flavors. Undoubtedly – the best teas in the world and the most sought after by connoisseurs. Darjeeling produces the highest quality but the quantity produced is less than 2% of the total tea produced in India . The bulk of the Darjeeling  tea is comprised of _DSC0126

 Orthodox Teas, and high quality, unfermented, Green Teas are also manufactured selectively. Some premier Tea Gardens also manufacture the semi-fermented White Teas.

The tea cultivation begun in the nineteenth century by the British, however, has accelerated to the point that today India is listed as the world’s leading producer, and of course, the teas of Assam, Ceylon, (from the island nation known as  Sri Lanka), and Darjeeling are world famous.




Nilgiri Tea:-Teas grown in the South Central region of India , known as the Nilgiri Hills or Blue Mountains , in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Both Orthodox as well as CTC Teas are manufactured here and are comparatively lower in quality and cheaper in price to other Indian Teas.


Terai/Dooars:-The foothills of Darjeeling are known as Terai and the plains further North East, stretching along the Bhutan border upto the Assam border, are known as Dooars. This area, too, produces mostly CTC Teas and some Orthodox & Green Teas. Are you the daring type and do you like to try new things? New adventures, If so then I have the perfect thing for you. A few recipes only the daring would love to try. You will look at tea in a very different way once you try some of these. Go Ahead I dare you to…

Rum Punch

The ideal drink for those cold wintery nights. Brew a tumbler of Hot Darjeeling tea. Take about 50 ml of rum. Flambe the Rum, mix it into the tea, add sugar to taste and serve with a slice of lemon.

Ice tea Magic

Brew Tea the normal way . Before serving, fill 3/4 of a tall glass with crushed ice and pour the tea into the glass. Add a few drops of fresh lemon juice, a couple of slices of lemon and some sugar to taste. A sprig of mint enhances the taste. Cool for a few minutes and enjoy the magic of Iced Tea.

Masala Chai

Mix a cup each of milk and water in a kettle and put to boil. Grind a clove, a stick of cinnamon with a few strands of saffron and put into the boiling mixture. Add two teaspoons of strong Nathmulls Assam C.T.C. Tea and Sugar to taste. Boil for a couple of minutes till the mixture becomes caramel coloured. Strain and serve hot.

something to help you sleep

Fill 1/2  a Tumbler with freshly made Assam Tea. Add a stick of cinnamon and a couple

of tablespoons of whisky. Stir in some milk and a teaspoon of honey for sweetening. Really helps .


Drinking 5 to 6 cups of black tea a day helps control your cholestrol level, decreasing the chances of a heart attack. It gives you relief from fatigue, headache, depression and relaxes your body muscles. Tea tempers the spirit, harmonises the mind, awakens your thoughts, prevents drowsiness and refreshes your mind and body.


Tea  reduces skin damage and acts as a stress reliever. Many world famous perfume brands use tea infused fragrances.


Polyphenols are responsible for the flavor and color of the brewed beverage. 


Tea has practically no calories and is suitable for dieting if taken without milk or sugar or any other additive.


Green Tea is an un -fermented tea and is among the richest source of Antioxidants.  It has been said that tea helps in digestion, helps dissolve fats and neutralizes poison in the digestive system and cures dysentery. Its astringency is used for cleaning sores and is also recommended as an eyewash as well as a mouthwash. Brewed tea leaves placed over the eyes are good for refreshing puffy or tired eyes.

On this note I wish you all adieu as I need to get back to my chai which is simply smelling heavenly and sitting here next to me steaming away gently waiting for me to take that first sip of manna from heaven.. Its raining cats and dogs outside and I cant wait to take a wander down memory lane with my cuppa Chai..

I love you all. Be safe .

Until the next time….

 Sources:- Wikipedia.  The free Encyclopedia , The Tea Board of India,

I love Tunics (Indian Kurtis )

Photo on 2011-12-06 at 11.49 #2

Evening beautiful people,

I hope that everyone’s been having a wonderful week.Its wonderful the way the weather seems to have changed overnight, although it was a bit to long in coming. At least the day’s are a bit longer and the sunshine seems to linger in the air just that teeny weeny bit longer.

As usual I sit here in front of the computer with my favorite partner by my side steaming away , and the lovely aroma of freshly ground cup of Mocha teasing my taste buds.

I was going through the website wondering what I would like to write about next and I saw the beautiful wool Tunics and I thought, Why not ?

We all follow fashion , being ladies and gentlemen of estimable and discernible taste and each time we see something new, we all try it out some time or another. Now Tunics have been is fashion for a while now, and I wonder if anyone has ever thought of where that fashion stemmed from.I love the thought of wearing a tunic as it cover’s up so many faults , the ungainly bumps and tyre’s that have grown over the winter period. Before you know it summer’s here and you have to do away with the thick jackets and stoles and have to try to get into your summer gear.

This is the time I love to wear a Tunic with my jeans or even wear it Indian style with the churridar or salwar . The tunics come in all lengths. Short ones to wear with jeans or trouser’s or longer. What ever your wish you have it..Jokes aside, its a very elegant piece of clothing to have in your wardrobe not only because it covers a multitude of IMG_2323.JPG(TBnew203)sins but also because it is very elegant and can be worn in different ways and for casual as well as formal occasions.

Where does this come from and what kind of fabrics can you wear as a Tunic or Kurta?The word “kurta” is originally persian (literally, “a collarless shirt”) and was first used in English in the 20th century.It was a piece of traditional clothing usually worn by males in saudi Arabia, Pakistan and India.The cut is usually very simple though it can be made as elaborate or as simple as desired.The sleeves of a traditional kurta fall straight to the wrist; they do not narrow, as do many Western-cut sleeves. Sleeves are not cuffed, just hemmed and decorated.

The front and back pieces of a simple kurta are also rectangular. The side seams are left open for 6-12 inches above the hem, which gives the wearer some ease of movement.

In the Indian subcontinent a popular style of a Kurta is the Mukatsari kurta ( from the province of Mukatsar in Punjab (India)) which is famous for its slim fitting cuts and images-15smart fit designs. It is very popular among young politicians.

A kurta is a very loose fitting shirt, similar to a Tunic . It is a traditional, unisex piece of clothing that has its origin from Middle East. A shorter version worn only by women 

called a kurti. Other countries such as Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom and Canada refer to the kurta as a punjabi.

A traditional kurta is collarless and falls to about the knee of the wearer. The sleeves also are loose and hang to the wrists without tapering. The main piece of the kurta is simply constructed of two rectangular pieces of fabric, one for the front and one for the back. They usually open in the front with button or tie closures in the middle of the garment or just off to one side. Occasionally, some styles feature buttons or closures at the shoulder seam instead of down the center.

Despite its long length, the kurta or kurti always is worn with some type of bottoms. It can be worn with loose pants of similar material called pajamas or salwars, and they can be worn with tighter pants called churidars. It even is acceptable to wear kurtas IMG_2397.JPG(TBnew28)with jeans. This style is especially popular with women. Kurtas typically do not have collars at all, but in recent years, a stand up Mandarin-style collar has been added to some styles purely for aesthetic reasons.

Kurtas can be quite casual or very formal depending on what material they are made of and how they are decorated. Casual summer kurtas are made of cotton or thin silk. Wool kurtas provide more warmth for the winter months. Formal kurtas can be made out of luxurious material such as heavy silk, and they might include embellishment such as elaborate embroidery and beading, especially around the hem and the opening at the front of the shirt. Removable cufflink-like buttons sometimes are used for formal occasions as well. Many South Asian tailors specialize in custom kurta designs.

The style became popular worldwide in the 1960s and 1970s as Middle Eastern cultures were embraced as part of the hippie movement. Kurtas were not seen muchin 1980’sand early 1990s beyond the normal traditional wear. They began to re-enter the fashion scene in the late 1990s and throughout the early 21st century.

The Kurta used to be the main item of clothing for the natives of Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. People wore it for different occasions copy-Logo-Totally-Bananas-Final.jpglike a festivals or or important family functions.. It could be worn as a Sherwani, pathan-dress, golband and many more. In the early days a kurta would be worn by men only. But gradually it became a very sought after piece of clothing for the ladies.

. Kurtis generally have a front opening. Some of them have buttons. The upper front portion is embroidered with threads of silk, cotton, gold, or silver threads.

Embroidery, printed designs, embellishments with beads, laces, mirrors etc. also enhance the overall look of these fashionable kurtas. Beads and mirror work are also used to embellish the garments.

The fabric used in Kurtis mainly depend upon the seasons. Summer Kurtis are made of cotton fibers or thin silk threads. These are very light weight and soft. It gives a sexy look and comfort feel. Winter kurtis are made of thicker fabric such as wool or khadi images-22silk, a thick, coarse, hand spun and handwoven mixed with other fibers. Winter Kurtis provide style, fashion along with protection from cold.

The most common fabrics used are Cotton, silks , wool, Khadi silk, Crepe, chiffons.


As mostly used in summers the cotton’s should be soft on the skin and allow air to pass through. Kurtis are available in array of colors, patterns, shades. These can be plain, printed or embroidered. The quality and design vary from simple to designer’s creations.

As usual on one of my trips to India, I had decided that this time I am going to go looking for the perfect tunics and jackets for Totally Bananas, so of we went to the little shops where one can buy wholesale. Now the problem there is that you can buy some awesome stuff but its not one of a kind.They are made in bulk and can be bought 50 or a 100 pieces at a go. Thats not what I was looking for and then a friend suggested that I might like to go with her to visit a guy she always bought her kurti’s from and I agreed._DSC0033

The next day we set of to the outskirts of Delhi, to a house that had at least fifteen to twenty people inside. There were children playing noisily inside and outside of the house. It was actually two rooms and there must have been three families living there together.

My friend spoke to one of the guys who was apparently expecting her , so when the greetings were over, he shoo’d all the children outside and his wife went to the other room which was a kitchen and she made us cups of sweet chai which was offered to us in tiny glasses. That done, we got down to business. He brought three huge bundles tied up in white sheets and untied them, revealing loads of tunics and Kurtis in all colors and fabrics.

Before he started opening them all I quickly told him that I was looking for something special and I would know it as soon as I saw it. He smiled and said that was alright.So we started and he kept taking out one after the other but I was not satisfied as nothing seemed like it was special. He soon started on the second bundle and then he opened up the last one. We were almost at the end and then I saw then. The last few IMG_2377.JPG(TBnew41)were in a very different fabric as compared to the ones I had just seen. It was in a Jersey wool fabric and had some really interesting embroidery around the neck and sleeves.

I asked him then if they could be made to my specifications and he said that anything was possible.So I gave him my ideas and a week before I was leaving India he brought them over to me. I must say that I was very pleased with the way they turned out . They look gorgeous and they feel soft and warm and supple on the skin.They have been very popular with my buyers, I must say.. If you check out the website you will see that I have the pure wool jackets fully hand embroidered as well as the jersey wool tunics or Kurtis as we call them in hindi..

On this note I shall bid you adieu and a very lovely evening as I go sit with my son and watch Iron Man 3 and finish my delicious cup of Cappuccino..


I love Aroma therapy

Photo on 2011-12-06 at 11.49 #2

Evening beautiful people,

I do hope that every one had a lovely relaxing few day with Easter.My son had to do a long six hours of internship for his report card, so he was all day Saturday at a football field in school ,selling burgers and hot chocolate to the players. It was a bitterly cold day and he had to stand outside for 6 hours along with the players. He came home smelling like a friet winkel ( A shop/cafe where they sell fries, shakes, burgers coffee etc..) ,lavender aromatherapy

It was wonderful though to be able to spend some real quality time with him the next day ,as being a 14 year old he is usually up in his room glued to his X-Box.I This time I put my foot down and did not allow him to be glued to his X box, and had to insist that he spent some time with us as a family.

Also ,few weeks ago my daughter received her foundation year certificate, and I was such a proud mama, as she has really worked very hard for it. I was in tears when she signed the certificate.She is going great guns and will be doing great things with her carreer.

Coming back to the present,  you all know by now , how crazy I am about India and the gems and jewels and the hidden treasures, that you can find there if you care to dig just a little under the surface. One day I will get around to telling you about all the places I travelled to In India. My dad being in the Armed forces gave us an opportunity to see a lot of the country so I really consider myself luckier than most.aromatherapy_set_global_exchange

This time around I decided to do some research on Aroma therapy as I had written an article on essential oils the last time round and aroma therapy is all about essential oils.

 Aroma Therapy , along with Ayurveda is one of the oldest practiced arts in India as well as China and Eygpt.  Have you  noticed,  with many old things, going back so many years, its always India, China and Eygpt that come to the fore.

Way back in 1000 BC, people used aromatic oils and plants to adorn their bodies for physical and mental well being,as well as for religious purposes,and for mummification.
With a rekindling of interest in the ‘natural way of life’ people are once again turning to aromatherapy, the most natural and beneficial of all forms of naturopathy. Aromatherapy is not to be confused with herbals or nature cure, the latter being the wider domain. 

Aromatherapy is the precise art of using Essential Oils. These oils are the distilled vital essence of a plant with complex hydrocarbons, and are present in flowers, leaves, grass, roots, barks, seeds and fruit rind. A single drop of this essential oil, equivalent to an ounce of living plant, is highly potent.

Aromatherapy works subtly but steadily. Needless to say, it has a holistic approach. When you smell something pleasant, the message goes directly to the brain, and then subconsciously it modifies your emotional behavior and physical infirmity. For instance, the scent of sandalwood  in the mornings – a time when one is fresh and with a clean mind and spirit – is bound to bring happy associations. A whiff of sandalwood at the end of a tiring day is a good thing to refresh the mood. The smells you gather, works on your perceptions and moods.


 Today aromatherapy is fast becoming the keyword in beauty and health spas, perfume and cosmetic industries the world over. One can see clearly that it is poised to be the alternative healing system of the future. So whatever be your ailment, let the fragrances of nature be the doctor! Aroma oils are known to be great anti-stress agents. But that’s not the only use these oils have. They are also used for beautification purposes..

There is more to aromatherapy than oil massages and perfumed candles. The oils used in skincare are absorbed into the skin and eventually into the bloodstream where they flow through the whole body, and have a lasting effect.There are outstanding benefits of aromatherapy but before undergoing treatment you must know some basic facts about your skin. Many women suffer from dry skin and a simple solution for that is keeping it moisturised with a suitable moisturiser.copy-Logo-Totally-Bananas-Final.jpg

 Acne is a condition that occurs in children and adults alike. We are always anxious to get rid of acne and with the help of aromatherapy it can be treated . Tea tree and cajuput oils are very beneficial for mild acne. Vital oils like grape seed and high-quality carrier oil mixture is also an effective treatment . To produce a toner rose water mixed with a few drops of oil creates magic.A moisturiser protects the skin from moisture loss, helping to keep it soft, smooth and supple. It also protects the skin from the penetration ofgrime, chemicals and bacteria. It should be applied to the skin while it is still slightly damp after washing. This enhances the moisturising effect.

Palmarosa oils are commonly used in both skin and hair care products. These oils have moisturising and hydrating qualities and they stimulate cell regeneration.When excess exposure to the sun is a problem, massage affected areas with lavender or chamomile oil blended with carrier oil.


Tea tree and cajeput oils also can help with acne. A good carrier oil to mix with these essential oils is grape seed. You can also mix several drops with rose water to create a toner.


Sandalwood oil is effective at reducing some visible signs of aging such as wrinkles and dry skin. Rose oils, frankincense, neroli and geranium oils are also effective in treating mature skin.

Ancient man was dependent on his surroundings for everything from food, to shelter and clothing. Being so keenly aware of everything around him, and how it could be used for survival, he quickly discovered methods to preserve food and treat ailments through herbs and aromatics.

Aromatherapy, as it is practiced today, began with the Egyptians, who used the method of infusion to extract the oils from aromatic plants which were used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes as well as embalming.

Similarly, the Chinese used aromatics in religious ceremonies, by burning woods and incense to show respect to their Gods – a tradition which is still practiced today. The use of aromatics in China was linked to other ancient therapies such as massage and acupressure. 

Aromatherapy has also been used for many centuries in India. Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India, uses dried and fresh herbs, as well as aromatic massage as important aspects of treatment.k1281338

The Greeks acquired most of their medical knowledge from the Egyptians and used it to further their own discoveries. They found that the fragrance of some flowers was stimulating while others had relaxing properties. The use of olive oil as the base oil absorbed the aroma from the herbs or flowers and the perfumed oil was then used for both cosmetic and medicinal purposes.

The Romans learned from the Greeks and became well known for scented baths followed by massage with aromatic oils. The popularity of aromatics led to the establishment of trade routes which allowed the Romans to import “exotic” oils and spices from distant lands such as India and Arabia.

 We have turned to nature to find the answers to our questions. We have realized Throughout the northern continent, Native American Indians were using aromatic oils and producing their own herbal remedies which were discovered when settlers began to make their way across the plains of the New World.

Although it has been practiced for thousands of years, Aromatherapy has only recently become popular in our culture. This is a result of a return to a holistic lifestyle, recognizing the importance of combining the mind, body and spirit to achieve optimum health and wellness.k9300090

Through research and awareness we have come to better understand and appreciate what nature has to offer us. We know the effects of “clear cutting” our forests and polluting our skies. And we ask for change. We realize that in order to sustain this earth, for the generations far beyond ours, we have to preserve, and protect it. At the same time, we know that we need to look after ourselves.

In India , the older generation knew exactly how to treat pimples, acne and other kinds of disorders and would make home made remedies that worked fantastically well. I remember my mother when I was very young, boiling neem leaves in water until it became a really thick viscous fluid and she added a bit of sugar to it. the sugar was added as the neem is a very bitter leaf which comes from the neem tree. She would then take about 8 tablespoons and add a couple of tablespoons water to the mixture and make us drink it every day. The Neem purifies the blood hence your skin tends to stay clean and clear and one is not troubled with acne or pimples.

It worked like a charm as to this day I have never suffered with any skin disorders and I always have had a clear healthy skin until now.These days I am very sensitive to skin disorders due to my illness and all the amounts of medicines that I have to swallow.Also my grandmother from my dad’s side had an arsenal of oils ad creams which she used when any of us fell ill or suffered from cuts and pains, The usual trivial tribulations of growing teenagers and kids. In fact I used to give  ayurvedic massages to many guests who stayed with us in our hotel and were tired out after the treks.

I used  a blend of three different oils and these oils really soothed and totally relaxed the body and took away the stress and the pain from the bones.I did that with both my children when they were born. Used my own special blend of oils and they grew up strong boned and healthy. I always try to relax every evening by turning out all the lights and just lighting aroma therapy candles or burning essential oils to relax me. In winters just these gentle flickering lights and a fire going is the best thing one can ask for.

I remember at work, the time I had just started working with this leather export house, soon after my daughter was born, we had many germans visiting us and they all used to come in carrying big bags of ayurvedic toothpastes and soaps and medicines. I once asked one of them why they bought so many hand made ayurvedic article and he said to me that the aryans used ayurveda and they were direct descendants  of the germans. these days he said the people have lost an integral part of themselves and this is the way to go back into history and learn about their ancestors and their ways of life. We, the north Indians are direct descendants of the aryans as well but for us everything pertaining to Ayurveda etc.. is still alive and active. India is still a country that , while changing , still sticks to its roots and that will not change for a long time, I hope .

Well, on this note I shall bid you adieu as I desperately need my cup of coffee . So be safe in what ever you do .

Namaste and see you next time.. I love you all…







Photo on 2011-12-06 at 11.49 #2

I Love Handmade paper


Morning every one,

have you ever  noticed that there is a plethora of exquisite  hand made  products coming out of India. Living here in the Netherlands made me realize that people do not really know much  about India or its people. My first winter here, some one actually asked  if I had ever seen snow before in my life as she thought, India being a tropical country, snow must be very unique for me. I wondered for a second if she had forgotten that the Himalaya ranges are also in India , and I, being an Indian and some one who has lived up in the mountains with snow would naturally be familiar with it..I love snow and, to be honest I can act like a crazy kid when I see it snowing . I just want to walk out there and let the snow flakes settle on me as they fall ever so gently to the ground . I even put out my tongue like a silly girl just to get that magical taste of the first snow flake slowly melting.images-9


As you all know by now , I just love and adore anything thats hand made. Its easy for me to visualize all the hours of hard work and love that have gone into making that particular piece , whatever it may be..

Thats why today I want to talk about something else I love. Hand made paper.

I always take a wander into the busy markets and winding little lanes in the older parts of which ever town I may in that day, or week and look for the unusual.

I love using hand made paper for writing letters because it makes me feel so very good just by  touching it and feeling it between my fingers.Absolutely luxurious and almost decadent. In the old days certain types of paper was used by royalty and that always makes me feel that I am some one special as well, just because I can write on these beautifully hand made sheets.images-2

I walked into this   little shop one day,  where  this young man was  sitting behind the counter. He  came out to greet me in the traditional way ,his hands folded in the traditional namaste, and asked how he could help  me. On each wall of the shop , were rolls of paper in different qualities,  colors and sizes . I was really surprised to see the different textures and types of paper that were  available in the shop. There were also loads of journals, dairies, phone and address books etc.. with hand made tie/dye fabric covers and covers made out of waste materials like broken glass bangles, bits of plastics sand etc..Utterly fascinating . Of course as usual I ended up buying much more than I needed and when I flew home I had all these rolls of hand made paper under my arms, as I could not pack it all in my suitcase.

At the airport in Amsterdam, when we landed, the customs officer asked me what I had in my hands and was quite amused when he saw the rolls of paper, though he did make me open it all, as perhaps he thought that I might be smuggling something into the country..I also bought some of the phone books and diaries as well which are to be seen on the website of totally bananas…

Now I sit here writing all  about my experiences and what I learnt from the young man while I was there, about the process , of how hand made paper is made,  with my usual hot cup of coffee by my side…

The handmade paper industry was an extremely flourishing business in India during the Mughal area, but it gradually declined with the establishment of paper mills during the 18th and 19th centuries. . The art of handmade paper making was revived under the inspiration of Mahatma Gandhi. Handmade paper  is acid free,  and does not consume as much energy and water as machine made paper. It is also more durable and does not tear easily. It also does not facilitate erasure or even forgery for that matter.11312161-aged-paper-texture-with-stain-edges

Handmade paper also has Chinese origins and dates back to 105 AD, though , in India, paper was being made from cellulose fibers as early as 3rd Century BC.

The Kagzi community, that traditionally specialized in the making of paper, are said to have accompanied the Mughal emperor Babar to India, during the 16th Century and eventually they settled in Sanganer, Rajasthan. Handmade paper products have always been a trademark of Auroville, Pondicherry, though these days it is being produced in many areas of India today, such as Delhi, Rajasthan, and in South India.copy-Logo-Totally-Bananas-Final.jpg

In Sanganer the ‘Kagzi’ community is the primary owner of the handmade paper industry in the city today. As far back as the 14th century, royalty used handmade paper especially made by them for official documents, miniature paintings, calligraphy, making copies of the Holy Quran and maintaining account books. In the 16th century ,the then ruler of Amber, Raja Man Singh brought the Kagzi community  to Sanganer, and settled them on the bank of the river Saraswati, where clean water was easily available. Thus the town emerged as one of the biggest paper producing centers in north India.Materials used in the making are Recycled cloth, waste paper, grass, flowers and petals.

Tools such as a tray like sieve , Scissors , Vats , Grinding tubs , Metal meshes,Felt sheets, Rollers, Cutters ,Binding equipment , Lamination equipment , Plywood clamps etc.. are used.images-5

Raw material such as waste cotton rags, and any added materials, such as flower petals, leaves or other natural fibers are first sorted by hand to remove foreign materials like plastics, dust, stalks and leaves.

The sorted cotton rags are put through a mechanized rag chopper that cuts them into small uniform sized pieces. In the past, this process was done manually using a curved knife mounted on a wooden board.

Beating is the most important step in the handmade paper making process. The chopped rags are converted into a fine pulp, often using some sort of blending machine or smashing action, and mixed with water. To give the paper consistency and blot free characteristics,   

inert chemicals, like rosin soap and alum are added When making colored and or textured papers, the colored dyes and or textured materials like straw, hemp, grass, silk and jute fibers etc., are added during this process. The resulting pulp is ready for sheet formation.

Dipping is the traditional method. In this method the pulp is transferred from the beater into a masonry trough or vat. Depending on the thickness of the paper required, the pulp is diluted by mixing it with water. The mould, made of a wooden frame with a wire mesh or a bamboo stick mat, is dipped by hand into the pulp. The frame is then shaken side to side horizontally (this gives the fiber a cross linking pattern and strength – a unique characteristic of handmade paper) and lifted out of the vat. A sheet of pulp is formed over the mould. This method requires a skilled operator and can be physically very demanding.

The wet paper sheet is then transferred onto a cloth/felt piece of fabric, a couch, which acts as an interleaf separating the wet sheets

A manual or hydraulic press then squeezes out the excess water from the sheets.This compresses the pulp adding strength to the fiber and facilitating the drying process.

Each sheet is dried in the open. For colored papers, drying in the shade, though slower, is preferable,  in order to obtain uniform color on both sides of the sheet.

After cleaning and sizing, the sheets are then inspected for unwanted foreign matter. Small particles and dirt are removed manually with a sharp instrument. The cleaned sheets may then be coated with starch in order to make them blot-free.

Each sheet is placed between metallic plates and passed through spring loaded rollers in a calendering machine. This smoothes the paper and also enhances the gloss.

At this point the sheets are then cut to the desired sizes.

The unique feature of handmade paper products, is the decoration done using tiny, delicate looking pressed flowers and leaves which are grown in gardens maintained by the craft units themselves.

These include a range of products such as lampshades, greeting cards, stationery and accessories. The grades of paper vary from very thin to very thick drawing paper. The most successful items are the special papers: bagasse, bamboo, risk husk, gunny, straw, algae and tea leaves in paper pulp so that an abstract design is created on the paper when it finally emerges. 

Another type used is marbled paper with which stationery items are made. 

 Marbling is a  

Japanese art of abstract painting done on water. Every sheet of paper is an individual work of art and varies in shades and designs. All kinds of books , stationery , lampshades ,wedding cards ,Paper bags ,Files/ folders/ diaries ,  Trays ,Photo albums/ frames can be made out of hand made paperimages-7

The Indian handmade paper industry has been identified as a village industry and has seen significant growth from improved demand both nationally and internationally.

Before 1991, the industry was dependent on the captive market, i.e. supply to state and central government departments. Lately increased demand has stemmed from eco-conscious buyers who purchase environment friendly products, like handmade paper . The market for carrier bags has also grown steadily due to the ban on plastic bags. This changed situation has resulted in , product diversification, competitiveness, and better management.

There is an been increased exports of Indian handmade paper in recent years. The industry has been exporting certain exclusive varieties like deckle edge stationery drawing paper, marble paper, mottle paper made from jute, wool, algae, straw, grass etc. Foreign buyers like the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong are purchasing handmade paper from India due its relatively low price as compared to other nations.

Under the British, handmade paper received a serious setback as the British encouraged the import of mill-made paper from the Western countries. By the 1930s there were only a handful of people from this community practicing their traditional trade.Thanks to Mahatma Gandhi they were provided with much-needed support by buying handmade paper in bulk for his Ashram and other associates. After independence,the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) included handmade paper in the list of crafts to be promoted. Over the years the handmade paper industry has grown slowly but steadily and is today a major player in the world market, exporting a major portion of its production.


On this note ,It is time for me to say  namaste  once again ,and leave you with the hope that you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Be safe in what ever you do..




Photo on 2011-12-06 at 11.49 #2

I love essential oils/aroma oils


Hi every one, I’m back again and this time I want to write about essential oils.

A while ago, On one of my trips back to India, I happened to visit one of the busiest markets in the very heart of Delhi. If you do not like crowded places then this is certainly not for the faint hearted. Funny thing is that all the years that I lived in Delhi I hardly ever visited these places. Anyway I wandered into this tiny, small little lane attracted by such a gorgeous mixture of smells emanating from it, that I just had to go and check it out.The beautiful mixture of smells was coming from one particular shop which happened to be selling essential oils.k6379734

Talking to the owner, I learnt that this was a family business and had been run by his family for the last 76 years. They were exporting these essential oils all over the world. It was very fascinating to sit there with him sipping a hot cup of chai, which he insisted on getting me and learning all about the oils and how they are processed into these beautifully packaged bottles .India is known for its Ayurvedic products and what I saw in his store was the product all ready to be sent abroad.

There were so many varieties, in rolled top tiny bottles used as perfume , small little boxes in cream form and of course the massage oils and bath oils all packaged in gorgeous hand blown bottles.I was totally blown away with all the information that I had got and I know that I would love to share it with everyone here._DSC0183

So here goes : Essential oils are volatile, aromatic oils obtained from plants and used for fragrances, flavoring, and health and beauty applications.

Historically, aromatic plants have provided important ingredients for perfumes, incense, and cosmetics for centuries. They have also been used for ritual purposes and in cooking and medicine. Egyptians used aromatic plant materials to preserve mummies, the Ayurvedic literature of India includes many references to scented substances, ancient Chinese herbalists valued them for their curative properties, and royalty used rare aromatics to perfume themselves and their surroundings. In those days Perfumes were only for the very rich or the royalty. Distillation became an important method of obtaining the healing and fragrant components of various plants and was well-studied ,starting in the 18th century and continuing on in the 19th centuries . In the 1900s, during the time of the industrial revolution, component parts of many essential oils were identified. These components were then synthesized for use in the perfume and flavor industries. The art of using essential oils declined during this time but experienced a re-birth in Europe with aromatherapy later in the century. In recent years, the use of essential oils has increased in many industriescopy-Logo-Totally-Bananas-Final.jpg

and in new applications as awareness of the benefit of naturally derived products grows.


Plant anatomy and structure as they relate to essential oil production:


An essential oil is the volatile material derived from plant material by a physical process. The plant material is usually aromatic and of a single botanical species and form; some essential oil plants have a different chemical makeup, depending on the variety of plant, and the essential oils are correspondingly unique. Like grapes used to make wine, “terroir,” or the location, soil, climate and weather where the plant is grown, will affect its aromatic properties. The usual method of obtaining essential oils from a plant is through distillation or expression. Distillation is the most common method and may be water distillation, steam distillation or distillation using a combination of water and steam. Expression is the pressing of oil from a plant part: citrus oils are generally obtained from expression of the peels.PLS-00009058-001


All varieties of plants are used, including grasses, annuals, flowers, trees, herbs, shrubs, and mosses. All parts of the plant are used, including bark, leaves, stems, seeds, fruits, blossoms, even roots and rhizomes. Essential oils tend to be derived from volatile oils that the plant produces; these are often terpenes, aldehydes, and oxygenated compounds such as alcohols. Essential oils are more than just the familiar lavender; sources list more than 300 different essential oils and by-products .


Oil may be in youngest leaves or twigs—new twigs and leaves of citrus trees contain petitgrain, and patchouli oil comes from the young twigs and leaves of the patchouli shrub—and production of essential oil in the plant often coincides with the period of most active growth. Flowers may be used as a source—lavender essential oil comes from the flowering tops of the plants. In many plants, the wood is used and essential oils can be gained from distillation of chipped wood. Tall grasses like lemongrass and palmarosa, or the roots of vetiver grass all contain essential oils often used in perfumery.k1281338


History of distillation and essential oil production


Distillation of plants has a long and varied history that includes distillation of alcoholic spirits as well as essential oils. While the product may be different, the process is similar. Egypt, Persia, and India are some countries where distillation was first carried out. It is likely that the first distillations of aromatic compounds were intended to produce distilled waters or hydrosols, and the essential oils floating on top may have been discarded. Turpentine, distilled from pine trees, was one of the first essential oils to be distilledalongwith juniper, rosemary, and lavender. These distillations likely occurred during the 1500s and were followed by a growth in distillation through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that primarily involved pharmacists. These apothecaries perfected methods of distillation and studied the nature of essential oils. Later, in the nineteenth century, essential oils were widely used as medicines but gradually became almost more important in perfumes. They also become important ingredients in beverages and foods as flavorings. In 

the United States, turpentine was the most important and first distilled essential oil, in part due to the enormous areas of pine forests and the need for the product. Other early essential oils included sassafras, wormseed, and wintergreen. Peppermint was produced in large quantities by the 1800s; large-scale production continues, and much is sold for toothpaste. With the advent of chemical production of fragrance and flavor chemicals, essential oils decreased in importance. Recent interest in aromatherapy, natural products, and natural perfumery has led to increased production and interest in these botanical products.k1252983


Basics of essential oil distillation


The essential oils within a plant are generally not soluble in water, which means they will float on top of an aqueous (watery) solution. However, they can be carried away from plant material by means of steam applied in a closed container. The steam can then be condensed using cool water, collected in a container and the essential oils separated out as they float on top of water produced by the steam. The water thus left behind is often aromatic because it contains water-soluble fragrant chemicals from the plant. This water is called a hydrosol, herbal distillate, or floral water, the most familiar of which are rosewater and orange flower water.k6914251


Some plant materials require water distillations; for example, rose petals will clump when exposed to steam and must be immersed in water where they can move about freely. Other materials work well when packed into a space above boiling water to allow the steam to pass through. Many of the best distillations are carried out slowly over low temperatures. Distillation ceases when aromatic compounds are not detected in the outflow from the still.


I have such a fascination of the history of India and what treasures the land holds for someone who cares to look for it. When I was running my hotel in Pokhara , Nepal, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet many people from all across the globe. People who loved the outdoors and usually visited Pokhara for the chance to do the Annapurna trek. It is a grueling trek of around three weeks and people cane back tired but satisfied and all wanting to be pampered for a bit. Me being a trained Physio therapist I started giving people ayurvedic massages which became very popular and I was quite in demand. I used blend of special oils which worked fantastically and pulled the stiffness and soreness totally out of the limbs._DSC0189


You should try some today. Get some essential oils for your bath and pamper yourself, or get a roll on perfumed essential oil or just some special massage oil and surprise your loved one with a special massage.


On this note, I shall love you and leave you with a deep namaste. 

Until the next time, be safe in what ever you do..



Photo on 2011-12-06 at 11.49 #2

I love quilts


hi every one,

My last blog made me realize that I really enjoy writing on what I feel passionate about. And that’s totallybananas unleashed. Its nice being able to write about why I love all the products that I have featured on the website. As you all are aware, each and every Item is hand made, hand woven and hand embroidered or hand painted..

And my reasons for doing this,  and creating the website is for all  those sweet innocent children who are found on the streets, begging for food, and who do not have a shot at a decent life, unless we all focus and decide to do something together. Its a huge issue, and its a issue that needs to be attended to as soon as possible.

Looking at those faces made me realize that I need to do my bit as well. Having two lovely kids of my own I feel so much sorrow that so many children have to undergo such a terrible time when its actually not necessary to do so. I mean, if every one decided to pitch in and do their bit, no child would ever have to go hungry or lack a warm safe place to sleep , or to roam the streets, when  they could be studying and learning  or doing something positive  to make their life a better one.They deserve it as much as any other child in this world belonging to you or me.

This said, I would  now like to talk about another one  of the products that I have featured on my website.

JAIPURI QUILTS.  Perhaps many of you are not even aware of what a jaipuri quilt is, and you are wondering right this very minute  is she talking about ?  Well, these are very fine, thin quilts which are made out of pure cotton and the fabrics are block printed by hand with very traditional Rajasthani prints , the designs, which are usually passed down from family to family._DSC0148

Jaipuri Quilts  are  beautifully colored and  hand dyed as is the tradition in Rajasthan. Rajasthani people are always dressed in very colorful clothes, and you can see the women in their gorgeous beautifully colored  skirts and blouses which are known as Lehngas and cholis.(Blouses) Rajasthan is also very famous for the silver jewelry , as I am sure that many of you are aware of  all over the world.



Its winter and that time of the year again,

the time to cuddle up under a quilt. An interesting book by the hand and a nice hot cup of coffee or tea , sitting next to you on the table. You are all wrapped up in a soft warm cocoon , light as a feather, which doesn’t   weigh you down as a normal quilt usually would .These special quilts use high quality cotton as stuffing. Of course as in all things you get different qualities suited to  every pocket.

In the rural areas of Rajasthan there is a unique way of making quilts. It is called aimages ‘godadi’ and is made from old, torn, faded pieces of fabrics like the dhoti, saree, dupatta, lehnga or skirts. Such quilts are also common in the drier parts of Maharashtra and Karnataka. The warmth of layers of fabric softened with use can be compared to the most exclusive and

expensive pure wool blankets. Smaller and thinner ‘godadis’ are very commonly used for newborn babies. Soft and easy to wash, these quilts are popular among urban families too.
 The quilting material has an inner lining of cotton. 
Ralli quilts are a copy-Logo-Totally-Bananas-Final.jpgtraditional feature of north India and Pakistan and  are now beginning to  gain international recognition and popularity. The name “ralli” is thought to be derived from the word “ralannu,” a verb that means to mix, join, or connect. Ralli quilts are made in Rajasthan in India ,and in Sindh in Pakistan. Ralli is prepared by  using multi-coloured pieces of cloth stitched together in attractive designs. Its colour combinations and unique patterns speak for the aesthetic sense of its creator. As is typical of rallis, patchwork adorns the edge of the piece, and there is embroidery on the back. Some of the fabrics are indigo-dyed. The other kind of ralli quilts is sami ralli, used by wayfarers like the swamis, jogis and gypsies. These types of ralli quilts are popular due to their many colours and extensive hand stitching.
But, if you ask a real connoisseur of quilts, he would outright vote for the famous genuine Jaipuri Razai (quilt) and if you buy this masterpiece, you will know what it is to roll up in a heavenly soft cloud. Incredibly soft and light, and warm too, that is a Jaipuri Razai for you. Nobody quite knows when and how this mini marvel came into being. Why did Rajasthan alone become the home of this unique form of winter covering when quilts were common all over north India?
What is it that goes to make a Jaipuri razai superior to others? Do they put in a special variety of cotton? The answer to that mystery lies in the carding. They card away all the dross from the cotton, which they buy just when the fresh crop comes in.
According to some of the master craftsmen of imagesRazai bazaar in Jaipur their families have been carders for generations. A kilo of cotton weighs not more than 100 grams after a whole week of carding. A 100 gram Jaipuri quilt is comparable with any five kilogram ordinary cotton quilt in terms of warmth.  But they create even lighter quilts weighing not more than 50 grams by carding the cotton over and over again. These special quilts are done according to customer orders and take almost three months to complete. The lighter the quilt, the more evenly it is filled and you will find it all the warmer and more  comfortable.
There are three varieties of Jaipuri quilts in the market namely – Cotton, Velvet and Silk, available in different price ranges to suit every pocket. Quilting is the sole purview of women, and mainly three or four standard patterns have been in vogue for as long as anyone can remember.
Time was when these quilts were made only for royalty from the gossamer light, world famous ‘Dhake ki malmal’.  The cloth for the Jaipuri razais, a soft quality voile, mainly comes from Mumbai  . A single quilt takes six meters and a double quilt eleven meters of cloth. The quilt makers get the material printed at Sanganer  . Theimages rest is hard work.
Gol (concentric circles), phool (flowers), paan (the betel leaf) and lahariya (vertical stripes zigzagging down the face of the quilt) are the most common patterns in use. Two women work together on one quilt and between them they manage roughly two quilts a day, depending on the complexity of the design.
 Every winter, the market for Jaipuri quilts expands so much that many people get the chance of employment. Velvet quilts are a new

entry in the market.. In Sanganeri print, Tye and dye, and Makhmali (velvet) fabrics these products are a regular buy in the international markets. 
In addition to the regular markets like Europe and America, new markets like South Africa and Japan are also imagesemerging as potential customers.


Of course me, being me, each time I visit Jaipur I have to buy a couple of the quilts and I must say that by now I have quite the collection of Jaipuri quiltsI have such a facination for these quilts that when I was running my bed and breakfast in Pokhara, Nepal, I had these quilts in each and every room in place of the normal humdrum bed spreads , and people never failed to compliment me on the decor and color and how comfortable the rooms looked.

Yes, I used to own a hotel and thats another story altogether and I promise to tell you more next time. You guys should try a Jaipuri quilt . I can guarantee that you will get as addicted as I am to these beautiful jewels and that you will not be disappointed .They come in a wide variety of fabrics , in different sizes from single to king size and can actually be rolled up to fit in a small back pack.’ I kid you not.’


I hope , with this, that I’ve  made you a little  bit curious, and wanting to check out the different types of Jaipuri quilts or razais as they are known in hindi, and the wish to own your very own soft  blanket of cloud.


On this note I take leave and say namaste. Stay warm and enjoy a hot cup of what ever you fancy .


Love you all,  be safe.



Photo on 2011-12-06 at 11.49 #2

I love Pashmina

Hi every one, this is my first ever post  and I certainly hope one of many. A short introduction about myself. I’m Jyoti and I started Totally Bananas with the sole Idea of helping Street children  and under privileged  women in India. I got the idea of starting a website so that I could help some of the people in India who make all the products that I feature on my website. Each piece is hand made and chosen with care for quality and beauty. Having a strong background in retail  & my job being my passion, I decided to combine it and help children from my native country as well. I am originally from India but since the last almost 16 years,  living in a small town in the North of Holland called Medemblik. It is a very beautiful touristic spot, very popular with people from other parts of Europe for the water experience and historically for the steam museum and steam train.


I got pushed into retail purely by accident. Got married at the tender age of almost 18, and being young and full of fire, big dreams in my eyes, thinking that I was born to change the world. I wanted to work and study, and do all kinds of things that would change the world for the better.As soon as I was finished with university I had my baby girl and because I wanted to spend more time with her, I got a job with a Leather export house that had a retail outlet close to where I lived, which meant that I could easily pop in to see her during my lunch breaks. I started working there as a sales assistant. It was so very  interesting and I realized  that I was very good at communicating with people and  in selling the products, that I decided  to learn everything I could about the leather industry. the long and short of it was that I learnt all I could, about  working with different kinds of leather, and how to distinguish between different kinds of leathers. I learnt how to tell as well what animal the skins came from. I also loved the interaction and the zing,  that I got working with people.

I loved the stressful atmosphere of working in the factory waiting for an consignment that had to be sent to Europe, quality control being top priority,  had to be done with care,  so that  consignments did not get rejected by the buyers. European laws  are very strict concerning quality and  exporter’s are extremely careful.  Orders from Europe are extremely  sought after as Europe means more quality rather than quantity. That made me realize  that I was neither a 9 to 5 kind of person or indeed even a desk job kind. I was the kind, that survived on the thrill of making sure that I could do my bit in delivering quality products to customer’s.

I left the  company after a few years  with greatest of regrets, but since I was embarking on a new adventure, a new found love, and a new life in Europe along with my daughter who was barely eleven at the time, I left with high hopes.  I came to Europe with many hopes and dreams and  big star’s in my eyes. Sadly not all dreams are meant to be, and  things did not quite turn out as I had hoped for or dreamt about.. The love quickly faded away and my dreams slowly  disintegrated into nothing, as dreams, sometimes are wont to  do. After four years with my dutch partner, I decided that I needed to move out and to start afresh along with my children. I say children , as I had given birth to a beautiful son who was at that time just about  to turn four . A new house, a new job and yet another new beginning. This time round, though, things were beginning to look up for me, as I started my job with a well known  international fashion company,  as store manager, at their retail Outlet store . At long last, life was finally  looking up for me and I was really  happy and over the moon . But sadly, again, it wasn’t to last as this time  I fell very sick and was diagnosed with a chronic and very rare condition which made it impossible for me to work long hours, as I was constantly being admitted into hospital. I was forced to quit my job  as it was just not plausible to work the way I had been working. Being a very  active person, who had always  worked long hours  since my teens, the thought of staying at home and not being able to do anything productive,was unbearable to me.

I realized that  I wanted to leave them a better legacy  than the mother who gave up when life became to tough. Thats  when I got the “eureka moment” The “Totally Bananas”. moment.The moment when the idea was born and the website came to life in my mind. This way I could  help not only the artisans who create the beauty, but also street children and women  in India by pledging a certain amount of money from every sale.

I realized that people here aren’t  very familiar with all things Indian, so I knew that it would be a challenge to do what I wanted to do. Mostly the knowledge that people have, is what they hear and see on the news,and sadly these are not always positive things. So I decided to show them exactly what  one can also get from India, besides the bad and the rotten. It seems that Indians have a pretty bad reputation concerning business ethics here in the west.

My intentions in writing this blog is to inform people , who are not aware of the fact that although India being a third world country , with the second largest population in the world,  is also a land of culture, beauty and a friendly people. Its not just the dirt and the filth, or mass uneducation and poverty, and where people don’t  really know any better..So, coming back to Totally Bananas,  today, lets talk  about Pashminas. What exactly is Pashmina and why is it so expensive?  And what makes it so desirable?

Pashmina comes from the Persian word for wool, which is known in the West as cashmere wool. Capra-Hircus-GoatThe word cashmere is derived from the old spelling of Kashmir. The origins of pashmina date a long way back, when the local people depended on the fabrics they wove for easy travel, warmth and especially, survival. The threads used in making this beautiful  luxurious warmth giving cloth, come from the underbelly of the Himalayan mountain goats, called the Chyangra, in latin, (Capra Hircus) which live in the high regions of the Tibetan Plateau of the Himalayan ranges.Think of the  icy temperatures that blast their way from the high plateaux of Mongolia and Xinjiang in China. Think of temperatures falling to – 40 C. Imagine the freezing winds that whip through the glaciers and mountain sides. It is here in this 14,000ft, forbidding region, that the beautiful Himalayan mountain goat roams and is to be found. To survive this inhospitable environment, this wonderful animal grows a unique, incredibly soft pashm, or inner coat, six times finer than human hair. this is one of the world’s most rare and precious fibres; soft to handle, light and warm, and to wear it is to be insulated in your very own summertime warmth. Every spring/summer, Himalayan farmers scale these mountains to comb the fine woolen undercoat from the neck and chest of, the Capra hircus goat.

With this, I leave you  until the next time reading my ramblings and hopefully understanding what the concept of totally bananas is all about. I would love to hear your comments and remarks and rest assured that I will appreciate each and every  comment that I get as I will also learn along with every one else…

On this note I shall love you and leave you. Be safe in what ever you do.. <3