A Good Purchase

Posted on March 17, 2018


A good buy

  1. Words often used to make peace with an indulgent purchase when the item is new and shiny. 
  2. An item bought for a good price.
  3. Serendipitously finding an item you wanted on the second hand market and acting on it.
  4. Saving up and buying a high quality item while resisting the temptations.
  5. Not buying things you don’t need.
  6. An item that give you lot of pleasure and a good cost per wear. 

I am not immune to lust at first sight. Most of my clothes are haphazard accidents that I couldn’t pass up, on the second hand market. I bought these shoes 3 years ago & worn them 400+ times. I think I am now qualified to rave about the product. (This is not a review.) The title of a good purchase is not something I take lightly or bestow upon too many things. But the truth is revealed with time and wear.

A good buy

When a ‘worn in’ blog post is more exciting than the ‘new in’ blog post, you know that it was a good buy. When you cant shut up about all the details that make it special, 3 years after the purchase date, it’s a good buy. 

These shoes were a good purchase. This pair may be the benchmark against which I compare all other ballet flats I will wear in the future. I learnt that it can be done : you can make dainty looking shoes that are sturdy and are made to aide movement. Let me make my case ….

Zero Waste Laundry

Posted on March 16, 2018


A drying rack :

Mine is from Ikea. ( It is made of steel with a polyethylene coating which is hard to recycle. )

Made with bamboo options : 1, 2 & 3.

This was the first switch I made way before I heard of the term ‘zero waste’. I learnt that using a conventional dryer wears out the clothes faster. If you own clothes with stretch, heat breaks down the elastane over time. I was tired of the buttons falling off, collars becoming frail and seams coming apart. Not having them tumble in a dryer helps. The garments from Zara last a while if they can be mended and taken care of.

Sustainability experts say that half of the carbon footprint of a garment is from the consumer’s side. I took a resolve to wear my clothes till I no longer fit in them or till they go thread bare. The rack helps keep them in shape.

I wash my clothes as little as possible. I wear them multiple times before wash. Having the rack to dry the clothes inside out between washes keeps them fresh. I spot wash the arm pits, hang them dry and wear them again. This rack has helped.

zero waste laundry

Fabric freshener 

I originally bought this from Laundress to keep my sweaters fresh between washes. It currently holds a DIY version of the same.

Washing :

A front loading washing machine is supposedly more efficient than a top loading one.

I have cleaning rags, exercise clothes, towels, pillow cases, handkerchiefs and every day clothes. I use grated soap for the delicates load and soap nuts for everything else. ( Using cloth rags reduced by landfill trash but added to an extra load to wash. I rinse and throw them in the washing machine till I a ready to run it. )

I get my soap nuts from my mother’s farm in India. Amazon sells them. They can be reused. I replace them with fresh ones every 2 weeks. The used ones go into the compost bin. Castile soap and olive oil soap work well too.

I do laundry as soon as I can fill up a load. ( I don’t want the fibers rotting faster with the help of sweat and body oils. ) We are lucky to live in a place which has the washer in the house.

I usually have one silk shirt / one sweater to wash per week. I wash it in the sink using olive oil soap. Fill the sink, melt some soap in, swish the garment in the soapy water, rinse, lay flat and dry. One garment to hand wash per week is manageable. I do not want to use petro-chemicals at the dry cleaners to wash my clothes. ( I had a person I know say “you guys won’t give up air travel or cars or dry cleaning but you want to take away my job in the fossil fuel industry? ” Dry Cleaning is the easiest to give up. So I took it off the table. )

I have the Laundress detergent that I reserve for my house guests. It is a wonderful product and I have loved it for years.

I had a guest “what-about” me on the plastic rim on my thrifted grater to prove that I am not zero waste. It truly deflated me. I don’t want to argue. I don’t have the energy to. I think I will keep zero waste a secret from now. Folks who cant handle criticism should not preach. One last post awaits and I will conclude it on the blog too.

Laundry is “meh” and “argh” to talk about it …. but anything that makes my clothes last longer while being greener is something I will try. My method is one of the many zero waste solutions out there.

Curious : Is there anyone out there who likes doing laundry ? 

Top Shelf

Posted on March 11, 2018


Saw an image on tumblr and am impulse blogging. These photos look so much more effortless when French woman do it.


Earth Sciences tea tree lavender deodorant.

Dior Balm De Rose lip balm.

Menstrual cup in a cloth bag.


Tooth powder

Bamboo tooth brush

Safety Razor


Jo Malone Pom Noir Perfume. ( My signature for this decade. )

Molecule #1 ( I dislike it. It was an impulsive fashion victim moment. )

Face oil by May Lindstrom

Jose Maran Sunscreen

DIY toner

SK-II, my dearest.


Flour exfoliator

Almond oil for the body

Bar soap for face by Drunk Elephant.

A glass container that holds scissors, tweezers and a foundation brush.

I got it all figured out ! ( Wish I could say this about life … ) 

A Tea story

Posted on March 9, 2018


Once upon a time, I wanted to be a tea scientist. I had two dozen teas, a thermometer, access to an electron microscope, a search engine at my finger tips and a lot of enthusiasm. I used to hang out in a tea shops in the Chinatown of San Francisco that carry tea that costs 1000$ a pound and ask them questions for research. In turn, they look at me with suspicion and follow me around in store to make sure I wasn’t trying to run away with a canister. I would pester my colleagues to get me some every time they travelled out of the country. I would ask favors from my Asian friends. “Can I come with you when you go buy your weekly groceries?”  They knew what it meant : a translation job of the labels in the tea isle. It became a mild obsessed. As with any of my hobbies, life had other plans. I could hardly keep up with one research job. I was running out of cabinet space and grocery budget. Too many things to learn, 24hrs a day. I had to declutter this obsession. Where did that leave me ? Where am I now ?

gourmand is someone who is excessively fond of eating and drinking, and has therefore allowed himself to become enslaved by pleasure.


gourmet is someone who has developed such discriminating tastes that he can no longer tolerate anything less than “the best.”


A connoisseur, it is simply a person who “knows.” And believes that knowing about something can dramatically increase the pleasure we derive from it.

That is me.

I now have a ” normal ” tea collection with a gourmand’s appetite for it. Adding a zero-waste constraint on top, this is what I am left with :



Tea is my comfort food. And scent is one of my strongest sensory input. I associate lavender with long nights chained to my desk waiting for the results. This tea keeps me company. It is relaxing and de-stressing. Nights are calmer. Work gets done. Life goes on.

Its caffeine free and pairs well with my other teas. It helps with my midnight cravings. It helps with making me feel less full after a big meal. Its nice to sip on something comforting after a dinner party that is not alcohol. I always serve it when I have people over. Its my trick to get them to stay longer and have deeper conversations …. tea can have that effect on people. Sitting outdoors, sipping on hot tea, smelling the flowers and talking into the night with my dear humans – what a joy !


White tea

There are things I can never buy for myself but would love to give as gifts to my loved ones : Candles. First hand clothing. And white tea. I got this to give as a present. When he realized how much I value it, a friend of mine returned his present. I accepted. This is my fav tea in the whole wide world.


Roasted Buckwheat tea

This is my afternoon slump help. I start to get hungry at 3-4pm and this tea prevents me from going to the nearest coffee shop to buy a sugary snack. The starch in the grain is a good filler. It has the earthiness of roasted grain and smells divine.


Layer, Layer, Layer

Tea is meant to be enjoyed layered. You use the leaves multiple times till they fade into the background. I work with leaves, not tea bags because it gives me control of the favor. Individual one time use packaging is something I no longer welcome into my home. I fill my tea pot once an hour. It has the following advantages : 1) makes you get up and move from the desk 2) makes you drink more H2O. 3) fresh tea. 4) Used leaves –> compost once done.


A routine 

Early morning before yoga : matcha ( another post for another day. )

Morning : Start with white tea leaves.

Mid morning : Add some florals to the existing leaves.

Late afternoon: Add barley to the existing leaves.

Evening – night : Start fresh with lavender. Lay off the caffeine.

Add ginger, lemon and grated turmeric as needed.


DIY Toner

At the end of the day, pour some water into the teapot with all the leftover leaves. Stick it in the fridge. Next morning, pour the concoction into a spray bottle and use it as a face refresher at your desk. (Discard leftovers every day.) I don’t know if I can officially call it a toner but it is quite refreshing.

My friend Peng.

Peng is a brilliant mathematician. He is a devout Buddhist who takes a month off every summer to go live in a monastery. The way he lived his life was very mindful. At work, he used to set an alarm that would go off every 50 minutes. The next 10 minutes of the hour would be spent walking around, stretching, greeting people, filling up his tea pot, replying to emails, texting back, …. Once the next 50 minute duration would begin, he cut out every distraction and would slip into his intense concentration mind frame. He won’t answer if you knock on his door. He was very productive and managed stress well. Perhaps this is one way to find that work life balance ? Perhaps this is how he prevented burn out after the long hours he worked ? He owned this very beautiful red tea pot that would sit on his desk. It once belonged to his great-grand-father and was well over a 100 years old. His ancestors were rich aristocrats who was driven out of their land during a feudal war. When they had to flee in the middle of the night during an attack, this was one of the possessions his great-grand-mother choose to take along.  Talking about an heirloom pieces, this is the jewel he inherited. He uses it every single day, once ever 50 minutes.

( I purchased mine as soon as I heard this story. Some of my favorites if you are in the market : 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5. I would love to be that old lady with a tea pot collection. But I believe in the one tea pot per lifetime philosophy. I wish I bought the one I liked instead of the cheapest one I could find. )

A Case for a traditional tea pot

It is really well designed. It will last you a century if you take care of it. It’s made of cast iron and not breakable like the ceramic/clay/plastic/glass pots. It keeps its warmth till I finish my pot of tea. Its designed to add leaves in layers. Its gorgeous to look at. When its cold, you can warm your hands by holding your pot. At the end of its life, I can bury it in my backyard without it poisoning the soil. It’s heirloom material. One tea pot per person for a lifetime – the way things should be designed and loved. I have mine.

Wish List

This Parisian brand : Mariage Freres makes a very popular blend called Marco Polo. I need to get my hands on some to taste. My friend got back this Earl Grey lavender blend from London which blew my tea snobbish head off my body. I think blends are in general over priced. I look up the base notes and attempt to make my own. Lastly, I always want this white tea from China. Its the best I have ever tasted. Since going zero-waste, I found a few local loose tea shops that have great imports. San Francisco’s China Town is the place to go to get lost in exploration. Red Blossom Tea Company and Vital Tea Leaf deserve honorary mentions. My local Sprouts and Whole Foods always have a few varieties in bulk. My 3 teas were “super-curated” from the local bulk bins I have access to. It has been an straight forward and simple love story when it comes to tea.

copper kettle



And then I know

what the time for a cup of tea means.

I waited in the crowded and noisy station building

for the one who was late for the appointment

to appea on the bitterly cold winter day.

I carefully heled a full cup of hot tea,

carefully added to it sugar and milk,

stirring gently,

sipping gently.

You carefully opened the slim collection

of Issa’s haiku that you had in your luggage :

‘A world of dew; yet

within the dewdrops — quarrels …’

This crowded station was a dewdrop within

a dewdrop, dropped

in the tea deeper with every sip.

A cup of tea,

at first hot, turned warm, and then cold.

Things on my mind

ranged from poetry to dreams to reality.

In ancient times —

in the world of Chinese serial novels or

tales of chivalry —

it would be the time for a cup of tea,

in which a swordsman drew his sword wiping out the besieging rascals,

and a hero was enraptured and enchanted before the bed of a fair lady.

But modern time has changed its speed.

Within about the time for half a cup of tea,

you drank up a cup of golden fragrant tea.

A cup of tea

going from far to near and then into nothingness.

The one for whom you had waited long finally appeared

and asked if you would like one more cup of tea.

Chen Li.

( Tea brings out the romantic in me. I always have a kettle boiling water on the stove when I am home. I have ideas on how it should be paired, a sincere admiration for the leaves, find immense comfort in the subtle fragrance of the tea, …. My work starts with me getting to my desk with a pot of tea in the morning. It’s a ritual and a way of life. There is a philosophical side to it too that I don’t think I have the depth to go into, at this point in time. A few good books that have re-read : The Book of TeaThe One Taste of Truth: Zen and the Art of Drinking TeaWabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers.



Do you speak tea ?

#artOfMaking : Ghee

Posted on March 3, 2018

A few of my culinary night mares :


  1. The biryani recipe vanishes from the world. All we are left with is a memory of it with no way to recreate it ever again.
  2. Spices disappear and we are left with bland food that taste like starch.
  3. Me not being able to afford white tea. Not having access to lemons.
  4. Not having my mother on the end of the telephone to catch me when I fall. She is my Dr.Kitchen. She knows why recipes fail and when I get the techniques wrong.
  5. Not having Harsha around to cook with. No more being a team. No more eating suppers together.
  6. Me becoming allergic to rice. Everyone around me chowing down on it while I watch but can’t eat.
  7. No more home made ghee. My family has been making it at home for centuries.










Can memory be an ingredient ?

Ghee is often seen as an ingredient that serves its purpose by making everything else it touches delicious. Like wine, the ones who have been making it over a lifetime know the secrets. It has a flavor profile based on the bovine breed and its lifestyle.  I come from a lineage of farmers who toil the soil and own cattle. We make our own. The legend has it that my great-grand-father, an Ayurvedic practitioner, would pour half a tea cup of it, into each of his meals. My great-grand-ma would frown upon the grandkids who would treat the tea spoon of ghee per meal as a guilty pleasure. Then came us, the great-grand-kid generation, who were practically fat phobic. The eldest of us lot, is on a perennial diet and likely to punch you in the face if you don’t served her fat-free sugar-free gluten-free dairy-free food. The youngest spews out “you old people know nothing of science” before she explains her latest internet search. My great-grand-ma would counter argue :  “One has to eat belly full and do a good day’s work, everyday. That is good life”. She employed guerrilla techniques and intimidation to pour ghee on to our plates. She is a fighter, that woman ! She lived till 101 and was fiercely loved. While I live in a different time and lead a very different lifestyle, ghee will continue to be at the heart of my plate. It symbolizes pleasure and an innocent happiness. I shall have that tea spoon full and enjoy it without any strings attached. Great-grand-ma not only taught us how to cook … she had to teach us the art of savoring the meal.







( Some photos from my mother’s upcoming cookbook. ) 

White Noise : February Edition

Posted on February 25, 2018


On board of Falcon Heavy, one of the single most incredible launches I have seen in my lifetime. 

Artist of the month : Louis Faurer

Annie Hall’s personal style, deconstructed on Classiq. ( wonderful blog. )

Q : The three essential things a woman should know about style are…

A : How to look elegant by wearing something simple, how to look sexy without being naked, and how to look feminine wearing masculine-inspired outfits.

– Giorgia Tordini.

The great green wall of Africa.

The Aesthetic of Mending.

This Pinterest board on Alexa Chung.

This stripe top.

This home tour.

Meanwhile, in the land of chic woman ….

The joy of wearing out a piece of gear.

Blog Discovery of the month : VenusianGlow. My favorite articles :

A mission to create a stylish wardrobe. How I shop sustainablyLiving green. Tips for Earth day. Stop reading blogs that make you feel poor.

How to Dress Like a stereotype.

Youtube discovery : Grandma’s Recipes

I think women only start to really look like themselves after they turn 30. That’s when a girl first dares to be her own age, show her bare face, and not just dress for boyfriends or husbands. I’ve kept all the old photos of myself from the ’60s, but I can’t relate to them now at all. All that dressing up! And the eye makeup! We looked like Barbie dolls.

I found my uniform about 20 years ago, and it hasn’t changed since. To me, there’s nothing more beautiful than a simple cashmere jersey paired with boyfriend jeans or trousers. …..  I wear an old man’s smoking [tuxedo jacket] in the evenings, which, if you can get your hands on one, is definitely worth buying. You can wear it for years, even if it has holes.

– Jane Birkin, in an interview with Harpers Bazaar. 

100 wears : Lizzie writes an ode to the garments that have proven themselves to be valuable and useful.

TheLuxeStratergist’s 2017 shopping roundup. This is the sort of balance I look for : high quality garments, second hand purchases, no fast fashion, restraint and great taste. Well done lady ! You inspire me.

Finally, check out the agenda on Vogue Australia’s cover :


Hair Care Routine : Zero Waste Edition

Posted on February 23, 2018

What is zero waste ?

Definitions vary, but in general, zero waste doesn’t really mean “zero.” It goes beyond what we send to landfill, including recycling, energy, water, and food waste. Typically, zero waste is an industrial term for a consumer movement encouraging manufacturers to eliminate single use items and non-biodegradable materials. The aim is to push towards a circular economy and increase demand for package-free products or reclaimable packaging. People blog and post about it to heighten awareness about unsustainable consumption and affect change.

– Ariana, Paris To Go.

zeroWaste hair routine

Shampoo bar : Moisturizing Formula Bar Shampoo by J.R. Liggett

Wet the bar. Work up some lather on the palm of your hands. Transfer the lather to the scalp and massage. Wash it out.

There was no learning curve/transition period with switching to a bar shampoo. My hair was doing alright from day one.

I am keeping track of number of washes I get from one bar. Will report back with a cost analysis.

This has been an easy switch. I was using klorane shampoo which was a good natural shampoo.

I tried no-poo method and failed each time. I couldn’t wait out the transition period. I intend to try it again in the future.

Finding a bar shampoo has been a relief. I put off trying zero waste for a long time because I was scared of giving up a shampoo. I even wrote the comment : “I can never be zero waste because I need my shampoo” on Ariana’s blog. It’s been a relief. One by one, the list is getting checked.

Hair oil : Dry Remedy by Aveda

Using an oil of some sort creates a barrier between the hair and environmental elements. It’s moisturizing. It’s nourishing. It tames the frizz. It adds some shine. I have been using this oil for 3 years now. A bottle lasts me for about 8 months. For the length of my hair, I use 3 drops and concentrate on the ends. It’s light weight and works for my fine hair. Anything heavier than this takes out all of it’s natural texture and makes it flat.

hair accessories

Scissors : Utopia Care.

Hair pin : Sylvain Le Hen.

Bun screws : Goody.

Hair cut :

I chose a hair style that requires no skill to upkeep. I trim my hair on my own.

( I try to save where I can so that I can afford the sustainable choices I make. )

Hair style :

I like the messy unkept look. Combing my hair makes it straight. So I don’t. Day 1 hair has curls and volume. Day 2 is straight hair with some bounce. Day 3 is oily hair which looks flat and limp. I try to not interfere and let it be.

Frequency of washes :

I can go 3-4 days without washing if I don’t do intense workouts. If I go for a run/bike/hike/camp/play a sport, I wash it more often. I wash my pillow case every week.

Bad hair days :

We go camping often and it has taught me to not sweat these little things. A hat hides it well. When in the civilization, I often put it up in a bun or braid it. My scalp shows the signs when it’s expecting a wash. I tell it “one more day dear” and make it wait a little.

Shower cap : Klorane

Fully recyclable and washable. Helps keep the frizz at bay. I sometimes wear the cap when I cook to prevent food odors from settling into my hair. I refuse to go out smelling of curry and it saves me from washing my hair after a cooking session. It looks silly but it really works !

Towel : 100% cotton, Made in India.

Flipping the damp hair upside down and putting it in a turban gives me some volume. I don’t use any heat styling tools. ( Once upon a time, I used to flat iron it. It fried my hair and ruined it. It took me years to grow it out. I have since embraced what comes naturally to me and quite like it. )

Notes :

I have a conventional shampoo and conditioner for my house guests. I do offer my products to try out if they are up for it. The shampoo bar seems to trigger what-about-ism but the the hair oil has been a huge hit.

My husband does a water only method that works great for him. He sometimes uses a shampoo after he plays outdoor sports to get the dirt out the hair.

I have a medical grade dandruff shampoo stored in my bathroom cabinet. I use it as a treatment if I ever need to. I don’t sweat about it in the name of zero waste.

I had massive hair loss in the last few years when I was in grad school. Stress, erratic sleep routine and bad eating habits were the culprits. I have been eating well in the last two years. I now live with Harsha and Cinco who are two very humorous beings – helps with stress. Life has improved since and my hair problems slowly abated. ( Not looking for medical advice. )

I don’t think I have the perfect hair to model for a shampoo bar. Mine is normal. This is what comes to me naturally and I am content.

What else does one need to keep their hair healthy ? I think I have it good without foregoing anything. This routine is sufficiently nourishing given my hair and body type. Some folks can get away with less and some folks need more tropical nourishment. (Apparently, elasticity and porousness of the strands matter. Classifications like fine and thick hair don’t often translate across the board. Scalp health matters. Genetics play a role. I do not have knowledge in these matters to give out generic advice. ) My solution is one of the many zero waste solutions out there.