Summer fun with Henna

Medha's best friend, Rachel, from New Lenox visited us in the last week of July. The two girls have been best buddies since they were 4. Rachel stayed with us while her mother and her mother's boyfriend rented a Harley and drove into the mountains to experience Colorado. It was a week that was hot, hot, hot during the day and most evenings were blessed by a thunderstorm. The girls were able to camp in the backyard only once. (Yes, it is a frequently occuring phenomenon, despite the snakes , the mountain lions and the howling coyotes!)

By late-afternoon, the girls would be exhausted from playing in the heat and I had to come up with all sorts of ideas to entertain them. One idea that drew other little girls to my living room like the Pied Piper's flute was henna.

Oh! Oh! Oh! Henna tattoos! Can I get one? And then can I come back tomorrow to get my other hand done?

I wasn't so sure. My hands have always been drawn on. I've never returned the favor!

We had a couple of false starts. Yes, the henna powder needs to be soaked for at least 3-4 hours before it can be used. It helps to read the instructions on the packet! Whoops! Out came the popcorn and in went the DVD, watch a movie instead, girls!

The next day I was better prepared, or so I thought. As it turned out, my cone making skills are worse than my planning-ahead skills and I came up with a rather floppy cone made from a ziploc baggie. I didn't have most of the stuff that could be used to make homemade henna cones and it was just too hot and too bright to step out and buy some. So, here are the results of my first attempts.

I printed two free henna patterns and made a poopy mess on their hands. As you can see, I do not possess creative skills like Archana or Sree do, but the girls didn't seem to mind because a fourth hand was proferred without much deliberation.

I remembered vaguely that henna should be dabbed with lemon juice and sugar. I don't think that was a very good idea as the henna started to smudge. But again, the girls didn't care. I sent them out into the yard so that the henna did not become yet another exercise in clean-up for me as it dried and fell off.

By the next day, the henna had colored very well on the hands of all 4 girls. I had also improvised and made a better and firmer cone by then; so, Rachel made me do her other hand before she took off on her journey back home. Medha spent some time reading up about henna and also made sure that I was not using black henna, as it contains chemicals and can be harmful. She and her friends found some more henna patterns online and then decided to come up with their own.

My skills did not improve dramatically but I did a slightly better job than the previous day.

I bought the henna powder from my local Indian grocery store and it can also be purchased online.

All in all this was a wonderful activity that kept the girls' spirits up in the near 100F temperatures yet helped them get some much-required downtime. They were also really thrilled with their temporary henna tattoos! And, despite my poor drawing skills, I became the talk of the neighborhood! Or maybe, that was what they were talking about!!


Anonymous said...

Good job manisha. You made 4 little girls happy thats what matters and your skills do not look bad at all :D. I have tried my hands on henna designing sometime back and every time I messed up, so now I am sure it is not my cup of tea :).

Terri the terrific said...

Hi, Manisha,

Thanks for stopping by. I'm an old visitor to your blog because I think it rocks - not just the food but the prolific writing, as well. And we have 8-year-olds in common!

P.S. Your pinwheels look very tempting - perfect for a lunchbox treat.

Anonymous said...

Shilpa, that's how I told myself! I had 4 very happy little girls. Apparently, you can get better with practice. It might be a good activity for winter, too, when the girls are cooped up inside on cold days. Put out a large plastic sheet, dress them up in old clothes, and let them make patterns on each other's hands. I hope I have the courage to let them do that!

Terri, I'm a total fan of your blog and I simply adore the persona you use to write! It's great to have you here!!

SH, thanks but I am not very creative! One of the reasons I went along with this activity was that I was running out of ideas that did not include TV, movie or computer. I've missed you and your beautiful posts. Welcome back!

Rajesh &Shankari said...

hey, u are too good with kids and I think u do have the artistic streak ...girls hands look real good

Anonymous said...

Hi Manisha,

I love your stories of entertaining the kids - the henna looks wonderful! Kudos to you.

Anonymous said...

I am sure you 've had a great fun....designing with henna.

Anupama said...

Fantastic Manisha,You have done a great job with the henna. The only good thing I can do with henna is plaster it over my head every 2 weeks.

Luv2cook said...

Hey Manisha:

We recently applied henna on our hands too. The night before my friends baby shower we had a "mehndi night". It was so much fun AND the explanations I had to give to people at work about what "happened" to my hands, some of the comments were - "are you bleeding?", "did you get bored and drew on your hands?", "does it stay like that for ever?"..hahaha...had a good laugh for the next 5 days :)

Anonymous said...

Shankari, no streak, not even a hint. Really! This post was to share an activity that was lots of fun for the girls. I did get permission from their parents before we started. Except for one child, everyone knew about henna tattoos because you can get them at the Boulder Creek Fair every year.

Linda, I tried my best. The lines are supposed to be thin and consistent. What I have drawn goes from thick to so thin that it's difficult to see if it's a line! Medha pulled out some stencils that her Dad brought back for her from India last year. She's going to practice free-hand drawing with those (and make me do it, too) and then maybe we'll do a little better!

Lera, we had a lot of fun despite my clumsiness with the whole thing!

Anupama, I used to do that a lot in India. It has such a wonderful cooling effect!

L2C, your story reminds me of a friend's. He is from Rajasthan and in his community, the bridegroom also has mehndi drawn on his hands. When he returned to the US after his marriage, he had a real tough time because his finger nails were colored a deep orange from the henna. And while the color fades from the skin over a couple of weeks, his nails remained 'painted' for longer! He is a speech therapist and so he couldn't hide behind his computer or in his office till the color faded.

Anonymous said...

What fun! Lovely designs on the lovely little hands, too. These times are the best memories, no? Years later when she's fiddling with a ziploc bag I'm sure she'll suddenly remember all this fun.

Anonymous said...

Hey! You're back from India! Yes, you're right about the memories. Which is why I said your red crocheted tunic is precious!

Bindu said...

It is a very nice idea to put henna on thier hands. Those little hands look so cute!

indianadoc said...

Manisha,it looks so wonderful on those cute lovely hands...u really rock dear!!

Anonymous said...

Bindu and indianadoc, thanks! They want to do it again before school starts but I think I'm going to save this for a long weekend instead.

Anonymous said...

Manisha--you are too hard on yourself--the henna looks great on the girls!

The lemon and sugar dab is done -after- the henna starts to dry a bit, so it doesn't smudge. The purpose of it, as I understand it, is two-fold--the acid in the lemon activates more of the dye in the henna, while the sugar helps form a sticky crust on top of the henna paste to make it stick to the hand longer so a better dye set is achieved.

I love henna, and only wish I was better at applying it to myself than I am. If I were, I would probably have henna designs on my hands and feet most of the time!

Anonymous said...

Barbara, welcome! The girls were thrilled and are waiting for the 'next time.' You're right about dabbing the lemon-sugar mixture after the henna dries. The henna looked dry but it was still wet on the inside. It's probably the dry Colorado weather and I should have waited a little longer for it to dry completely. Next time! That's what so great about doing this with little girls - they didn't mind all the mistakes I make! They have a blast regardless!