Bangladeshi Millennial Wins the prestigious Diana Award

Career, People, Travel

Interviewed by Faria Ahmed

Even with significant progress in women empowerment in Bangladesh, it still remains a social taboo for women to travel to far-off destinations on their own. Religious, family and social restrictions have limited travel and adventure for young, enthusiastic travelers for decades. However, in September 2017, one millennial decided to take action through the creation of an online community for female travelers. We caught up with Sabira Mehrin, the founder of this online travel platform called Wander Woman.

Sabira Mehrin, Founder of Wander Woman
Sabira Mehrin, Founder of Wander Woman

“There was a need for a platform which could bring all female travel enthusiasts together to exchange information and travel together. That is why I started Wander Woman,” explained Sabira Mehrun. “I believed, we women had to cross extra barriers to pursue global opportunities and lacked the courage and confidence required to explore a new destination alone. This is why we needed to hear stories and experiences of avid Bangladeshi women from all around the world to get motivated and step out for change. I started with a closed Facebook group to create a safe space for the like-minded travel enthusiasts”. 


What started off with 200 facebook friends is now an 8,500+ strong community of women travellers who are constantly empowering and supporting one another and lifting up their love for adventure. Over these three years, Sabira has achieved several key milestones, starting with registering Wander Woman as a Travel Company.
She was able to introduce the first ever credit less EMI system on her travel platform, a sim card exchange plan, launched petty currency exchange plan and other incredible ways to make traveling easier for her members.

She even established the WW Academy to teach women skills required for safe adventure traveling, such as swimming, self-defense, etc. In the last three years, Sabira has been able to arrange 20+ trips for women to travel to various parts of Bangladesh and beyond. The WW instagram page is used to promote female travelers of Bangladesh to the world.


“Wander Woman members have been supportive to help with any query placed by other travelers. This has created a trusted peer network where women are coming forward with their first hand experiences in order to help fellow travelers. As a founder of the community, I have been strict about maintaining a positive and non-judgmental environment to ensure that everyone feels safe to share their stories without any fear. I focused on collaboration over competition to show that nothing is more beautiful than women uplifting other women.”


The Diana Award recognizes the young change-makers who are youth-led, inspiring and able to create social impac. Wander woman’s vision to provide access to travel information to women from developing countries has inspired thousands of women to explore global opportunities and new destinations. The Diana Award is the only charity set up to honour Princess Diana of Wales.

“This award is truly special as my late mother was a big follower of Princess Diana and her humanitarian acts. Recognition as her legacy is indeed a worthwhile milestone as an individual as well as organization. We will be receiving mentorship and development programmes recommended by Diana Award organization to further our cause.”

Around the World in 20 Plates: Mouthwatering Tales of a Millennial Food & Travel Influencer through her insta-photography!

People, Travel

Written By: Eriko Sultana

We all enjoy the process of exploring new cultures differently. For some of us, it is the stunning sights and remarkable history of a place that makes it memorable. For others, it is the people and their colourful traditions which keep ancient cultures alive. For foodies like us…it is the mouthwatering delicacies that are unique to that area which helps us relish and immortalize the trip through our taste buds. Today we are sharing the experience of such a food-lover and travel blogger, Eriko. Over the years, Eriko has developed a palette that enjoys mouthwatering and diverse cuisines as she travels to the various corners of the world. Her adventurous spirit allows her to appreciate every aspect of foreign cuisines, from street food to michelin star restaurants. That’s why today we have chosen to feature her journey through 20-Food images that she took during her trips. Scroll down and check out the 20 plates of food which she selected to share with us at Millennial Things Blog!

Romania

1.1568 Bistro

Romania is the first country I visited in Eastern Europe, and I loved how cheese was such an integral part of their food. I visited a lot of higher-end restaurants during my time there, and I came to this restaurant twice (the second time to try the dessert which we couldn’t have the first night as the restaurant was closing). The building is from the 14th century, and the food is inspired by Transylvania’s colorful cultural background. The cheese-stuffed mushrooms were particularly outstanding, as the balsamic dressing complimented the flavour of the cheese beautifully! The duck breast with wine plum sauce, arugula salad and glass-plated yellow carrots was an interesting mix of sweet flavours—usually “sweet” isn’t what I look for in mains, but this was actually really nice. The crème brûlée was amazing as well, and it was completely worth the trip back there just to try it!

2.Cabinet de Vin & Cocotte

Although Cluj does not have any Michelin star restaurants, a lot of people feel that this restaurant should have one. I tried to get a table here on the first night, but it wasn’t possible to do so without a reservation, so we made one for the following night. We tried the escargot, beef tartare, duck with risotto, and seafood with a creamy mash, and most of the items were delicious. I am not the biggest fan of risotto, which is probably why I didn’t enjoy it too much (although it was highly recommended online). The restaurant has some quirky decorative pieces, and the waiters were very helpful and knowledgeable.

3. Baracca

This restaurant was another fancy place in Cluj that I visited on my last night there. A more modern restaurant, the décor was simple yet eye-catching. We ordered the foie gras, soup, lamb chop, and angus beef steak, and the presentation of each item was top-notch. In particular, the lamb chop with Jerusalem artichoke texture and coffee was incredible. The notes of coffee that could be tasted hit the spot, and I would gladly fly back to Cluj just to go back to this restaurant!

Bulgaria

4. Hemingway

While researching restaurants in Bulgaria, Hemingway was one of the highly rated restaurants in Plovdiv that kept coming up, so we had to check it out. It was definitely amazing– the beef tartare was excellent, and so was the trout! The fish soup was fairly good, and the mushroom and cheese main dish was superb. I cannot stress how great the beef tartare was. It’s a bit tricky to get a table at the restaurant without a reservation, but we went a bit after lunch, which worked out for us! I’d wholeheartedly recommend this, and I shall definitely go here again next time I’m in Plovdiv.

5. Samurai

Located in a cute corner of Vitosha boulevard, Samurai is a casual yet fun restaurant. We originally went there for drinks, but ended up trying the mussels which were surprisingly good. We also tried the seafood risotto and the grilled mushrooms, both of which were good. I particularly enjoyed the tiramisu (which is my favorite dessert in the world). I loved the colors in this restaurant, and the location made it a perfect place to grab a bite!

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Intrigued by my first introduction to Balkan cuisine in Bulgaria, I was curious to see how it differed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, so I set out to try the local items in restaurants that were recommended by other foodies around the world.

6. Ćevabdžinica Željo

: A Bosnian staple is ćevapi, which is a dish made from grilled minced meat. It’s typically served with “Somun” bread, and onion, yoghurt, and cream. I settled on this restaurant in the Old Market Square in Sarajevo due to the raving reviews it had online, which were supported by the bustling atmosphere within the restaurant, filled to the brim with customers (perks of travelling solo: most restaurants will always have room for one more).  Service was swift; it reminded me of the kebab shops in the UK or Gulshan Plaza Restora in Dhaka. It tasted quite similar to kebab and rotis/naans that are served in Asia as well, and the addition of onions definitely drove that deshi flavour home!

Photo Credit: Eriko Sultana

7. Buregdzinica Bosna

Another must-try on my list was burek, which is a pie made with ground or chopped meat, onions, and spices. It’s rolled into a thinly rolled phyllo dough, and served with yogurt. There are numerous places offering burek, so I researched a bit and settled on this restaurant. It was by far the more popular burek restaurant in Sarajevo, and it didn’t disappoint! Even after my ćevapi from earlier, I scarfed down the entire plate of burek alone. Living on good quality grilled meat served with a dollop of yogurt and veggies… hmm I can definitely see myself living in Bosnia and Herzegovina for sure!

Photo Credit: Eriko Sultana

8.Aksaraj

This café is situated in a corner of the Old Market in Sarajevo, overlooking the mosque and the shops. It was my first time trying Turkish coffee, and I fell in love! The strong, deliciously bitter flavor of the coffee was complimented by the excessively sweet locum, a traditional sweet served with Turkish coffee. This café had over options for food, which I didn’t try, but I’d recommend it for the coffee itself!

Croatia

9.Olive Tree

By the time I arrived in Croatia, I was a tad bit tired of the grilled meats and cheese-based items that are a staple of the Balkan cuisine, so I found myself gravitating towards seafood or vegetarian/vegan meals. This spaghetti with mussels was one of them, and it was fantastic! The slight hints of lime in the spaghetti made it the perfect lunch under the scorching Croatian sun (while watching the myriad of interesting people making their way down the promenade on this nice summer day).

10. Terminal F

This restaurant was chosen primarily because of its fun vibe. The shrimp burger (once again chosen because of the desire to avoid meat) was so good that I went back twice to have it again (usually a big no-no for me while travelling). It was juicy and light, satiating you without making you feel sluggish. The Terminal F special pizza, on the other hand, reminded me a bit of the Shwarma House pizzas because of the ground meat. It was a bit heavier, so we ended up taking some of it home (despite being big eaters– having so much meat and cheese for a week does that to you I guess!). They also served a variety of interesting drinks and cocktails. My choice for the night was a drink called Adios Motherf*ckers, which was what I had to say about all the people hating on my extended holiday (let a girl live!).

11. Zoí

Now, I’m all for trying local cuisine when I visit a country, but I also LOVE fine dining. Zoí is a Michelin plate restaurant that is located on the south wall of the Diocletian’s Palace where the emperor’s apartments were located in Split, Croatia. I knew I HAD to try this place, and after attempting it for two days, I was finally lucky enough to get a reservation on my last night in Split. This was not Croatian or Balkan food, but a nice fine dining restaurant. The beef tartare was excellent, and the mushroom risotto was creamy yet light, with the right amount of flavour without overpowering the senses. The tagliatelle was fairly good, but as someone who is overly picky about any kind of pasta with red sauce, it was my least favorite item from the restaurant. However, what some of the food lacked in flavour, the restaurant made up for with the ambiance. I may have taken 1209432 photos against the glowing moon over the promenade, and shall cherish the memories from this night forever!

Belgium

12. De Zuikant

I visited Bruges for a weekend, and immediately knew that I have to venture out to Damme, a neighbouring town, just for this Michelin star restaurant. The items were served based on my tastes, and unfortunately I don’t remember the exact items that were served that day. The started was a salmon with interestingly served greens, and the main was juicy steak with some seasonal squash. The memory of the rhubarb and ice cream served for dessert still lingers in my mind. Fun fact: After this delicious meal, I walked 5km back to Bruges because there were no forms of transportation heading back there as it was a weekend. I’d do it again in a heartbeat though!

United Kingdom

13. Christmas Market

A staple for me at every Christmas market is a plate of cheese fries. The cheese fries in the UK are not your average cheese fries that you find around the world. No Sir, after moving to the UK, having gravy with fries (also called chips here, NOT to be confused with crisps, which are what potato chips are referred to in this country) has opened my eyes to a whole new range of possibilities. The cheese fries here are essentially a plate of fries, with melted, gooey cheese poured in abundance over the them. The cheese stays warm enough to withstand the cold outside while you devour the fries to warm up your soul, which is definitely an added bonus!

14. Pimlico Fresh

Now, boomers are quick to complain about how all millennials do is complain about their inability to buy property while wasting their earnings on avocado toast. I may not have reached the age where I am thinking about buying property, but avocado toast can literally make your day better when served right. I’ve become a bit of a narc about avo toast, so after returning to London from a trip and finding myself with a bit of free time before having to catch my coach back to Nottingham, I decided to try what was supposedly the best brunch place near the station: Pimlico Fresh. It’s one of those super busy places with people sharing tables with strangers, and I loved it. My avo toast came with a healthy serving of smoked salmon and cream cheese and some freshly squeezed lime. It was actually heaven on a plate; so good that I momentarily forgot that I was amongst complete strangers who witnessed me inhale the toast within a few minutes. I washed it down with some kombucha, because hey, your girl couldn’t be more millennial or basic if she tried!

15. Dalloway Terrace

I came across this restaurant on one of my favorite Bangladeshi bloggers in the UK’s profile, @bsiddlife (https://www.instagram.com/bsiddlife/). It was the first fine dining restaurant I visited after moving to the UK, and the restaurant was decorated in full autumn galore. I tried the octopus carpaccio, which was immaculate. The grilled organic salmon main was super light, and zesty with the squeezed lemon, served with some truffle fries. I tried the dark chocolate fondant with hazelnut ice cream as the dessert, and it definitely took the cake for this meal! The menu at this restaurant changes seasonally, as does the décor, so it’s definitely one of those restaurants that you can keep going back to without getting bored.

16. Le Quai Saint Tropez

Did you even go to France if you didn’t try escargot? I knew when I booked my trip to the south of France, I HAD to try it. Escargot is a French delicacy, comprising of cooked edible snails. It might not be something that appeals to everyone, but I was definitely game! I arrived at Saint Tropez a bit late for lunch, so my first choice to try escargot was closed. This restaurant was possibly even better than the first, as it was located right on the promenade with a bunch of boujee yachts parked out front. The other patrons were having a whale of a time, and the fans which sprayed mists of water was definitely welcome in the intense summer heat found in the island in mid-June. The escargot was served with some lemon butter, and it tasted quite like mussels or oysters. The only off-putting part of trying them was that I could see the nerves and veins of the snails through the skin, which was a tad unsettling. However, on the taste aspect, it was perfectly fine, so I would totally have it again, next time I’m in France! The oysters served at the restaurant were also cooked well, so it definitely knows what it’s doing with seafood!

Bangkok

17. L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon

I’ve been to a number of fancy restaurants in my life, but this one is definitely in the top three of my favorite restaurant experiences ever. The restaurant is dimly lit and the interior is mainly red and black (my two favorite colors, yay!), and patrons are seated around the bar. It has one Michelin star, and the cuisine is largely French, and the chef Olivier Limousin came to speak to me during the meal. We tried the foie gras and avocado rolls (not French, but I love my sushi so I just had to!) as starters, and a lobster and vegetable fricassee with lobster bisque and some lamb for the mains. My favorite item was the lobster, which was beyond delicious. I was also celebrating my birthday, so I got a complimentary dessert, which is always great! This restaurant is currently closed for renovations, but it is a must visit! They have stores all over the world, and I’d definitely recommend visiting one!

Nepal

18. Boomerang Restaurant

This chicken thali that I tried in Nepal tasted very light and fresh. I don’t like my lunches to be really heavy, so I was a bit apprehensive when I saw the rice in this meal. Surprisingly, it did not leave me sluggish, and the chicken, vegetables, and daal served with the meal were flavourful and delicious.

19. Momos

Momos in Nepal are a whole different level of goodness. My love for all kinds of food that are served wrapped in dough knows no bounds, and I went crazy over the momos in Nepal. There are so many kinds, and they all tasted so good! I love both steamed momos and fried momos, especially those with a chicken or mushroom filling. Your options are limitless in Nepal; the ones pictured here are from a random roadside restaurant in between Kathmandu and Pokhara!

Dhaka

20. Premium Sweets

I realize how Bangladeshi I am when I think about this restaurant. I literally couldn’t stop thinking about it after I booked my flight back this year, and writing this now is making me salivate. The letka khichuri at Premium Sweets, with the kala bhuna and mehzbani ghost is my favorite Bengali food of all time. Through in the brain masala into the mix and I couldn’t be any happier! It’s moist and spicy, and cooked to perfect. The khichuri is served in a clay pot, and a rumali roti on top (which is what I usually have my brain masala with). The faluda at this restaurant is also top notch!

Photo of Eriko Sultana, Travel Influencer

10 Reasons Millennial Travelers are LOVING Chennai

Travel

Written By: Arkapriya Dhara

Chennai is truly a bustling destination in South India that has almost everything- starting from colonial architecture, century-old temples to golden beaches. Although known for its old historic sites,Chennai actually has a perfect balance where its ethnic culture and metropolis lifestyle are thriving hand-in-hand. It’s absolutely amazing how you will still find young girls adorning fresh flowers in their hair on their way to the temple while technology and international brands keep life as comfortable as anywhere else in India. As a Millennial Traveler out to explore all of Asia, I’m glad I made this one of my first travel destinations. It was truly a dreamy escape from regular life.

Photo: Arkapriya Dhara

1. The Temples

Photo: Arkapriya Dhara

The medieval temples will blow your mind and try to visit in the evening to see the actual magic happening with all the rituals. Parthasarathy, Vadapalani Murugan, Kapaleeshwarar temples are some of best temples that you should check out.

2.  The Churches

As I said temples are for nights, days should be used to visit numerous churches both in Chennai and Pondicherry. In Chennai St. Thomas Cathedral Basilica should be top of your list.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-1.png
Photo: Arkapriya Dhara

3. Chennai lighthouse

The landmark lighthouse is just beside the Marina beach and takes the elevator up to get a panoramic view of the sea and the city.

4. Affordable Shopping spree

Go straight to Tnagar for budget shopping and you can pop by malls for international brands. Chennai is truly a Saree heaven and leaving Chennai without buying at least one Nalli Silk Saree will be a grave mistake.

5. Beaches

 Among the beaches, the Marina Beach is the most significant one and it is the second-longest beach in the whole world. Try to take a morning stroll by the beach and observe historical building which will remind you of old Madras.

Photo: Arkapriya Dhara
Photo: Arkapriya Dhara

6. Local Food

Chennai is known for a mix of cuisines along with the authentic Idly, dosa and vada. You should pay a visit to Saravana Bhawan and Ratna Cafe for typical South Indian vegetarian dishes.

7. Flowers, Dancing, Music and Culture

The flowers are the true essence of Chennai and truly it is an integral part of their culture. Try to buy flowers to put in your hair while visiting temples. Chennai is maybe the only city where you can always attend a high-quality classical dance performance and these are mostly free for all. Bharatiya Vidya Bhubaneswar is really the place to experience the culture here .

Photo: Arkapriya Dhara

8. Mahabalipuram

While visiting Chennai, it’s absolutely necessary to visit mahabalipuram on the way to Pondicherry. The rock sculptures beside the sea are astonishing. The Shore Temple, Arjuna Penance, Cave Temples, etc are some of the must-visit places.

Photo: Arkapriya Dhara

9. Pondicherry

You just cannot I mean cannot miss Pondicherry while visiting Chennai. It’s only two and a half hours away from Chennai. The French colony called ‘White Town’ will make you feel as if you are not in India at all. Other than that Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Rock beach, French war memorial, and different churches are worth the visit.

Photo: Arkapriya Dhara

10. Instagram-Worthy Spots Everywhere!

There is a certain charm to the authentic culture that still exists in Chennai, while the busier cities like Delhi and Mumbai are lost in the fast-paced globalized lifestyle. As they say, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder…so if you have an eye for it, you will find endless spots in this city for striking instagram photos! The colours of the buildings, the smiles of the street vendors, the drippy deliciousness of curries and street food…all make for an amazing travel destination.

You can check out Arkapriya on her travel adventures in South Asia and beyond by following her instagram account here!

Photo: Arkapriya Dhara

11 Locally Owned Ottawa Stores to LOVE this Christmas! #BuyLocal

Lifestyle, Travel

By Faria Ahmed

Canadians are now more aware than ever before about the kind of footprint their consumer choices leave behind on the planet. Not just the environment, but health, labour rights, humane treatment of animals and ethical production of goods are now being taken into consideration before jumping into a prickly bed of roses with blind capitalism. The good news is that we can still enjoy our long list of Christmas shopping and have all our unique requirements met – by buying local! Not only will you be supporting your fellow Ottawa folks and giving them a chance to have a happy holiday, but you can also shop guilt-free by not giving more to corporations to are underpaying their workers and harming the environment on a large scale. Check out these 10 local businesses we thought had some of the coolest goodies to offer this Christmas!

1. Aux Delices Bakery

Photo Credit: Aux Delices Bakery

Visit Aux Delices Bakery at the heart of Ottawa’s Byward Market for a whole range of sugary goodness in adorable Christmas themes! They are located at : 32 ByWard Market Square, Ottawa, ON.

2. Wiser Meats

I love Wiser Meats because it gives me an easy option to have meat with little to no guilt. Wiser Meats is an online service that delivers raw, fresh cut meats in the Ottawa area. They produce fresh meat every Monday at noon and deliver from Tuesday to Friday. They have highest quality locally raised meat packaged in Federally inspected facilities. And the best part is that all of their products are free of antibiotics and steroids, and the cows are all grass-fed and ethically raised. You can find a wide range of options from aged beef, free-range & air-chilled chicken as well as certified halal meat. You can order online at wisermeats.com.

3. Good Grazes

Photo Credit: Good Grazes

If you are planning to host friends and family this holiday season, then Good Grazes will blow your mind! This amazing catering service makes custom spreads for your budget and party size! “The Holiday Graze & Go box” is great for 1-4 people, the “Gather & Graze table” for about 10 people, and the “Party grazing table” is awesome for a large group of 30-40 people. If you live in Ottawa, just order at GoodGrazes.ca! They do deliver to your doorstep for a small fee but pickup is always free. The week before christmas is already almost full, so big groups should try to book quick! Small boxes can be ordered as late as 24 hours before the event. Good Grazes can accommodate your dietary needs and do nut free, gluten free options and even a vegan board with items like roasted mushrooms, chick peas, olive tepanade, and vegan cheese caprese skewers, Cashew dip, etc. They work with mostly biodegradable utensils and with local suppliers as much as possible. For Pick-up, the location is in Orleans.

4. Aromesso Cafe

Photo Credit: Aromesso

This little cafe and bakery all the way in Tangers, Aromesso will surprise you with its dainty cheesecakes (From The Cheesecake Factory) and deliciously colourful donuts! With options for sweet, savory, halal items, they are bringing the A-game to that part of town! They are located at: 8555 Campeau Dr., Unit #852Ottawa, Ontario

5. Sweetlegs Orleans

Photo: SweetLegs

SweetLegs is the first Canadian leggings company to have their own in-house designed signature line. These comfy and adorably printed leggings are available in dozens of unique and beautiful prints and sizes! SweetLegs have a four way stretch and a kitten soft finish which makes them adored by all ages and genders! You can now buy from their local vendor in Orleans, by visiting SweetLegs Orleans with Sania!

6. Anna Stubbe Chocolates & Confectioneries

Tired of eating the same old flavours in mainstream, mass-produced chocolates from factories? It is time to go local and taste these dainty and delicate chocolates made with choco-expertise, love and care! If you love all things chocolate and would like the ultimate chocolate experience, then you need to visit Anna Stubbe Chocolates and Confectioneries! High quality ingredients and a super classy presentation are matched with really creative designs. You won’t be disappointed! Everything they sell is handcrafted right onsite. Located at: 500 Hazeldean Road, Unit 108Kanata, Ontario.

Photo: Anna Stubbe Chocolates & Confectioneries

7. Beetle Bug Baby

Beetle Bug Baby is your one-stop shop to get custom Stay on Baby / Toddler booties, play mitts, and more! This locally made store takes care of both mommies AND babies with nursing arm pillows, scrunchies, santa sacs and so much more!

Photo Credit: Beetle Bug Baby

8. Canoes & Creativity

Photo Credit: Canoes and Creativity

At Canoes and Creativity you need to load up on beautiful handmade stocking stuffers and gifts! They offer a wide range of rustic woodburned home decor items all designed by hand. There is a 12 Days of Christmas sale happening from November 26 – December 8, featuring 24-hour daily specials. All custom orders are guaranteed by December 20.

9. Sofi’s Silly Slime

Martine, the owner of Sofi’s Silly Slime started making handmade slime after her niece Vanysa introduced her to his fun little thing. However, once she had discovered the fun and therapeutic effects of making and playing with slime, she got super creative with it and now is ready to spread the joy with you all! “What I create is enjoyed by both children and adults and nothing makes me happier than to put a smile on someone’s face because of something I have made”, shared Martine. At Sofie’s Silly Slime, you will find a super creative and fun range of slime – the ideal gifts for children this year! You also get amazing courteous service in both French and English!

Photo: Sofi’s Silly Slime

10. Clutch by Pat Durant

Everyone needs a nice leather clutch, even vegans! That’s why Clutch by Pat Durant is offering incredibly stylish clutch purses in her Seasonal Clutches collection. Some are made with brushed wool plaid and quality vegan leather, another with lace and vegan leather to move easily from daytime to nighttime events. The third in the collection is a is a classic envelope clutch made with a gorgeous brushed wool plaid reminiscent of the Burberry check. All are on special for $75.

Clutch by Pat Durant

11. Crazy Cat Witchy

Photo: Crazy Cat Witchy

At Crazy Cat Witchy, you can find something spiritual, artistic and beautiful for that whimsical friend in the group! They make custom energy alignment tools using high quality gemstones and each dome comes with a full write up of healing properties, how to use and an identity. They range in price from $60-$150 with delivery options anywhere in North America for just an additional $15. You can make requests and get custom ones made within a week.

If you are done with the main Christmas gifts and just need a few more stocking stuffers within a few dollars, don’t forget to check out our list of 10 items you can get for under $10 as a Christmas gift!

4 Amazing Specialty Stores You Can Only Find In Perth, Ontario

Ottawa Living, Travel

With the growth of chain stores and brands in the big cities, it might be easier to find things when we need them, but it has become increasingly difficult to get things that are unique and beautiful in their own ways. This is why my visits to the small town of Perth, Ontario are so special to me. There are specialty stores here featuring locally and nationally made items that I almost never see in Ottawa. Today I’m reviewing four such places and their traditional beauty which instagram-loving millennials like myself would go crazy over!

1. Kelly’s Flowers & Gift Boutique

Christmas ornament owl at kelly's flowers and gift boutique in perth, ontario

Within moments of walking into Kelly’s, I felt as though I had been transported to Santa’s workshop at the North Pole. In every sense, the store’s decor, contents, and friendly staff with their warm and welcoming smiles will make you feel like it’s Christmas.

Christmas tree and ornaments at kelly's flowers and gift boutique in perth, ontario

Kelly’s is a flower shop and boutique, but what stood out to me the most about this store was their incredibly beautiful collection of Christmas ornaments. Starting from wood, tin, fabric to crystals, they have every kind of ornament you can think of and all of extremely high quality. They have the type of things you will want to add to your family’s Christmas collection for generations to come.

Wooden Christmas ornament at kelly's flowers and gift boutique in perth, ontario

Each item is so delicately crafted and do not even compare to the mainstream, mass produced items that I am used to buying.

Soap bars, bath milk and other skincare products. All natural products at kelly's flowers and gift boutique in perth, ontario

Almost everything at Kelly’s is made in Canada and a lot of their items comes in from the town of Peterborough. Their collection of skin care products are made from all natural ingredients and some Canadian brands they carry are 100% vegan. If you’re looking for anything specific – just ask and they will be sure to share more details of the specialty items they offer.

White Snowman Christmas ornaments at kelly's flowers and gift boutique in perth, ontario

2. Perth Chocolate Works

I thought I was past my sugar cravings after having all that Halloween candy, but visiting this store made me realize what I had been missing out on all this time! Perth Chocolate Works hand makes delicate barks and chocolates in small batches using high quality Belgian Callebaut Chocolate.

Faria Ahmed at Perth Chocolate Works in Perth, Ontario Winter 2019
That’s me happily posing in front of Perth Chocolate Works. Photo Credit: Jordan Johnstone

Although it originally opened in Manatoulin Island, it experienced increased requests to expand to the Ottawa Valley and soon found a home in Perth.

Handmade Chocolates at Perth Chocolate Works in Perth, Ontario Winter 2019

Items that stood out for me were the handmade truffle bars, bear claws and the incredibly wide selection of jams and jellies. I have quite honestly never seen so many different types of jams and jellies before and can easily imagine myself trying out some with cheese and crackers in the holidays coming up.

Milk Chocolate Covered Raisins  at Perth Chocolate Works in Perth, Ontario Winter 2019
Handmade Double Truffle Bars at Perth Chocolate Works in Perth, Ontario Winter 2019
James, Jellies and Preserves at Perth Chocolate Works in Perth, Ontario Winter 2019. Lime Curd, Raspberry Curd, Pin Grapefruit Marmalade and Fig Preserves.
Rhubarb and Ginger Preserve, Lime and Lemon Marmalade, Mackay's Preserves at Perth Chocolate Works in Perth, Ontario

The store was quite spacious and I spent almost an hour looking around and checking out the various corners decorated with shelves full of handmade goodies! Even the window ledges were decorated with items you could purchase, and that included these gorgeous wooden cheese boards.

Wild Wood Wooden Slabs for Cheese Platters and Presentation in Perth Chocolate Works
100% Pure Maple Butter in small jars at Perth  Chocolate Works in Perth, Ontario
Funny coffee sign at Perth Chocolate Works at Perth, Ontario

3. Shadowfax

The holiday and sugar buzz almost reminded me of Diagon Alley (in the Harry Potter Universe) with Perth’s boutique little stores and stone buildings running throughout the town. This fluttering feeling of craving some holiday magic led me to the mystical store called Shadowfax.

As soon as you enter through those green doors, you will find yourself in a world of magic, mysticism and spirituality.

From natural crystals to tarrot cards, you will find everything you could possibly seek in this category of items. I loved how there were little notes explaining the name, type and healing effects of the stones. Some were for love while others were to help fight anxiety. I picked up an item for my aunt who has been dealing with lots of stress recently.

Every minute in that store seemed like a moment that I was learning. There were so many types of religious, spiritual and historical symbolism all over the place. The collection of books, too, were rare, fun and insightful!

Shadowbox isn’t just a place to buy things though. They also host events such as tarot card readings, soul glimpse readings, crystal and oracle card readings, palmistry and more!

4. The Crossroads Tearoom

Nothing beats the quaint and ladylike feeling of pouring myself some hot tea in the prettiest of settings. Decorated from floor to ceiling with vintage decor, furniture and accessories, The Crossroads Tearoom is every millennial instagramer’s dream spot to be!

Whether it’s for lunch or an afternoon of high tea with your girlfriends, this tearoom will make you feel like English noblewomen with its vibe.

Starting from the mannequin dressed up in Victorian era clothing and jewelry to the elegant piano casually placed so it truly belongs in the tearoom, you can find yourself transported back in time.

Elegant ladies’ hats, vintage china and paintings all in the theme pastel colours adorn the walls of the tearoom while the furniture is aged and rustic to add to the realism of the setting.

You can see me in the mirror, trying to capture the gorgeous chandelier in this photo.

For me, the tearoom brought back nostalgic memories of my Grandmother’s teapots and tea cozy with cups and saucers all ready on a silver tray for afternoon tea time with the family. It also reminded me of Jane Austin books I had read growing up, and ignited an internal fire to want to play adult tea party with my friends (or dollies!).

Vintage tea rooms have surely made a comeback in recent years and are among the trendy places to spend a Saturday morning with your lady friends. Even though they are now sprouting up in the big cities in Canada, there’s no doubt that a certain level of authenticity can be experienced only when you visit ones in beautiful and cozy little towns like Perth.

Story of the Travelling Saree: How a young Bangladeshi-Canadian Woman is leaving her ethnic mark everywhere she travels!

People, Travel

Interviewed by Faria Ahmed

Banff, Alberta

Every now and then we come across stories of inspirational women who dare to be different and leave their mark in the way they do things. Such is the story of Nibedita Saha-Chakravorty, a Bangladeshi-Canadian woman living in Toronto, Canada. Nibedita and her husband absolutely love travelling and they make it a point to travel at least a few times a year.

During a trip to Banff, Alberta Nibedita first came up with the idea of wearing a saree (a traditional ethnic Bengali clothing for women) and photograph herself against the gorgeous snowy mountains in Banff. In extreme freezing temperatures, she managed to get photographed against this striking landscape and look incredibly glamorous doing it. A saree is a typically light garment meant to be worn in the tropics and over the centuries it has become the symbol for Bengali women everywhere. Since that day almost 5 years ago, Nibedita took it up as a personal adventure to take photographs of herself against the various terrains and landscapes as she travels the world.

Dubai

“Growing up I always thought I was weird because my ideas were always a bit different from my peers”, said Nibedita. “Assimilation in Canadian society was always encouraged in my family, especially as my parents desperately wanted us to fit in. In my adult life, I realized that my thoughts and desires weren’t necessarily weird but rather they were just different“, she continued. “One of those different ideas I had was to try and take this beautiful symbol of my culture, the saree, to the next level.”

“I’m always thinking about what has not been done before. In general , South Asian countries are hot so probably there aren’t pictures of women wearing them in the snow, I thought. Next I realized that many of our friends and family living in Canada hate snow. I get it..life is difficult”, she said. Nibedita explained how we should sympathize with those who are still struggling to get around in the snow. For so many women who first move to Canada, adjusting to the weather, the culture, the change in clothing…is all part of a very big life change and it can be challenging. They have to give up a big piece of their cultural identities or preference of wearing a saree on a regular basis and only wear it to parties. “Wearing sarees in the snow is quite impractical but I thought it would be fun to take a picture of me wearing a saree in the snow to make the ladies in my community giggle. That idea started my crazy journey.”

Cuba

Although the initial thought behind it was a humorous one, she soon also realized how powerful and empowering it could be do to this. “In the Bengali community, many women are afraid to dream or vocally say what they want because traditionally women have been groomed to be care takers and support systems”. Nibedita explained how Bengali women are often expected to make bold sacrifices and their own wishes and dreams are often sidelined in the process. However, she wants to show the world that while being her most bengali self, wearing a saree, she can climb a mountain and walk in sand all the same. She wants to do it literally and metaphorically to help break barriers for Bengali women, so we can be comfortable in our own skin and ethnic garments and still be proud and confident enough to take on the world.

Ontario

She wants to tell everyone that if something is a part of our cultural identity, we do not need to tuck it away. It is something that adds strength to our lives and lived experiences and should be celebrated.

Most Challenging Saree-Photo Venture:

“I think the hardest for me was Dubai. The desert seemed limitless to me, and I was but a grain of sand in the vast desert sea. The dunes were hot and I kept sinking wherever I stood. The wind was so exceptionally strong, I felt if I let go of my saree, it will disappear. I felt fear and excitement. Something was all around me and it was trying to take me with it.

Most Fun Saree-Photo Venture:

My most fun experience was during my graduation. I was the only person who wore a saree at my graduation from the University of Toronto that year. I loved explaining the idea to everyone who asked about it and I loved showing up on campus in a saree as compared to other days where my hair would be in a bun and I’d be in sweatpants lugging around chemistry and physics books.

Traveled So Far:

Bangladesh: Dhaka, Sylhet, Chittagong India: Kolkata, Sikkim, Orissa, Darjeeling, Kashmir
Greece, Dubai, Nepal, Paris, London UK, Belize City
US: Florida, Utah, Las Vegas, California, West
Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Mexico, Cuba, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey Canada: Alberta, Ontaro

Travel Bucket List for the Future:

Australia (Great Barrier Reef), Egypt, Amazon Basin, Rain Forest

Travels in the near future: I would love to travel within Canada (somewhere in the Maritimes and Vancouver).