South Asian Fest 2018

It’s Summer and with Summer comes . . . Festivals! Ottawa may be a smaller Canadian city compared to Toronto and Montreal but it sure has its fair share of festivals and events to keep you entertained all Summer long. Those of you that know me personally are aware that I’ve been involved with one festival in particular for the past three years. South Asian Fest is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and is officially Canada’s largest South Asian festival, offering 10 days of events!

My Experience

I first heard about the festival at a business event where Mirch Masala Radio was present. After a bit of coaxing and a few texts and emails I decided to check out a committee meeting and the rest is history. I’ve always believed in giving back to community and have volunteered in many different capacities; as professional on non-profit boards and as an individual engaged in community events. I have to say that being part of the South Asian Fest committee is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences. I’ve gained and improved upon so many different skills and made close friendships that I truly treasure. It’s also been a great outlet for me to get back in touch with my South Asian Roots.

Growing up in Ottawa I didn’t have a lot of friends from the same ethnic background and  being part of South Asian Fest has put me back in touch with the South Asian community.

You’re probably wondering what I do on the committee right? Well I’ve been fortunate to handle a myriad of different tasks from community outreach, artist management and filling in as a M.C. on stage. I’ve also learned a lot about event management in the process.

The Festival

This year is special for South Asian Fest as we celebrate a decade of family friendly fun and entertainment. The 2018 Festival will consist of 10 days of events starting August 10th. There’s a broad range of events this year ranging from a Boat Cruise, Desi Nite with the Ottawa Redblacks, Cricket and Cooking Demos, an Art Exhibition and culminating in a Mega Mela from August 17th-19th.

We’ve got a great lineup of artists this year comprised of headliners like Mickey Singh and Tasha Tah along with homegrown talent from Ottawa. The festival offers a great platform for performers from the South Asian community to showcase their talent.

A full schedule of events, dates and locations can be found on the festival website.

Get Involved

If you never heard about the festival before there’s no time like the present to get involved. There’s something for everyone at this year’s event whether you’re a foodie, dancer, singer or just want to sit back and watch the show, everyone is welcome at South Asian Fest.

If you’re looking to showcase your art or photography there’s an opportunity for local artists to participate in the Art Exhibition – taking place on August 16th. Love to sing, dance or play music? Check out the performance page.

Not sure about taking centre stage but still want to participate? Volunteering at the festival is a great way to gain new skills and experiences, make new friends and get involved with the festival.

Spectators and audience members are also welcome! If you’re going to be in or around the Ottawa area between August 10th and 19th come out to one of the events. Don’t forget to come by and say Hi if you see me at any of the events 🙂

See you at the Festival!

Praveeni

Noticing something different with my photos on this post? Photo credit goes to Amar Studios – official photographers for South Asian Fest.

 

Polo in the Park 2018

Have you heard about the city’s most fashionable fundraiser? If not you’re missing out. I finally made it out to Polo in the Park this year and the event did not disappoint. The 2018 edition of this fundraiser which benefits Wounded Warriors Canada and the Rotary Club of Ottawa South was held on Saturday July 7th.

The Venue
I spent a lovely day outside at Wesley Clover parks. The event was so well organized and provided attendees with a relaxing and fun filled day in the park. There was visible signage as you approached the park entrance and a triage desk to direct drivers to the appropriate parking spots. The organizers even had golf carts to drive people from the parking area to the main event area.

The Experience
Tickets went on sale earlier this Spring and I just had to take advantage of the early bird pricing. The event offers many different ticket packages and options. I chose the VIP experience as I was taking advantage of the early bird discount. I must say it was well worth the extra cash. VIP guests had their own parking area closer to the event and golf carts to drive you up to the VIP tent. Inside the tent there were tables and chairs with goodie bags ready and waiting for us. Guests were presented with lunch and a tea service catered by the Brookstreet Hotel. The VIP tent also had the best views of the fashion show, hat contest and the polo match.

In addition to the polo there were also some vendors and stalls, a silent auction and a photo booth. This was a family and pet friendly event.

The Clothes
All guests were encouraged to put on their best hat and come out for a day in the park. There were so many people sporting stylish outfits and fascinators, it was a treat to see them all. The hat contest was a truly inclusive event which had many different categories including; DIY hat, Colts and Fillies (for kids), Dapper Dan, Too Hot to Trot and Hattitude. As I had opted for a more conservative look that day I did not enter the hat contest, although admission was included with my VIP ticket.

The Match
The main event was a battle of the sexes polo match between the ladies from Three Wild Women and the gents from the Ottawa Business Journal. This was a riveting experience for me as I’d never seen a live polo match before. The gents prevailed over the ladies in the end but the match was full of drama and excitement with some gents falling off their horses and some close calls where the score was concerned.

My Outfit
I opted for a more mainstream look for the event as this was my first year attending. I decided to wear my favourite polka dot dress from Suzy Shier which I paired with white wedges and a white fascinator. I brought along my picnic basket bag which I picked up on my latest trip to Sri Lanka as I thought it went well with the event and the venue 🙂

The Verdict
I loved attending Polo in the Park this year and I’m looking forward to the event in 2019. The event chair Monique and her team did a fantastic job putting this event together. Polo in the Park is something that’s definitely worth checking out if you live in Ottawa or are planning on visiting next Summer. What’s more fun than dressing up, enjoying some time outside, watching a polo match and supporting some great charities?!

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Sunday Brunch at Cinnamon Grand Colombo

I haven’t done a brunch post in a while so I’m happy to be able to share an amazing brunch experience I had recently. As you probably know I was visiting Sri Lanka earlier this month.

I’ve been going back to Colombo quite consistently since about 2008. I’ve stayed at different places during my trips back home but the Cinnamon Grand Hotel is probably my favourite hotel in Colombo. I’ve frequented this hotel on many occasions as an in-house guest and restaurant goer but I’d never tried out their Sunday Brunch.

Clearly I had no idea what I was missing! I decided to try out the Sunday Brunch on June 17th which just happened to be Father’s Day. I was truly impressed by the whole event. I can honestly say I’ve never seen such a large spread for brunch in my life! This Sunday Brunch definitely beat every other brunch I’d been to.

The Food

From the appetizers – which included lobster tails, shrimp, oysters and a selection of sushi, to the carving stations, main dishes and deserts this brunch was a hands down winner for me. I was a little overwhelmed by the selection of dishes and options. This is definitely one event you need to prepare for ahead of time, i.e. don’t eat breakfast and bring your eating pants!

If you know me personally, you’d know that I eat a lot! This brunch was no exception. I happily helped myself to 2 rounds of appetizers, the main course and 2 rounds of dessert.

There was so much to choose from I wish I had prepared better to try every single dish. I did a quick  count of the main dishes and I counted over 35 which is quite impressive for any buffet let alone a brunch.

The dessert selection was to die for and included a chocolate fountain which was the highlight for me. There was also an ice cream and flambé station.

The Place

Cinnamon Grand’s Sunday Brunch is held at the Taprobane restaurant. This space is one of the main restaurants at the hotel and is also home to their daily breakfast and lunch buffets. The restaurant is spacious and offers table top and sofa style seating.

The brunch takes place between 11am and 3pm every Sunday. I was informed that there are 2 sittings for brunch; one from 11:30 am-1 pm and another from 1:30-3 pm. I recommend going early so you can spend the afternoon walking off the meal 😉 Reservations are a must as this brunch is quite popular among locals and tourists alike.

The Price

There are 3 different pricing options for brunch depending on what type of an experience you’re looking for. The basic brunch buffet sans alcohol is Rs 3517 nett which is around $35 Canadian (I’m using a conservative conversion rate of Rs 100 to $1 CAD however the daily rates may be higher).

If you’d like to add some alcohol to your experience Taprobane offers 2 other pricing options:

The Beer Brunch for Rs 4172 ~ $42CAD

The Bubbly Brunch for Rs 5400 ~ $54 CAD

I chose the bubbly brunch and it did not disappoint! I was able to enjoy unlimited glasses of champagne with my meal 😉 Where else can you get that for $54?! All these packages are great depending on what you’d like and I think the pricing is quite reasonable for the amount of food and beverages you get.

The Verdict

I highly recommend this brunch experience to anyone who visits Colombo. This was definitely the best brunch I’ve been to and I really enjoyed it. It’s a must-do in Colombo.

I’m hoping to be home again for Christmas and I’m already making plans to check out the Holiday edition of Cinnamon Grand’s Sunday Brunch 🙂

Inniskillin Winery Tour

Wow it’s been a while since my last post! This past weekend was a long weekend and boy was it a busy one. I decided to get away for the weekend so I spent the Victoria Day Long Weekend in beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake. I’ve been to Niagara Falls many times but I wanted to get away from the crowds and the hustle of this touristy location. NOTL is the perfect escape from the city and the crowds but it’s best known for its wineries and is one of Canada’s most famous wine regions.

I wanted to tour some wineries while I was there and I’d heard good things about Inniskillin, a Canadian winery which is famous for its Ice Wine. I got there just in time to miss the general winery tour so I opted for the Ice Wine tour. This particular tour focused on the winery’s famous ice wines and gave tasters a chance to sample 4 ice wine varieties. My favoruite was probably the sparkling vidal ice wine.

My tour guide Lynn had been in the business for 24 years and working as a guide for 17 years. She was very knowledgeable and ready to answer any questions about the wines, the wine making process and Inniskillin as a brand. She led our group through a tasting of Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Vidal Ice Wines. My favourite part of the tasting component is when she gave us some chocolate to try with the Cabernet Franc – together they taste like a chocolate covered strawberry!

The weather was just warming up last weekend so we enjoyed a beautiful day outside. For my day at the wineries I chose this striped midi length belted dress from Suzy Shier. This dress is part of their Sweet Americana collection and is so comfortable to wear. It’s cotton and breathes well on a warm day outside. I like the vintage inspired (pardon the pun) look of this dress with a sinched in waist and flared skirt. To accent the tan colour of the belt I added a pair of Lucky Brand wedge heels and a classic rattan bag, that’s all the rage for Spring and Summer.

Have you visited the wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake? If so which one is your favourite?

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Hummingbird Cake

So I guess it’s back to Winter again in Ottawa, even though it is technically Spring. Easter is one of my favourite times of the year. I love cooking a big Easter dinner for everyone. This year I was invited out to dinner so I decided to bring dessert. I wanted to try a new recipe so I opted for some southern comfort food and chose a Hummingbird Cake. This cake is full of flavour and excellent for  a Spring picnic or Summer BBQ. I was really pleased with how it turned out and everyone at the dinner loved it!

Here’s how to make it

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • A few pinches of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking power
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (if you want more of a cinnamon flavour add a full teaspoon)
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 cup of chopped pecans (divided)
  • 1 cup of ripe banana (mashed)
  • 1/2 can crushed pineapple (undrained)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 cups powered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 package  of Philadelphia Cream cheese

Instructions

Heat it up and prep the pans

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour 2 9-inche round cake pans

Mix the dry ingredients

  • In a large bowl combine the flour, 1 cup of sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon

Add the wet ingredients

  • Add in vegetable oil, vanila extract and eggs. Stir until the dry ingredients are moist

Bring in the tropics

  • Stir in the banana, pineapple and 1/2 cup of pecans until evenly mixed

Bake it!

  • Divide the batter between the 2 cake pans and place in the oven for 25 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 mins and them move them to wire racks to cool.

Ice ice baby

  • To make the cream cheese frosting: beat the butter with an electric mixer until softened and add powdered sugar gradually.
  • Add vanilla extract and salt and mix until smooth
  • Turn your mixer setting to Medium and add the cream cheese in 1 piece at a time. Mix until all the cream cheese has been incorporated.
  • Once the cakes have cooled spread the frosting between the layers of cake and cover the top and sides of the cake. Sprinkle the other half of the chopped pecans over the top of the cake

ENJOY!

 

 

Dubai Diaries Part 5: High Tea at Burj Al Arab

Tallest atrium in the world

Selfie before heading up to the Skyview Lounge

Welcome bubbles and dates

Shrimp salad

Quiche

Savoury sandwiches

Lemon sorbet

Sweet treats

Burj Royale – signature cocktail

View from the top

My trip Dubai was probably one of the most memorable adventures I’ve been on. The last post in my Dubai Diairies series is all about my High Tea experience at the most world’s most luxurious hotel the Burj Al Arab.

High tea at the Burj Al Arab was quite an experience. This hotel is probably the most opulent and luxurious place I’ve ever seen. In order to get inside the hotel you either need to stay there for a cool price of $1900 CAD a night (based on booking.com) or have a reservation at one of their restaurants. There’s security at the gate to verify your reservation, so sneaking in is not an option 😉 Once inside you can take some time to admire the lobby and the gold detailing on practically everything. If you wait long enough you can see the fountain show – the hotel has a large fountain on the second floor of the lobby which keeps a beat and periodically shoots a huge stream of water up the at ceiling. This ceiling is probably the highest I’ve seen in my life and the hotel is said to have the world’s tallest atrium.

I made my reservation for tea at the Skyview Bar but there’s also a high tea serving at a restaurant called Sahn Eddar which is located in the atrium of the hotel. The Skyview Bar is located on the 27th floor of the hotel. I’d highly recommend the Skyview Bar over the atrium restaurant as the view is spectacular. However there is a minimum age requirement and you have to be 21 to enter the bar.

The high tea consisted of 7 courses (pictured above) and came with glass of sparkling wine. I was happy to get a window table which needs to be reserved in advance. Aside from the food and tea offerings the Skyview Bar also has a list of signature cocktails. I opted for the Burj Royale as it was reminiscent of my favourite cocktail the Kir Royale. I really enjoyed my high tea at Skyview Bar and it was truly a unique experience. It’s definitely a once (or twice) in a lifetime thing and I would strongly recommend it 🙂

 

 

 

Dubai Diaries Part 4: Desert Safari

 

You can’t go to Dubai without going on a desert safari! On my fourth day in Dubai I decided to be really adventurous and go out to the desert! This excursion was so much fun! There are many different safari companies to choose from and you can easily book your excursion ahead of time, in fact I’d highly recommend it. I booked mine through a personal contact but you can find desert safari packages online.

My excursion started around 3pm in the afternoon, typically a desert safari can last about 6-8 hours depending on what activities you select. We were picked up at our hotel in a range rover and drove about a 45 mins to an hour to get to the desert. Our first stop was a well known tourist stop where you could try out some ATVs, buy a souvenir or get dressed in a traditional Arabian headdress. I decided against the ATVs as it was raining a bit the afternoon of my excursion so the sand was a bit wet. Can you believe it, I actually saw the rain in the desert?!

Following the ATV stop we headed in to the desert for some dune bashing! This was the scariest and most fun part of the excursion. Dune bashing is like being on a roller coaster ride that lasts 30 mins or more! Here’s the part where your seat belt really keeps you from being thrown around the SUV. If you have a back injury or are prone to motion sickness then dune bashing may not be the best activity for you and you can choose to opt out of it when you book your excursion and choose a package that doesn’t include it. I typically never get motion sick or dizzy on roller coasters but this experience left me feeling a little disoriented. As some of my friends were feeling a little dizzy we decided to stop and take some photos in the desert. The fresh air really helped alleviate any discomfort brought on by the dune bashing. After that it was time to head to a nearby Bedouin camp for dinner.

Our third and final stop was the desert camp. There were a number of different activities at the camp including camel riding, dressing up in traditional clothing, shopping for souvenirs and henna tattoos. We settled in for a desert BBQ dinner followed by a Tonoura Show and Belly Dancing.

I really enjoyed my afternoon out in the desert and would recommend the desert safari excursion to anyone.

Pro Tip: You can opt for a private or shared safari excursion. I chose the private package and it was $300 USD which we split between 3 people. This price included pick and drop off at the hotel in a private SUV, dune bashing, camel rides and dinner.

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Dubai Diaries Part 3: Old Souk

I’d heard that the markets in Dubai were something I should not miss! On day three in Dubai I decided to check out the Old Souk or old market. I stayed at the Radisson Blu Deira Creek which is located across the street from the creek itself.  I went for a walk in Creek Park and noticed that there were water taxis going across the creek. On a whim I decided to grab a water taxi (called an Abra) and visit the Old Souk. The taxis are very inexpensive and the ride is very pleasant. The trip over to Old Souk reminded me a bit of a water taxi ride along the grand canal in Venice. I enjoyed the architecture and the older buildings in Dubai.

Once I got the to my stop it was time to explore the market. Old Souk is truly an experience. There are so many people walking along the narrow streets lined with vendors and shops. It’s a busy place with many vendors calling out to tourists to come see their wares. You certainly get hawked at and shouted at but it’s all part of the experience. The market has many different kinds of shops ranging from spice and sweet shops to souvenir and clothing stalls. There’s also a few places to grab a quick bite to eat.

I decided to dress more conservatively on the whole while in Dubai. For my day at the market I chose a black jumpsuit from Forever 21 paired with this trendy pom pom bag. I found these cute block heels at The Bay which complemented the jumpsuit perfectly. Although it was the Winter in Dubai the sun was still out and rather strong so I decided to bring a sunhat with me 🙂

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Dubai Diaries Part 2: At.Mosphere

Forever Rose – inspired by Beauty and the Beast

First Course – Beet Salad with Chocolate Soil

Main Course – Beef Tenderloin

Signature Dessert- Sauteed Bananas with Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Lava Cake

 

I arrived in Dubai on my birthday (Feb 28) and it was quite late so I decided to have my birthday dinner on March 1st. I wanted to go somewhere special. I discovered a restaurant called At.Mosphere through an internet search. Located on top of the Burj Khalifa the tallest building in the world, this restaurant is on the 122 floor and is the tallest restaurant in the world!

The view from the top is truly spectacular as you look down on the night lights of Dubai.  At. Mosphere is a must do in Dubai (in my opinion). It’s literally the best view in Dubai. The restaurant contains a lounge and dining room and offers dining options for high tea, cocktails, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

My birthday dinner was truly an experience to remember. The waitstaff at the restaurant are expertly trained and offer great recommendations regarding the menu options and things to look out for as you sit by the window. One thing to keep in mind is that the restaurant comes with a minimum spend. The prices are listed on the website and tables located near the windows have a higher minimum spend. A typical meal with cocktails and dessert will cost you around $300 but it is well worth the splurge. I chose a 3 course option for dinner but the waitstaff are very helpful in making recommendations according to your preferences. Our waitress had some great tips for us regarding the menu (you can choose from a 3, 5 or 7 course meal as well as a la carte options) options and even recommended a dessert that wasn’t listed on the menu. It was fantastic! She also took us around the front of the restaurant to see the dancing fountain show (located at the Dubai Mall).

At.Mosphere has a strict dress code of smart elegant and most diners were dressed in formal attire, although I did see a few gentlemen in short sleeved shirts. For my outfit I decided to go all out and wore this fabulous red gown 🙂 I figured it’s better to be overdressed than under-dressed. The moment I saw this dress in the window I was reminded of Julia Roberts’ red opera dress in Pretty Woman 😉 I found the perfect necklace to complement this dress at Unique Accessories. It added just a bit of sparkle and didn’t overpower the dress. If you’re looking for a truly unique and elegant dining experience then be sure to check out At.Mosphere at the Burj Khalifa.

 

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Dubai Diaries Part 1: Dubai Miracle Garden

If you follow me on instagram you probably know I was in Dubai last week 😉 I decided to get away for my birthday this year and Dubai was a place I’d always wanted to visit. I was there for about 4 days but was able to pack in a lot of sightseeing. I’ll be chronicling my visit to Dubai and my outfits in this new series called Dubai Diaries.

My first stop in Dubai was the Dubai Miracle Garden. I’d heard so much about this place and was told it was a must-see in Dubai, and it did not disappoint. The garden was truly beautiful and I was overwhelmed by the amount of flowers. If you thought Mosaik in Ottawa was great well I’m sorry to say you haven’t seen anything until you see this garden. The exhibits were spectacular and there were plenty of places to grab a quick snack and rest as you toured the garden. One of the exhibits in the garden even set a Guiness world record. The exhibit in the shape of an Emirates Airbus A380 airplane is the  largest flower arrangement in the world.

I decided to play it safe and dress conservatively while I was in Dubai. For my visit to the garden I chose a midi length ruffle skirt  paired with my signature Weekend Fashionista t-shirt in white. I opted for a pair of Lucky Brand wedge heels as I would be doing a lot of walking and I wanted to be comfortable. I tied in the camel colour of my shoes with this Ellen and James rectangle bag. Although I visited during the Winter, Dubai can still get pretty warm during the day so I decided to bring a sunhat to keep cool during the garden tour 🙂

Pro Tip: The garden can get quite busy during the day so it’s best to go earlier in the morning if you want to get some nice photos free of other visitors. I visited the garden around 9:30 am right when it opened.

Admission fee: Admission to the garden costs 45 Dirhams which is about $15 CAD. Remember to keep your ticket as a souvenir.

 

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