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Thursday, 21 September 2017

Celebrating the colors of Navratri in Canada!

‘Navratri’ the festival of nine-nights starts today. During these nine auspicious days, Goddess Durga, is worshipped in each of her nine forms and each day has a unique ritual associated to it. It is one of the longest Hindu festivals celebrated all over India in different styles. It is a celebration of good over evil! 

Having grown up in a metropolitan city like Mumbai, I witnessed Navratri being celebrated in several different ways and with a lot of pomp and zeal. The rituals are more are less common across; people clean and decorate the house to welcome the Goddess in their homes, consume only vegetarian food, some even fast for 9 days, offer prayers (Pooja) and food (Prasad) to the goddess twice a day and play garba and dandiya (dance form originating from the state of Gujrat) in the evenings. Navratri is close to my heart because all these rituals were followed by my mom, and me and my sisters grew up observing and celebrating these rituals with a lot of enthusiasm. Every year I look forward to celebrating Navratri because of the various fun things associated with it. 

One of my favorite things about this festival is the celebration of 9 colors. It is believed that one can show their respect and devotion for the goddesses by wearing the 9 colors (one color dedicated to each day) during all the nine days of Navratri.  All men and women across the country try their best to adorn the color of the day, particularly women who dress up in their best sarees and traditional outfits. It’s a beautiful sight to see the spirit of joy and happiness everywhere. Every year I look up the list of Navratri colors in advance and make my wardrobe ready to adorn the designated colors on all 9 days. This year too I wanted to do something similar, but living away from home comes with it’s own challenges. It is a bit challenging, as I cannot flaunt my desi outfits at work every day. However, I wanted to preserve the Navratri tradition in Vancouver. So, I came up with 9 professional/office wear looks that I will adorn for the next 9 days. With my current wardrobe, I somehow managed to incorporate the colors in my outfit.

The 9 colors of Navratri 2017 are as follows:

Day 1 - 21 September 2017 Yellow
Day 2 - 22 September 2017 Green
Day 3 - 23 September 2017 Grey
Day 4 - 24 September 2017 Orange
Day 5 - 25 September 2017 White
Day 6 - 26 September 2017 Red
Day 7 - 27 September 2017 Blue
Day 8 - 28 September 2017 Pink
Day 9 - 29 September 2017 Purple

Here are my 9 looks adhering to the 9 colors of Navratri 

Day 1: Yellow

Day 2: Green

Day 3: Grey

Day 4: Orange

Day 5: White

Day 6: Red

Day 7: Blue

Day 8: Pink

Day 9: Purple

Hope you enjoyed reading and watching. Let me know in comments if you have your 9 color outfits sorted for Navratri this year.

For So-Saree

Thursday, 14 September 2017

5 Fabulous Indian Sarees for Upcoming Navratri Celebrations

Indian festival season is all about brightness and colors which fills our lives with happiness and love. The family bonds, relationships and love for life are majorly seen during this time of the year. Also, what we observe the most is the worth and value of Indian traditional dresses and customs during these merrymaking days. Let’s discover the array of gorgeous Indian sarees which fits right and apt to match the ethnicity and pleasant vibes of the festival season. There you go!!!

From traditional bandhani sarees to trendy lehenga style sarees, every type and design is featured
to match the fashion needs and style statement of every individual. Since the value of colours and
prints is unavoidable during the special days of Navratra, you will find all the desired hues and
patterns over here. Explore the magnificent ensemble of traditional Indian sarees here and pick
what matches your personal style to live the best festival affairs. Also, make sure that you pick the
right kind of jewellery and accessories to match the outfit and the theme of the occasion. It’s time to
make heads turn around and rock the Navratra gala.

Blend of Hues

The bright colour combination and intricate detailing over the bottom of the saree makes it the most
preferred and perfect choice for fashion lovers to make the best of the festival time. Plus, the
designer blouse and beautiful pallu are the highlights of this ravishing staple. Buy this stunning
online designer saree from IndiaRush and get ready to strut like a diva.

Magic of Embroidery

The charming blend of cream and pink shade will make your day and is simply the best choice to
exhibit your classic ethnic avatar and feminine appeal. Also, the georgette fabric makes it easy to
manage and extremely comfortable to carry all day along. Wear matching jewellery and sassy hairdo
to complement your attire and flare your overall personality instantly.

Forever Charm of Pink

The Bollywood designer saree is what you need to embrace the solemnity of festival season and
bring the best out of your flawless personality. You can buy it for Navratri celebration, Durga Puja or
Diwali depending on your personal style and taste. Available in best possible price, don’t let this one
slip out of your hands.

Subtle & Sassy

Whoever wants to keep it subtle and sorted should pick this online designer saree without blinking
and make an everlasting impression on onlookers. The simply, sassy appeal and pleasing allure of
this beautiful staple is matchless and forever unbeatable. Grab it!!!

Graceful Bandhani

The most popular and fascinating style of Rajasthani culture will never let you down and is
undoubtedly the perfect choice for any festival gala or traditional celebration. Bandhani printed
sarees look gorgeous on every age woman and are specially designed for family events and big
celebrations. Wear these ethnic dresses with vintage jewellery and ornaments to get the desired
appeal and call it a statement.

Friday, 1 September 2017

My Blueberry Treats!!

A few days ago I wrote a blog post about my first blueberry u-pick trip experience in Canada. It was one of the most fun things I did this summer. If you haven’t read the post yet, read it now!

Apart from being highly nutritious and a powerful source of antioxidants, blueberry is an amazingly flavoursome fruit.
 Today I’m going to share all about what I did with my blueberries from the u-pick trip.

The best thing I could have done with the fresh and juicy berries was share it with other people. They were so delectable and so much better than the store-bought berries that I had to share it with my close friends. And when they concurred with me that it was the finest berries they’d had this year, I knew I wasn’t the only one after all. 

My favourite kind of breakfast these days is Greek yoghurt with granola, nuts and dried cranberries. Since it’s the berry season, I sometimes replace the dried cranberries with fresh strawberries, raspberries or blueberries. Almost for a week after my u-pick trip I gorged on the blueberries for breakfast. I made it into smoothies, milkshakes or even had it plain with yoghurt. 

Yoghurt parfait with blueberries

Ingredients: Vanilla Greek yoghurt, honey & almond granola and fresh blueberries.

Blueberry and Banana Smoothie

Ingredients: Non-fat Greek yoghurt, fresh blueberries, banana, honey and Ice

Blueberry scones using the Tesco Scone mix

Tesco Scone Mix was available at the Urban Fare grocery stores for a limited period during summer. I was quite familiar with the brand Tesco as I spent a few glorious years in London buying my everyday grocery from Tesco. 

Tesco scone mix, milk and fresh blueberries. Using these 3 ingredients, I made some really yummy scones in no time. 

Unpack the Tesco mix and the add 1 cup of milk and blueberries to prepare a dough. Knead the mixture very lightly to form a soft, smooth dough. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to approximately 2cm thick and cut into 8 - 9 rounds.

Pre-heat the oven to 220°C/Fan 200°C/Gas Mark 7 and lightly grease a baking sheet. Place on the baking sheet, glaze with milk or beaten egg and cook in the top of the oven for 12-15 minutes until well risen or golden brown. Cool on a cooling rack.

   And scones are ready! Serve with clotted cream and your favourite jam.

After almost a week of devouring on the sweet and juicy blueberries my stock finished. Thank god, I decided to freeze a small bunch in the very beginning so I could use them later. Luckily berries freeze well and can be used in smoothies or making jams. I used my frozen batch of blueberries to make the perfectly healthy frozen desert. I guess I almost saved the best for the last!

Blueberry Popsicles

Using the following simple ingredients,

Blend the yoghurt, blueberries and honey (vanilla extract optional) together until very smooth. Pour them in popsicle moulds and freeze for at least 6 to 7 hours to overnight!

It’s healthy and my go-to after a hot and sweaty workout!

I hope you enjoyed reading. Let me know in the comments if you end up making any of these.

For So-Saree Canada

Monday, 28 August 2017

When in Switzerland, drink like the Swiss

Hi girls! Having come back from a wonderful two week family vacation in Switzerland, while I was spoilt for subjects/places that I could base my blog on, I decided on a slightly off-charter but a very interesting one to initiate - The water fountains of Switzerland!

Just to set the background, we took our flight from New Delhi since we got a great deal flying out of there. So we booked our domestic Mumbai to Delhi flight separate from the international one. Even with the deal, the flight ticket booking was just the start of our realization that Switzerland is one of the costliest countries in Europe (possibly the world!). Fast forward to our trip, our next realization was that food easily takes up a major chunk of your daily budget while travelling (just as a comparative – while a milk coffee costs about €2 in Germany, it easily costs more than CHF 4.50 in Switzerland). Although, in most cities in Europe tap water happens to potable, one might not have access to that, except when in hotels/ restaurants. So other than buying bottled water, there are not many viable options if you plan to be outside throughout the day during your vacation (which would be about 95% of the time, right?)

So it came as a pleasant surprise, when we were informed on our first day itself in Basel, Switzerland that we could drink water safely from any of the public fountains across the country. Water supply across Switzerland comes directly from the mighty Alps. Even the rivers, lakes, creeks and all small and big water bodies that we encountered have such crystal clear blue-green waters that you can sometimes see the rocks on the bed!

Coming back to the water fountains, not only is the water potable but it is refreshingly cold – almost like snatching up a bottle from your refrigerator! After a while we even stopped refilling our water bottles from the hotel bathroom taps, as it was just not comparable to the cool glacial fountain water.

The fountains are ample in quantity and can be found in almost all the city squares and piazzas, so we really did not have to worry about limiting our water consumption in fear of not finding a fountain nearby.

But the feature that caught my intrigue the most was that these are not just utility taps but works of art. Each one is vintage, decorated with flowers and carvings and almost unique. I don’t recollect any two fountains being similar to each other in terms of their looks! So not only are you getting cool Alpine water to quench your thirst but you are also being treated to a visual feast of old-world sculptures without visiting any museum!!

So the next time you are in the paradise that is Switzerland, just keep an empty water bottle handy and treat yourself at the numerous charming works of art. Now if only Lindt could pick up a hint from this, right? ;)
Gauri Patwardhan
for So-Saree

Sunday, 20 August 2017

My first Blueberry U-pick trip in Canada!

My first Blueberry U-Pick trip in Canada!

British Columbia is such a beautiful province, and I’m so happy to call this place my new home. This is my first summer in BC and I have come to realize that if there’s a time you want to visit BC then it must be the summer. It has just about everything for great outdoor escapades; beautiful mountains, scenic lakes and magical rainforests. It’s the best time to be out there enjoying the nature. Of the countless reasons, why I think summers are the best in BC, the one topping the charts these days is the fresh fruit and berry season. I love berries and honestly, who doesn’t! Being able to pick them out yourself is a unique expedition! For those who have lived around BC for a while, berry picking is a common summer activity. While I grew up in the city of Mumbai, the pleasures of plucking/picking fresh fruits from the farms was only limited to the time we visited our native place during summer vacation. Which wasn’t very often for me!

Luckily enough, a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of going to a BC Blueberry U-pick trip with a group of bloggers at @Emma Lea Farms in Delta, BC. It was my first ever Blueberry U-pick trip in BC and I was totally excited about it. A fellow blogger friend was kind enough to give me a ride to the farm. It was a perfect sunny day and my first impression of the farm was, WOW! It looked beautiful. The ice-cream shop serving farm fresh berry ice-creams, an adjoining patio, a big play area for the kids and a farm full of fresh berries was a perfect arrangement for a day picnic. There’s also a farm store where you can buy freshly picked fruits of the day.

Just after a short introduction by the owners of the farm, we started on our berry-picking expedition. They directed us to the blueberry u-pick area and gave us a few tips on how to pick the berries in the most effective and quick fashion, without causing too much waste. On our way to the u-pick area we learnt a few things about the varieties of berries that exist and the different ways in which they’re grown to get the best out of the fruit.

One of the interesting facts that I leant was why most of the berries found at Supermarkets aren’t sweet. Most of the fresh produce in the city of Vancouver comes from different parts of BC or Mexico. To reach the stores while they’re still ripe, the berries are prematurely plucked off the plant and not allowed to ripe on the plant. Having said that, the prematurely plucked berries continue to ripe while they’re being transported to the stores, however they lack the desired level of sweetness which makes them sour. When you go to a farm you only pick the ones that are ripe and has full flavours.

Now you know why you should buy your favourite berries from the local farms or a farmer’s market in the city. There are lots of farmer’s markets in Vancouver during summers, just look for the closest one.

It was lovely to see little kids holding their small pails and enthusiastically trying to pick their berries. They looked so happy and content after filling the pails to their heart’s content. It’s a perfect fun filled summer activity for kids. At this point I quickly made a mental note to bring my nephew Ayaan to a U-pick berry trip when he’ll be visiting me in Vancouver. Something that he would probably never get to do in Mumbai.

It wasn’t difficult to pick the best blueberries as most of the produce was fresh and big. The task would have been easier if I had a small bucket instead of tiffin boxes. A lesson learnt for next time! After almost two hours of my little excursion at the farm I picked enough blueberries that would easily last me for a week or more. The berry prices at the farm were so reasonable that I couldn’t resist the temptation of buying some cherries from the farm shop. I must admit these were the best blueberries and cherries I had this season.

Picking your own berries from the farms is such an authentic BC thing to do and I’m glad I got to do it this summer with this bunch of enthusiastic mom’s and bloggers. I’ve been looking forward to great blueberry recipes shared by these awesome moms on their blogs and the one’s that I’ve already come across are so innovative and unique. Do watch out for my next blog post about 'what I did with the blueberries I picked on this trip'.

The trip ended on a sweet note as we treated ourselves to some delicious berry-flavoured ice-cream at the farm. 
I had a chocolate ice-cream with mixed berries (the berries were buried under the scoop) 

I am already planning my next u-pick trip before the end of the berry season this year!! Have you ever been to a u-pick berry trip yet?? Would love to know your experience. Please share in the comments!

Special thanks to Aziz Dhamani Photography for capturing some of our special moments on this trip!

SOnali for So-Saree Canada 

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Travel Post: Day trip to Whistler, BC, Canada

Hey, I’m back with another blog post about my life in Canada. This time I’ll be sharing with you my dreamlike experience at Whistler.

It’s a known fact that Canada is the most beautiful country in the world as all its 10 provinces are blessed with stunning natural beauty. British Columbia is not just one of the most beautiful provinces but also has the mildest temperature as compared to the other provinces in the country. This is one of the most important reasons why I decided to live in BC. On my very first day in Vancouver I witnessed a few glimpses of it’s incredible beauty! The sight of the ocean and the beautiful snow clad mountains from downtown Vancouver left me astounded.The view was exceedingly gorgeous, as if someone painted the most beautiful city in the universe and placed me right there to devour it all. The mountains surrounding Vancouver are well-known for their epic snowfalls. So much so that the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games were hosted by Vancouver. The venues stretched from the streets of Metro Vancouver to Whistler, a world-class ski resort that is consistently ranked among the best on the planet.

Of all the beautiful destinations that the locals spoke about, Whistler was the most recommended touristy destination. It’s home to Whistler Blackcomb, one of the largest ski resorts in North America. It’s spectacular setting offers a vast array of outdoor adventures during summers and winters, such as hiking, camping, kayaking, skiing, snowboarding to name a few. Naturally, Whistler made to my ‘must visit’ list in BC.

Although summer arrived quite late in Vancouver, it was in full swing by the mid of June. It felt like a perfect time to visit the mountains. Due to its proximity and easy accessibility from Downtown Vancouver, I planned a day trip.The2-hour ride from Vancouver to Whistler is one of the most scenic routes in Canada. Most people chose to drive as it’s an easy route and gives you the flexibility to stop by at various viewpoints like Squamish, Shannon Falls etc. and cherish the panoramic views. For those who don’t own a vehicle, car hire options are easily available in Vancouver. Also, there are plenty of reliable and affordable bus shuttles that offer round trips from Vancouver to Whistler.

For obvious reasons, I was excited about my trip but I didn’t really build high hopes, as I truly believe, raising the bar too high often leaves you disappointed. I have been too lethargic to get my driving license done and had to pay the price, I was left with no choice other than taking a bus ride. A couple of things I booked in advance were the round-trip bus tickets and the Peak to Peak Gondola day pass which I got at a discounted price on Groupon.

The bus ride was impressive, dreamy coastline on the left and high mountains on the right put me in a dilemma as to which side to look at and while I was doing my best to keep up with both the sides time flew and I was already at the Whistler’s Gateway loop. It would be an understatement to say that the place is stunningly beautiful. I made my way to the Whistler’s information center, it’s amazing how organised these centers are. The lady I spoke with was very helpful and gave complete information about Whistler and the wide array of activities it caters. She also gave me a map and marked the significant spots on it. By the end of my conversation with her, I was already cussing myself as I didn’t do my home work about the summer activities I could indulge in and came unprepared. I had imagined Whistler to be a touristy spot with more of sightseeing to offer, but I was so wrong, there is so much to do that one needs to spend at least 2 days if interested in a couple of outdoor or adventurous activities. Whether its summer or winter, this quaint village offers everything from relaxing spas and scenic strolls to adrenaline pumping activities and breathtaking views.

Let me take you to on a pictorial tour of my experience at Whistler Blackcomb.
At Whistler’s Gateway loop where the bus dropped me.

Some live music
After talking to the woman at the Information center I was almost certain that I would be falling short of time to explore Whistler in a day. So, I rushed towards the peak to peak gondola ride entrance, I wanted to make the most out the time I had. Little did I know that the quaint little shops on my way would lure me into an unplanned shopping spree. It was only after an hour of shopping souvenirs and other needless stuff, sanity was restored and I was back on track.

Outside the shop
As I reached my destination, a long queue was awaiting me.
This world record breaking PEAK TO PEAK Gondola ride offers a 360-degree stunning view of the Whistler Village, mountain peaks, lakes, glaciers and forests. The ticket includes various open-air chairlifts and gondolas that take you to the top of the mountains and from one to the other. Undoubtedly this is the most popular activity and a must do if you go to Whistler.

To kill some time while standing in the queue.

Eventually I got into the ride that was supposed to take us to the peak of Whistler mountain.
The view on our way up was breathtaking!

.As we got closer to the peak the snow got denser.

At the peak of Whistler mountain.
Enjoying my fish and chips at the Roundhouse Lodge restaurant on the peak of Whistler with a gorgeous view of the snow-clad valley.
Couldn’t resist the temptation of having an ice-cream even on the mountains.

After taking a few more pictures at the peak of Whistler mountain I moved on to take the Gondola ride to the peak of Blackcomb mountain. The ride between the 2 peaks was exhilarating.


View of the forest and river between the 2 mountains.
The view from the Blackcomb mountain cannot be described in words. You have to see it to believe it.

One of my fav pics of the day.
How can you resist taking pics at this beautiful location?
Spotted a few marmots (large squirrel like species) on the peak. They live in mountainous areas like these.
Fun fact: The Whistler ski resort got its name in the late 1960s to represent the whistling calls of the marmots, which are also known as "whistlers", that live in the alpine areas of the mountain.

One of the most adrenaline rushing experience of the day was the Open-Air Chairlift ride to the
Whistler Mountain Inukshuk. The mountain climb was real steep which gave me the shivers, and the open chairlift makes you feel as if you’re flying.

The Iconic Statue of Inukshuk was created for Whistler as a Symbol of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games held in BC. The stacked stone statue of a human form stands on a rock precipice, overlooking all of the Whistler valley, Black Tusk peak, and the Whistler summit.
The Inukshuk .
The view of the Black Tusk peak from Whistler mountain.

After an eventful day of true alpine mountain experience, it was about time to take the gondola ride back to the base of the mountain. Although it was quite an amazing experience I do regret not being able to indulge in adventure activities. I’m already looking forward to my next trip to Whistler which will be planned around activities like Zipline, Hiking and Bungee Jumping.
Grabbing a quick bite before I could get onto my 8pm shuttle back to Vancouver.
Vine and Dine at La Bocca Restaurant, Whistler

 For So-Saree Canada


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