Rajasthani Notebooks

24 Nov

Travelling in Rajasthan, one of my favorite places, I discovered these leather-bound notebooks. They are crafted by hand by local artisans and are designed in Rajasthani tradition.


Camels, Elephants, Ganeshas, and Peacocks are intertwined and framed in intricate patterns. The notebooks are gorgeous to the touch, throwing you back to the times of the moguls.


Rustic camel leather has it’s own character, giving it an old-world-feel. You can imagine the stories that were written while travelling the deserts in another time.

This Blue Elephant sketchbook has thick stock paper perfect for sketching, planning, writing and scrapbooking. It is my Favorite thing. Just touching it I feel like I am touching ancient history.


Smaller notebooks for jotting lists, for kids play, and for doodling,  are cute and easy to travel with, fitting perfectly in your purse or bag.

You can get yours and buy these as one of a kind gifts for Christmas at www.sarikastyle.com . Enter ‘thingsilove’ as a promo code during check-out to receive a 20% discount off every book- valid until Dec 31st, 2011. Order before December 2nd for Christmas delivery.


Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur

8 Nov

Lake Palace at sunset

Enter into a dreamland of Maharajas and Maharanis by staying at the Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur,  Rajasthan, often called the Venice of the East. From the airport pick-up to the wave goodbye on the journey home, the Lake Palace will comfort you with grace and style. Be revived with a cool towel and a history lesson as you ride in an AC car to the dock for your boat ride to the Palace which seemly floats on the water in the centre of Lake Pichola.

Front of Lake Palace  

After a refreshing bottle of water and a smooth and simple security check, you board the boat for the beginning of your stay as a guest of the Maharaja at his summer home. Stepping off the boat you are greeted with a smiling curled moustached man wearing his gold turban and shining personality. He escorts you carrying an umbrella to shade you from the sun when suddenly rose petals fall from the sky  paving under your feet into the welcome of staff with hands joined saying “Namaste”. If you look up before entering, you just might catch a glimpse of the man on the roof who after tossing handfuls of rose petals to greet you, peers over for a peek with a cheshire grin.

Upon entering your room at the palace, you are aware of being enveloped into a time and place of the royal family. Adorned with ornate Rajasthani details the senses are overcome with the art of beautiful wall paintings and alcoves. Every detail pleasing to the eye as colours swirl and flow through pillows, furniture and walls setting the mood for relaxation and luxury, stress and tension begone. Now you are a guest of the Maharaja, and your only concern be to enjoy the food, spa, lounge, and smiles provided by the staff, who are genuinely happy to make you feel like royalty.

Swing in suite        

A flutist sings a soulful tune at dusk, highlighted by the setting sun behind him as he sits atop the terrace. Rajasthani dishes are presented and detailed by joyfully knowledgeable servers, each taste savoury of spices, lovingly simmered for hours. Sipping “Octopussy” martinis (the Bond flick was filmed here) infused with Jasmine, go down way too easily leaving an exotic aroma under your nostrils as you gaze across the lake at the lights and life of the city of Udaipur, music tickling your ears. This is life at the Palace. Swimming in its charming pool, visiting the City Palace, home to the Maharaja and his family, shopping in little stalls for marble, silver, books and textiles, and watching local dancers and singers perform, makes up your days. It’s a visit that will remain with you long after you’ve departed.

Great breakfast   

Inspirational? Completely. India is a place I often tell people they must visit at least once in their lifetimes. The Taj reputation for service is unsurpassed. The meaning of five-star is truly actualized by a staff who know your desires before even you. The Lake Palace is in a place of its own, spirited by beauty, history and tradition. The magic of the Taj Lake Palace is something not to miss.

Visit Taj Lake Palace- Click   Buy Notebooks from Udaipur – Notebooks

The C.N.E!

5 Sep

The Classic Swings

The Canadian National Exhibition. A marker and memory maker for most of our childhoods. You know when it opens that summer’s end is near. Attending the very last day of the Ex, you go on every ride possible, eat as much cotton candy and candy apples that you can, begging your parents to play one more carnival game in the hope they can bag the big prize to take home. ‘Cause when it’s done, and that last ride comes to a stop, you know that summer is truly over and the next day you will have to drag your sleepy tired butt out of bed to go to the first day of school.

Once I became a young adult, I would still visit, as I worked nearby and there’s nothing better than letting off steam with a group of friends, having  a few drinks then enjoying the rides and trying our sloppy hands at the games. It was an adult fun of discovering different foods in the food building (back in the day when there was something from every country), and shopping in the international building that offered booths of handicrafts from all over the world.

Sometime after that, I didn’t go anymore. Through my late 20s and early thirties the appeal was gone, things were the same and held no fresh enticement. Then my niece became old enough to really enjoy the fairgrounds and now here I am again, back to looking forward to the CNE each year with anticipation, creating special memories between my niece and I. There are new attractions like the wave rider, a fast moving wave pool designed to challenge and teach you surfing skills. The old stalwarts are still there, carnies yelling out to come win with them, cotton candy, candy apples, human cannonballs, and of course those very same rides I myself rode as a kid, the Zipper, the Scrambler, the Waterlogger and my favourite the Polar Express. If I look closely I could swear they are the same carnies as well!! Now each year I see the wonder and fun in my niece’s eyes and know I am helping to create her own nostalgia for the place.

Today is the last day of the CNE. I won’t enjoy the fairgrounds but will go and see the air show that performs every last weekend of the CNE. I guess summer really is coming to a close and tomorrow I’ll have to wake up and drag my tired older butt to work!!!

Polar Express     


Marjorie is a Gem!

6 Aug

Amy Winehouse with Marjorie

Caribbean Mama Marjorie Lambert is a gem. I met Marjorie on a visit to St. Lucia in Jan 2011. I was at the Sandals Resort with my husband and we took a tour on horseback down to the beach to ride bareback on the water. It was on this beach in Cas-en-bas that Marjorie has her little shack.

After hitting the beach we went up to her bar where four older British tourists were seated at a table waiting for their meals. The plates arrived in short order and the scent of spices and chicken wafed in the air. It got our attention, as we had been craving good caribbean cooking since we got to the island and having been in the resort we had not yet experienced much authenticity in meals. We started chatting with Marjorie who has a laid back and humourous personality. She told us of how she came to St.Lucia and basically stayed on this beach til she built this little place to serve simple food. The beach was a small alcove more off the beaten track, not somewhere you’d see crowds. We said we would go and return the horses but we’d skip out on the drive back to the hotel and get a cab back for lunch. That we did.

We had a few drinks, fruit punch of Marjorie’s making and told her, when asked what we’d like for lunch, to just prepare us a typical Caribbean homecooked chicken meal. Go all out on the spices we were not afraid. 🙂 As we ate one of the best meals we had had all week, chicken, rice, greens and beans, Marjorie told us some of her stories, of being a single mom to a grown son who lives here in Canada. She likes meeting new people and being with tourists. She is comfortable with what she had.  She was a warm and genuine person with whom we felt immediately comfortable. It’s a calm and serene little place, her spot on the beach.

After our meal she arranged a cab and as we waited some of the guys hanging at the beach wanted to chat us up. They were smokers and trinket sellers. If they got too chummy with us Marjorie would come out and shoo us back in. She was watching out for us, in her own subtle way. 🙂

I was not surprised then when I saw an article on Amy Winehouse and how she had a friend in St Lucia whom she called her Caribbean Mama. It is the same Marjorie whom we met on our trip. The straight talking mother figure was a comfort to Amy while she recouped on the island. Amy stayed nearby becoming fast friends with Marjorie and the families and friends by the beach.  Her time on the island has been said to be cleansing and rehabilitating, and she would return to England refreshed. She had said she wanted to live on St. Lucia and never return. I’m sure that’s somehow because of Marjorie. I know Marjorie was very shocked and saddened by Amy’s passing. My sympathies for your loss, Marjorie. You are a good and honest woman.

So here’s a tip of the hat to you Marjorie. You are an everyday person who is inspiring in your own way. My husband and I look forward to meeting you again. This time we’ll stay  closer and visit every day for lunch!

Read about Marjorie in these two UK articles: Contact Music  Mirror

And on:  YouTube video

Marjorie's place at left- surrounded by market

The Spritz! Summer’s great thirst quencher!!

28 Jul
 a bottle of Aperol

Image via Wikipedia

On my last trip to Limone, Italy in May, we discovered a fabulous summer drink that left us refreshed among the hot sweaty tourist crowds. Cafe after cafe we saw people with this orange tinged drink with ice. Asking a server what it was, we were told it’s a very popular drink called “Spritz”. My husband has always enjoyed a Campari or a Martini Rossi as his pre dinner drink, I myself found them to be a little too bitter for my taste buds. But we saw so many people enjoying this drink that I took the plunge and we finally had a couple of our own.

Yes it is a bitter drink, but not so strong in bitter taste that I couldn’t enjoy it. Instead of something sweet or a martini- which can get you down the drunk road much quicker than I want sometimes- this drink was crisp, refreshing, tasty and didn’t linger on the tongue in the summer heat and humidity. Instead it was like popping under a waterfall in the middle of a hot day while exploring Limone, giving us the gas to keep going the rest of the day.

After days drinking the Spritz, I found I could also enjoy a Campari soda! Maybe the Spritz acclimatized my tongue to enjoy a bitter splash? I highly recommend you visit your liquor store to see if they carry Aperol- the orange bitter liquor from Italy.

The recipe- 2oz Aperol, 2oz Prosecco, and a splash or more- your preference- of sparkling water

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An Aperol Spritz!


Ristorante L’Angoletto, Rome

9 Jun

Chef Domenico Caputo and Staff

The Ristorante L’Angoletto in Rome is my favourite restaurant whenever My husband and I visit the city. It is steps from the Pantheon- Piazza Rondanini 51, anyone can direct you there. The owner, Chef Domenico Caputo, is a talented and dedicated restauranteur, who takes great pride not only in the quality of his food and the magical dishes he prepares with them but also in the pleasure of his clientele. Domenico has been at L’Angoletto for 18 years, becoming owner only 4 years ago. His clientele consists of well versed tourists, locals and international and Roman politicos.

Ristorante L'Angoletto

Ristorante L'Angoletto

Whenever we visit Europe we try to make sure before we head back to the west, that our last night is in Rome. I have seen most of the sights in Rome already, but the last night is always reserved for a sumptuous dinner at L’Angoletto.  From fresh seafood, to homemade pastas, to platters of spiced and simmered meats (he makes a killer Chateaubriand steak), dinner never disappoints. In addition, Domenico has taken great care building his own cantina where he stores hundreds of high-end and rare and interesting wines, to accompany his dishes. It has contributed to many a late liquid evening. 🙂

Cantina Ristorante L'Angoletto

The warmth of the staff, their jolly good humour and caring and friendly attitude, is what makes each visit an entertaining end to our sojourn in Europe. It’s the only way we can say good-bye to Rome, planning our return visit over dessert.  My husband and I feel like family. We feel very fortunate to have discovered L’Angoletto, and look forward to many more meals and late nights discussing life and politics with the staff until closing.

Fresh Seafood at L'Angoletto

Chef Domenico can be seen each night, busy keeping the reins and visiting each and every table to chat and make sure their evening is thoroughly satisfying and pleasurable. I suggest you mark this restaurant as your must-dine place next time you are in Rome. Say hello to the gang from my husband Louis and I, and tell them we will be back again soon!! Visit them online for now:  www.ristorantelangoletto.it

Ristorante L'Angoletto

Moussakka, Lebanese Style!

5 Jun

I recently came back from a wonderful vacation to Amsterdam and Limone, Italy. After enjoying amazing Italian cuisine, the first thing I wanted to do when I got home was cook. My tastebuds were averse to anything processed, as we have so much of in the west. I needed to make sure that any food passing my lips would be fresh, tasty and healthy. The first dish I made is Lebanese style Moussakka. This is one of my favorites and I usually make it once a month for my hubby and I. It’s rich in texture, tasty with flavour and healthy, being made from vegetables and chick peas.  It tastes as yummy as it looks!!!

Recipe: 2 large eggplant, 2 med. cooking onions- diced, 10-12 garlic cloves- chunky diced, 1 large can chick peas, 2 med cans of tomatoes (I use San Marzano canned tomatoes from Italy), 2 tsp salt, 2.5 tsp of brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp allspice, 0.5 tsp fresh cracked black pepper, 400ml water, 8 tbsps olive oil, 1 lemon, fresh parsley or cilantro to garnish.

Set aside salt, cinnamon, allspice, pepper in small bowl. Cut eggplant into cubes, leaving skin on. Saute eggplant cubes until brown in oil in a deep saute pan. Set aside on papertowels to drain.

Add oil onion and garlic to pan, saute about 5 mins or until onions translucent. Add chick peas, stir for 5 mins. Add sugar, then eggplant. Stir. Add tomatoes, and spices, and half of the lemon. I also add some crushed red pepper to give it a little kick!! 🙂 Add water and bring to a boil, then lower temperature to simmer for 30 mins. In preheated oven (325F), place saute pan uncovered and let bake for up to 2 hours, until eggplant is tender and melted into moussakka. Mixture will turn a deep colour as in the photo above. If you prefer eggplant chunky, remove earlier. I love them almost melted and velvety. Garnish with cilantro and spritz with other half of the lemon.

It’s fabulous on rice, mashed potatoes or with your favorite breads!

Marlene Harris, Jeweller with Passion!

5 May

White and Red Gold w/Diamond Clusters and Engraved White Gold

I have never met Marlene Harris, yet she stays in my mind as an inspiration for creativity and longevity and will leave a mark on my finger forever. I found her while researching wedding bands for my wedding last year. I was tired of looking in stores and not really finding anything unique with a vintage feel. Then I stumbled upon her website and saw something that took my breath away. It was so lovely my now husband had said even if you don’t use it as your wedding band buy it anyways as it’s just too beautiful to pass up.

Feeling a little nervous about buying our bands online (even though I buy most things online) I gave her a call. She is a 74 year old woman, who still sells antique rings from estates sales, but also designs her own rings. Marlene has been designing antique jewelry for 40 years. She works 6 days a week out of her shop in Pittsburgh. We had a lovely conversation and she also gave me pointers for my own online business. Her attitude is so positive and forward, that I was surprised when she told me she was 74! She assured me that she would make our rings herself and would ensure everything was appraised, shipped and tracked and would be duty free. And it was.

I spoke with her today and yes she still remembers me and my rings, even though she gets orders from all over the world. She wasn’t interested in giving me a photo of herself, but provided some samples of her work. Yes she is on twitter and facebook too, and has a full and comprehensive website. She is such a lovely person, pure of spirit, kind and helpful through and through. I hope that when I am 74 I am still creating and living my dream out to the fullest just like Marlene.

Quote from Marlene: It is my firm belief that jewelry leaves a stamp of individuality. I have won numerous awards as an artist and I love adding my personal and unique touch to the jewelry

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” ~ Confucius

Click Marlene to visit her.

Hipstamatic Camera app for iPhone

3 May

Lens: John S, Film: Ina's 1969, Flash: off

The Hipstamatic app for the iPhone is like having a mini digital Holga at your fingertips. Wth a cute little Holga looking avatar, you will fall in love again with the simple joy of taking snaps of everthing around you. Now I can fiddle with lenses and film to get that juuust right look. And the bonus – I’m not spending a fortune in film and developing with my actual Holga camera. I still love the original of course, but this app is the best shortcut. Available at the app store on sale for the steal of $1.99.

Bella's Birthday! lens: JohnS, Film: Ina's 1969

Sasha and Harley Lens: JohnS Film: Kodot XGrizzled

Kiva – where your dollars keep on giving!!!

17 Apr
Image representing Kiva as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Do you wish to donate to charities and help make a difference to someone in this world but are unsure of how your funds are being used and even if anything good really ever comes out of your donation? Here is something very different!!

Through Kiva.org you can make micro LOANS to small business people in impoverished nations and in very difficult situations. These people are not asking for a handout and are not relying on a steady flow of charity. Instead they set up a small business, be it buying a cell phone and charging the village per call for use, or buying a goat and selling it’s milk, eventually making enough to buy a second goat and so on and so on. This is a great chance for you to really HELP someone get their small business off the ground, help them care for themselves and their families and restore their dignity. I think this is one of the better and more innovative ways to help people escape the shackles of poverty that continue for generations.

It is a loan and it’s usually for small amounts like 25 dollars. With that money they will use it to get their business going and will pay you back within an allotted time. Then you can turn it around and loan it out to someone else. Think of how many more people you can seriously and directly help with 100 dollars. It all plays forward. We were just lucky to be born where we are, never forget that. So give a loan when you can and help someone make a life for their families for generations to come!

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