This Millennial Queen Was Just Crowned Miss South Asia Canada!

Career, People

Since 2011, Raaga Models & Talent Agency based in Toronto have been organizing the prestigious pageant of Miss (&Mrs.) South Asia Canada! The goal of the event is to help build self esteem and confidence among young women of the South Asian community, nurturing competitive but friendly peer learning opportunities, teaching good sportsmanship, public speaking skills, poise and elegance. Most importantly, they are to encourage participation and involvement in the community and taking part in fund raising events, donations and volunteering.

In December of 2019, a young woman named Sunita Pun stunned everyone on stage with her mature and well thought out answers and won the title of Miss South Asia Canada! Before the final title, Sunita also bagged the titles of Miss Bollywood Diva and Miss Congeniality.

“I first participated in a pageant in 2015 for a charity to help victims of an earthquake in Nepal. It was then that I realized how a pageant can be an opportunity for me to come out of my comfort zone and explore
my inner potential. I participated in Miss South Asia Canada 2018 and I made it to the top five and also won two subtitles. Not winning the crown was unsettling but a learning curve for me. So I came back in 2019
and competed in Miss South Asia Canada 2019 to prove it to myself that hard work pays off and that we can do amazing things when we don’t give up,” said Sunita in an exclusive interview with Millennial Things Blog.

Since missing the title in 2018, Sunita knew that she had to believe that she really deserved the title from her heart and so she practiced positive self-talk, self-acceptance, and self-love, including Meditation and yoga.

Sunita Pun in Toronto, Canada being crowned as Miss South Asia Canada 2019 on stage

Q. Can you tell us about the different rounds in the pageant and what skills they tested?

“The first round was a traditional round which was my favourite, because I got to see all the beautiful and colourful outfits representing South Asia. The second round was called the saree round and I was a bit nervous about standing on stage for so long in a neat but delicately wrapped outfit. We said our introductory speeches, and after delivering mine, I became more confident about my presence on stage. “

Sunita Pun in her traditional outfit

“I eventually made it to the semi-finals where we picked a question and answered it. The question was a bit tricky but I told myself that I will have to remain calm and answer the best I can.”

“The last round was the final question answer round. This is the most important one and I was always nervous thinking about this round prior to the completion, but during the competition I was the most calm and
confident in this round. I told myself that I would give my best and that it was my time to shine.”

Q. What is the one moment of the competition that you are the most proud of?

“The answer I gave was something I truly believed in my heart so instead of being nervous I had fun answering my question. I got so emerged in the moment that I did not care about the result at that time. I knew I got to say what I believed in and I felt truly satisfied from within.”

Sunita Pun answering questions in the Miss South Asia Canada 2019 pageant in Toronto, Canada.

Q. Can you tell us how you felt right before the final results were announced!

I was a bit nervous in the beginning of the show thinking about things that could go wrong. I reminded myself of how gracefully I handled failures in the past and how much I have learnt because of it. I reminded myself that I have worked hard and I am ready for this. As the rounds went on I started feeling more excited and
hopeful that I will win. After I won, I felt accomplished and very grateful.

What was your take away from this competition and the title you receive? Do you plan to continue to partake in such competitions in the future?

“My take away from this competition is that hard work pays off. There is nothing you cannot achieve if you put your mind to it and try relentlessly until you achieve it. I do not have plan to take part in another pageant in the future, but you know life always surprises us.”

Sunita holds a bachelor’s degree in public health and I works in community mental health. “I want to continue working in mental health. Mental health is challenging at the same time very rewarding because it gives me
opportunity to make someone’s life better at the same time expand my own knowledge. In my community, I often participate in local charity events where I showcase my dance skills and I would like to continue doing so. I am passionate about public speaking and in the future I hope to become a motivational speaker and advocate for mental health issues in the community.”

Q. As a millennial, how do you think this competition helped to inspire you or encourage certain values in you?

“When I lost my previous pageant, I thought about reasons why I lost it. Insecurity crept in and I started thinking that maybe I lost because I am not beautiful enough or not smart enough. But deep in my heart I knew I had to stay true to my values. I came back to compete to prove to myself that hard work, integrity, and self-acceptance is what makes someone a pageant winner. Winning the title has made me believe in myself more than ever and I am ready to take on new challenges.”

Q. What is your message to other South Asian women out there?

My message to other young south Asian women out there is that our self-worth is not dependent on what anyone says or thinks of us. Our self-worth is made of our resilience, compassion, and all the challenges we overcome. Chase after your dreams and have a courage to live a life true to yourself.

Sunita Pun in the center as Miss South Asia Canada 2019 along with fellow contestants and runners up in Toronto, Canada.

This Ottawa Artist Immortalizes Memories with Her Sculptures

Lifestyle, Travel

There are some moments in life that you want to save in your memory forever. That big belly bump of your first pregnancy, the adorably tiny hands of your toddler in the hands of their great grandparents.. some memories are truly too precious not to be sculpted into your memory. Unfortunately, photographs can only capture so much. That’s why a new way or immortalizing these moments and freeze them in time is by creating a cast and turning it into a decorative sculpture.

Pregnant Belly Bump Sculpture made using a cast.
Cast Mould Sculpture by “Cast Your Life Away” Showing a Pregnant Mom’s Belly Bump

Cast Your Life Away is a local Ottawa-based business in Ontario, Canada run by an adorable family of three. Steven, Audrey and Ashley help create unique life casts of hands, feet, pregnant bellies and children/hands & feet using a process that replicates every fine detail. The result is a solid stone sculpture!

Cast Mould Sculpture by "Cast Your Life Away" Showing a toddler's hand and foot in a wooden framed sculpture hanging
Cast Mould Sculpture by “Cast Your Life Away” Showing a Toddler’s Hand and Foot in this beautiful framed sculpture

Let’s face it, the most adorable aspect of a toddler’s footprint and handprints are lost in pictures without their cute wrinkles and the curling of their tiny toes. That’s one reason we adore Cast Your Life Away‘s beautiful way of setting these memories and the feel of those flesh memories in stone forever. The best part is, they are mobile and can come to your home to get the imprint! If you live in Ottawa or are planning to visit, this might me one family you need to plan ahead with..so you can leave town with something super precious!

Cast Mould Sculpture by "Cast Your Life Away" Showing three arms of three people, Mom Dad and Child making up a family of three.
Cast Mould Sculpture by “Cast Your Life Away” Showing the hands of unity of a family of three

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

Travel, Uncategorized

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

5 Sustainable Gift Ideas for Christmas!

Lifestyle

By Faria Ahmed

There are a million little things we can each do to help save planet earth while still enjoying the joys of gifting. Here are 5 simple things that I decided to try out!

1.Baked Goods

Nothing says sustainable like some homemade baked goodies made from scratch! As much as we want to buy ‘things’ and put them into gift boxes and gift bags, food is actually not a bad gift idea and it does put a big smile on everyone’s face at the party!

2. Used Books

A lot of us may not like the idea of using pre-worn clothing, but used books are a whole different story. For centuries we have shared books and borrowed from the library..so there’s no shame and no harm in buying some used books as a gift! It’s more sustainable than buying new ones…and the best part is that you might get some rare books, and first edition books, or even autographed books by opting for second-hand!

3. Goodie Jars

Instead of buying each of your friends separate boxes of candy or goodies and increasing the amount of plastic & paper trash in this world, you can buy wholesale and split it up in these cute glass jars! You can check out our step-by-step process to customize these goodie jars.

4.Handmade Ornaments / Coasters

Although cutting down trees for decor items isn’t exactly environmentally friendly…these trees were cut down for other reasons, and instead of wasting the branches, the farm decided to slide up the wood and sell them to be used for crafts. The best part is that it is entirely biodegradable! You can check out how we made these handmade ornaments here.

5. Wooden Gift Basket

Again, I managed to put together this gift basket with pretty sustainable items. Glass bottle of champagne, wooden coasters and ornaments, pine cones I had collected from the park, and some paper for sparkle. Always fun to come up with no-plastic and low-paper-waste solutions to presenting our gifts!

Quick 5-Minute DIY Gift Ideas For Any Occasion!

Lifestyle

By Faria Ahmed

I absolutely enjoy giving gifts, but I enjoy personalizing them even more! Living on a young adult/student budget makes it hard to buy beautiful gift items from the store all the time, so I make up for it using a tad bit of customized creativity! Here are some of the super quick and super affordable Do-It-Yourself gift ideas for any occassion.

1.Handmade Personalized Ornaments

Whether it’s to hang from your Christmas tree or simply to be hung up on the wall or used as coasters…these personalized gifts are an all-time staple for affordable gifting! All you need is:

  1. Slides Wood (I got them for $1 a piece from a local farm where some trees had to be cut down this year)
  2. Twine Rope
  3. Hot Glue Gun
  4. Sharpie or Etching Tool
  5. Scissors

Cut up about 2 inch of the twine rope. Use the hot glue to attach the rope to the sliced wood coaster. You can also glue on embellishments to make it even more fancy. Let it cool for 2-3 minutes. Use the sharpie to write the gift receiver’s name or a cute message to them. Ta-da!

2. Goodie Jars

I love how sustainable these gifts are and how you can practically customize it for absolutely anyone. For some friends, I filled these jars up with candy, for others with popcorn, and for some diabetic friends- I added cute little tea candles from Ikea! Again, this can be used for christmas, a new year gift for coworkers or clients, as a lootbag item for children’s birthday parties and so much more! Here’s what you need:

  1. Small glass jars (I got them from the dollar store for $2 a piece)
  2. Twine Rope
  3. Paper, Sharpie, Scissors
  4. Goodies to fill up the jar (candy, cookies, candles, potpourri etc)
  5. Hole puncher

Fill the jar with whatever goodies you have chosen. Wrap some twine around the jar and before typing up a bow add your note. For the note, fold up some plain white paper into a little card, white on and in the note as you wish, then punch a hole in the corner so you can slip it into the twine rope but tying it up into a pretty bow.

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.

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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

8 Tips on Building Credit for Beginners

Adulting

Written By: Tiara Lynn

Growing up, building credit was the last thing on my mind. I avoided anything to do with loans and credit cards. It wasn’t until I took an “Introduction to Business” course that I learned about all the good and the bad when it came to credit. As someone with no credit history at all, I didn’t know where I should start. With all the knowledge I had gained from my own research and the course, I am here to share with you some tips that helped me build my credit score.

Photo Credit: Tiara Lynn

1.Take Out A Small Loan

My first step when it came to building credit was taking out a small loan. I was only working for nine months when I first applied for a small loan of $500, and so I needed a co-signer. I was lucky enough to have my grandma’s help with that. If you are working for over one year then chances are you won’t need a co-signer. Taking out a small loan helps you establish credit. 

2.Always Pay On Time

My first loan came with a lot of stress when it came to making the payment. I was always confused as to when I should pay and what not. You need to know that payment history plays a big role on your overall credit score. If you are late once, it may affect your credit score and can stay on your credit score for up to seven years. What I like to do is find out exactly when it’s due and pay my bill a couple of days before the due date. If possible, set up automatic online payments because it’s really convenient.

3. Paid Off The Small Loan…Now What?

It took about five months for me to finally pay off the loan. Even if I could’ve paid it off sooner, it’s never a good idea. Your goal is to build credit and paying it early won’t improve your credit. Keep the loan open for the length agreed and watch your score improve. What happens after you pay off your small loan? For me, I decided to apply for a credit card because it’s not borrowed money. I planned on using it to pay bills and then pay the credit card. Sadly, I needed to continue to build my credit. The bank offered me an secured credit card. 

A secured credit card is where you deposit the amount of the credit card limit as kind of like a security deposit. I decided to just do $500 limit. I kept this secured credit card for about 7 months before applying for an unsecured $500 credit card. Once I applied for an unsecured credit card, I got approved for a $1,000 credit limit. I know, it doesn’t seem like a lot but these are really great for someone who isn’t looking to go into debt. If you want to build your credit to prepare for the future of buying a house or something. Keep your accounts in good standing. 

4. Don’t Go Purchase Happy When Applying For New Accounts

Don’t apply for new credit cards or loans all at the same time. I get that you may be trying to see different options, but doing this can make your credit score decrease. Normally, each time you apply for a new loan or credit card it’s considered hard inquiries. What you want to do is be mindful when picking places you want to apply at. I normally look at the interest fee and annual fee when it comes to credit cards.

5. Monitor Your Credit

I recommend Credit Karma because it is what I use, but it’s not necessary accurate. My credit score on Credit Karma is significantly lower than what the banks pull. However, it has been really helpful when it comes to keeping track of payment history and credit card utilizations.

6. Keep Credit Card Accounts Open

Even if you don’t use your credit card often, it’s always good to keep it active. The longer the age and payment history, the more chances you have on improving your overall credit score. 

7. Keep Credit Utilization Low

A lot of people had suggested to keep credit utilization below 30% and that’s what I’ve been doing. If you have multiple credit cards, I believe it’s 30% across all cards. I’ve been doing just that and my score continues to improve daily. However, sometimes ‘life happens’ and we may find ourselves with quite a bit of credit card debt. If you’re trying to find a way out from a whole lot of credit card debt, this is how you can do it!

8. Don’t Take On More Than You Can Manage

I know a lot of people have multiple credit cards because they believe that they can manage but it can get overwhelming. If you overuse and are unable to make a payment, it will affect your credit score. That’s why I will always suggest to be mindful when committing to new loans and credit cards.

Photo: Tiara Lynn, owner of LifeWithTiara.com

These are just some tips that have worked for me. Within 10 months, I went from NO CREDIT to GOOD CREDIT. All within that time frame, I was able to get my own car and an unsecured credit card. I have learned that credit can be good and bad, but it all depends on the way you manage it. Please be advised that I am not a professional. Although these tips worked for me, I can’t guarantee the same results.

Tiara is a twenty-seven year old from the Island of Guam. She is a blogger sharing all things inspired by personal experiences, interest, growth, and development on her website https://lifewithtiara.com.

5 Tips for Millennials Seeking a Legal Career from a Millennial Lawyer Herself

People

Written by Virginia Ng

As you grow up, the question of, “What do you want to be when you grow up” turns into “What are you going to do for the rest of your life.” If you’ve always known what you wanted to do, then great, if you didn’t then that’s okay, too. I didn’t think about becoming a lawyer until almost the end of my undergraduate studies. If you ever thought about or are thinking about pursuing a legal career, then I have a few tips to you.

Image of young lawyer Virginia at her Call to the Bar, Law Society of Ontario.

1. Volunteer or get work experience as soon as you can

One of the things I am most grateful for is having gotten to work one summer as an intern and assistant at a small law office before finishing my bachelor’s degree and deciding to study law. You should try to get a feel of what it is like to be in a legal work environment before committing to a legal career path. There are some who have watched television, maybe dreamed of becoming a paralegal or lawyer, and then realized that the job and the environment isn’t what they thought it would be like. I wasn’t someone who initially thought I would become a lawyer when I was younger. I was someone who was still figuring it out. It was during my undergraduate studies of psychology, when I thought about the connection to law and had the opportunity to work with a lawyer, when I decided to go to law school. This work experience is especially important if you are thinking about going to law school or becoming a lawyer, and are concerned about your financial situation, as not only is tuition of law school expensive but there are many other fees in addition that you will have to pay for (more on this below), and so you should know what you will be working towards after your degree beforehand.

2.   Have a financial plan or significant savings. Do not carry debt going into law school if possible

The legal profession is an expensive career path, and do not assume that you are going to be able to make up for it all right away once you become a licensed legal professional. Yes, law school is expensive, but so are licensing fees. What’s that? Yes, there are more fees after you graduate. Whether you are becoming a lawyer or a paralegal in Ontario, after you graduate and want to become a lawyer or paralegal, you will have to pay for fees upfront to join the legal professional body, licensing exam fees and more. Law school doesn’t really give you that much time off to have a job, and the expenses you will be paying for will be a lot more than how much you can earn part-time at any minimum wage position. Unfortunately, for us millennials, you probably know that there is already a shortage for university graduates obtaining meaningful career positions after they graduate that pay well, and the legal field is no different. To become a lawyer, after you have your law degree, each province has their own licensing process, you will have to apply to the law society of the province you want. In Ontario, you will have to pay for another application fee to get put into the licensing process, then you will be required to write two bar exams, and complete an experiential training component, either “articling” which is a supervised internship for 10 months or the Law Practice Program. You may have heard some positive stories of students who were well paid working at a large law firm after graduating, but that’s not always the case, and many smaller firms often can’t pay you a significant amount. In fact, you will be lucky to work for the minimum wage at some smaller firms. The Ontario bar exams with the required materials will cost you over $2000, and for your experiential training component, you will have to pay over $3000 (I don’t remember the exact numbers). That’s right, you must PAY to have your work or internship recognized. If you fail a bar exam, you will have to pay to do it again. These exams are also 7 and a half hours each filled with a lot of material, and many people must take some time off work to study. After this, you will have to pay for the bar ceremony, possibly buy/rent barrister robes, and then when you do get licensed, guess what… MORE FEES! Within the first few weeks after getting called to the Bar, congratulations, you will be handed an invoice from the law society asking you to pay for the remainder of the year as a licensed professional, even if you aren’t working. If you are not practising law, you can apply to change your status with the law society to pay less fees, but you are still required to pay something more than a few hundred dollars just to maintain your license, otherwise your license may be administratively suspended for not paying. If you are practising, you will have to pay much more, and in addition, it is mandatory for licensees to have practising insurance coverage. In Ontario, we use LawPro Insurance. A new call has a 50% discount, but surprisingly that’s still over $300/month currently for a new lawyer in their first year. Thus why, I would suggest you plan out a financial plan or figure out how you will survive financially for several years (not a few, not for just when you’re in law school, but after too), and you do not want to be in debt before starting this career path.

3. Maintain and build your support system

If you have great friends, and people you have met through work experience before law school, you will want to maintain their friendships to help get you through any mental struggles you may face throughout your career journey. In law school, don’t be afraid to make friends, not everyone will be amazing, some become too competitive, and you may want to stay away from those, but if you find some great friends in your class or in another class above or below you, then you will have an advantage over those who are just competitive and want to do everything alone. It’s great if you can find people who can share with you notes or would be willing to build notes together with you or provide other tips. The people I attempted to befriend in the beginning did not become my friends I later had.  Friends I later had in law school, were people that I eventually became close with and still stay in touch with. When I first started at law school, I lived in a studio apartment, and this girl who lived two doors down from me who was a semester senior to me ended up becoming one of my best law school pals, and that was not something I expected. Although we were in different semesters, we attempted to compete in various legal competitions such as moots, client interview competitions, and negotiations. I later took a few courses with her as I took a few courses out of order, and she later introduced me to my roommate I moved in with 2 semesters later. I was able to form a study group sometimes then. I also got to know someone else who was senior to me, who I would regularly meet in the library who taught me Microsoft Word tricks for formatting my exam notes that I will forever be thankful for.

4. Don’t try to be a “Shark” or super competitive going into law school or college

There is this falsehood with a lot of new law school students who believe that they need to be as competitive as possible, and perhaps even sabotage other students or should not help anyone else. I don’t really blame anyone for having this initial view as many do and it can somewhat feel encouraged by schools that curve class grades. However, in the real practising world, legal professionals often need to work with each other, and rely on asking each other for help, guidance and advice to do better, and so you should start building your relationships early on. You never know when you may need someone. Try to help others when you can.

Image of young lawyer Virginia of Canada, in front of the faculty of Law, Bond University in Australia.
Photo in front of the Faculty of Law, after my first law school presentation

5. If you’re thinking about going to law school abroad, do your research and plan.

I went to Bond University in Australia, but before applying, I attended an information event for their law programs in Toronto, and some of their webinars where I could ask them questions. You should find out whether the school you are thinking about is planning any information sessions nearby or if there are any international university fairs. At international university fairs, you can get some information, and find out about various law school programs but you should then do further research into any schools you are then seriously considering, and then see if they will host a specific information session for the law program.

There are often also consultant agencies that will help you with informing you of information sessions and sending your applications. I signed up with KOM Consultants, which is based in Hamilton and asked them about universities they communicate with. Another popular agency for helping students interested in studying in Australia is OzTREKK. Both agencies can provide you with an abundance of information if you are interested in studying abroad. You should research into whether the University is recognized by the National Committee of Accreditation (NCA) (the Canadian association that assesses legal education and professional experience outside of Canada) or whether they have had students come back to Canada and what their experiences have been like in the past.

After you have completed your legal education abroad, if you plan to come back to Canada to practice, you will have to be assessed by the NCA. This process can take a lengthy period, so you should also be prepared for an additional time period spent completing the NCA process. The NCA requires a final transcript from your school to be sent directly to them. Towards the end of your studies, you should enquire into any forms you may have to fill to have your transcript sent. You will have to apply to have your education assessed by the NCA, which you can do so on their website: https://nca.legal/process/application/ . Once your transcript has been sent to the NCA and they have assessed your application, then they will tell you if they require you to write any additional exams, or to take any courses at a Canadian law school. When I applied, I think they had up to 12 weeks to assess, and you can’t start signing up to any of the NCA exams until they have properly sent you back your assessment. Once you have completed the NCA requirements, they will send you a notice and ask which law society (province or territory) you are planning to join. They will then send your Certificate of Qualification to that law society and send one copy to you. After this, then you will have to apply to the law society you intend to join, e.g. the Law Society of Ontario, and you will start the process with them and pay for all the fees noted above in my second tip. Oh, also you should be prepared to have to pay for NCA fees as well if you plan on going abroad and coming back to Canada.

Photo of Bond University, Australia where I attended Law School

If you are interested in staying abroad and practicing in another country, then you should ask about possible VISA options for staying after your studies that other graduates have applied for at your information sessions or to your consultant agency (E.g. KOM consultants or OzTREKK).   

Bonus Tip 6: Connect with fellow students and graduates

Lastly, if you plan on embarking on a legal career or know someone who is, you should join the social media community or follow and subscribe to Ginny Law Blogs at www.ginnylawblogs.com, a resource for new lawyers and those seeking a legal career.

I hope you enjoyed this article if you’re a millennial who is thinking about going to law school or are seeking a legal career.

About the Author: Virginia Ng aka “Ginny” is a new millennial lawyer, blogger and creator of Ginny Law Blogs, a blog that not only explores various interesting legal topics but is also a blog that discusses the journey of navigating the legal professional world as a young female lawyer, giving insight, motivation and tips to other upcoming or aspiring legal professionals.  

Website: www.ginnylawblogs.com 

Email: ginny@ginnylawblogs.com

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Gifts for the Man in your Life this Christmas 2019!

Lifestyle

Compiled By Faria Ahmed

Wishlist by Jordan Johnstone

For some reason, I have always found it way more difficult to buy gifts for men than for women. Maybe because I am one, and I know all the range of books, beauty products, clothes, accessories, gadgets, home decor items, and other lifestyle products that women in my friend circle and immediate family will like. On the other hand, buying anything for my dad, my uncles or my boyfriend is quite the chore. All I can think of are nice socks and ties or the occasional book that they might like. That’s why this year, I decided to ask my boyfriend to help me figure out what kind of items he would love to get as a Christmas present. I promised to get him any ONE item off that list, and he promised to do the same for me based on my wishlist!

Canadian young man in Perth, Ontario. Posing with coffee cup in early winter.
Jordan at a park in Perth, Ontario

Here are the top 10 things on his Christmas Wishlist for 2019. I hope this helps you guys to figure out what to buy for the men in your lives too! If you like anything on this list, you can click on the image and see the actual product that I am talking about online. 

1.A Classy Wooden Watch

I found a bunch of different types on Amazon, and most were reasonably within my budget of $150. So, this is definitely in the running among the things I might actually get him for Christmas.

2.Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

God know he has a bunch of the extra large wireless headphones that he uses for gaming. However, he has been meaning to get the smaller sort that you can use with your cellphones when you are out. I found this one that looks kind of sleek and again it was within my budget, costing only $69.

3. New Release Video Games

So for this one he said we would be fine with any of the three recently released video games that he does not have for his Xbox. Now, my only advice for buying video games for the men in your life is to first be sure of what device he owns. Find out if he plays his games on a gaming PC, XBox One, Xbox 360, a PS4 or something else because these games are all device-specific.

4.Golf Clubs

When he started telling me about the type of golf clubs he wants, I thought he was speaking Hebrew because I didn’t understand a single word. He said something about having started off with Wilson’s but now he would like to get a nice one from TaylorMade and that the type of club would be an Iron. I noted down the specifics and looked it up. Amazon had some sexy looking ones around $300-$800. It’s a bit over my preferred budget for this Christmas since I’m also travelling, but it’s good to keep in mind for the next big occasion.

If the men in your life enjoy a sport, find out what they need and you can get them something they will love for a very long time!

5.Gaming/ Live-Streaming Equipment

If you haven’t figured it out yet, he is quite the video game nut. For several years he has wanted to set up a live stream but never gotten around to it. So this year he has been looking into the technology behind live streaming and I found this high-end Sling Studio Hub which can be used for multi-camera production, switching between cameras and live streaming. Seemed really cool to me but it is a bit of an investment.

6. NFL Cowboys Apparel

Jordan already has a ton of Cowboys merchandise but clearly the obsession does not end with getting a simple jersey. This year he wants the pants from NFL to go along with the rest of all this Cowboys merch.

7. Whiskey Glass Set

This neat set contains a set of two whiskey glasses, Irish Bourbon Whiskey Stones, Scotch Rock Tongs, and chilling stones. It seems like it will be a nice addition to the man bar he is trying to build.

8.Winter boots from Timberland

This was possibly the one and only practical item on his wishlist this year! He wants a pair of nice winter boots from Timberland and if you live in Canada, you can never have too many of those. The price seems quite reasonable at around $130 and I will be sure to keep this among the top things I want to get him this year.

9.Cell Phone Case

This is one more of a stocking stuffer so I might get it along with the main gift. Once remember, remember to find out the exact model of his phone. Jordan specifically wants a cover with a front flap so it doesn’t scratch his screen so I’ll be keeping that in mind as well.

10. Xbox Controller

Yes, yes you guessed it right. He keeps wearing down his gaming controllers and ofcourse there’s a sexy new one out now called the Wireless Controller Series 2 Elite. I might not get it but I can only imagine how happy he will be to get one of these so definitely keeping an eye on it for the next big occasion.

Don’t forget to share what you are getting for the men in your life this Christmas 2019 by commenting below! Would love to know so I can broaden my options too. Happy Holiday Shopping!

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!