Skimbaco Lifestyle | online magazine » SKIMBACO TRAVEL Skimbaco Lifestyle, online magazine inspiring you to live life to the fullest. Travel, home, food, fashion, family. Fri, 31 Oct 2014 16:23:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Herbs, Spices and Sri Lankan Delicatessen Wattalappan Wed, 29 Oct 2014 10:42:39 +0000
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Euphoria Spice & Herbal Garden - Sri Lanka On this post to a family adventure in Sri Lanka I want to talk a bit about the local food. I shared all the different things our family manage to explore and try in Sri Lanka from elephant safaris and beaches to tea plantation visits and learning to carve cinnamon sticks., and in the second post I reviewed the lovely east coast boutique resort Maalu Maalu.  What I found astonishing was the fact that Sri Lanka seems to be a sort of paradise when it comes to the ability to grow a variety of local food – everything grows from rice and coffee to exotic fruits and spices here – both wild and farmed. Coming from the northern country of Finland where you can grow potatoes, appled and few other things, Sri Lanka is just amazing to me!

Collecting Natural Rubber - Sri Lanka

Collecting sap from a rubber tree

If you are planning to tour Sri Lanka you should definitely schedule a stop at one of the herb and spice gardens. As most of them are rather small and family-run, their Internet presence is not quite there yet, but the local guides will know where to find some. We were lucky to visit a great family-ran Euphoria Spice & Herbal Garden in Matale, where we learned about the healing powers of different plants and what these plants look like in real life – some of which are quite surprising to the images I had in my mind beforehand. A local lunch was part of the visit, and we, or rather Miss Anaïs also got to participate in preparing one dish for it – in this case it was a creamy and savory dahl. All in all the meal had some  ten courses, and that was one of the best meals I’ve ever had – and I was astonished to see all our children trying ,and liking , most of the dishes, which is somewhat rare!

Learning to Cook Dhal - Sri Lanka

Learning to cook dahl in Sri Lanka

The food was home-cooked, so the presentation might not have been Michelin-star level, but it certainly didn’t lack in flavour. As you can tell from the picture, they key really is having fresh ingredients and lots of herbs and spices. The cooking wasn’t as hard I had imagined, not did it take a long time. The one particularly positive thing I noted in addition of having plenty of different vegetables was was that salt was not needed in this cooking, which is something I try to avoid at home when cooking for children.

Delicious Sri Lankan Food

Lunch is served on a banana leaf

The table is set. Served on a banana leaf is an amazing meal full of colours and flavours. Food alone is a great reason to go and visit Sri Lanka – it is healthy, cheap and so tasty – even when bought from the little stands on the streets!

I also loved the local desserts, and one in particular: wattalappan. It was a bit like a mix between a creme caramel & sticky toffee pudding, and like many dishes in Sri Lanka it had that lovely coconut flavour. Our family had endless amount of wattalappan, and  Ruwandi from Euphoria Spice was happy to share her recipe, which was the most delicious of all the wattalappans we tried (and we did so in almost every hotel we stayed in!).

Wattalappan Sri Lankan delicatessen

If you’ll end up trying to make your own wattalappan let me know what you think about it, especially ig you come up your own variation with a new twist to it. Meanwhile, keep calm and eat wattalappan!

Wattalappan from Sri Lanka

The must try dessert in Sri Lanka: wattalappan

reeta laaksonen

I love luxury travel and bringing global inspirations to our daily life. As a mother of three, I am always in the look for best places to visit with the kids. If you like the global lifestyle as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Lifestyle weekly feed.

Let’s connect!

Visit reeta’s profile on Pinterest.


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Tove Jansson’s 100th Anniversary and Moomin Exhibition at the Arabia Gallery in Helsinki Tue, 28 Oct 2014 10:21:56 +0000
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We recently visited the Arabia Factory in Finland. Arabia has been manufacturing Moomin mugs for decades, and held a Moomin Exhibition to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Tove Jansson, one of the most beloved and well-known authors and illustrators of Finland. The exhibition was part of the “Tove 100” portraying Tove Jansson’s art and life from different perspectives. We caught the last days of a Moomin exhibition in the Arabia Gallery during our factory tour and saw so many Moomin mugs we wanted to add to our own collection.

Collecting coffee mugs runs in our family. I carry Starbucks mugs from around the world, and the children carry Moomin mugs from our trips to Finland (and they are widely available around the world too, but online shops might be your best place to find them).

And it’s not just us that are affected by this coffee mug collecting bug, I bet the Arabia’s Moomin mugs are one of the top 10 collectibles in Finland, and it has spread all over the world, where Moomin fans live (especially in Japan), even to my sister-in-law in Texas, who started collecting Moomin mugs for her daughter as well.

But who are these Moomins?

The Moomins (Muumit in Finnish) are the characters created by Finnish illustrator and writer Tove Jansson. The roundish hippo- or even white cow-looking characters are the stars of the original nine books, five picture books and a comic strip being released between 1945 and 1993. Later on the Moomins have inspired to several other publications, anything from self-help to cooking books to TV shows and movies. The books have been translated from the original language Swedish to 44 languages. The carefree and adventurous family live in their house in Moominvalley, though in the past, their temporary residences have included a lighthouse and a theater.

YOLO says Moominpappa

Moomins are the original Skimbacoers, finding the best of every situation, and living life to the fullest. The Moomin family’s friends are an eclectic group of travelers and adventurers who like to visit the Moomin family while they explore the world. Moominpappa is full of wisdom from his world travels and life experiences, and he likes to get philosophical at times, but he has never lost his boy-like joy of adventuring life. Moominmamma is always ready for anything, and especially when it involves food, and we all know that food is an important part of any adventure. Moomintroll is the son of Moominpappa and Moominmamma, and he is a happy boy trying to make everyone around him happy, although gets himself in trouble quite often too. But that’s part of life – how could you learn anything if you didn’t do anything wrong?

Oh, and then there are Snufkin and Little My, who are polar opposites. Snufkin is a lonesome philosophical traveler, who wanders around the world with only a few things. He plays the harmonica, or goes fishing, and enjoys the simplified life. Little My is a mischievous tomboyish little girl, who lives in the Moomin house and has a brave, spunky personality. She loves catastrophes, and often does mean things on purpose.


And there is so much more. While Moomin-books were meant for children and loved by children, their stories and life lessons have a deeper meaning that adults alike will identify with and are inspired to enjoy life despite the storms we may encounter in life. I personally like Moomin better now as an adult as I ever did as a child.

Tove Jansson – 100 years

Tove 100

The creator of the Moomins, Tove Jansson was born on 9 August 1914 in Helsinki to a family of artists, and the 2014 is celebrated as her anniversary year. She passed away in 2001. Tove Jansson is one of the best-known Finnish artist in the world, and her work includes much more than writing the beloved Moomin books. During her first decades as an artist, Jansson produced not only paintings, but also an astonishing variety of illustrations. She continued to illustrate and paint even after the Moomin fairytales took off and as her reputation rose as a writer. Even her contemporaries saw that her tales from Moomin valley were not simple children’s stories, but presented an entire philosophy of life. The world of sympathetic Moomins was easy to enter, but readers found a deeper level behind the characters and their adventures: asking tricky questions and discovering the world with an open mind was the right thing to do. No wonder the Moomin characters have inspired many self-help type of books over the years, and an entire philosophy how to live life. And yes, even Skimbaco Lifestyle draws inspiration from Moomins and their adventurous life.

The first Moomin book was not an immediate hit, but with the third story, Finn Family Moomintroll (1948), Tove Jansson’s reputation rapidly spread across the borders of Finland and Sweden. As early as in the 1950s, she made a distribution contract for the Moomin comic strip with the largest evening paper of the time, the Londonbased Evening News. Soon, the comics were read in more than 20 countries. Today the books have been translated into over 40 languages.

Tove Jansson 100 years

As the success of Moomin books and comics snowballed, Moomins became a phenomenon calling for Tove Jansson’s intensive participation all over the world. After the first wave, one generation after the other has eagerly embraced Moomins. Moomins have appeared in countless television, movie, theater and opera productions. A fame of such proportions was quite demanding for the artist. However, Jansson never secluded herself from her audience, since she understood that friends of the Moomins wanted to get to know the artist behind them. Typically, she wanted to personally answer each and every fan letter she received.

Arabia & Moomins – part of everyday life

Moomin inspired home ware

Arabia started producing home ware products with Moomin characters already in the end of 1950′s, but the raise of the Moomin really begun in the 1990, when Moomin became more popular than ever before, and the time was called a “Moomin boom” in Finnish culture.


Ever since our children were young, I have been reading and telling them about Moomins, but I think they are just now starting to understand more of the deeper life lessons also included in the books, and starting to like Moomins more.


Arabia typically launches 1-2 new mugs per year and additional summer and winter seasonal mugs.


Moomin Exhibition

The Moomin Exhibition at the Arabia Gallery focused on the “Mugs that tell the story,” the Moomin mugs Arabia has produced over the years.


The pictures for the products are not original pictures drawn by Tove Jansson, but they are all inspired by her work and illustrated for Arabia just for the products.


Each Moomin mug was secured inside a dome to assure the highly collectible mugs stay in the exhibition.




The pictures between the mugs tell a much more detailed story how the Moomin characters turned into figures in the everyday dishes.


Are you familiar with or a big fan of the Moomins?


Post by Katja Presnal

“My mission is to inspire you to live life to the fullest and find your own “skimbaco,” how you enjoy life where ever you are in the moment. For ideas for travel, home, food and fashion, subscribe to weekly Skimbaco Lifestyle feed on Mondays and I hope you get my newsletter that I send out sometimes on Fridays.” Katja Presnal, editor-in-chief and the owner of Skimbaco Lifestyle.

Let’s connect!

Visit Skimbaco Lifestyle (’s profile on Pinterest.


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Follow my Trip to Bali as I Discover the SPG Member Favorite Hotels & Resorts Fri, 24 Oct 2014 08:12:30 +0000
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The St. Regis Bali Resort

Private pool at the St. Regis Bali Resort

My Dream Destination: Bali

Our expat living time here in Sweden is coming close to the end. Ever since I went to Bali last year I told my husband I would only move back to the USA from Europe if I could fly back “around the world,” and stop in Bali on the way. I fell in love with the island on the short trip when I went to the opening of Le Méridien Bali Jimbaran, a Starwood Preferred Guest hotel, last year, and I have been wanting to go back to Bali with my family ever since. Life doesn’t always go as planned, and we haven’t been able to make travels plans yet for the journey to exit Sweden. At the same time – life has an amazing way to work out, and I am going to Bali, leaving on Monday!

I partnered with Starwood Hotels and their Starwood Preferred Guest [SPG] member program. Each year they release their Member Favorite Hotels and Resorts List, and the 2014 list was just released recently. The list is based on SPG Ratings & Reviews and hotel feedback surveys from members around the world. This year three Bali properties are on the list, and I will be discovering all of them next week. Starwood has six resorts in Bali and three more opening the next 14 months.

The culture & serene luxury relaxation combined. Oh… and the food!!

Bali intrigues me as a travel destination, and I can’t learn to learn more about the Balinese culture, and I hope to do some cooking and yoga classes this time around. Bali is just one of those perfect destinations to have the ultimate luxury beach vacation in an exotic location.


The food is still often cooked on an open fire in Bali – even in the five star restaurants. I can’t wait to eat some exotic fruits like dragon fruit and mangosteen (pictured) on my trip, and I’ve been craving for the Balinese BBQ seafood for over a year now!

Watching the sun set at the private beach at the Westin Resort Nusa Dua

Watching the sun set at the private beach at the Westin Resort Nusa Dua

My daughter Gabriella is coming with me to Bali, and although this is a work trip for me, we will also be celebrating her upcoming 13th birthday on this trip, a trip I think we will both remember the rest of our lives. When her older sister Isabella turned 13, we celebrated it with a mother-daughter trip to Paris.


I’m looking forward taking my daughter to see some of the temples, and see the Balinese dancers performing.


I truly believe life is too short to wait for that one big adventure of a lifetime, and you have to figure a way to enjoy life right now, and make those Travel Dreams come true! That’s why I’m excited to partner with Starwood Preferred Guest, I believe I live the #spglife of making my dream travels come true. The SPG Member Favorite Hotels and Resorts List is a pretty good list to start looking for your next travel destination, and helping you to make your next travel dream come true. The list features 67 resorts around the world from Starwood’s almost 1,200 properties. These 67 have been voted the “best of the best” by over 1.1 million SPG members around the world.

SPG Member Favorite Hotels and Resorts in Bali

SPG Member Favorite Hotels and Resorts List highlights the SPG properties and destinations in several different categories: The Ultimate 10, Best Golf Getaways, Best Beach & Island Retreats, Best Winter Escapes, Best Family Adventures, Best City Experiences, Best Exotic Excursions, Best Small Luxuries, New & Noteworthy, Top 10 China and Top 10 USA Resorts.

The three SPG Member Favorite Hotels and Resorts in Bali are the Westin Resort Nusa Dua (read Reeta’s review of the Westin Nusa Dua), The St. Regis Bali Resort and the W Retreat & Spa Bali – Seminyak.


It explains a lot about Bali as an exotic beach destination that out of Top 10 Member’s Best Exotic Excursions, three resorts are in Bali. The Westin and St. Regis are also both voted as Best Beach & Island Retreats, and the St. Regis also gets the votes as a Best Family Adventure.

W Retreat & Spa Bali Seminyak
AWAY Spa at the W Retreat & Spa Bali

AWAY Spa at the W Retreat & Spa Bali

First we will stay at the W Retreat & Spa Bali Seminyak, and it features the AWAY® Spa. Open 24 hours a day, perfect! I can’t wait for a relaxing spa day, and recovering from our 24-hour travels at the WET® pool or at the Woobar overlooking the Seminyank Beach with some of the best views of the famous Bali sunset on our first evening in Bali.

Woobar at the W

Woobar at the W

The St. Regis Bali Resort
The Strand Villa at St. Regis Bali  Resort - Bedroom with Ocean View

The Strand Villa at St. Regis Bali Resort – Bedroom with Ocean View

The next we will check-in at Strand Villa at the St. Regis Bali. Strand Villa is a beachfront villa with direct access to a private beach with reserved beach sitting. St. Regis Bali is the only Nusa Dua Resort offering this ultimate luxury feature. I hope will are also able to do some kayaking or snorkeling on the private beach and on Saturday we will enjoy beach front yoga. (Stay still my heart!)

Beach at the St Regis Bali

Beach at the St Regis Bali

The Westin Resort Nusa Dua
Fresh water pool at Westin Nusa Dua

Fresh water pool at Westin Nusa Dua

We will spend our last days in Bali at the Westin Resort Nusa Dua. Skimbaco Team’s Reeta Laaksonen has stayed in this resort before and she says the Westin Nusa Dua is a perfect family resort, they even have a Westin Kids Spa – the kids only spa!

Westin Nusa Dua kids spa

Westin Nusa Dua kids spa

Virtually travel with me

Follow me on Instagram to see my travels as they happen.
My accounts: Skimbaco and KatjaPresnal.

I will also be tweeting and answering your questions about the resorts and Bali, follow me as @skimbaco on Twitter.

I will be using the #spglife for my social media content, and you can find more information about other SPG locations by following the hashtag.

My photos so far from Bali:

You can also follow Skimbaco Lifestyle‘s accounts SkimbacoTravel, SkimbacoFood, SkimbacoHome, SkimbacoFashion.


More about Bali on Pinterest

Follow’s board Bali Travel Inspiration on Pinterest.

Disclosure: I am working together with Starwood Hotels on this trip, but my opinions are my own. The resort photos provided by Starwood.

Post by Katja Presnal

“My mission is to inspire you to live life to the fullest and find your own “skimbaco,” how you enjoy life where ever you are in the moment. For ideas for travel, home, food and fashion, subscribe to weekly Skimbaco Lifestyle feed on Mondays and I hope you get my newsletter that I send out sometimes on Fridays.” Katja Presnal, editor-in-chief and the owner of Skimbaco Lifestyle.


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For Men: Packing for a Fall Trip to Paris Thu, 23 Oct 2014 14:02:57 +0000
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Fresh Croissants, Vespas, cafés, crepes- quintessentially Parisian. For me, all these things and the many other marvels of Paris are just around the corner. The only thing standing before me is packing, often a daunting task for many. While the seasons begin to change in the City of Lights after the Indian Summer, below are my suggestions for a fall getaway in the French capital.

First and foremost- pack light! You will find many souvenirs, including wines and champagnes, which will add weight to your checked bag on the return trip. Parisians love to dress in all black. As a New Yorker, my wardrobe is filled with a myriad of black pieces so this is not an issue. Why do I recommend packing black? So you can “fit in.” When I travel, I like to blend in with locals as much as possible to avoid standing out. I recommend packing some light weight merino wool or cashmere sweaters to pair with slim fitting black cargos or denim. This time of year Paris temperatures are around 60 degrees; however, the city is notorious for its grey skies so lighter sweaters make for the perfect tops.

paris packing


Sweater: Ralph Lauren Black Label // Pants: Ralph Lauren Black Label // Boots: John Varvatos

After filling my suitcase and sorting and refining, here are my top suggestions for your autumn visit to Paris:

  • Dark colors: try to pack shades of black, grey, and brown. Parisians love to where dark colors like New Yorkers so you will fit right in!
  • A lightweight jacket: temperatures will be around 60 degrees so a jacket will be necessary, but you do not want to be too hot while walking around site seeing and touring. I suggest a lined nylon jacket.
  • Sweaters: utilize lighter weight wools and cashmeres which are perfect for laying in case the sun surprises you.
  • Footwear: For footwear, I found myself with boots and loafers. Loafers will be easy to slip on and off at the airport while a refined city boot will be perfect for function as well as style while in Paris
  • Travel Essentials: I like to pack a chapstick while traveling because of dryness, your favorite cologne, and, of course, your passport!





Photos: Wes Holland, Pinterest


Post by Wes Holland

Monsieur Curations - Men's Lifestyle at Skimbaco Lifestyle, feature by Wes Holland

“I dream of being a business leader in the fashion world. Whether that be creating and running my own luxury retail consulting firm, or heading a department for a renowned fashion house, I want to mix the intellectually stimulating side of business with the creativity that the fashion world offers. Make sure to subscribe to Skimbaco Fashion weekly feed.” Wes Holland of Life Through Preppy Glasses.

Let’s connect!

Follow Skimbaco Lifestyle (’s board Monsieur Curations for MEN on Pinterest.

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Must do for Finnish Design Lovers: Visit Arabia Factory in Helsinki Tue, 21 Oct 2014 06:38:48 +0000
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Artists are the rocks stars of Finland

I recently visited Arabia factory in Helsinki. More about the factory, it’s history, amazing historical findings done from the factory attic, the showroom and why Arabia is the best known Finnish home ware brand in the world in this post, but first: why Finnish everyday design is different and how come the artists are the rock stars in Finnish culture.

It sort of has always been self-evident to me that you just know the names of the most famous Finnish textile designers, ceramics artists, and even artists who design hand-blown glass art. Let’s take the Marimekko’s iconic Unikko-print with bright poppies as an example – Finns just know that it was Maija Isola who designed it. Another example is home ware company Arabia’s Teema dishes, most of my Finnish friends probably could name that the dishes were designed by Kaj Franck. Even with the newer Finnish design brands, such as Ivana Helsinki, you know that the designer behind the brand is Paola Suhonen. The designers in Finland may be shy of using their own name as a brand name (although huge props for show designer Minna Parikka for going with her name as the brand name as well), but they do share the spotlight alongside with the brands.


The Finnish textile designers, ceramics artists, or home ware designers don’t have TV shows like Nate Berkus does, and they are not promoted by PR geniuses, nor they are in the covers of magazines or interviewed by morning TV shows all the time. Many (famous) Finnish designers work in small work shops like any other artists, and they do both commercial work for large brands and one of a kind art. I was thrilled to visit the Arabia Art Department, a rare creative art work shop co-op next to the factory where artists can concentrate on making art. This way unique art ceramics and design form a firm interaction, and the top artists of Finland can exchange thoughts and ideas. The Art Department Society’s goal is to advance the status of ceramics art in the field of modern culture, and aims at developing the Finnish culture and establish new contacts internationally through ceramics.


Peeking through the door of Fujiwo Ishimoto’s work space felt almost equally intimidating as meeting George Clooney at the Oscars. Really, I couldn’t believe it was really Mr Ishimoto, who designed for Marimekko in 1974–2006, and has been designing ceramics for Arabia since 1989.


Seeing the work shop of Heljä Liukko-Sundström was thrilling as well, her ceramic art was already part of my childhood home.


Applied arts has been an important part of Finnish culture since 1870′s. It has been important part of Scandinavian design that even the manufactured products are well-designed – and often by artists instead of pure industrial designers. The entire idea of applied arts comes from products designed by using traditionally handmade processes and methods, but then (machine and) mass-produced in a factory. The emphasis has always been put for the designers and the artists and their handicraft skills, even when the products are designed to be mass-produced. This all really comes back what we Finns tend to think: everyday design should be beautiful, and everyday objects should be well-designed and last a lifetime – both with high quality and with visually timeless design.

History of Arabia


The Arabia factory was built in 1873 in Helsinki, and still today reminds in the same location. It has been a Finnish custom to name companies by the location of the factory, and the entire company Arabia got it’s very non-Finnish name from the area where the factory sits in Helsinki. The rumor goes that the city blocks in the fairly remote area from the city center were named by a sea captain, who had visited exotic locations, like Arabia. Nowadays many think that the area in Helsinki has been named after the ceramics brand giant but it simply was the other way around. Regardless, 140 years later, thousands of ceramic objects are still fired in the long tunnel kilns of the Arabia ceramics factory.


The Arabia factory is the largest ceramics factory in the Nordic countries and it is nowadays part of the Fiskars Group. The name Fiskars most likely rings a bell even for our non-Finnish readers – it’s the bright orange scissors you might have in your kitchen or what you buy for your kids for school. Fiskars Group now owns several well-known brands besides Arabia in the ceramics/glass ware/porcelain category, for example Hackman, Höganäs Keramik, Iittala, Royal Copenhagen and Rörstrand. And as you can guess – the original Fiskars scissors were designed with the principles of applied arts – everyday objects had to be designed in a way the function and form unify. The scissors were designed in 1967 and over billion pairs has been sold worldwide.

fiskars tools

You can learn much more about the history of the Fiskars Group at the Arabia Factory, and see several art installations designed with the everyday objects from their brands.

fiskars factory

My favorite was the colorful glass votive installation created with iittala’s candle votives.

colorful glass votive installation created with iittala's candle votives.<br />

Arabia factory visit

Iittala is another Finnish home ware company, also owned by Fiskars Group, and nowadays both Arabia and Iittala products are developed and produced in the Arabia factory.

You can visit the Arabia factory and have a guided tour and learn more about the makings of the Arabia ceramics and home ware products.

You can visit the Arabia factory and have a guided tour and learn more about the makings of the products. It was fascinating to learn how the products are designed, and then the molds built for each product. Even more interesting was learning about the glazes and the colors in the ceramics, and why the Arabia Iittala products last a lifetime due the high quality process and materials used, and the decades of research of the best ways to manufacture ceramics.

While many of the products are completely machine manufactured in the factory, there are still several products that are handmade. Most of the prints in the ceramics for example are hand-places into each product instead of printed with a machine.

I can’t even start to explain the process in detail, but it was interesting learn little details like that the color red is the most difficult (and expensive) to produce. After also hearing how long the manufacturing process of many of the products takes and the high amount of individual steps involved, I swore I never complain about the high prices of Arabia and Iittala products anymore. (And I have been collecting Arabia dishes for 20 years now, and still use the same plates I used back then, and the quality truly stands the time).

While many of the products are completely machine manufactured in the factory, there are still several products that are handmade. Most of the prints in the ceramics for example are hand-places into each product instead of printed with a machine.

While many of the products are completely machine manufactured in the factory, there are still several products that are handmade. Most of the prints in the ceramics for example are hand-places into each product instead of printed with a machine.

The Arabia factory was being renovated in 2010, and during the renovations a sealed room was found consisting of hundreds of old ceramics molds. The molds were identified, and a few of them form the Arabia Memories collection today, only available to purchase at the factory store. The molds were of pieces designed by Kurt Ekholm, Michael Schilkin and Kaj Franck in 1930-1940's.

One of my favorite stories from the factory tour was to hear how the factory was being renovated in 2010, and during the renovations a sealed room was found consisting of hundreds of old ceramics molds. The molds were identified, and a few of them form the Arabia Memories collection today, only available to purchase at the factory store. The molds were of pieces designed by Kurt Ekholm, Michael Schilkin and Kaj Franck in 1930-1940′s and some of them were in production until 1950′s and some of them never made it into production. What an incredible time capsule!

he factory was being renovated in 2010, and during the renovations a sealed room was found consisting of hundreds of old ceramics molds. The molds were identified, and a few of them form the Arabia Memories collection today, only available to purchase at the factory store. The molds were of pieces designed by Kurt Ekholm, Michael Schilkin and Kaj Franck in 1930-1940's and some of them were in production until 1950's and some of them never made it into production. What an incredible time capsule!

Arabia Memories collection in production at the Arabia Factory in Helsinki, Finland

Factory showroom

Last, but not the least, the Arabia Factory also has an excellent showroom where you can find ideas for home decorating with the products from Fiskars Group. And of course, who could forget about the outlet store, where you can score many of the products for lower price!

Arabia Factory visit in Helsinki, Finland

Modern Finnish design for home - minimalistic Scandinavian style

iittala glass - helmi candle votives in multiple colors

Fall home decorating ideas from Arabia

More information about visiting the Arabia Factory, read from

My visit to Arabia Factory was part of a media trip in Finland organized by Visit Porvoo.

Post by Katja Presnal

“My mission is to inspire you to live life to the fullest and find your own “skimbaco,” how you enjoy life where ever you are in the moment. For ideas for travel, home, food and fashion, subscribe to weekly Skimbaco Lifestyle feed on Mondays and I hope you get my newsletter that I send out sometimes on Fridays.” Katja Presnal, editor-in-chief and the owner of Skimbaco Lifestyle.

Let’s connect!

Visit Skimbaco Lifestyle (’s profile on Pinterest.


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Haunted Jekyll Island, Georgia Mon, 20 Oct 2014 09:05:49 +0000
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Haunted Jekyll Island Club Hotel, Historic Hotels, Haunted hotels

It’s not that I seek out haunted hotels in my travels. Far from it. I’m actually a scaredy cat when it comes to anything haunted, but I like hotels rich in history and character. When you find hotels rich with those traits, you just happen to stumble upon a little extra that may go “bump in the night” sometimes. Well, that’s what I’ve been told anyway. I prefer not to think about ghosts when I sleep, but I couldn’t help but think about them when I visited the historic Jekyll Island Club Hotel on Jekyll Island, Georgia.

Rumor has it that this former island, founded by the millionaire’s club, has a few millionaires who don’t care to vacate this Southern island, once reserved for America’s most famous and elite.

The hotel even hosts a Ghost Hunt Weekend where ghost lovers seek out the paranormal. I stayed in the Annex building of the Jekyll Island Club Hotel which is often referred to as one of the most haunted buildings on the island. I personally didn’t notice anything suspicious, but I certainly slept with one eye open.

haunted islands, Jekyll Island Club Hotel,

I did chat with the hotel’s guest services manager while on property, and he told me that he has had some rather unusual experiences while working late at night. He says that he occasionally hears laughter in the hotel’s courtyard, but  every time he goes to check out the noise, he finds no one.

ghosts at Jekyll Island Club Hotel, Jekyll Island, Georgia

I asked, “Is it really loud?”

His response was, “Yes, it’s quite loud and it’s loud enough that you want to tell them to be quiet so they won’t disturb other sleeping guests. It happens about 1 a.m.”

The noise remains a mystery because he never finds anyone there when he searches for the source of the laughter.

ghosts sightings at Jekyll Island Club Hotel,

But the most mysterious encounter for this hotel employee was the time he was working late, and the switchboard kept ringing from areas that he knew were closed and no one was present in the hotel. He said, “I would answer and no one would say anything. I would hang up the phone then it would the phone would ring again.’ He said he finally unplugged the phone.

Haunted or not, the Jekyll Island Club Hotel is definitely worth visiting.  Afternoon tea is a delight at the hotel, and the perfect opportunity to visit this grand hotel as a day visitor.

jekyll Island, georgia

And if you notice that your scones are missing then that’s just the ghost of me who can’t quite get enough scones. This hotel has some good ones.

Jekyll Island at Christmas, Holidays on Jekyll Island

For more information, visit the hotel’s website. With this being a historic property, rates and room sizes vary. Prices range from $189 to $479 per night.  2014 Holiday packages are on sale now.

This story was made possible by a media visit.

Post by Leigh Hines

Leigh Hines, hotel and family travel expert | Skimbaco Lifestyle

“I live like a tourist in my hometown and my dream is to travel the world one luxury hotel at the time. If you love traveling as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Travel, and never miss any travel content from our site.” Leigh Hines of Hines Sight Blog

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Relaxing in the Quintessentially English Landscape Gardens Wed, 15 Oct 2014 08:24:12 +0000
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English Garden_3

Welcome to the quintessentially English landscape garden! You probably already know what the essence of the English garden is – unlike the formal and symmetrical French garden, the English ones are more natural. I always thought of quaint little tudor cottages surrounded by endless amount of colourful flowers, all happily mixed together. And yes, that is what typical cottages gardens are about, and then some more.

English Garden_16

The English landscape garden represents an ideal view of the garden pictured in pretty little paintings – typically comprising of a lake and a stream, sweeping lawns on rolling hills with beautiful trees and shrubs as a backdrop. With the amount of rain falling in England, that means a lush landscapes in a hundred shades of green. English Garden_9 Recreations of classic-looking temples, statues, gothic ruins and bridges also belong to the classic English landscape garden. And who could forget about the flowers, often planted in layers to have bloom all throughout the season either with an explosion of colour, or in gently colour-coordinated areas with lined, gravelled walkways criss-crossing and leading from one themed garden area to another .

English Garden_10

No trip to England is truly complete outside the winter season without a visit at least to Hampton Court Palace in the outskirts of London, or some other stately countryside home with lavish English gardens. These gardens truly are for the enjoyment of all senses: listening the birds chirping and bees humming, admiring the beautifully landscaped surroundings and smelling the blooming flowers – and of course a garden tour is always completed with a tea in the tea-room, or a picnic in the meadows, complete with chocolate-coated strawberries, scones and a bottle of the bubbly, or dry English cider.

English Garden_1

As there are hundreds and hundreds of amazing gardens to see in England it is important to decide first what it is you want to see the most: formal and symmetric gardens with skillfully clipped topiary, secret walled gardens described in the childhood books, imaginative Palladian temples scattered around rolling hills, and white peacocks strolling along lily-filled lakes, wild meadows and orchards – or possibly an estate that is a combination of all that and more.

.English Garden_2

The time of year is also crucial for selecting the perfect destination – for me the highlight of spring gardens would include those with wild meadows filled with bluebells and daffodils, whereas for late summer I would go for explosion of scents in the famous rose gardens.Autumn would be the perfect time to visit one of the moated castle ruins surrounded by bright foliage- catching a burning sunset in a cool evening with the mist rising from the moat is one of the most breathtaking moments I can think of.

English Garden_6

The English landscape gardens are something special- a mystery waiting to be explored. You can find temples, grottos and pavilions in unexpected places, get lost in mazes, relax by rowing on a lake, wander amongst  flocks of sheep or a herd of deer, just let your imagination run and have fun.  Walk down the path where Winston Churchill went in his time, or maybe follow the hunting trail of Henry the VIII or Anne Boleyn – the possibilities are endless. Enjoy the beauty passed on generation after generation in these well-tended, or more wild English gardens!

English Garden_4

reeta laaksonen

I love luxury travel and bringing global inspirations to our daily life. As a mother of three, I am always in the look for best places to visit with the kids. If you like the global lifestyle as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Lifestyle weekly feed.

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Visit reeta’s profile on Pinterest.


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Walk Through the Latin Quarters of Paris Wed, 08 Oct 2014 04:48:10 +0000
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Streets are narrow in Paris Latin Quarters

I’ve been asked about the walks I’ve done in Paris, and here’s  my latest one – exploring around Rive Gauche – the Left Bank, and more specifically around Latin Quarters – as the hotel where I stayed was in the heart of this area. I had no specific must-see places on my list this time other than Saint Sulpice, as I enjoyed reading Da Vinci Code -book and wanted to see the church from that perspective.

Paris Latin Quarter stores In general I just love walking around and admiring beautiful buildings and flowers, as well as visiting shops and getting style tips from passing chic Parisiennes. So I did also take time just to walk up and down the little streets of Latin Quarters, stopped for some music, enjoyed the street performers, and of course had a traditional crepe with chocolate and a cafe au lait: that’s just an unbeatable combination! Paris Walk from Select Hotel Rive Gauche This loop walk from the Select Hotel Rive Gauche is around 5km/3 miles depending on which roads you take and how much you keep side-stepping when you spot a lovely little store or a building. Time-wise it’s 3-4 hours depending on whether you want to climb up the bell tower of Notre Dame (always a long wait) and how many times you stop for a coffee or something else. This route had six main stops:

  • Jardin de Luxembourg – lovely Palace and gardens with a great cafe by the basin
  • Saint Sulpice Church
  • Abbey of St Germain-de-Pres
  • Notre Dame
  • Pont de l’Archevêché – the Bridge of Love
  • Panthéon
Jardin de Luxembourg - Paris

Jardin de Luxembourg also houses the charming French Senate building

Jardin de Luxembough - children with boats

Children racing their little boats in the little pond of Jardin de Luxembourg

The distance from Luxembourg park to Saint-Sulpice and further on to St Germain-De-Pres is not long, but certainly a very beautiful one. Paris has so many grand and memorable churches to explore, and by far all that I have visited have been free of charge.

Saint Sulpice Church in Paris

Saint Sulpice is almost as large as Notre Dame and well-known for being part of the Da Vinci code book. The interiors are baroque style and very ornate

From St-Germain I continued to the river and to the most famous church of the City, Notre Dame, which is celebrating 800th anniversary in 2013. As a memento one can buy a souvenir coin of this anniversary inside the church. The wait time was only about 5 minutes to enter the church and the entrance is free, but if you want to climb up the tower be prepared to queue 1-2 hours – and probably even longer on summer weekends. Crossing back to Left Bank of Paris, there is the narrowest bridge in Paris , Pont de l’Archevêché, also called the bridge of Love as there are probably thousands of locks left by couples declaring their love. Very romantic indeed!

Romantic Paris Bridge Pont de l'Archevêché

…Pont de l’Archevêché is the narrowest bridge in Paris and the ultimate bridge of love with thousands of locks on it

There is also the famous Panthéon to explore nearby (although it’s partially under restorations at the moment), not to forget of course the key attraction of Latin Quarters: those narrow little cobbled streets filled with stores and restaurants. The whole world is on display with restaurants, and one can enjoy a lovely three-course menu for about 10 euros, then move on the next place for some drinks, or a coffee and those delicious crepes. And then there is the hotel itself – there is a little bar and several cozy little lounges to sit down and chat away with friends.

Street Music in Paris Latin Quaters The best part of being in the latin Quarters is just exploring around – walking up and down those narrow, cute little cobblestoned streets, peeking into fun shops, stopping for delicious parties or drinks in the evening while enjoying streets artist performing or little bands playing music. Just take time to enjoy the local life and relax!

reeta laaksonen

I love luxury travel and bringing global inspirations to our daily life. As a mother of three, I am always in the look for best places to visit with the kids. If you like the global lifestyle as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Lifestyle weekly feed.

Let’s connect!

Visit reeta’s profile on Pinterest.


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My Finland in 20 Instagram Pictures Thu, 02 Oct 2014 09:41:07 +0000
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It’s Instagram Travel Thursday again – and now with a new format. Starting this month, we will be hosting Instagram Travel Thursday link collection only once a month, and a new collection linky will be published every first Thursday of each month. Scroll down this post and you will find many more Instagram Travel Thursday posts and please add your own link you publish an Instagram Travel post this month.

I use hashtag #skimbacofinland for my photos from Finland, and here is a semi-random collection of my 20 Instagram photos from Finland, and what I love about Finland.



When I miss home in Finland, I usually miss the archipelago. There is quite nothing in the entire world like the archipelago in the South West waters of Finland. The Archipelago Sea is part of the Baltic Sea. In fact, you can’t find that many (over 50,000) islands in any island group in the world. Finland has this gorgeous archipelago thanks to Ice Age, and the thousands of years of ice slowly melting and moving, and ripping the earth in little pieces as the ice mass moved. It has always fascinated me how the islands were born, and I never get tired of the sea view in Finland, and sailing in between the islands.


The islands in my country don’t have palm trees, but pine trees.

finland islands in porvoo

The islands in my country don’t have white sandy beaches, but gorgeous round rocks, formed by the ice and water shaping them year after year. A side note: can you see how clear the water is? These pictures are taken in Porvoo, in the South East coast of Finland.

porvoo islands

While the archipelago is my personal favorite, you can enjoy the water views almost anywhere in Finland. Yes, even miles away from the coastal shores – Finland is the country of tens of thousands of lakes. Whether it’s lakes or the sea, Finns spent their summer vacations and weekends on the cottages by the water.

midsummer sun in finland

All you need is the nature, and of course a sauna and a dock so you can jump to swim in the (most likely) cold water.


Finnish design

Finnish design principle is that everyday object should be beautiful, yet not many objects are made only for decoration or for the show. Finns are practical people, and “to be beautiful” is not a function that is as highly appreciated in objects in Finnish culture as in many others. Yes, there is art, but the most known artists in the country are still more well known for their commercial work or the functional objects like home ware goods or furniture they’ve designed.

The Scandinavian minimalism is at its best in Finland, and I can’t say enough about Finnish architecture and design. Simple can be beautiful. I grew up in Paimio, where the world famous architect Alvar Aalto designed the now world famous hospital. The chair in the picture was designed for the hospital in the 1930′s, and carries the name of my home town.

alvar aalto paimio chair

It is hard to believe that this chair that looks so modern, was already designed in 1930′s. But that if something tells you of the long roots of minimalism and design in Finland.

moomin mamma

Today’s collectible everyday design in Finland looks something like this. A coffee mug made by Arabia with a picture of Tove Jansson’s beloved Moomin characters, a Finnish literary stable. The first collaboration between Moomin Characters and Arabia was already in the 1950′s, but the mass production of the collectible Moomin mugs started in 1990′s and since then Arabia has released 2-4 new Moomin mugs per year.

oiva toikka

Of course I have to mention glass art as well, from artists like Oiva Toikka.

Stay tuned for a longer post about Finnish design.

Small villages and small cities

Even the capital of Finland, Helsinki, is small compared to the cities of the world. Oh, how I love Helsinki. It has it’s quirky sides, like knitted or crocheted street art, or over 50-year-old DJ in a Spanish Tapas bar, neither of you would think of seeing in Helsinki.

street art in helsinki

People follow their own fashion trends, and while part of it is fearing of not quite being on trend with the rest of the world, part of it really is just being who you are and just not caring what the rest of the world says. Some trends come to Helsinki a little late (first Starbucks just opened), but some trends are being created there (like Restaurant Day when everyone can open a restaurant for a day).


It would do such injustice to only talk about Helsinki though. It’s like in most countries, there is the capital, and then there is the rest of the country, and they are not always the same, and you can perhaps see more of the real Finnish culture outside Helsinki. Although even in Helsinki, you can go in the market square by the harbor, and see all of the food stalls filling up every summer day, equally with tourists from around the world and locals on their lunch breaks. My favorite cafe the Cafe Esplanad is a Helsinki must do both for locals and tourists alike.

mami restaurant turku

Turku in South-West Finland will always have a place in my heart. The Aura river flows through the city, and I just want to spend my day in the coffee shops, at the library, in the restaurants and the museums by the river. Just people watching as they bike through the city, sometimes taking the Föri, the small pedestrian ferry, cross the river with their bikes. Turku was the original capital of Finland, and you can still feel the powerful history as you walk the streets and discover the city. Of course, it’s the Turku Archipelago that I love the most.


One of my newer loves in Finland is Porvoo in South-East Finland, only an hour drive from Helsinki. And yes, just like Helsinki and Turku, also Porvoo is a coastal town. I can’t help it, but my Finland always has boats, and sunsets over the sea. Porvoo has a colorful history, and its old town is still today a charming place for people to go shopping and to enjoy their day in the coffee shops and restaurants.

Finnish Forest – serenity and outdoor activities

When in Finland, you can’t escape from the forest, but you should escape to the forest. 78% of Finland’s landscape is forest, and in fact, Finland is the tenth most foresty country in the world. Finland has the highest percent of forest landscapes among all European countries. Being close to the nature is important to Finns, and forest is a place for everything from soul-seeking to outdoor adventures to picking up berries.

mushrooms in Finland

Everyone has a right to pick up berries and mushrooms from the forests and enjoy the nature. The Finnish concept of ‘Everyman’s Right’ gives a legal right for people to enjoy also the fruit of the green lush forests. Picking up your own blueberries or mushrooms for fall time dishes is as important as cooking the food. It’s an experience of slower life, and appreciating it, even though you could easily pick up the berries from the supermarket.

feeding squirrels in forest

While it might be more difficult to get to this close to the forest animals in the larger forests of Finland, it is easy to have animal sightings close to the cities. You will find forest everywhere in Finland, even in the capital, Helsinki. Read the interview with Konsta Punkka, the Instagram-famous squirrel whisperer from Finland, and how he shoots nature pictures in his secret forest location in Helsinki.

Finland in photos: feeding birds in the forest. Photo by Katja Presnal @skimbaco

Forests, of course, offer the perfect playground for outdoor play. All you really need is good clothing and good walking shoes, and you can experience the best of the forests by going for a walk or hike, but that’s really just the beginning. Orienteering is a big sport in Finland, mixing navigating and running in the serene forests, and of course when the winter time comes, the nature trails turn into ski and/or snowmobile trails.

lapland finland winter forest

The forest adventure possibilities in Finland are countless. lapland Safaris offer forest adventures in the most rural forests of the country – in Lapland. Closer to larger cities in the south, Flowpark offers tree climbing in parks that have been designed in the forest in a way that even if the park closes, everything has been built in the trees in a way that it will be easy to take down, and leave no harm for the forest. Forests are respected and everything is built around the forests in Finland. Of course, it is also a large industry in Finland, but that’s an entire different topic.

flowpark in turku finland


Finnish cuisine may not be world famous, but Finland is worth to visit just to taste around the country for their unique flavors. Many of them involve the different varies of fish, cooked in different ways. One of my Finnish treats is dark Finnish rye bread with smoked salmon.


Stay tuned for more posts about Finnish food, design and places to visit!

Your Finland

discovered my inner finn

What about you? Did these photos make you want to discover Finland on your own? If Finland is already known to you, please share how your Finland looks like with your photos. Use #skimbaco and #igtravelthursday in your Instagram photos.

More Travel Posts

Read more Instagram Travel posts from these new blog posts this month and add your own blog post. Linky closes on the last day of the month.

Link up, but read the rules first!instagram-travel-linky-rules

Instagram Travel Thursday

Join us every Thursday on Instagram by sharing your travel photos with #IGTravelThursday hashtag.
Follow @skimbaco and @IGtravelThursday and we will feature the best photos on Instagram and on our Facebook page.

Instagram Travel Thursday is a fun community project to connect travelers on Instagram, read more.

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Also get my ebook Instagram as your Guide to the World – How, What and Who to Search and Follow on Instagram to Help You Travel the World FOR FREE when you subscribe to my newsletter.

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Combination travel: Train from London to Paris, then Cruising French Country Side Tue, 30 Sep 2014 11:44:32 +0000
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I have written before about combination travel – combining different destinations on the same trip – and often also combining different transportation methods, either as means of getting from one place to another, or as a unique experience. Combination travel also makes a lot of sense if you are travelling to another continent: the incremental cost on terms of time and money is smaller since you are already there.

Combination travel with rail, cruising and flying

Combination travel with rail, river cruising and flying

last Spring I did a combination travel to France, but instead of flying like I normally do I finally took the Eurostar train – and it was an excellent choice! This is an experience I’d definitely recommend for overseas travellers: a return ticket cost me just £67.50, which translates roughly to $100 USD, so it’s  way cheaper than flying.

The key allure of the train travel is not the cost though, but a combination of factors: the speed: it took me 3 hours from home to the center of Paris vs. 7-8 it would with driving to the airport, parking, checking in etc (but note that I boarded in Ashford, not central London), there is no limit to the luggage (but might be a small surcharge if you bring a ton), no worrying about liquid limits and no tasteless plane food.

The train is fast, silent and clean – and has great food on offer too. The end station, Gare du Nord, was within a walking distance to my hotel vs. 15 minute walk and an hour’s bus drive it took to reach the Charles de Gaulle airport on my way to Spain after the river cruise. So train vs. airplane from London to Paris goes 6-0 for the Eurostar!

Walking distance to hotel Westminster

Romantic Hotel Westminster was only a walking distance away from Eurostar stations Gare du Nord

So train was my first leg of the journey and a great experience, which was followed by a couple of days in Paris, and then I continued to a river barging cruise in Burgundy. The last leg of this combination journey was a few days spend under the basking sun of Spain exploring a historic city: now the weather was quite sunny in Paris too, but all but the last day were still somewhat cool temperature-wise, so Spain was a welcomed final leg for this trip.

Exploring Beaune

Exploring the delicous French foods in liltle town of Beaune

This trip lived to the full expectation of combination travel as it was filled with different experiences from wine tasting and culinary journey and cycling French country lanes to sampling night life and busy tourist attractions in Paris: a great mix of fast life and slow lane and something in between! If you are interested in trying something new and booking your next adventure – possibly even a combination travel there are a few ways to go about it: do it all yourself, have a professional agency organise your itinerary, or a combination of the two.


Biking to a restored abbey for cocktails and canapes

If your choose do do it yourself, be aware of the stress and amount of work it takes to find the information, book, confirm and coordinate everything – so start early enough. If you decide to use a company there are many available such as Shearings Holidays , which offer a bit of everything from self-drive itineraries to rail and cruises, tours and multiple-stop flying holidays (note that Shearings is UK based but offers global destinations, so works well if you are coming from US as many people start from London their European adventures)

Night in Alcala

Ending the holiday with a high note – trying something new again: guided night time city tour, which bring a whole new perspective and of course some great tapas and wine at the end of the tour!

reeta laaksonen

I love luxury travel and bringing global inspirations to our daily life. As a mother of three, I am always in the look for best places to visit with the kids. If you like the global lifestyle as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Lifestyle weekly feed.

Let’s connect!

Visit reeta’s profile on Pinterest.


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