River-side Restaurant Mondays

It’s not often that I get to enjoy a meal somewhere different, and this river-side cafe tucked away near the River Thames was a perfect spot to enjoy a light meal and a cool breeze, and watch some ferries go by.

It’s nice to enjoy the warm weather and take a break after a long day’s work (especially after convincing your husband to take you shopping and ending up with a bag full of cookies).

I’m hoping to explore London and wander  around more this summer, but for now, this is a snap for Mondays, to start the week off with some luxury and some food!

DSC_4331

Weekend Pretty…Walk Through the Rainbow Door

I saw this about two days ago, which I had to stop and take a picture of (and in front of, to the eye-rolls of a work colleague). I haven’t been able to wander around London lately and look for street art or quirky, funky places in London as I’ve always been busy with work or have ended up with things to do at home which mean less time to act like a tourist.

So naturally this rainbow door caught me eye, in the middle of a congested road, jammed with cars and buildings and not much greenery, it’s like a beacon calling to passerbys. This is actually a doorway for a church, so naturally the door helps to usher people in and take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. While, as a Muslim, I wouldn’t ideally walk into a church, I don’t have an antipathy for them – my parents have always taught me to have respect for other religions, whether we believe them or not, and I’ve always seen Christianity as a religion which runs alongside Islam, for all of our differences.

So, a rainbow door for you this weekend. I like to think that there are similar doors around London in various places, leading to mysterious insides.

DSC_0002_22

And The Mountains Echoed

Our brothers and sisters are there with us from the dawn of our personal stories to the inevitable dusk. ~Susan Scarf Merrell

And The Mountains Echoed, much like Khalid Hosseini’s earlier novels The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Sun begins, and draws its roots from Afghanistan and its tumultuous history, following on from the upheaval of the country in the 70s to emigration to America. Unlike his other two novels, however,  there is also a layering of characters from other cultures – Markos, a Greek surgeon, photographer and philanthropist, Nila, a part-French, part-Afghan artist who embodies the glamorous, detached Parisienne lifestyle, and Iqbal and his family, who have come home from emigration to Pakistan to find his family are unable to claim their home, or even Amra, a Bosnian nurse caring for the wounded in war-torn Kabul.

Although there is plenty of diversity in this story, at the heart of it all is the focus on the two primary characters, Abdullah and Pari, siblings whose close bond is ripped apart when they are separated at childhood, sold by a desperate father. So begins a ripple which resounds over the next 60 years, in which each sibling feeling incomplete without the other, affecting their families and friends around them.

There are several themes throughout the novel, which reverberate through each generation of siblings, lovers and friends – each of them having their own forms of abandonment and reconciliation, and each of them finding the true meaning of love and relationships over the years.

Normally a large number characters in a novel may overwhelm the story, but in this case, each character contributes, reinforcing a theme which subtly leads back to Abdullah and Pari. Each sibling carrying their own sense of incompleteness and abandonment; Abdullah growing up in Afghanistan and having his own family, emigrating to America in an attempt to find stability, and Pari, taken to France by her adoptive Mother, learning French culture and never understanding her identity and what is missing.

While this story is a little depressing in it’s telling, it’s beautifully written – there are parts of it which read like an old story being told, and indeed each character does tell his tale in order to contribute to this strange myth-like story.

If you’re looking for something full of culture, history and beauty, this has plenty of all three, and gives more besides. While it does show the characters and their yearning – to be elsewhere, to be with family or to be simply accepted – the characters are beautifully rendered, invoking a feeling of amity and the idea that you can step forward, and be a part of their lives.

Orange Petals

We’ve been getting sunny spells lately, and it’s nice to be able to walk around in the warm afternoons where the sun is setting later and later, and the flowers, trees and plant-pots are all blossoming. I’m making the most of it while I can (I still half-expect a random heavy shower in the middle of the day), enjoying cool breezes with blue skies.

Here’s something my mum bought for her garden recently, she also bought a few other colours but I love the vividness of this one, it’s sharp and eye-catching and a perfect symbol for summer.

DSC_0603

Weekly Badass Princesses Links

It’s time for weekly links again, and as ever, I’ve been collating some good ones for you (and some stupid ones, naturally!) – here they are, so enjoy!

Find the Invisible Cow. Seriously. Make sure you have your sound on for this one.

If you’re into cool stories about Princesses (like me) then this will be up your street – Rejected Princesses, which are stories from around the world about lesser known stories in fairy tales, history and myths with princesses who were, basically, badasses.

300 hours of work, millions of handmade dots and lines with Rotring Inkpens – I don’t think I’d have the patience, but what a beautiful piece is created at the end of it.

Ever wanted to see the worst of Youtube videos? (You probably don’t) – wonder no more with boootube.com Enjoy and cringe away.

Did you ever play the Oregan Trail in your childhood? (I sure as heck did, I’m surprised how many others there are out there as well!) Well, here’s a zombie version of the game to re-live your childhood memories.

Designer Seb Lester re-created famous brands and logos with a pen hand. I love stuff like this, it’s beautifully done and oddly satisfying to see a pen used so well.

A (very cool) father and daughter recreated Jurassic Park with $100,000 worth of Lego – you can watch the video here.

Feeling stressed? Have a rainy window. Makes everything better.

Ever wanted a designer handbag made of pancakes, or sandwiches, or bagels? Well now you can have some, courtesy of Chloe Wise and her foodie fashion bags. The only thing I’d be worried about is hungry passerbys and birds trying to eat your bag and make your lipsticks fall out.

Rocko, you look so…wild. If 90s cartoons were translated into real life, here’s how they would look. Very confusing.

Bright Lights in the Sky

I love a wander around London Town, there’s always something different to catch my eye, which I’ve never seen before. I’ve lived in London for my whole life, and I’ve always travelled to and from the main central streets, roaming around east London, crossing over the river to South and venturing towards West and North to see more beauty, and yet I never fail to see beautiful things.

This is something I saw after work a couple of days ago, after a spontaneous walk around Carnaby Street for some dessert and shoe-(window)-shopping, and saw this tucked away in a side alley – a small, busy restaurant between two streets, with orange and yellow light bulbs hanging criss-cross across with wires and hangings, bright lights floating above.

(What completed the scene was a man in costume shouting his wares under the lights a little futher down, trying to pull customers into the restaurant, while a group of school boys threatrically pretended to be scared by the mask and screamed).

If I find the restaurant again, I’ll be sure to go inside and see if there’s more lights, but for the moment, these make beautiful aritifical stars in the night : )

lights

A Day Out at Willen Lake

We decided to have a day out this weekend, making the most of the Bank Holiday and not having to go work the next day (yaay!) by taking a picnic and surprising my sister with a day out at Willen Lake.

So we took the kids, made some snacks and nibbles, took some badminton rackets, balls and a cricket bat, and headed up to the park and hid. Meanwhile, my sister’s husband dragged her to to the park with their little daughter and went around in circles in the same part of the park, to her bafflement, while we all hid (I came late so didn’t hide) behind bushes and shushed the kids.

Finally she spotted us and the look of disbelief on her face was something to see – although it was less of a surprise after the toddlers ran towards her instead of hiding!

We had a great day though, and managed to take in the sights (and the kids managed to hijack the children’s play area which made their day). My husband and I wanted to try some boating, but it as too cold and windy so we promised to come back in the summer when it’s hotter to give it a try (that way he won’t mind when I push him in the water!)

Here’s a few snaps of the day, I didn’t take many photos as we were too busy playing games and eating, or chasing little toddlers around – but I do love these shots. The ones of the swans are one of my favourite, there’s something dreamy about them all gathering together : )

DSC_0399

 

The Chocolate Festival 2015, London

I mentioned before that I went to the yummy Chocolate Festival last weekend, and had a pretty fun time seeing chocolate being shaped into amazing things, as well as trying different flavours and new skills.

I took a good few hundreds of pictures, so apologies in advance for all of the photos below, but I wanted to post all the amazing stuff I saw which caught my eye, and which was being displayed.

I’ll start off with the amazing sculpted and shaped chocolate pieces which were for sale, and which we ended up buying a few of because we liked them so much, and the prices were reasonable!

DSC_0036

There was plenty of talent on display, such as these chocolate moulds of celebrities’ faces, and which made me wonder whether it would be worth getting one done myself! (Probably  not, my husband would just eat it).

DSC_0043

I loved the other types of treats which were available, from Turkish Delight, candied nuts, fudges, brownies, cookies, cupcakes, marshmallow pieces and biscuits, which were all displayed in abundance for sale. Suffice to say, we bought a few of these as well!

DSC_0140

There were also gorgeous macarons and beautiful treats which were almost too pretty to eat. There were a lot of beautiful boxes of decorated chocolate pieces and hand-painted, luxurious chocolates which were a little more pricey, but made amazing presents or would look lovely for an event or afternoon tea.

DSC_0055

 

And of course, I have to mention the plenty of samples to taste at almost every stall we stopped at! We tasted mango fudge, blueberry fudge, chewy cookies, passionfruit flavoured chocolate and lots more, and it was pretty fun to try something new and see what we could add to our palate.

DSC_0049

We also made a quick visit to the cheese and wine tasting section, although this wasn’t really our bag so we didn’t stay that long, but we did enjoy looking at all the different types (and sizes!) of the cheeses.

DSC_0071

DSC_0072

We also found a lot of other treats which we thought were amazing, such as the chocolate samosas (which I wanted to bring home and trick someone with, but didn’t end up doing!) and the Shakespeared Heroine chocolates, where each flavour of chocolate was named after a heroine from a play.

We had a pretty amazing time at the show, and went home feeling pretty satisfied with what we’d seen (and eaten). We had fun with the free photobooths which were available, and spent a nice day indulging ourselves (which I had been waiting to do all week!), and took plenty of photos. This is the first chocolate festival I’ve been to, and it was nice to see the different varieties and talents which are out there, which you don’t see in the usual stores. There was also another cake show the next day in another location which we wanted to go to as well, but we had a family wedding and couldn’t make it, but it’s made me want to go to more foodie festivals to discover new flavours and tastes!

DSC_0085 DSC_0115 DSC_0122 DSC_0172