Rainbow Shelfies

My sister recently re-organised her bookshelf of many books, to make a gorgeous rainbow-organised set up. She previously had the books sorted by categories of genres and writers, but after seeing the idea of #shelfies (beautiful book shelf pictures posted by people online), she thought she’d she’d re-arrange the whole thing!

So this time each shelf was re-arranged by colour, with matching ornaments to complete the themes. The genres and themes are all mixed up but it does give a good chance to look at books you thought you’d forgotten about, and makes a gorgeous living room feature.

Winter Fun at Winter Wonderland

Over-priced food, busy rides, and freezing weather – what else but Winter Wonderland! My sister and I visited Winter Wonderland a few days before Christmas to enjoy the lights and sights, especially as both of us have not been for a few years. We enjoyed a few (expensive!) rides, and had a look around to enjoy the fun vibe in the air and the beautiful lights. One of the things we liked as well was exploring the market which is around the area, which sells lovely hand-made goods and pretty pieces.

I’m not sure I’ll be going again next year as I did find the rides and food very expensive – we easily spent over £30 on two rides which felt a little extortionate, especially as most theme park tickets now cost this much. It is a seasonal thing and it has a nice atmosphere, but it makes me think that Winter Wonderland is an example of a seasonal thing which has become too commercialised, which takes advantage of the holiday season to make a lot of money! While I understand that this is normal for the Christmas season, I have decided a long while ago that when I do spend my money, I’d like to spend it on things which are worth it, good value and also enjoyable!

But that’s enough for now – here’s a few snaps I took at Winter Wonderland. Unforunately my phone camera is great at night time, but I did try!

Happy New Year!…2019

Happy New Year everyone! 2018 was an interesting year, with highlights such as being in the middle of Times Square in New York (more about that later!), a new arrival in the family for us all to coo over, and some seriously good times with good food!

I’m looking forward to a few things already this year, and it will be interesting to see what it brings!

Wishing you all a great year (and happy dietings!)

Seasonal Chocolate Delights at Aubaine…!

Is it that time of the year already? Its nearly the end of 2018 and I’ve been busy sampling seasonal menus, exploring the bright lights in London and generally making the most of what is left of the year before I relax in the holidays!

This is a chocolatey dessert menu I was able to try at French restaurant Aubaine recently, which involved a very chocolate hot chocolate plus a chocolate log to enjoy! I opted for the creamy Javara hot chocolate, while my friend went for the ‘blond’ and more sweeter Dulcey hot chocolate. We’re both chocoholics so it was ideal for us!

Autumn Vibes at Queen Elizabeth Park

I love when I’m strolling through somewhere on my lunch break and I find something memorable. This a pretty spot my sister showed me recently which is close to my office, and makes for a lovely place to sit and enjoy the view. Not to mention the huge slide and swing which is about 10 feet away from this, which doesn’t hurt!

I’ll miss the pretty colours when the leaves all drop off (as they are already starting to!) but it will be exciting to see the night lights and seasonal decor around London!

Argentinian Flavours at Elvet Steakhouse

Hubby and I recently tried out gourmet steakhouse Elvet Steakhouse located in East London. I was quite excited to try their food as I have heard nothing but high praise, and I am partial to a good steak!

Starters – Nano burgers and chicken satays:
The nano burgers were tiny little sliders, which tasted gorgeous – I would happily have eaten several of these in one go! The chicken satays were nice and tender, which came in roasted peppers and a savoury tangy sauce.

Mains / sides –  Argentinian Black Angus Fillet with rustic chips and coleslaw, Argentinian Black Angus Sirloin with crushed potatoes:
Both of the steaks were beautifully done, not overcooked and very tender. The fillet was slightly more tender as it had no fat, but the sirloin has a slightly more juicy taste to it – both were excellent. The rustic chips were a yummy side but I was less of a fan of the crushed potatoes, which felt a bit too heavy!

Dessert – Alcohol-free tiramisu, caramel cheesecake
The restaurant kindly bought these out as we were about to leave, and I was glad they did! The tiramisu was creamy and smooth, with just a hint of coffee flavour, and the cheesecake was beautifully smooth with an added sharpness from the berries.

Drinks – Passionate Lady, Berrylicious, Mango Bellini and Bubblegum mojito
Out of the 4 drinks we had, the bubblegum mojito was both of our favourite – it tasted pleasantly fruity without being too sweet. The Berrylicious was a nice flavoured sweet drink, and the Passionate Lady had a really nice lassi feel to it. The Mango Bellini was nice but could have had a slightly fruitier taste to it, but tasted fresh so this is a plus.

Despite the vast amount of halal restaurants in London, I have found it difficult to find a decent halal steak place who know what they’re doing with their meats. The owner explained how he sources his halal meat directly from Argentina and learned the process of drying, adding flavours and how to cook the meat properly, and this is reflected in the food. Having said that, be warned, the prices are slightly pricier than east London restaurants tend to be, which may put people off!

EVALUATION:
HALAL : yes – hmc confirmed
VEGETARIAN & VEGAN OPTIONS AVAILABLE: Vegeterian – yes, Vegan – no
PRICE : £25-35 for steaks, can be around £40-50 per person for a 3 course meal with drinks
RATING OUT OF 10: 9
LOCATION: 392 Romford Rd, Forest Gate, London E7 8DF

Happy Independence Day India & Pakistan – 2018

Today marks the 71st year of celebration of Pakistan’s Independence as well as its creation, bring new days of hope and freedom for its citiznes. I have seen the proclamations and celebrations of ‘Azaadi!’ from Pakistanis around the world – freedom, freedom, freedom.

Independence Day celebrations always bring back a lot of childhood memories for me – dressing up in green and white kameez shirts sewn by my mum, running to the local main road with my sisters and cheering while we waved our flags. We would watch the cars go by beeping and honking, giant Pakistani flags sailing down the street, and watching people stop to dance to music and indulge in stories, hot food, the bright colours being paraded. I always remember the ambience in the air, the feeling of sheer joy, a celebration of unification amongst strangers. I remember the English police men who were there to keep watch hiding their smiles at watching people bhangra on the road to music blasted out of cars. And let’s not forget the free samosas and coke cans being handed out, which we also went for!

At that age it was a simpler understanding – our childish recognition that our country was free, even if Pakistan was somewhere miles away. As I get older, I begin to understand just how much more harrowing the experiences and sacrifices were behind the pride for our country – not just for Pakistan but for India instead. I begin to understand the strength of passion for such love for our countries, from stories which have been passed down from our grandparents who were present during the Partition and the eventual Independence.

My parents have always made sure we understood our heritage, and kept us close to our roots. We may be born British, but we are equally Pakistani. There are some who call us BBCDs (British Born Confused Desis, or ABCDs for the Americans!), but I really don’t think we are. We are just as in touch with our faith, our identity and our roots as Pakistani citizens are, even if it is in a different way, and we have just as much right to be proud of our country.

I remember growing up wearing salwar kameezes with trainers, proudly showing off my henna, my Eid outfits and my jewellery at school events. I remember visits to Pakistan where the vibrant smells, colours and people have always stayed in my mind, even if it has been nearly two decades since my last visit! I remember listening to Pakistani pop bands (courtesy of my elder sister and her music cassettes!) like Junoon, Abrar Huq along side the Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls tunes. Even now we mix our Pakistani dishes alongside with the English – sugary jalebis, piping hot samosas are often served in our house along with chocolate cupcakes, pasta salads and roast chicken and potatoes.

The recent victory of charismatic politician Imran Khan in Pakistan’s elections have added to the jubilation of this years Independence Day. Pakistan seems to really be looking forward to a naya Pakistan, a new Pakistan. Whether this will happen soon remains to be seen, but the hope is real, not just for its citizens but also for Pakistanis around the world.

So in that spirit, Happy Independence to Pakistan and India – it is better to be united by our similarities and celebrate our freedom together, rather than focus on the the hatred and division.

The Hill Garden and Pergola at Hempstead

I love finding beautiful spaces that are hidden away, London’s secret gems. I recently visited the Hampstead Hill Garden and Pergola, which is a beautiful garden with a walk-through pergola that looks really enchanting. Now that it has hit summer, the garden is blooming with lots of greenery and pretty flowers, and it’s a great place to walk through and enjoy.

Here are a few snaps from my last visit, which was a really enjoyable afternoon. We went during a weekday so it was pretty quiet – perfect for a few isolated shots of a beautful vista!

I’d recommend a visit if you’re ever near the area – it really feels like a secret, hidden away garden, and it’s lovely no matter which time of the year! I visited last year in autumn as well, and the shades of colours look amazing, so don’t worry if you think you can’t see it in the summer season : )

That Time I Brunched at Home with Friends

The heatwave has arrived in London, so I’ve been making the most of the weather, with ice-cool drinks, random visits to pretty cafes, relaxing in the park and meeting up with friends now that we all have a little free time.

I’m sure you’ve all noticed the popular rise of Brunching – it’s fashionable, instagrammable and usually healthier than a standard fry-up.

When I go out with friends, we usually opt for brunch – it’s sometimes cheaper than lunch, looks more photogenic and we usually feel pretty satisfied with a decent meal. Having said that, I can see that these days it is easy to get caught up in the brunching/afternoon-tea-ing/girl-about-town lifestyle, which means spending a bucket-load of money to feel like you had an ‘experience’ worth showing off to others.

A friend and I were talking about how it is easy to have this lifestyle and mentality become normalised – there is nothing wrong with going out with friends to eat, but it can be easy to spend more than you intend to, or indulge in too much unhealthy food because of the whole ‘FOMO’ fear behind the ‘Instagrammable’ life. So we decided to opt for the best of both worlds – pretty, photogenic food but the comfort of our home, with healthy(ish) food which didn’t cost much – below you can see the results!

I’m not sure we’ll always be able to manage brunch (or afternoon teas, gourmet dinners and so on) at home, especially with the busy lives we lead. Not to mention the fact that sometimes it can cost the same to buy all the pretty food we want, even if we’re just going to have it at home! Having said that, it’s nice to have something cosy at home, with lots of banter and gossip, and a chance to kick off your shoes and relax : )