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 : )

Katharina Grosse: This Drove my Mother up the Wall

I saw this exhibition not too long ago, by artist Katharina Grosse, which I thought was pretty memorable. It’s called ‘ This Drove my Mother up the Wall’ at the South London Gallery, and features a room covered in boldly thrown paint on walls and doors.

I loved the rainbow effect of this piece – it’s vibrant, alive, messy but beautiful and while walking around the room, it felt like I was in a colourful wonderland. There’s colourrs on parts of the floor, ceiling and doors as well as the wall, although none of it is organised or structured.

I really love the feel of this piece – it reminds me of chaos but in a cheerful way – rather than being an angry piece or a hostile one, it is enthusiastic, a little like thoughts spilling out which can’t be contained.

I’m looking forward to seeing the artist’s next exhibition which is currently on at the Gagosian Gallery in London, which is another colourful, vibrant piece that is on until the end of the week – I recommend you visit if you get the time!

Leaving The Page Blank*

I have developed a bad habit, over the years, of putting things off, or worse, not finishing them. Not necessarily out of laziness, but out of the idea that ‘One Day’ I’ll magically get a brainwave and do what I’ve been meaning to do. Until then I’ll leave the page blank, or leave the ending of the story unfinished.

Let me explain what I mean.

An example: whenever I get a new sketch book, a new note-book, even a new diary, I’ve always left the first page blank. I have this idea that I’ll be randomly struck by inspiration and be able to use that front page to design a beautiful front cover or write a something amazing and funny (because of course you need a spectacular front page. As a kid, most of my diaries said Keep Out So-and-So in bedazzled glitter). So I have in my possession a few sketch books that I use now and then, with the front page blank because I’m waiting for that unspecific, magical point in the future that I’ll be practiced enough in my skills enough to draw something amazing that I’m happy with. So that the first thing people see if they flip through is that page. Most of my diaries in the past (I say past because in the age of laptops and social media, I no longer keep a diary, I think the last time I wrote in one was about 7 or 8 years ago) have had the front cover black so I can stick something pretty there or draw random doodles or even just my name on the front.

I’m also a really fussy artist and writer. I’m not necessarily great what I do, but I revise what I write A LOT, and I often correct drawings because they don’t ‘feel’ right – I’m sure you can guess that I am my own worst critic and I hate everything I create. This has applied to a few other things in my life, and it has taken me time to realise that it is not down to talent, circumstance, or even things like time or taste – but purely down to mentality and approach. So sometimes I have put off things in my life, thinking I can do them later – learn to drive, save money to travel, take that class I wanted to take, invest in that exercise programme.

Which brings me to the whole point of my post – I’ve come to a realisation over the years that there is never a right moment to fill in that blank page. No epiphany moment of ‘ah-ha!’ which inspires me to write a beautiful story or draw an amazing piece of art – for me it will always involve a little patience, hard work and practise, and a positive attitude. I have often put off doing something or not done something at all because I thought I was terrible – hundreds of discarded storylines which I never followed through because they didn’t sound good when I wrote it, artwork I didn’t complete and even mini projects that I stopped mid-way. Partly due to laziness, but a lot of do with the fact that it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not this much of a perfectionist in every aspect of my life – I don’t cook a meal then throw it away if it doesn’t look great (if anything I follow a philosophy which prioritises taste over aesthetics, who cares what a dish looks like as long as it tastes good?). Neither do I fall into a mire of depression because a something didn’t go the way I wanted, or because my planned day out/make-up/role at work didn’t go the way it wanted. I think perhaps because writing and drawing is such a personal thing to me which I don’t share with many people, I tend to get a lot more fussy, a lot more self-conscious and easily put-off.

I’m learning though. I try not to let these things get to me. I have always said to my husband that it’s no use waiting for that magical moment where everything will be okay – next week, next month, next year. It will never happen that way. Change your approach, be positive and your can-do attitude will do wonders. Sometimes it’s sensible to know when to give up and not waste your time, and other times it’s important to persevere and keep at it.

I’ll add a few hashtags to sum this post up, because lets face it, who doesn’t love a good hashtag: #existentialproblems #firstworldproblems #stopbeinglazy

Just a few things I started and then gave up mid-way:

  1. Embroidery
  2. Learning to apply eyeshadow
  3. Writing a ‘How-to’ about Instagram blogging
  4. Planning several tea parties
  5. Restoring some vintage shoes I bought
  6. Jogging in the park (that lasted a week)
  7. Drawing my own adult colouring book
  8. Batman: Arkham Asylum the game (I kept dying, my husband still keeps telling me to finish the game)
  9. A trip to document every underground train station and its art
  10. A mission to try every restaurant in London (back in my skinny days!)

There’s more, but I’m sure you get the gist!

*I even put off this post as well. It actually had a different title and was a little different in content until I re-read and re-wrote :/

Eid-al-Fitr 2018/1439

Happy Eid everyone!

It’s been both a long and a short month (is that possible??) of fasting – on the one hand, the days seemed long, hot and all I thought about was what to cook that day. On the other hand, it really feels like the days just sped by and 30 days of fasting were gone already!

We had a lovely long weekend of celebrating with family, full of dinners (where everyone’s stomach still feel shrunken so we are all getting full very quickly!)

Here’s a peek at our Eid, which we spend at my mum’s, my sister’s, my brother’s and at my aunt’s for meals. I love that even though we don’t have a huge family in the UK, we still have lots of family around us to celebrate with and it always feels like we aren’t short of dinner invitations. I’ve always said to my husband that I can do without a new outfit (even though I buy a new one every Eid) and the bling, but it’s the memories with family which make it Eid.

Hope you all enjoyed the celebrations and had a lovely Eid – I feel a bit sad I didn’t have time to put mehndi on this time around, but I’ll see if there are any mehndi cones lying around!

I’ll leave you with a short story of my little nieces and young cousin, whom I found in my sister’s garden – one niece was lying down while the other two were poking her. When I asked them what they were doing, their response was that they were playing ‘the dead bee game’. My sister wandered out a little while later to find that they had switched places and another niece was playing the dead bee!

Kids!

Yellow Blooms at Ivy Chelsea Garden

I love walking past Ivy Chelsea Garden – there’s always a new display which makes me whip out my camera and take a few snaps. And I’m not the only one – there’s always a few tourists/instagrammers/foodies milling around trying to get that perfect shot.

At the moment, in time for the Chelsea Flower Show season (more on that soon!) and as part of the ‘Chelsea in Bloom‘ displays which have been on for a couple of week. the Ivy Chelsea Garden have gone full summer with a beautiful ombre yellow display for their restaurant front.

 

Cue singing Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’ outside while lounging on those cute striped yellow cushioned chairs.

I love that London goes all-out florals and blooms in the spring and summer, even if half of the flowers are false! More of these to come soon, so watch this space : )