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 : )

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!

Bright Lights at the Big Apple

Hi all, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve taken a small(ish) break for a couple of months to refresh, look for more ideas and basically focus on a few other things, but I have missed blogging so here’s hoping I’ll get back into it again!

In the meantime, here’s a sneak at somewhere pretty amazing I visited recently – the vibrant Big Apple, which was pretty amazing in a lot of ways. More to come very soon!

Our Eid …. Sweets Overdose and Pretty Dresses!

Just thought I’d post a few peeps of our Eid last weekend, which was a lovely affair with family, lots of food and little ones rushing around enjoying themselves most out of everyone!

I feel like I’ve been taking less and less photos each Eid, so these don’t feel like a proper representation of our Eid but it’s a nice sample – lots of pretty clothes, an overdose of good food and sweets, and lots of laughs – just the way we like it : )

Lilac Views and Perfume Smells at the Lavender Fields

My sister and I have been planning to visit a lavender field for quite some time now, and were counting down the months that the lavender fields would be ready – the best time being July and August.

We finally found time to visit the beautiful Mayfield Lavender Farm last weekend, which we visited on a lovely sunny day, and were not disappointed!

One of the first things which struck us when walking up to the fields was how beautiful it all smells – the smell of fresh lavender is in the air all around us and it smells like a perfumerie. These field were pretty big, and we mananged to walk all around and explore the beautiful flowers.

The lavender fields have become pretty popular these days – there were lots of other photographers, bloggers, vloggers and general tourists making the most of the fields, so although you can’t tell in the photos, it was pretty busy! The lavender farm had plenty of pretty spots – a red telephone box, a pretty folly to sit and relax, and lots of hidden seating areas (like one we found with grape vines!)

One of the other things we soon noticed was the amount of bees flitting from flower to flower – there were hundreds of them all keeping busy and buzzing around.

There was a lovely gift store which we could buy all things lavender – including bunches of dried lavender which smelled heavenly. We bought a few bunches to take home and give to our mum and sister, and our bags smelled of lavender all the way home!

At one point while we were choosing our bunches, a bird calmly flew into the middle of the flowers and watched us for a while – although it flew away soon after!

We also bought some lavender chocolate and lavender soap – there was a huge range of lavender products – from tea, oils, fudge, chocolate and skin products to drawer liners, candles, pouches and even cushions!

By the time we left the Lavender Fields it was getting pretty busy, and the day was getting even warmer. I love that these beautiful fields are so close to London, especially as when we were in the fields it felt like another part of England entirely.

One of the things I’d warn anyone about when visiting is to try and visit early to avoid the crowd, it can be hard to take pretty photos when there’s a queue for the right shot! We had a lovely day at the lavender farm, although our feet were pretty tired by the end of it, and after a few hours of smelling non-stop lavender, we did need a break from it!

Halal Gems Street Eat Food Festival

My sisters and all recently went (although all of us at different times!) to the Halal Gems Street Eat Food Festival at Spitalsfield Market in London, which was an a pretty iconic event in that it brought more attention to diverse halal food, for Muslims and non-Muslims.

I’ve been to food festivals before, and even halal food festivals, but this one was an interesting one to go to because of how much publicity it got, and the different vendors who would be at the event. One of the things we liked was that there was a lot of fusion cuisines, and a chance to try food from places I’d been meaning to visit but hadn’t got around to (either because the restuarants were a little far away or I jsut never got the time!)

I managed to try a slow-pulled smoked brisket burger from Meat & Shake, haloumi fries from Oli Baba’s and a mango soda from Square Root London and finished off with my friend’s tumeric-and-brownies ice cream sandwich from Blu Top – all of which I really liked. The food was a little pricey for a food festival for me, and the queues were huge (although luckily I came early so didn’t have to wait as long), not to mention some foods selling out so not everyone got a chance to try it! I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to make the most of the different dishes because I got full pretty quickly, and the fact that I couldn’t spend too much, as some of the food was a little expensive.

I think this was aimed at a lot of younger families and working professionals, and certainly we saw a lot of these at the event – people who had come for lunch, after work or even just with their families.

I think it’s a really nice way to bring halal food to the fore and raise awareness, and we saw a lot of non-Muslims enjoying the festival as well. We also managed to make the most of the games available – although I will admit, we managed to get distracted from these by the shops and markets nearby and ended up shopping instead!

Palexpo: The Palestine Exhibition in London

Last weekend, my sisters Everyphototunity, HappyMuslimMama, my niece and I went to the Palestine Expo 2017, a huge event organised by Friends of Al-Aqsa, in order to raise awareness about the issues which are happening in Palestine today.

The timing of the event was not coincidental. This year marks a series of devastating anniversaries for Palestinians: a hundred years since the Balfour Declaration, 50 years of Israeli occupation and 10 years of the Israeli government’s blockade on Gaza.

–  Mondoweiss

This is a topic we are all quite passionate about, as there is so much conflict, struggle and hardship for the citizens of this country, which is still prevalent today. As Muslims ourselves, it is hard to hear about the human rights which are being oppressed in this country, and the fact that this is continually being ignored – by the media, the Western governments and the rule-makers of their own country.

The Palestine Expo was a range of seminars and talks, exhibitions, film showings, workshops and interactive areas for people to walk around, to listen to speakers and get to know more about the country’s rich heritage and history.

Everywhere we went, there were strong messages about what is happening today in Palestine as well as Israel, and what we can also do to raise awareness, help the organisations who are friends of Palestine, and also support ethical companies.

We managed to sit and listen to a few lectures which were pretty emotional, informative, inspiring and moving. Firstly was Dr Inas Abbad, a Palestinian activist, teacher and researcher who spoke about her home, about how their identity was slowly being erased, with their roads, streets towns and even names being changed, and the continuous censoring, lack of education and danger that follows school children as they go to school every day. Secondly was Ronnie Barkan, an Israeli human rights activist and conscientious objector, who spoke about his support for the struggle. I found it really interesting that he pointed out the various things the Israeli government has done to hide their actions, such as mis-labelling passports in English and in Hebrew. Thirdly was Soheir Asad, a Palestinian activist and Human Rights lawyer who spoke about the legal routes that the Israeli government had taken, land laws which were used to take land from Palestinians and the way this was used against them in courts. Lastly was journalist Yvonne Ridley, who is also a political activist, who spoke about the injustices she had seen, about the images which have stayed with her since she was a child and the disillusionment she felt when she realised the lies and distortion of the media.

We also managed to catch an amazing talk by journalist John Pilger (which ended in a standing ovation), in which he talked about his experiences in Palestine, and the ways he had been blocked in reporting the truth – but also the ways people’s mentality was changing so that they were unwilling to stay silent in face of injustice.

There were several places for us to leave our messages of hope throughout the expo – a giant wall of messages, pinned postcards, and even a tree to hang our words. It was pretty inspiring to see such positive words, beautiful messages to support our fellow Muslims and humans from across the country.

We also managed to try some Palestinian cuisine during the lunch rush, and tried some seasoned chicken wraps from Tabun Kitchen, which was pretty tasty (although cold!)

There was plenty of opportunity to walk around and explore, and we saw lots of beautiful pieces of art, as well as some story-telling shows and some documentaries about Palestine which were on show. I love that there was so much to see and do, and that there are a lot of similarities to Pakistan and my family’s village, which has a focus on story-telling, culture and a peaceful Islamic way of life.

It was a pretty informative day for all of us, there were a lot of things which made a lot more sense to me by the end of the day, and it was amazing to see so much support from Muslims and non-Muslims at the show. There was a protest briefly outside the venue from anti-Palestine protesters, but this didn’t discourage anyone from attending the event, and I liked that there were no shows of arguments or clashes as a result – people just left the protesters to it, and they slowly dispersed.

I would highly recommend to everyone that they do their most to find about this issue – even though we don’t live in Palestine, it is an issue which affects all of us. It isn’t enough just to know that this is happening, but to understand why, what we can do to help, and how to  make sure it doesn’t happen again.