Happy Places: Libraries & Bookshops

I have a few places which I’d call my happy place (a shop with colourful pens, for example!) but one I think are one of my go-to happy places are libraries. I don’t go to libraries as often as I used to since I got my electronic book reader, which I use (when I do get time to myself!) or I end up forgetting I have a pile of books in my room (I currently have five next to my bed) and start reading something else.

I went to a local library yesterday, and loved the fact that although there are many changes to libraries, there’s still that magic of hundreds of books and the potential of a new world to step into. It reminds me of my childhood a little as well, since my sisters and I used to visit the library every week (and take out the maximum number of books allowed) – one of my earliest memories of the library is my dad taking me to the library as a child, and the estatic joy at seeing all the children books – so it’s no wonder that this feeling has stayed with me.

Whenever hubster and I go somewhere new, I always look for a bookstore or library to make myself home. This is a picture of one of my favourite discoveries – a beautifully quirky bookshop we found in the city of Istanbul, which had art, beautiful old books and a big curved staircase which just made the whole thing amazing.

So here’s one of my happy places, being surrounded by books. I just need to find that library which had the huuuuge books in them, so I can stand on top and pretend to be a tiny person lost in Book Land…!

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Writing on the Wall: Classical Colours

One of my biggest issues with my attempts with art is that I never feel that it’s as good as other people’s masterpieces, or that it’s not quite right, so it needs to be a little better. When I was younger I was convinced that I’d be better as I drew more and learned more about art – used different techniques and mediums and just find my niche. Sadly enough, over the years, even though my enthusiasm still sparks into life when I’m in the arts and craft section and when I read about different styles of drawing, it fizzles out a little when I pick up a pencil (or drawing tablet!) to draw something myself.

I saw this a few days ago and loved the riot of colour in all this – even though it’s framed and placed against other frames, they don’t act as boundaries, there’s patterns within patterns, and beautiful details which overlap and pulls the eye.

I’d love to paint something like this, and it’s when I see beautiful things like this that I feel inspired, it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. I’m not sure I’m skilled enough to paint with oil paints just yet, but I’d love to try mixing colours and media to see what beautiful colours and patterns I get. So here’s a little colour to brighten up the weekend.

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Flashback Fridays: Fruitpot Fruityness

Something from a special day this time last year – fruit pots from my wedding day! Can you believe it’s been nearly a year since that day? There’s a lot of little details that didn’t quite register with me on the day, but this was one of the most popular things we had. We always do fruit and a sweet bar, but my sisters went all out with our fruit bar for my wedding and got a lot of compliments, not to mention all the fruit getting devoured – even our professional caterers were pretty impressed.

And I must say, they had reason to be, don’t these look lovely all lined up together?

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Sushi in Three Stages

I love trying new food, but sushi is still a new one for me, I’ve had it a few times and I’m still getting used to it. I love Chinese and Thai, but Japanese food took me a little longer, mainly because the first time I tried sushi (a good few years ago!) it was just too weird for me and I never tried it again.

Recently my sister-in-law convinced me to try it again, and it’s still a little strange but I’m getting used to it – not to mention I’ve tasted more cuisines so I feel more open to new tastes! I loved the other dishes I tried though, katsu is a new favourite for me along with the crispy pumpkin and buttersquash dish, something I didn’t know I’d like!

So here’s a shot of my dinner, doesn’t it look lovely and colourful?

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A Mad Hatter-Books-Pastel Themed Tea

I held a tea party for my sisters this weekend, and I’ve finally manage to sit down (and rest!) to post the results, which I was really pleased with. My sisters and I decided that for Eid this year, instead of giving everyone Eid presents we’d do Eid experiences – a day out, a picnic, a tea. I love my afternoon teas so decided to organise a themed afternoon tea for the girls.

I had a little difficulty deciding on a theme because I liked so many, and initially was going to just do a Mad Hatter’s tea party. But I do love my florals and we all love books, so I decided to work these into the look as well, which worked a lot better than I thought it would – I was worried it would look really messy and nonsensical. My eldest sister commented that it also reminded her of a colourful fair or festival, especially with the colourful bunting, and thankfully the guests all loved the results of the tea!

Here’s what the table looked like, and some of the desserts:

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My favourite part of the decor and table were these – book-themed toppers for the cupcakes. I picked out a bunch of our childhood books so that we could enjoy a few fond memories of the books we used to love (including our first Urdu learning book!) – these were a hit with the ladies and I was glad I included these!

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I had various things scattered around the room  for display to implement all three themes – pastels and florals, book wallpapers, piles of books and a top hat with playing cards to tie the themes together, which I thought went wonderfully together, not to mention the ‘this way’, ‘that way’ and ‘wrong way’ arrows.

I’m sure you can tell that the most obvious theme was the Mad Hatter/Wonderland one – I loved the variety of decor which is out there and took the opportunity to scatter random quotes and prints around the table, as well as ‘drink me’, ‘eat me’ and ‘take me’ tags on the food and goody bags. I also ordered giant playing cards for us to play with, although it was quite funny to see how people would hide their cards!
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My mum also lent me this beautiful tea set which was love at first sight for me, and very apt because it’s actually a Harlequin Tea Set! These were beautiful dainty tea cups in bright colours with matching sauces, which I put on display and thought really made the whole table (not to mention actually made the tea party an actual tea party!)

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My nieces and nephews probably enjoyed themselves the most (you can see my nieces shouting and giggling through my letterbox below), although my sisters and sister-in-law had a lot of fun looking for the small touches around the room too, and putting on false moustaches, giant glasses and hats!

I was really worried about not having enough food on the day, so my menu was a little adventurous, surprisingly I managed to make more than I thought. Even better, the guests all brought some amazing food as well so we were all seriously stuffed and  from red velvet cake, cupcakes, chocolate trifle, sandwiches, pizza, samosas, chicken bites and kebabs, to name but a few of the things we had laid out.

Having said that, my nieces were the first to run to the sweet table and run off giggling with sweets in their hands!

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I had

It was an exhausting but fun afternoon, which was made better by the scorching sunny afternoon and the yummy ice-creams we finished off with. We were meant to play games but we felt pretty lazy and the cushions on the floor were pretty useful for us to laze about in!

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It was really fun (and a little challenging) planning this tea party by myself, but I had fun doing it and also learned what I can make and what I can’t. I was really happy with the decorations I made, they took me a while (hence being quiet on the blogging front!) but I was really pleased with how it all came together.

So now I’m looking forward to the next Eid experience, and also more tea parties with different themes, which I’m already planning – I just need to recover from this one and I’ll be off again!

Beneath My Feet…

I love boats and I love travelling on water, although it’s not something I get to do much. When my husband and I went to Greece a couple of months ago, we took a cruise around some of the nearby islands and were awed by the beautiful blue of the waters, the cool  breeze and the feel of the sea waves under our feet.

These days, we’ll have to settle for the ferry across the River Thames for some water under our feet, but here’s to hoping for another exotic boat ride soon!

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A Ladybird and Chillies

Spotted this today while buying chillies in housewife mode – is it just me who just delicately picks up every and each piece of vegetable to examine before putting it in my bag? Meanwhile a woman in front of me strode up, dove her hand into the pile and grabbed a huge bunch without looking and stuffed them all into her bag (all while looking at me suspiciously, and probably wondering why I’m looking at each individual chilli pepper).

Luckily she didn’t pick up this ladybird (which was still tottering out oblivious to the earthquare happening three inches away) – after I whipped out my camera to take a snap, I left it in peace in the big green jungle : )

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Journal Your Ramadan – Day #15: O is for Out and About

Now that it’s getting warmer, I’ve been finding myself wandering around more, partly for work and also partly because of the long hours of daylight in the afternoon and evenings. Its interesting what I find around London – a floral decorated doorway, a food market, street art – there’s something interesting to be seen most days.

So here’s a snapshot of the various things I’ve seen recently, in parks, markets, shops and generally out and about. What have you been doing recently?

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Journal Your Ramadan – Day #8: H is for Husband

I feel like I should do this post about my husband, because hes been making at least half of our meals these last few days. It’s the first Ramadan with my husband after marriage, and surprisingly it’s been an interesting one because it’s made us want to be more adventurous with our food! We’ve opted out of fried food this year, and have both decided to try more healthy food which is a lot better to have after long hours of fasting.

This is something my husband thew together a couple of days ago –  lots of onions, tomatoes, chillis, peppers and various seasonings sautéed together with chicken pieces for a chicken dish with a juicy sauce.

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Watching the magic happen (excuse the poor quality of my camera!)

Mixin’ it up in the sauce pan (which we then left with lid on for about half an hour).

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Result – tender chicken and steamed veg which we poured over plain rice. We could have left it cooking a little longer for a drier sauce but decided to keep it quite juicy so that it would mix with the rice well.

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This was a really filling, yummy dish and didn’t take long at all (the rice only took us about 15 mins to cook) and it reminded us both of a dish we’d had and loved in Turkey called testi kebab, which is more slow-cooked by has a similar idea of cooking meat with veg.

So, credits to the husband for this one (and I’m hoping he reads this and gets all happy and makes me more!)

Journal Your Ramadan – Day #1: A is for Alhamdullilah

Appreciation is the highest form of prayer, for it acknowledges the presence of good wherever you shine the light of your thankful thoughts.
– Alan Cohen

Alhamdullilah, in it’s simplest translation, is the Arabic phrase for ‘Praise God’ and is something many Muslims say when wanting to express their thanks and appreciation to God.

One of the things that always strikes me about Islam is its capacity for beauty, and the the fact that there are so many ways to ask for mercy, for prayers, for good deeds and rewards. The month of Ramadan is the most beneficial – the Devil (Shai’tan) is locked away and all the good deeds and blessings you do are multiplied through the act of fasting and prayer in this month.

Of course, at the core of this is the fact that Ramadan and abstaining from all the luxurious things we’re normally used to has a purpose – to make us aware of how lucky we are in a world where there is still famine and poverty ride in so many countries – what better way to empathise with their hunger than to feel it for yourself?

So, at the end of every fast, when the sun sets and the food is set out, there is a fresh sense of appreciation for our ability to set out a feast and enjoy our meal. Unlike many others in the world, we are lucky enough to set out our food and quench our thirst, finishing our meal with Alhamdullilah to give thanks for what we have.

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