Sweet Art: A Maynard-Bassett Art Gallery

My sister and I recently went to a pop-up gallery – made of sweets! Sweet Manufacturers Maynard-Bassetts (the Jelly Baby and Wine Gum people) held an art show that we managed to get tickets for, featuring their ‘sweet’ takes on different types of art.

The first one we saw when we walked in was the ‘Mona goes Pop’ art below – a Mona Lisa piece made entirely of square liquorice sweets –  I think this was one of the best pieces we saw too!

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There were art pieces dotted all around the room – such as the poster art with sweet wrappers, the various emojis made of sweets, and the very cool Underground Tube map made of sweets.

The venue was a really relaxed place to walk around – thankfully we missed the crowd by going at lunchtime before it all got busy!

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We also got a chance to be a little creative with the sweets at the DIY table, where there were lots of sweet-animals and sweet-people – I loved all the different things people were making!

We also saw various cute pieces of art scattered around the room – I think my sister and both loved the pink mouse best!

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The pop-up gallery also gave every guest a chance to take a bag of sweets from the Pick’n’Mix section home (most of them weren’t halal, so I gave them to my work colleagues, who were ecstatic!) and also had a machine to try and grab a free bag of sweets too!

It was a really fun art show, and a very generous one on the part of the Maynard-Bassetts company, who organised the event and gave out sweets and drinks for free. I’ll be looking out for more events like this in the summer, and will post them as I attend : )

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Sweet Tooth

One of the things I’ve always struggled with (or enjoyed, depends which way you look at it) is my sweet tooth. I am a complete sucker for all things chocolate (except dark chocolate, not a fan!) and can easily finish a ‘family’ bar of chocolate by myself. One of my favourite things to do on a quiet weekend, or on a Friday after work is to run to the local sweet-shop, buy a bag of junk and curl up with a good book or two, a good movie, or just a little while messing around on computer games.

As much as I’ve enjoyed doing this since I was a teenager though, I don’t get to do it as much any more – one, because there’s always something to do in the house (don’t we all know it!) and two, because my fast-burning metabolism has finally caught up with me, and I can’t just eat any crap anymore.

I’m one of those people who either has to have lots of chocolate, or none at all – I really can’t do inbetween. Really, it’s a sign of being greedy and lack of control, which is something which probably started as a young age. My sisters and I often agree that it always felt like we didn’t get enough chocolate as kids – my mum used to ration them out to us each week and we always looked longingly at what we called the ‘sweets cupboard’. I guess as a result, now that we can buy our own, we go a little overboard.

One of the things I’m really enjoying about Ramadan is the idea of not eating more than we need to – there’s so much junk I am not eating because I am focussing on simple, clean, healthy meals which is enough to satisfy my hunger. Plus, there’s limited stomach space, and you don’t want to waste it by filling it with sugar! Usually it’s a huge struggle for me to go cold turkey and cut out chocolate completely (I won’t lie, many a time I have ended up overindulging instead!) but this month I’m keeping it simple, and the usual craving for chocolates has really not hit me.

Must be doing something right, hey?

Aerial Flowers

Feeling a little exhausted today – can the weekend come quicker, please?! Thought I’d post this pretty shot of a row of flowers at a flower stall from above that I took today – Chelsea Flower Show who?

I can’t believe it’s been nearly a week of Ramadan – it’s felt like it’s gone by quicker than I realised. I’m trying to do something a little different this Ramadan and try something new everyday – a new food recipe, a new place to try out, or just a different way to make the most of my prayers in Ramadan. I tried making chapli kebab for the first time today, and was quite happy with the results (although it was spicy as heck), so will be posting a recipe for that soon!

I also have a few plans for this weekend to make the most of the sunny weather (plus I have some new sunglasses I’d like to dazzle everyone with) – what are you plans for this weekend?

 

The Capitalisation of Modest Fashion

This is something which has been playing on my mind for a little while – as modest fashion gains more and more exposure, there has been a big impact on the industry. I love that there are more and more Muslimah fashionistas and designers being represented out there, that retailers and brands are starting to take notice of modest fashion and the hijab (whether it’s stocking the clothes or featuring hijab models). Just recently an Indonesian Muslim designer garnered applause for having an all-hijab collection on the runway, and catwalk model Halima Aden also recently made news for wearing her hijab. I recently attended London’s first London Modest Fashion week (with another one happening this Bank Holiday weekend) and I’m pretty sure this is just the start. Vogue Arabia featured Gigi Hadid in a head-scarf, Uniqlo has made news for collaborating with a British-Japanese Muslim designer, and several mainstream companies have began to stock hijab-friendly pieces. In the midst of negativity about hijab, the French niqab-ban, the recent legislation about employers being able to ask employers to remove religious symbols, these are much-needed positivities in the modesty movement.

Modest fashion has been making waves for a while now – from Nigella donning that burqini to bloggers such as Dina Tokio and Nabiilabee who have now grown into becoming pioneers for the fashion industry, influencing the market, including designing their own ranges and even having pieces in mainstream stores – over the last decade it has really exploded and changed from the way it used to be (and I remember when we all used to wear a stretchy hijab when going to Quran lessons as kids which we used to just pull over our heads like little frumps!)

It all sounds so amazing, right? I love that there’s been so much growth in this industry, I do. But there’s also a lot of things which make me concerned about the rise of this multi-billion-dollar market. As a fashion blogger, and a young Muslimah who loves her fashion, and even as just an ordinary consumer, regardless of whether I blog about modest fashion or not, I certainly understand the struggle or getting decent modest clothes. My sisters and I all have memories of looking for suitable clothes as teenagers (and even now, sometimes) – outfits which cover our arms and chest, and look flattering without being fitted, modest without being frumpy, and stylish as well. Sounds like a tall order, and in our earlier years, it felt like it was. So it’s amazing to see the strides that have been taken in the fashion industry, that it’s easier to find pretty, girly maxi dresses which aren’t backless, long tops in pretty colours, or even scarves that are made from a decent material. It certainly makes sense that the reason for this growth is that there are so many others out there who has also had this need, whether it’s Muslim consumers, modest fashion bloggers, or just anyone looking for something which covers up a little more, and that this gap in the market is being filled. It also makes sense that there is a rise of modest fashion designers, online outlets which sell couture designs, and hundreds upon hundreds of companies which sell hijabs, abayas, modest dresses and so on.

So what’s my gripe? My issue is that it feels like a lot of companies are starting to recognise the amount of money being made from modest fashion, and taking their chance to capitalise on it. Now I understand that a business is a business – it needs to make profits and these companies are well within their rights to do so. However I feel that the result of a lot of these companies pushing the prices up means that the market gets inflated – suddenly it feels like a lot of the things which we want and need are expensive – ironic right? The outfits we want are there, but we can’t always afford them.

I’ve noticed, over the years, that some of the bigger designer companies have started to jump on the bandwagon too – D&G released an abaya and hijab collection last summer, and Tommy Hilfiger, Mango and DKNY among a few brands have all released capsule wardrobes for Ramadan in the Middle East in the past. The question in these cases are not why modest fashion is reaching these brands – these changes definitely show that customers fashion choices are being reflected – but more why these are aimed at an Arabian market which already have access to similar things like this, and also the fact that the price tags are only aimed at the richer classes who can afford these. Doesn’t it negate the whole gesture, surely, if the ordinary girls who want to wear this stuff can’t afford it, and don’t have access to the ‘designer’ things?

I’ve seen lots of modest fashion bloggers who collaborate with and promote modest clothing companies to help them become more popular. I’m not in disagreement with this, particularly when it helps a smaller brand, or a business whose ethics I genuinely agree with. I recently met a retailer for a modest clothes company whose outfits were very reasonably priced – the owner and designer of the collection explained to me he knew he could charge more, and chose not to. He said he would rather help more women be modest, do his good work in the name of religion, and sleep well at night – his children were in good university, his wife and himself were well-educated and had enough money, and they were happy with what they have. I was really pleased to hear something like this – as someone who has struggled with money issues in the past (as has everyone), I know it’s easy to get greedy and chase after more money. I loved that this company recognised that it would rather promote modesty in a workable way and still operate a business.

However I have also come across a lot of modest clothing brand who don’t take this stance – whether they like to cultivate an ‘elitist’ stance so that only certain people can wear their brands, whether they charge more because of their unique, customised pieces or even whether they charge these prices because they are ‘normal’. It’s made me pretty upset in the past when brands have cherry-picked who they want to work with – understandably they will pick those who will promote their brand, but it also makes fashion bloggers compete with each other, and creates a circle with excludes a lot of customers who want access to these outfits, and have to pay out of the nose to get them. One of my biggest concerns when I attended the London Modest Fashion week event was that there were plenty of brands and exhibitions to shop from, but I thought some of the things available were too pricey – I had a discussion with a friend who also went to the event a day later who said she would prefer to buy things from a normal high street store because the value for money was better.

So how can we address this issue? Over the years, as fashion has evolved, my attitudes has too. In the past I use to splurge on makeup and clothes (and had the money too!) so could afford to spend more to get what I wanted. These days, it’s not so much the money but the principle of getting quality for my money which has made me more picky. Can’t find a reasonably priced maxi dress? Buy some loose fabric and get it tailored (although we all know the struggle of finding a decent tailor who won’t charge the earth and also gives us our outfits on time!). Support a smaller brand who will appreciate feedback and pay attention to the products. Look at fair-trade companies who work ethically – it’s one thing supporting a Muslim company, but what about one who works in a green, ethical way?

I’d love to know your thoughts on this – have you noticed the difference in the rise of modest fashion too? For those of you who wear modest clothes, what have you opted to do?

Pink Blossoms and Floral Dresses

My sister and I made the most of the 25° scorching sun yesterday and took a trip to the local park (it was packed, so clearly we weren’t the only one with this idea), and both of us being photography enthusiasts, took the opportunity to take pictures of the beautiful scenes. I managed to get a few pretty photos (some of them were a bit bright from the sun!) and also took a good walk around to soak up the scenery.

It was a pretty lovely afternoon out, the park we went to is a pretty huge one with plenty of gardens with flowers, a lake with boats, a play ground area, and also leads to the local mansion if you walk far enough!

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We also found some small hidden areas sectioned around the lake which looked beautiful, especially when we were walking through them which had a very private, ethereal feel to them.

One of the things I love seeing in spring are blossoms, it feels like they all fall off too quickly! I’ve been seeing lots of these this spring, thankfully, and love how pretty they look.

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We also saw lots of people hiring boats to paddle on the lake, which looked pretty fun, and made for a nice adventure for a lot of the families – I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of this over summer, especially if the weather stays this nice!

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All in all, it was a really lovely day out to the park, finished off with yummy cold slushies. I even managed to wear my pretty floral dressed which I had tailored for summer – perfect for matching with blossom trees!

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Chilli Burgers at Habaneros

I’ve seen a huge rise of the gourmet burger restaurant in the past couple of years, and I’m sure that the fact that there are a lot of halal restaurants make them even popular. I’ve been to quite a few halal (and vegetarian!) gourmet burger places, and am starting to get the hang of what makes a decent ‘gourmet’ burger, as well as what separates them from the standard ones you get in a normal chicken-and-chips shop down the road.

Hubby and I recently went to Habaneros, a gourmet burger chain in West London, which was a little out of our way, but having heard it was one to go to, we decided to give it a shot.

One of the things which makes a restaurant memorable for me is not just the food, but the atmosphere and the care taken in in the decor – it makes the place something more attractive for me to come back to. The decor in the place was pretty funky, lots of wall art, subtle lighting spaces for sit. Although the diner isn’t huge, there’s space to sit and eat and it gets pretty busy at lunch-times and after work!

This is what I ordered, a classic Habanero burger with cheesy fries, while my husband went for a spicy Samurai burger and fries. I liked that both burgers were big enough to be filling, but not too massive. As much as I like getting my money’s worth when it comes to food, I prefer quality and not overloading – I have been to some gourmet burger joints in the past where I’ve had to cut up my burger to eat it in portions!

The Habanero burger isn’t particularly spicy but is very juicy, the meat is tender enough to taste great but has a nice grilled taste to it, and blends well with the sauces and salad. I was slightly disappointed with the cheesy fries as I thought the cheese would be melted cheese on top of the chips, and this was more of a cheesy sauce, but they tasted okay and we did eat them all!

Hubby’s Samurai burger was surprisingly more chilli than mine – I think this was mainly due ot the sauce in the burger, but it was a lovely sweet-and-chilli taste which I liked.

I liked that this is a very reasonably priced place to go – burgers cost about £5.95 each and they are made pretty quickly – perfect for any rush-hours too. I’ve already been back to this place to get another burger, although I will admit, as an east-Londoner it is a little far!

Evaluation:
Halal : yes
Vegetarian options available: Yes
Price : £5.95 upwards, depending on whether it’s just a burger or a meal
Rating out of 10: 6.5
Location: 3A Walm Lane Willesden Green London NW2 5SJ

We Are London

I have written before on my thoughts on the senselessness of violence against innocent citizens, and it’s pretty upsetting that nothing seems to have changed since then – the horrible attacks on people in London has led to an emotional couple of days – anger, worry, heartbreak and fear. I really hate that as soon as something like this happens, so many of my friends, family and I all brace for the inevitable backlash against Muslims, the same fear that we will be grouped with this tragic violence and that we tarred with same the same brush that puts us with something that we don’t believe in.

So this is me, saying this is not my faith. We have said this before and we’ll say it again. Islam doesn’t work like this and we don’t believe or condone any form of terror attacks like this. We are with London, and will remain strong, united and unafraid. London is our home. This is the city where I have had the honour to meet the most diverse and vibrant people from all walks of life and communities, and have found that unity is always better despite coming from different backgrounds.

So I say it is  now, more than every that it’s the time to stand up and speak out against the hate, ignorance and violence perpetuated by some groups, and that to isolate ourselves is not the answer. It is only this which will get us through bad times and remain strong – standing together as friends, a people and as a beautiful nation.

My prayers are with all those who have lost their loved ones: may Allah (SWT) give them the strength to bear what he has tested them with, shower them with his mercy and let their hearts find peace. May Allah (SWT) bring peace and safety to us all.

“…if any one killed a soul, it would be as if he killed the whole of mankind; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole of mankind…” – The Holy Quran (Chapter Five, Verse 32).

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King

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Lazy Sundays

I’ve had a pretty busy week this week, so I’m finally settled in this Sunday and multi-tasking with some yummy home-made chocolate cake, blogging catch-up and getting on with that (digital) stack of books I’ve been waiting to read.

I’m hoping to do a few book reviews for this week, so watch this space! In the meantime, here’s my view today : )

Happy weekendings, all x

Weekend Reads…The Good Liar

I went on a e-book downloading spree a few days ago, and have been spending my free time trying to catch up on that long list of books waiting to be read! I’ve noticed that a few of the books I’ve read or reviewed recently have not been new one, so I’m aiming to review books that have released in 2017.

I’m still catching up, so bear with me – this is an interesting book about a con-man who may or may not get his comeuppance – I’ve only just started it but it looks promising!

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Why I Am A Faceless Blogger

Some of you may read my other blog, which is a fashion/beauty blog about all things to do with Pakistani and Indian fashion trends, modest fashion, makeup and random ramblings (and some of you probably found this blog via that one!) I have been blogging for about six or seven years now, and have noticed that as my priorities and interests have changed, my posts and articles have accordingly adapted over time as well.

One of the things I have had some conflicts with as a fashion blogger (or is it influencer now? I’m still undecided about that word) is the fact that I don’t show my face, whether it’s for outfit posts, or pictures from weddings, events or makeup swatches.  My concerns are this – as I’ve been writing for some time and I have been getting more public interest in the couple of years because of my clothes, wedding posts and experiences which I have blogged about, I have had more exposure which means more opportunities to work with new brands. However I feel that a lot of the bigger bloggers I follow or who have successful businesses, have become successful because they themselves are the brand – they are recognisable, easy to relate to and trust, and because of this they are able to fit into a market who are comfortable with them.

Initially I never used to show my face in blog posts (I used to just cut my head off my pictures before I posted) for several reasons: firstly, I liked the anonymity, you can get away with a LOT more when people don’t know you. Secondly, I never showed my face for kind-of religious reasons – I don’t blog because I’m fishing for compliments or want someone to say I’m good-looking (that’s what Facebook and my husband are for), but because I want to show how fashion can be modest, stylish and wearable. The whole point of my fashion blog is about what I wear, and what I have in my wardrobe, rather than what I look like. I wear a hijab and the concept of it also includes having some modesty both in behavior and physical appearance, so why not incorporate that in my blog? Thirdly, I was also a little self-conscious because a lot of my personal friends and colleagues don’t know I blog – call it silly but I find it easier to write if I’m less self-conscious about who is reading it!

I have thought about it for a while, because as much as I’d like to protect my anonymity and modesty, there are still some pros which you can’t argue with. I am a bit of a risk-taker at times, and I can see the appeal in the idea of myself and my identity as a brand. It’s not that I’m shy, or that my identity is a big secret (even though I do fight crime at night sometimes), and really, it’s not even about whether I have a problem showing my face. But I have often found that a lot of blog readers and followers feel more connected to Instagrammers and bloggers that they can recognise, especially when there’s a lot of personal issues being shared. A big part of blogging is being transparent not just about who sponsors your posts or whom you collaborate with but also who you are. The most successful blogs are the ones where the bloggers are open about sharing opinions and parts of their lives.

The real issue is that if I decided to show what I look like, the pictures are out there, and it’s hard to go back. In today’s digital age, pictures can be shared faster than WhatsApp rumours, and I like the fact that right now, I have control over my images and my identity.

There’s also the fact that a lot of girls (and guys) can be pretty awful to bloggers, you have to pretty emotionally strong to be able to not let negative comments affect you, ruin your day or even influence your behavior. I’ve been lucky enough not to get many negative comments, but it can still be pretty tempting to lose your way by trying to please your audience or maintain popularity. The other issue is that I am in a place in my life where I am pretty confident in myself, my self-image and my place in life – and I can imagine that the struggle to maintain a ‘pretty face’ for a blog, or the psychological impact it could have.

You could even say that the issue isn’t showing my face exactly, since even if I did, I’d still dress modestly and would still wear hijab. Another thing I have always considered is the idea of ‘nazar’ (or the ‘evil eye’ which might intentionally or unintentionally come from envy), which is something I do believe in, which could arise once I lose that anonymity.

There are, fortunately a few ‘big’ bloggers who I do follow, that have managed to remain faceless, and quite successfully so. One blogger I’ve always been a fan of has complained in the past that it’s amazing how some people just don’t get that they want to remain ‘faceless bloggers’. She described a fashion event just last week (which I also attended) where a few of her followers took pictures of her when she was walking around, even when she went to the restroom; when she confronted them to ask them to delete the pictures, they told her she should expect this kind of thing to happen and shouldn’t have become a blogger if she didn’t want pictures taken of her. While I can understand that if you’re successful and on the fashion scene, you can’t really stop other people for taking your pics and posting them on social media or magazines – I also think there should be a line drawn for respecting privacy.

In the past my ‘facelessness’ has affected me in that one or two fashion brands who wanted to promote their brands have wanted to work with me, and in the end I have turned them down because they did not want to crop my face out. At the time it was a little upsetting, as it made me feel that I had ruined my prospects a little if I wanted to work with future companies, and also I had noticed difference in the way that bloggers who did choose to work with those company treated me. However, in the long run, I don’t regret my decision – I like the fact that I kept control over the content and photos of me, and if a company isn’t able to respect that, then perhaps they are not for me.

There have been times when I have debated for some time about showing my face, especially as I never have done in the past with my blogs. I spoke to a few friends about it, my sisters and even on blogger forums, and in the end I decided not to because I don’t want my posts and articles to be about how I look, as much as what I’m wearing, what I am doing and even who I am. In the long run, I’m pretty happy with my decision because although I’m not shy or have a secret identity (apart from the night-time crime-fighting stuff), I like having control over my privacy, and I think it also keeps me pretty humble.

The way I think of it, as Islamic as I try to be and however I try to live my life as modestly and well as possible, I will always, always love fashion and makeup, which I think I’ll always be channeling through my blogs and social media. This isn’t a bad thing, and I love that I can work with new ideas and different companies, and as I am a pretty visual person and will always want pictures to be a part of my posts, I think I can do this without compromising my values. I understand  that readers might identify with me more if they know what I look like and can visualise me, I think that I will be able to engage better when I show who I am in a more relatable level (like this post, for example!)

Some people have suggested using body doubles or models – this would work for a company but not for something personal like my own blog – when I go on holidays and days out, do I take a body double with me? I think not. In all honestly, this is something which has bothered me less and less over the years, as I have seen a lot of fellow bloggers follow the lead in ‘faceless blogging’ (like my elder two sisters here and here!) – influencing without making it about the way we look or how beautiful we are. I’m also at a pretty good comfort level right now, and am enjoying the things I do blog about, the events I go to and the pictures I post of myself. At the end of it, it’s not because I’m paranoid about how gorgeous I am or not, it’s the concept of hijab for me, and the principles that come with it.

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