Sunday, 23 February 2014

Book Review | Khaled Hosseini - A Thousand Splendid Suns

 Sat on a sun lounger with a view of the Red Sea directly opposite me, I was so engrossed in Khaled Hosseini's second novel 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' that I ignored the beach, the pool and precious sun tanning time. I finished this book in two days which is not surprising because I didn't put it down for hours on end! I'm going to try and explain the excellent success Hosseini has created but I can't stress enough how brilliant it is and how you should definitely, 100%, must, absolutely read this story. 
Set in a small town called Kabul in Afghanistan, the novel tells a tale of two helpless women who are subjugated by a dominant male figure in a patriarchal society. It is so cleverly written because as readers, we are introduced to a young girl called Mariam at the very beginning of the novel who grows into an adult as we continue to read on. 
Hosseini visited Afghanistan and became aware of the tragedies and discrimination women were suffering from due to the masculine hegemony forced upon society by the Taliban. This ultimately motivated Khaled Hosseini to write a narrative that focuses on two Afghan women. Clothing is used significantly to present the oppression of women through patriarchy, societal class and the law. This novel revolves around the plight of women and the burqa is used as a symbol of both the repressive nature of patiarchy under Sharia law and the suffocating effects of compliance. 
Hosseini challenges patriarchy and its power to control women, to a certain extent presenting men as the root and driving force behind the oppression of women. Hosseini does not criticise Afghanistan itself but does condemn the way women are treated. Stated in an interview, Hosseini said:
 'As an Afghan I would like readers to walk away with a sense of empathy for Afghans, and more specifically, Afghan women, on whom the effects of war and extremism have been devastating'.1



Friday, 21 February 2014

Gunwharf Quays - Portsmouth

A day out to Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth always results in a good day spent - mainly because everything is cheaper due to the array of outlets, the numerous restaurants, the beautiful marina and most importantly, Krispy Kreme.  
After a short car journey and managing to get stuck in a bit of traffic, we arrived and headed straight for a restaurant. We chose to visit Jamie's Italian and were not disappointed; I've explained all about it in the post below. The sun finally decided to poke its head through the plentiful clouds after weeks of hiding and we daren't waste the day considering we live in England and might not see the sun for another few months. So, after deliberating potential places to visit, we decided to drive to Portsmouth because I love being beside the sea. We realised that just because it's sunny, it doesn't mean we're allowed to go to the beach. 


Despite it being absolutely freezing, there's something lovely about anywhere with a sea view and after walking up and down the endless retailers and becoming overly windswept, we headed into the middle of the shopping centre for some doughnuts. You can't go to Gunwharf and miss out on Krispy Kremes! 


Jamie's Italian - Portsmouth

On a freezing yet sunny afternoon, we decided to visit one of Jamie Oliver's chain of restaurants in Portsmouth. Italian food is my all time favourite food so I was very excited to try some of the dishes available (I secretly anticipated the famous Jamie's arrival at this restaurant but my hopes were not fulfilled, the food definitely made up for this disappointment however). Greeted by two smiley (and pleasing to the eye) male waiters, we were shown to our table and given a few minutes to choose our lunch. The bar and kitchen weren't too close to the dining area which was lovely because this meant we were able to admire the interesting food hanging from the ceiling; it is clear Jamie has an eye for  detail as the entire restaurant (and waiters, don't forget the waiters) looked perfect. The surroundings gave off a very relaxed ambience and the fresh fruit, vegetables and Italian bread were on show from behind the bar - which I loved. 


I chose the Penne Carbonara (Served Roman style with crispy pancetta, wilted leeks & a lemony, creamy Parmesan sauce) and considering a carbonara is usually spaghetti, this one was not which was a pleasant surprise! I had a small portion which cost £5.95 but would advise to buy the larger option available at £10.75 - somewhat expensive but I can assure you, it'll definitely be worth it! 


We asked for a jug of water and I didn't hesitate when presenting my excitement over the 'jug' the water came in - it looked very impressive! How can a jug of water look so inviting?  


After giving us our plates and rearranging our cutlery to coincide with our meals, the waiter placed two tins of chopped tomatoes within a small distance of each other unbeknown to us he then proceeded to place a wooden plank, with the seasonal vegetables arranged neatly on top of it, raised over these tins. Afterwards, my mum explained to us all that this was because 'Jamie is very rustic in his cooking' as if to suggest 1. the tinned tomatoes were a rustic way to present the food and 2. Jamie is her best friend who she knows very well because she met him once at a book signing in Sainsbury's nearly 11 years ago. 


The restaurant itself looked so authentic, it felt as though there was only 'one copy' of this restaurant, that this was the only Jamie's Italian. The food was perfect, the setting looked great, the service was lovely and the experience was enjoyable. 
Good job Jamie!



Jamie's Italian
S92-S93, Market Square
Gunwharf Quays
Portsmouth
PO1 3FB

Phone: 02392000595 
Monday - Saturday 10am-11.00pm
Sunday 10am-10.30pm

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Moo & Berry

Frozen yoghurt is without a doubt one of the best things I've ever tried and this is only a short post to highlight how tasting a Moo & Berry FROYO should be mandatory for everyone! 
Unfortunately this company doesn't have a website but I think the photo is illustrative enough when it comes to explaining how wonderful this invention is. On the two occasions I've bought from this company, whose shop sits within the often busy West Quay in Southampton, I've been delighted with the product. 
I always go for the mango flavoured yoghurt alongside vanilla and natural; the flavours that are offered are forever alternating, with peanut butter being available today!
In an attempt to complement the healthy nature of the snack I decided to go with strawberries and coconut flakes for the toppings. And oreo cookies... 

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

How To Be Happy

As clich√© as it sounds, you should always (try to) be happy. I've been so lucky in life that I've been blessed with a wonderful family, amazing friends, my health and a home. I know that there are many in this world who aren't as privileged as me. Whenever something goes wrong, I find it physically impossible to be upset for longer than 10 minutes. At the age of nineteen, I'm aware that I haven't had a lot of life experience, but I like to think I've had enough to realise that feeling down is not worth it, no matter what. The phrase 'you only live once' is almost certainly recognised by everyone but it's very true. I can understand that for many, things have happened that have ultimately affected the way they feel, the way they live and their perception of life. Indeed, it is often difficult to completely eliminate the pain and suffering that a specific event has forced upon an individual but for the majority of us, what we deem to be 'problems' are rarely worth getting upset over. 
People often juxtapose problems with those of others who seem to be struggling more in their eyes and of course this isn't fair. Everyone is allowed to be upset and everyone is allowed to hurt in their own way if things go wrong. But our time is limited and you should make the most of every day because you always regret the time you waste feeling down. 
Always ask yourself if the problems you're facing which are putting you under strain will matter in ten years from now. Don't wait for happiness either, happiness is achieved when you make something out of the moment you're in. Lastly, let go of whatever it is that is hurting your heart and soul. 

Music
Firstly, listening to happy music can have a dramatic impact on your mood. Driving in a car one day with one of my best friend's listening to songs I'd never heard before was one of the best days. Arriving home, I downloaded all of the songs we listened to and haven't stopped playing them since. 

Lose Your Fear
Lose your fear of being wrong as well as your desire to come across as someone you're not,  in fear that the real you isn't what people want to see. Always be yourself, and say what you think and feel. It doesn't matter if people don't agree as long as you preach what you truly believe. 

Family
Family is the most important thing. Spend as much time as you can with your mum, your dad, siblings, grandparents and cousins. I see my grandparents nearly everyday and I'm so grateful for my parents - they are the most amazing people and have always worked so hard to provide for my brother and I. So, spend as much time as you possibly can with the ones you love. 

Friends
Friends are very important. ALWAYS spend time with the happiest people, it makes a tremendous difference. Never waste days with people who feel the need to bring you down, or people who fail to make you smile and laugh. 

Travel
Travelling to new places, if only for a short period of time, is always a good idea. Sometimes people feel trapped by the same surroundings and a short break away acts as an escape from everyday living, especially if they're working every single day. Travelling doesn't always mean you have to get on a plane for new experiences, nor does it require you to spend extortionate amounts of money. A few days away to a seaside town will be just as exciting!

The Beach 
Go to the beach. Spend an entire day at the beach and then spend the entire evening there too. The beach is always a happy place. 

Dancing
Go out for the night with some of your closest friends and spend the whole night dancing - literally, don't stop dancing. It doesn't matter what you look like or whether or not you're good at it. 

Saying Yes 
SAY YES. If someone asks you to go somewhere as a last minute plan - go. Spontaneous plans are always the most fun. 

Flowers
Buy some sunflowers. They are the prettiest, happiest and loveliest flower and I can guarantee that if you place some sunflowers in your home, they'll brighten up your day. 

Food
Eat good food. Eat bad food. Eat whatever you want. Never feel guilty about the food you consume. This may seem like a silly way to 'get happy' but people worry far too much about what they eat. If you want that second chocolate bar, then you eat that second chocolate bar. Who actually cares? I'd rather eat something than look back and think '...I wish I ate that'. Sounds like a crazy point but seriously, just eat what you want. I used to feel guilty about some of the things I ate and once refused a cooked breakfast my mum offered in a bid to eat healthily. The refusal of that specific cooked breakfast is most definitely my biggest, and possibly only regret to this day. (Exaggeration but partly true) (Completely true). 

Make Others Happy
Realising you're the cause for someone else's happiness is a brilliant way to make yourself happy. 

Passion
Get a hobby. Be passionate about something. People who are passionate about things are the most interesting people - they have things to talk about. If you ask the right questions, you'll discover how fascinating people can be. 

'If you can't figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you directly to your purpose'

Love 
More often than not, love is something that can make you feel completely and entirely happy one day, and on the opposite end of the spectrum, can be a concept that brings you pain. In life, people will undoubtedly experience heartbreak at some point in their life and it is without a doubt one of the worst possible things in the entire world. But never look back. Find the person who makes you completely, entirely and wholly happy. The person who brings out the best in you, the one who makes you smile and laugh and smile and laugh again and again and again. Make sure you tell people you love them too, often. Before something really great happens, things usually tend to fall apart. So keep going. When you meet the right person, you will have zero doubt in your heart. 

'When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. When life is bitter, say thank you and grow' 
- Shauna Niequist 

Monday, 17 February 2014

Travelling Blindfolded

A good way to pick a destination to travel to for a holiday? Blindfold yourself with a kitchen towel, spin around and go where your finger points to. Actually, this wasn't the best way at all, unless you'd call a week's beach-type holiday to Russia a great idea... 

I desperately want to do an InterRail trip across Italy - visiting cities such as Rome, Verona and Florence. There is nothing I want more than to be riding around Rome on a shiny red Vespa and making wishes after dropping a coin in the Trevi Fountain (I haven't been watching the Lizzie McGuire Movie), now all I need is a scooter licence and a friend to come with me! I've been reading endless blogs that detail InterRail adventures, and InterRail YouTube videos are even better.

For details on InterRail, click here


Thursday, 13 February 2014

What can you do with 9 pots of Nutella?



Considering World Nutella Day (February 5th) has just passed, I think it's a good idea to dedicate an entire blog post to the greatest creation EVER invented - nutella. 
I'm not entirely sure how or why, but we have somehow managed to store 9 individual jars of nutella in a kitchen cupboard; I'm not complaining! 

Here's a brilliant website that has an amazing list of recipes that require this hazelnut spread: click here

I'm not really sure what life without nutella would be like, nor do I want to think about it. All I know is it would be very sad and very lonely. 


Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Reliving Prom



The concept of 'prom' is a looming thought for the majority of girls,' due to the sudden realisation that the event is only five or so months away. That means there is approximately 150 days left to panic/stress/worry about:

1. I need to find a dress
2. What colour dress?!
2.  How should I have my hair?
3. I need to find shoes
4. Should I wear earrings? 
5. Curly or straight hair? 
6. How will I arrive at prom? 
7. Should I wear a necklace? 
8. Shall I wear my hair up or down? 
9. Who am I going to prom with? 
10. I CAN'T FIND A DRESS 


Firstly, I bought my prom dress two weeks before prom. And my shoes - four days before. I knew I wanted a cream dress with roses on and I wasn't going to give up until I found one exactly like it! 

I went with three of my best friends and we arrived in an ice cream van - the most fun ever. I would definitely advise going to prom with your closest friends rather than desperately seeking for someone specifically.

Our prom had a 'funfair' theme and there were several activites going on around the room which worked so well. The highlight was undoubtedly the candy floss machine! 

Prom season is fast approaching (or feels like it) for secondary schools across the country and reminiscing and looking at past photos is one of my favourite things to do. For me, prom was around three years ago but I can still remember it like it was yesterday! The event is a milestone for the majority of youngsters, particularly girls, so this post is a trip down memory lane! 

       
                 


I found my dress on a cheap and reliable website called iOffer which was available for a while after I purchased it. 

I would always opt for a simple and elegant dress which makes it easier to find jewellery! 

Many of my friends' dresses were from Coast and Monsoon, but eBay is always a good option too! If you have a dress in mind but you're unable to find one you truly love, it is possible to find someone who will make your desired dress for you, although this may be costly. 


Good Luck! 

Un momento in Caffe Momento - Southampton

Arriving at the Guildhall early on Monday evening, my mum decided we would get something to drink beforehand as opposed to waiting in the hall for just under an hour. Unbeknown to us we came across a small Italian deli we didn't even know existed! As we made our way in, mum loudly greeted the workers with a 'Buonasera!' and, of course (with mum being the way she is), we made three new Italian friends who couldn't do enough for us. A cup of coffee and a white hot chocolate turned into more after we were tempted by the array of cakes presented to us, so we ended up buying food too...And no sense of regret was felt because they were AMAZING. The initial intention to stick to drinks was there though, I promise. 


Caffe Momento is poised alongside Southampton Guildhall and sits directly opposite Southampton Solent's university building which makes for perfect people watching potential. This deli, I'm sure, receives some competition with its neighbouring eatery being Turtle Bay. However due to its cosy ambience and the 5 star reviews it has received, it is clear that the warm welcoming the customers receive paired with the homely setting contribute to Caffe Momento's success.

     
After researching some of the reviews, it is obvious that this bistro does well not only because of the excellent service customers receive, but also because of the brilliantly cheap prices of some of the meals. If you ever decide to visit, it'll feel like you've just stepped into a caf√© in Italy!

       

Monday, 3 February 2014

Feed your soul with love in the evening

On the Saturday before last, me and some of my friends had a lovely night out together. We spent a few hours together before we went out to a local club and spent the entire night dancing to 'disco' music - debatably the best music EVER.  It's always good to remember that spending time with happy people is the most important thing. 

Taking plenty of photos beforehand is always important too...