Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Liebster Award

I have very kindly been nominated for a Liebster Award by Charis from I've not really come across this before as I don't really know too much about the blogging world but still this seems thoughtful and well, it is just nice because I know at least one person is reading my blog!

The way it works is that I answer 11 questions posed by Charis so that everybody (/the one person reading...) gets to know a little bit more about the brains(?) behind the blog and also as a way to find new little blogs as I then nominate another 11 blogs. The one criterion that must be met is that the blogs nominated have fewer than 300 followers so this is great for little blogs to get more exposure. Although 300 followers is actually quite a lot... But anyway, more exposure means more interaction and more interaction means, well, that's that whole point of writing, right?

Anyway, without further ado, here are my answers to the questions posed:

1. What is your favourite book and why?
I read "The Time Traveller's Wife" by Audrey Niffenger a few years ago and literally couldn't put it down. For me to finish a book in a few days is always an excellent sign that I've enjoyed it as I usually get bored and start another. I am also a fan of the Harry Potter series but that sort of goes without saying. My two favourite classics are George Orwell's "1984" and William Golding's "Lord of the Flies". I love a good allegory.
2. Which season is your favourite?
Summer, because it gives everyone a shiny, happy look on their face.
3. What is your favourite TV show?
I don't think I have a constant favourite but I have been enjoying "Revenge" (I love that I thought it was going to be the most predictable thing ever but it is actually the complete opposite) and "Modern Family" (the script for this is incredible) and always like watching "Outnumbered". Karen is the best character ever ever ever.
4. Which craft do you enjoy the most?
I would have previously said writing but in recent months I tried a few things out and one of these was painting. Turns out I absolutely love it so I would probably say painting now.
5. Where is the best place you've ever been on holiday?
I loved Croatia a few summers back and loved Edinburgh last weekend so maybe one of those two.
6. What is your most over-used word?
I have picked up "flipping" from Mike which I think is an excellent word.
7. Describe your everyday fashion style?
Pretty weird on some days and pretty standard on others.
8. What is your favourite recipe?
Well my favourite meal is shepherd's pie so perhaps a good recipe for that. And I love baking marble cake.
9. What is your favourite movie?
Recently I really enjoyed "The Help" and all time favourites include "The Notebook", "Moulin Rouge" and "Romeo and Juliet". Baz Luhrmann is amazing.
10. What makes you happy?
When things are going smoothly. Whatever those things are.
11. What is the strangest food you have ever eaten?
I tried haggis last weekend. That is pretty weird. And a fried mars bar which is pretty incredible.

I don't want to nominate people just for the sake of fulfilling a quota so here are a few links which I enjoy regularly:
. Annie
. Bhavi
. Kieron (who also kindly advertised my blog this month, thanks!)
. Vicki
. Cat
. Vic
. Kathy
. Alice
. Bess

And my questions for those willing to participate are as follows: (no pressure to join in whatsoever)
1. Which three things would you rescue from your burning house?
2. What kind of music do you like?
3. What would you do with £1 million?
4. Where is your favourite place and why?
5. Do you know any languages other than English?
6. Would you rather have the arms of an octopus or the pincers of a crab?
7. Feminism still has a place in today's society. Discuss.
8. Do you have a life motto?
9. Where have you had your best meal?
10. What are your main hobbies?
11. Who do you admire and why?

Always nice to learn new things so feel free to play if you like and thanks to Charis for getting me involved :)

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Iranian New Year

Today marks the start of a new year 1392 in Iran. The 20th/21st March by western calendars is the Iranian New Year No Rooz and an occasion celebrated by Iranians worldwide. You may have realised that this coincides with the beginning of spring. I suppose it is a bit like an equivalent to Christmas as schools and workplaces close for a couple of weeks to enable full celebration and for a well deserved rest (there is a 6 day week in Iran!). When I was still at school, I would usually take a day off school and my parents a day off work so that we could see the new year in together as it would be in the day (dependent on Iranian time). It was always exciting to prepare the home, see family and receive presents!

An iconic aspect of the new year traditions is the "Haft Seen" table which translates as "seven Ss" because it features seven traditional objects beginning with the letter "S". There are slight variations but our table usually consists of the following: sabzeh (lentil sprouts grown in a dish), sir (garlic, which symbolises medicine); sib (apples, which symbolise health and beauty); somaq (this is dried, powdered fruit which has a slightly tangy taste but is delicious sprinkled over rice); serkeh (vinegar), sekkeh (coins) and sonbol (hyacinth). Overall, the items are deemed to be represent guardians of beauty, life, health, happiness, birth, prosperity and light.

In previous years we have had other traditional items on the table, such as goldfish swimming around in a bowl, and usually the Koran between the pages of which the eldest member of the family places bank notes to hand out to the younger family members. Conventionally, the younger family members must pay respect to the elder members and it is for this reason the former visits the latter each new year. In return, I suppose, it is traditional that older people give presents to younger people. So in my family, I would give my younger sisters something and they would also receive gifts from my parents and so on, as would I. Usually it is in the form of money but it is also essential to wear new clothes for the new year. My dad says that when he was a boy this was when he was bought all of his clothes for the whole year because there wasn't a proper clothes shop in the town he lived in, so everything was tailored once a year. Sounds pretty fancy if you ask me having clothes made to measure!

The table is also littered with little eggs, typically hand painted (we had a lot of fun with this when we were younger!) and modernly, chocolate. The eggs and the sabzeh represent new life, tying in with the spring theme. On the 13th day of the new year, sizdeh bedar, everybody goes on a huge picnic and the sabzeh is taken to the park too to be thrown into water. People also make wishes by tying knots in strands of grass for good luck and usually a husband!

There are also lots of sweets and pastries, as well as pistachio nuts. I am biased of course but Iranian food is truly delicious. If you ever have the chance to try some, then do not miss the opportunity! It is mostly stews and rice, but Iranian kebabs are pretty darn good when cooked properly. My dad happens to be the best at them so you're all welcome around ours next time we have them if you like :)

The traditional meal for the new year is fish and rice sabzi polow. Last night we had our meal, courtesy of my mum and it seems that every year she just gets better and better at the recipe! As you can see in the photos below, the rice has fresh herbs and dried dill in it which complements the fried fish well. The rice is also flavoured with saffron and the fish in the photos has zereshk barberries over it. In other meals, the barberries are cooked with the rice which is really really yummy.

My favourite part of any Iranian meal is tah dig which I suppose translates as "the bottom of the pan" you cook rice in. This is usually just crispy rice but as a treat Mum sometimes puts slices of potato at the bottom so it is crispy potato rice. I don't know how to make it sound as delicious as it really is but all my non-Iranian friends seem to like tah dig the most too so it must be good! I also like yoghurt A LOT as anybody who has ever lived with me will tell you. It is flipping amazing for dipping things in, but that is another story of its own. I could write for days about excellent yoghurt combinations but more on that another time. What is particularly nice is chopped up bits of cucumber, mint and shallots all mixed together for lovely yoghurty fun.

For Christmas my friend gave me a book called "The Legendary Cuisine of Persia" by Margaret Shaida, sort of as a joke as embarrassingly I leave all the Iranian cooking for my parents to do. It is the sort of food which takes hours of love and preparation, so it is not ideal for impatient little me but as I have a lot more time on my hands this year, perhaps I should use this book to learn a few staple recipes. After all, one day I will want my future kids to be eating Iranian food and I will have to be the one cooking it for them!

Happy No Rooz!

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Monday, March 11, 2013


I will let the pictures speak for themselves in this post!

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sunday Roundup

Watching: Charlie Brooker's "Black Mirror" (very thought-provoking)

Listening to: Florence and the Machine

Eating out: Meat Liquor was terrible! See my review here.
Wagamama was much much MUCH yummier :)

Baking: marble cake and chocolate cake :) Baking seems to be the perfect activity for days when I want to be productive but can't really go very far.

Drinking: lots of peppermint tea and I also tried a Caramel Macchiato at Starbucks for the first time which is actually fairly decent :)

Painting: presents

Enjoying: swimming, which seems to be the only type of "proper" exercise I can do these days which is exciting because exercise helps things feel normal :)

What has been your favourite thing about this week?

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour

In a previous post I mentioned that I visited the Harry Potter studios in Leavesden, very close to Watford. I must admit I think it is really cool that this is so close given that it is such a magical place! I am a big Harry Potter fan, although not as knowledgeable or dedicated as my sister who is a true HP whiz.

I remember getting the first book for Christmas when I was seven years old and thinking "Hmmm I think I'll give that one a miss" because it was about wizards and I was more into reality based novels by Jacqueline Wilson and the like. Fortunately, I did eventually read it and well it was a good job I did because it is obviously fantastic! I really believe that as it follows such universal and positive themes such as friendship and virtue, that it will remain contemporary in years to come. Hopefully one day I can read it to my children's children or something!

My favourite character is Luna Lovegood and dressing up as her for a friend's Harry Potter themed birthday party last year was really good fun. I like Luna's alternative perspective and insight. Oh and she is in Ravenclaw, which the Sorting Hat on the Pottermore website correctly placed me in. Best house!

When you arrive at the studios, there is a bit of queue but there are little things to look such as the Cupboard under the Stairs. At the end of the queue groups are shown a short video about what to expect and then the magic really begins! I won't give away too much about the tour because I don't want to spoil it for anybody who hasn't visited yet but the beginning and end are very impressive. There are three sections - two indoors and one outdoors. The outdoor area has stalls to buy food and drink - most importantly Butterbeer! - whilst wandering outside Privet Drive and hopping on the Knight Bus and the Weasleys' car. Indoors there were thousands of props and costumes, all of which were the original ones used in the films and worn by the actors themselves. The level of detail involved is really unbelievable.

My favourite part was Diagon Alley because one of my favourite scenes in the first book is when Hagrid take Harry there to buy his school supplies before starting at Hogwarts. It almost felt like I had just popped out to buy an owl and a copy of the Quibbler.

If you are able to visit and are a HP fan, I really couldn't recommend this more. We all left feeling anxious to watch one of the movies as soon as possible and think that we will appreciate them more now that we have seen the effort that has gone into producing such a successful series of films. I think all too often the casts of movies are given most of the credit, and of course they are worthy of praise for delivering the brilliant concepts to the audience, but it is the backstage people who really make the films and the Harry Potter experience the amazing masterpieces that they are.

Here are some photos from the tour. Do let me know if you have visited and what you liked most :)

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Monday, March 04, 2013

Goodbye February! March resolutions

At the beginning of February I made a little list of resolutions for the month.

1. Ok so this first resolution was to finish three books and unless by three I meant one then I unfortunately did not accomplish this. However.......
2. Slutty brownies  - happened. Yum yum yessss.
3. No valentines cards/gifts were given.
4. I finally went out, by myself and got on public transport, with no walking stick! This is the resolution I am most proud of really as this month marks 11 months of clots, crutches and sticks.
5. Physio exercises were done as and when I felt up to doing them. Too tired from all the walking! And I also managed to swim! It knocked me out for a few days afterwards but yippeeeee yippppeeeeeee EXERCISE! finally!
6. No alcohol was consumed. Pretty easy this month and I personally raised £200 for Cancer Research UK through January sponsorship!

Job done, goodbye February!

Resolutions for March:
1. Finish ONE book at least and start another!
2. Swim more often.

I have been exploring Pinterest a lot recently and found this the other day which I think is spot on :)

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Sunday, March 03, 2013

Sunday roundup

This week has gone ridiculously quickly and March has crept up on us super sneakily. My week consisted of more work than previous ones which makes the playing bit much more worthwhile. My playing consisted of the following this week:

Cooking - my favourite meal this week was my Moroccan cous cous, mediterranean veg and grilled halloumi combination. I was on the phone to my grandma whilst cooking it and really struggled with explaining what I was making in Persian which made me feel terribly inadequate but when my Mum tried, she also couldn't get a perfect translation. Phew!

Listening to - Seth Gilliard. You seriously all need to follow this link to his beautiful covers on YouTube. I discovered him via a post my sister put up on Facebook of his version of Ellie Goulding's "Lights" which covered me in goosebumps. He is phenomenally creative with his little violin mash-ups.

Playing - chess against my computer, against Michael, on the iPad app, on a website to play with other people. Before I sleep, when I wake up, whilst watching television, in coffee shops. All day, everyday. Love it.

Eating - a wonderfully cooked meal by some friends. Dinner parties are lovely and I much prefer them to going out for a meal. Provided the chef is good...luckily for me, all my friends are better than me! :)

Drinking - Cilantro coffee shop's Cafe Nutella. A beautiful coffee creation involving my very favourite ingredient. And what you're looking at down there is a Malteasers milkshake. Cilantro is amazinggggg (on Tottenham Court Rd) and definitely worth a visit for its bacon sandwiches anyway.

Visiting - two exciting places. Número uno: a male barber shop. I appreciate that this is fairly ordinary but I've never sat in one before and it had the old school red twisty seats and tiled flooring.

Número dos: the Warner Bros Studios Harry Potter tour!! More to come on that soon!

Hope you've had a happy week x

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Friday, March 01, 2013


I know there is more to life than messing around on iPad/iPhone apps, but my latest discovery tickled me a bit too much not to share. It is called "MegaPhoto". I was on the search for extra photo booth settings for the iPad as I thought they were fairly limited compared to what is available on an iMac or MacBook. MegaPhoto was a great find! Granted the quality of photos isn't the most desirable especially as the quality of the new iPad screen is so shiny, but judged purely on fun, this app gets a million ticks! Here are a few of my favourite shots (arguably improvements on my natural looks):

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