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Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

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So I just finished reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s latest book and it was fantastic. It is a response to a question her friend asked her about how she should raise her daughter so she would have feminist values. The book is a 15 point letter explaining, from her own experiences, what knowledge this new mother should impart on to her new born baby. The book is really short and can easily be read in an hour, in fact this is probably the best way to ensure the book retains its powerful message. It is really personal piece, sharing images from Adichie’s childhood, her own experiences as a mother and what tools a girl needs to become a woman filled with confidence and her own personality. Her tips are varied and provide an insight into the difficulties and social divide that separates boys and girls from a very young age.

Why are girls encouraged to wear pink and other pale colours? Why is marriage seen as the highest achievement a woman can encounter? Why are girls objectified and forced to conform? These are some of the questions she answers and really they highlight the difficulties that girls must face. She also looks at the image of beauty that is advertised across the world and how it is endangering young girls to conform. As I read through the pages of this book, I realised how grateful I was for the wisdom my mother had passed onto me. How she had always encouraged me to be myself and pursue my dreams no matter what. So if you want to read a personal letter, filled with laughter, honesty and passion this is certainly one I can personally reccomend.

Tooting Broadway to Clapham

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Fancy a straight forward walk? Why not walk part of the Northern line from Tooting to Clapham. It is not a lengthy walk, just over 3 miles and it takes about 1 hour. You can see a lot though and you can shorten or extend it depending on what you fancy. It takes you from Tooting, which is filled with flavour and a bustling high street, into a more suburban area, then into Balham filled with trendy shops and then past Clapham South onto the Common.

The walk is essentially a straight line. You come out of Tooting Broadway station and then turn right along the high street. Then it is a straight line all the way up to the common. There are plenty of places you can stop along the way for a cafe, brunch or a drink. And there you have it a simple pre lunch walk to help get you some fresh air.

Book Review-No one writes to the Colonel

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This book is a harrowing read but a fantastic tribute to daily struggle. In lost than 80 pages, you are exported to South America and exposed to the harshest of poverty. We follow an elderly couple, the husband a revolutionary soldier, awaiting his pension for serving. There is no doubt that Marquez rights with both compassion and a sense of musicality.

We watch the husband lie to his wife, sell a token that was the only reminder of their son yet he never looses hope. Even as he struggles to but food on the table there is a resonating tone of happiness underlying the story. One that highlights that even when humans are faced with the most difficult situations they can triumph against adversity.

“Life is the best thing that’s ever been invented.”

Sometimes we need a read that is going to offer us some reassurance, transport us away from our daily life and remind us that we must not love faith and this book is successful at doing just this. You can read it in one sitting and afterwards I am sure you will feel a sense of renewal.

“The only thing that comes for sure is death.”

Whilst my life is nothing like that of the old man, he offers me inspiration. He is not afraid of death and he will welcome it when it arrives. Hunger does not worry him, he has experienced it for too long now. But he feels love, for his wife and son, he is respected and he is free, something that can never be taken away from him. This book is a tribute, to the thousands of men like him who suffered in silence but never lost hope.

Tasty Vegetable Samosas

So I have given up meat for lent just as part of a general health kick and it is a great opportunity to try out some new recipes. I think the main thing to remember when you are trying out some new recipes is to do something that is both different and tasty. These samosas are really handy as they can be a tasty snack, an appetiser to a special meal or a quick lunch treat. They also freeze fantastically so you can make a batch and individually bag them and just take them out the night before you want to eat them.

For the filling you can be really creative add the vegetables you like and spices too. I used a selection of spices (garam masala, turmeric, cayenne pepper and some chilli flakes) but it is really up to you to pick the flavours you like and enjoy. The same rule goes for the vegetables, mix and match and experiment. Root vegetables work well and the main thing is to ensure your filling isn’t too moist as it will effect the texture of the samosa. One other note on this recipe, I don’t make the pastry from scratch you can but you can buy fantastic pastry in the chilled section in the supermarket to cut this part out.

Vegetable Samosas

Vegetable Mix

2 cloves of garlic

1 onion (optional)

1 Potato

1 Carrot

1 cup of peas

1 tsp Garam Masala

1 tsp Tumeric

1/2  tsp Cayenne Pepper

1/2 tsp Chilli Flakes

100 ml Vegetable Stock

  1. Heat the garlic and onions in a pan with some vegetable oil.
  2. Add in the vegetables
  3. Stir in the spices
  4. Stir in the stock
  5. Leave to simmer for 30 minutes

At this point you then need to place the filling into a glass bowl and leave to chill. This is crucial as otherwise the filling will pierce through the pastry, which is delicate.

  1. You then need divide the pastry sheets you have into rectangular strips. I have included an image as a guideline of the shape you need to fold your samosas
  2. Place a tablespoon of filling into each piece of pastry and dampen the edges as you fold to ensure the mixture is sealed.

samosa paper

Deep fry the samosas in hot oil until they are crisp and brown and then pat dry with kitchen paper. Alternatively, brush the samosas with a little oil and oven bake at 200 degrees celsius for 20 minutes.

And there you have it, a tasty treat that will certainly impress your friends that doesn’t take too much thought.

Margot Restaurant Review

So last Thursday I went to a lovely Italian Restaurant in Covent Garden, near the Freemasons Hall. And it was some of the best Italian food I have had outside of Italy. They offer an extremely varied menu and also do Brunch if you fancy something a little more chilled.

When we arrived we were taken to our table where we received a complimentary breadstick. The service in the Restaurant was excellent, the staff were attentive but not too over bearing, which you can sometimes find in a nice restaurant. We ordered the selection of Italian cheese to start and these were served with Olive Oil and some freshly baked bread. For the main course, I had the cod ravioli special. The pasta was fresh, served with a simple sauce and I got broccoli with capers as a side dish. The wine was also fantastic.

So if you fancy a treat or some descent Italian food, I can recommend Margot for tasty food, fresh ingredients and service with a smile

International Womans Day- Book Review

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So to celebrate International Woman’s Day, I wanted to do a book review on something that is dealing with issues that are topical today more than ever. This book, for me is a crucial read for anyone and everyone but particularly young females. I think it highlights the amount of pressure that is on young females today, how it is heightened by social media and the mindset of small towns including how they deal with shame. The book brought me to tears and I found reading it deeply moving. I read it cover to cover within 24 hours and felt slightly empty once it was over. I won’t sugarcoat it, it is a shocking read but it is so important that this book is read.

The book follows Emma, a beautiful 18 year old, before and after she is raped by several local boys. At the start of the book, Emma isn’t someone the audience grow to love, she is critical of her peers, jealous and mean. All of this changes though. This book exposes the way that rape is dealt with by her small community and her family along with the psychological transformation of a confident young girl into an extremely vulnerable, isolated individual. In the second half of the book, we grow to respect Emma, how she is trying to deal with what has happened, whilst also protecting her family.

What makes this story particularly heartbreaking is the way in which is highlights the debate on Consent. Whilst on the night of the attack, Emma was wearing a low cut top and had consumed both alcohol and drugs, she still in now way deserved to endure what happens to her both physically and psychologically. However, the male characters are described as being good people. They play on the local football team and they don’t think they have done anything wrong. It is crucial that young people, both male and female, start to receive an education about these issues and more importantly that we continue to talk about them. It is not an easy topic to talk about, but we must not bury our heads in the sand.

This book is an information piece and hopefully if nothing else it is a conversation starter, something that allows us to discuss these harrowing topics rather then ignore them as they will not be going away anytime soon.

 

A 10km Sunday Walk

 

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When you wake up on a Sunday and you’ve got no plans it can go one of two ways

  • You can sleep in, have a big brunch and spend the day relaxing or
  • You can go and make memories

This Sunday I ended up walking 10 km across London from Clapham to Putney along the river Thames. I woke up feeling pretty sluggish and as though I would not be able to achieve much and ended the day on a complete high. This journey, once you arrive at Battersea Embankment, is part of Thames Path along the Southside. The Thames Path is it is easily labelled the whole way and of course it is along the river. The interesting thing about going on a walk like this is watching the architecture change. The other good thing about going on a long walk is that you can have a 3 course Sunday roast (in the Coach and Badge in Putney, which is amazing by the way!) and not feel guilty.

We started in Clapham, by Clapham North station. From here you can follow the high street, past Clapham Common station and which point you need to verge right. You can walk along the common and down Cedars Road or towards Nine Elms, Battersea Park and Power Station. The main point at this part of the route is to ensure you want to walk towards the river. The power station provides a great landmark to ensure you are on course. If you want to make the walk a little shorter, you can also start at Clapham Junction station.

Once you arrive at the river you are free to alter the route as you would like. You can divert along to the North side if you prefer or verge off the main footpath and into various communities. There were some lovely cute bars and restaurants along the way and a nice tasty looking bakery for Bread Centrale, which I will certainly be calling back to. The key thing to do with a walk like this is vary it as you like and don’t feel that you have to stick to it too rigidly. And like I said, treat yourself at the end of it to a nice tasty lunch!

 

 

Short Stories

As a book lover I understand how difficult it can be to juggle working life and still making sure you have time to read. I have found that in the last year in particular short stories offer the perfect solution. If you have had a really hectic day you can just read a short 10-20 pages story and still feel like you have fitted in some reading. If you are feeling a little more ambitious you can take on a couple of stories in one night.

So how do you select short stories?

There are quite a few things to consider when picking a collection to suit you. First of all, if you are new to short stories it may be a good idea to start off with picking a collection by an author you are already a big fan of. Plenty of well-known authors have written their own collections such as Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver and Angela Carter to name but a few!

Writers who write short stories are often well established in the literary world and short stories themselves are generally very well written. Short stories also lend themselves well to being re-read. They can also be a good introduction to an author if you are not sure whether or not you like their style.

So take a risk and start your first collection today!

10,000 steps.

I recently got a Fitbit and it is really useful but also a little overwhelming in certain respects. The recommended daily steps is 10,000, which doesn’t seem like a lot but when you are in an office job or its the weekend it can be difficult to hit such a high figure.  Just to test out the theory I decided you go on a rather long walk on one of my days off from Crystal Palace to Brixton, which is about 4 miles. I have never had a problem with walking and once I climbed the initial hill, it felt quite easy for the rest of the walk. I think walking is great for many reasons.

Fresh Air and exercise whether it is a myth or not always seem to give you a fresh perspective on things especially if you feel like you have got a lot on your mind that you want to work through. I find that as soon as I step foot out the front door, I feel as though a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. It also gives you a distraction from day-to-day life as you can take in the scenery. I could write a long list about the proven health benefits but lets just say it strengthens your muscles and your heart, it lowers your risk of disease and it helps prevent dementia. Every walk is also in itself a mini adventure. You will take in streets you had never truly noticed before and see things from a different perspective. And finally a crucial benefit for me it improve your balance and coordination.

I find that even though I am from the country and used to open space, I do enjoy walking through a city that has so much going on. One minute you can be walking down a high street, the next your exploring a slice of suburbia and with that there is such a variety of buildings from Victorian townhouses, to post war blocks of flats and modern, even post-modern apartments.  You also gain a much better perspective on the scale of the city, how close together places are and it gives you an idea of the areas you want to be in.

Crystal Palace to Gipsy Hill, to Dulwich, to Tulse Hill, then into Herne Hill and on to Brixton and amazingly it was only after the full 4 miles that I reached my 10,000 steps. So that gives you an idea of how active you really need to be and if nothing else it is food for thought. Thats 10 minute dash to the station or popping down the street to grab lunch is nowhere near enough steps to keep you fit and healthy! But don’t feel overwhelmed, after all if you set your mind to it you can probably achieve much more than you ever imagined.

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Homemade Bread

I recently got back into baking fresh bread each week and I am so glad I have. There is nothing better than the smell of freshly baked bread and it is not as difficult as you might think.

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First and most important tip:

Buy a loaf tin. I have two different size loaf tins:

A 1lb for a smaller loaf and a 2lb for a family loaf.

I got mine in Sainsbury’s and they have been a life saver. They ease away the strain of having to ensure that you shape the dough and also mean that 9 times out of 10 the loaf is going to look aesthetically pleasing.

Second tip:

The only other tip I have to ensure your bread rises effectively is to always prove it twice. Also, place a damp tea towel over your dough for each proof. After mixing and kneading your dough you are ready to commence your first proof. I have started proofing it in the oven on a really low heat. If you are lucky enough to have a ‘dough proving’ setting on your oven use this but if not turning on the oven at the lowest temperature works just as well. The first proof I will leave for an hour, before kneading the dough once more and placing it in the loaf tin. Then I will place it back in the oven for the second proof. As it is now in the loaf tin, the bread will shape itself in the second proof just before you place it in the oven.

What else do you need to know:

In terms of recipes its all about playing around and seeing what flavours you like. I prefer wholemeal bread and I don’t add sugar to mine as I find it too sweet. The key with mixing it is to prepare the dry ingredients first; the flour (strong flour is essential for bread), sugar, salt and yeast before adding the warm water and oil. After the first mix you need to knead (no pun intended!) the bread for a good ten minutes. Treat it as a mini cardio workout and stick with it! I promise this is the most difficult part as it is only after the length of time the dough will start to feel a little more elastic, which is perfect. The mixing and kneading time is no more than 20 minutes and to me that doesn’t seem too much effort for some fresh bread. After all, while the bread is proving you can get on with whatever else you like.

Best thing is to try it and I am confident you will love the results!

Wholemeal Loaf (recipe for a 1lb tin, double if necessary)

250g of Strong Wholemeal Bread Flour
1/2 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Yeast
1 Tsp Sugar (Optional)
165 Ml of Warm Water
1 Tbsp of Oil
Mix the dry ingredients.
Add the oil and water.
Mix in the bowl.
Sprinkle some flour on your worktop and knead for at least 10 minutes.
Place back in the bowl and leave to prove for an hour.
Take out and knead for a further 10 minutes.
Grease your loaf tin and place the dough into it. Leave to prove for a further 45 minutes.
Baked in a pre-heated oven (200 Celsius) for 35 minutes (or 45/50 minutes if you double the recipe!).
Tip it out of the tin and knock on the bottom of the loaf. If it sounds as a knock should the loaf is cooked. Leave to cool on a cooling rack.