Monday, 31 December 2012

Hijab Review: Princess Rockz

A month ago, I purchased several scarves from the Princess Rockz plain hijabs collection. I'd been wanting a staple black scarf for a while and after seeing the Summer Drape Tutorial by @Alz_uk I was drawn to the light weight viscose material. I thought this Black Maxi Scarf would be great as it'thin and breathable. It's a bit see-through but if you fold it over or wrap around twice and it becomes opaque. Two layers won't mean that the scarf becomes overly chunky but it does provide good volume. It also makes a great neck scarf for Winter as it's long enough to be wrapped around twice. 

The second and third are the Light Brown and Sky Blue Scarves. The light brown scarf isn't overly wide in comparison to the black maxi but it has enough coverage at the back to cover your neck or be tucked into your top. I chose a simple earthy colour because I wanted something that would go with just about any outfit. I'm trying to learn from my rookie mistakes when I started buying scarves. I was attracted to all the fancy ones with busy patterns but that meant they were often battling for attention with my patterned or multicoloured tops. More often than not, I end up wearing black so as to avoid becoming a walking clash of colours. Thankfully, I've now discovered the benefits of a simple hijab style to bring an outfit together. That doesn't mean you have to avoid colour all together, as the next scarf shows! The sky blue scarf has been great for adding a splash of colour to plain casual outfits without making them look 'busy.' It's also got the added bonus that I've been visible through the fog which has descended on the currently rather chilly Bologna!

As the scarves are so light, they're great in warm weather and I'm looking forward to wearing it in the Summer months. August in Bologna is usually a sweltering affair and so a light scarf is a god-send. Now, as odd and paradoxical as this sounds, I've actually found these scarves great for the chilly months in Bologna too. It's just touching zero degrees outside nowadays and so Italians have the central heating on full blast indoors and the contrast usually brings me out in a sweat once I've climbed the two flights of marble stairs to my work. To combat this, I decided to use a thin scarf and then just layer up with a thick scarf around my neck when I'm outdoors which I can then remove once inside away from the chill. And as the scarf can be puffed up it means it isn't left looking flat and destroyed by weight of the thicker scarf during transit. Both scarves keep their shape throughout the day so they don't become flat. It's awful when you look in the mirror and find your scarf has migrated south, become skew-whiff and looks rather sorry for itself. 

As you can see from the above photo, I also bought a pack of assorted Rose Pins. They were a lovely mix of neutral colours, beige, browns, and creams as well as eye-catching colours like teal, burnt orange and purple. As well as being very pretty, I was very impressed with the length and strength of the pins. Most of the pins I own are very short or bend after one or two uses, especially if the scarf if quite thick. I've been wearing these Princess Rockz rose pins for over a month now and they haven't even got a kink in them yet. 

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In the future, I'd love to try some of the fancier hijabs from Princess Rockz. For now however, I'm more than happy with these simple soft scarves which have quickly become my everyday hijab of choice! 

If you'd like some style ideas you can also check out the lovely blog of Princess Rockz founder Aalia: Hijabi with Style 

Sunday, 30 December 2012

An Elephant Dressed as a Castle Being Hoisted By Balloons...

Italy is indeed full of surprises. This piece of art is representative of the many bizarre sights that often await you in this country. While I was making my way through some rather drab and dismal apartment blocks in the no-man's land beyond the city walls, I happened to come across this colourful piece of graffiti. 

As the title suggests, this (as far as I can see) is an elephant dressed as a castle turret being hoisted into the air by an array of multi-coloured balloons above some football shaped hills. At first glance, it looks like a playful and cheerful image but upon closer inspection I noticed the ominous crows pecking at the balloons, the only objects preventing the hefty elephant from plummeting to a rather unfortunate end. My only hope is that this is actually an extravagant game and that the football hills are in fact gigantic bouncy castles which will save the elephant...

All interpretations welcome below! 

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If you'd like to see more Graffiti in Bologna check out these posts:

Monday, 24 December 2012

A Muslim Celebrating Christmas?

For my family, Advent was always heralded in by the arrival of the plastic tree from the dusty loft and the annual untangling of lights. As the years went by, I slowly overtook the tree in height but my role as chief artistic director remained unchallenged for over two decades. The little knitted stockings on the tree housed chocolate coins which my brother and I would hunt for every morning and, along with a chocolate Celebrations Advent calendar, these formed a staple part of my annual Christmas countdown. 

Then, of course, all those glittery baubles went flying up in the air two years ago when I became a Muslim and Ramadan suddenly became my main festival. As I'd only been fasting for two years, I hadn't developed any traditions for that particular festival yet. I was stuck in an awkward transitional phase where I still felt a bit at a loss when Christmas came along and, much like my annual Christmas lights, found myself in a bit of a tangle! 

The Plastic Tree I Eventually Outgrew

I'd always been very traditional when it came to Christmas. I wanted to uphold each family tradition, from opening one present on Christmas Eve to leaving a shoe outside the door for Santa to hide (to his day, I've got no idea where this concept came from!). Bearing this in mind, a shake up like my conversion was pretty unnerving. I began to question everything that had once been so stable. 

What traditions would I keep? What should I avoid? 

Certainly, it was with a heavy heart that I gave my portion of crispy pigs-in-blankets to my brother last Christmas. Although he seemed pretty happy to have discovered this unexpected upside to my conversion! 

My opinions were constantly evolving on the subject of Christmas. I found myself offering diverse views to different people depending on which day they asked me. Like a shaken up snowglobe, it takes a while for the flakes to settle back down again. In fact, I revisited last year's Christmas article and found I could no longer relate the opinions I'd expressed back then.

I no longer feel like I've lost something. Conversion or not, Christmas would never be the same as it was when I was a child. I'd been worried that converting would mean I'd never be able to relate to Christmas again. Instead, I found that the upheaval made me reflect on why Christmas was important to me in the first place. 

Christmas 6 Years Ago

Having a perfectly symmetrical and colour-coded Christmas tree just doesn't matter anymore. What matters is being able to board a flight to see my family over a thousand miles away. What matters is the seemingly banal - hearing my mum fret that I've lost or gained weight, catching up with my Grandparents over a cup of tea, and chatting late into the night with my brother about everything and nothing. 

Just being there. 

And that warm fuzzy feeling we get from being with those we love is something that transcends religious red tape or cultural baggage. Whether we're speaking about religious festivals or celebrations like Thanksgiving, in the end, they all boil down to two very simple concepts: being thankful and being together

How has your views towards holiday traditions changed over the years? 

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Related Articles 

Being Mary and Embarrassing Nativity Memories

 Muslimah in Reverie had put up a post at the same moment called Christmas: The Way I See It. I love what she's written and it's lovely to read a response from someone who's been a Muslim all her life. 

A beautiful post by Yara at Muslimah Musings: Christmas as a Revert

Rachel Pieh Jones looks at Mary in the Koran & the Bible:
Merry Muslim Christmas

Giving Different Perspectives: Being the Muslim at a Christmas Party

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Ethnicity Tag

Beauty blogger @themaryfairy recently tagged her followers with the Ethnicity Tag. As well as giving me a craving for chick peas, she also inspired me to write this quick post.  

1. What is your ethnicity? 

I'm British English. My Dad's side are all English from a long line of shoemakers and I myself was born in North Yorkshire. I used to have a Yorkshire accent but I lost it when I moved to Wales. So in the Top Trump hierarchy of accents, Welsh comes out stronger (until I moved back to England). I'm also mixed heritage as my Mum is from Uruguay and so I stem from various European roots in South America: Italian, English and French. There's family debate over whether there's any trace of mestizo in the mix. 

When I first thought of doing Erasmus, I'd originally intended to go to Spain so I could at last learn Spanish and understand the punchlines of my family's jokes as many of them speak Spanish. As it turned out, Spain wasn't available and I naively thought, 'well Italy is close enough!' even though the reality couldn't be further from the truth! 

Cinque Terre, Liguria

After I'd made my decision, my Argentinian Grandad heard this and said, 'ah! so you're going back to your roots Sarita!' and explained that way back when, my family emigrated from Italy to South America most likely when Italy became a Republic and Argentina was a newly independent nation. 

So I've done a little digging I've been here in Italy and discovered that my family name is quite uncommon and there only seems to be one cluster - in the city of Savona, Liguria (Northern Italy). I've only been to the region of Liguria once before, but it was stunning as you can see from the photo of Cinque Terre below.

2. When was the last time you visited your country? 

I was in England last year for Christmas with my family. I'd love to visit Uruguay and Argentina one day. 

3. Name one ethnic food you enjoy the most

My favourite ethnic food has got to be dulce de leche from my Mum's side of the family. It's very similar in taste and consistency to caramel and if you like the caramel filling of banoffee pie then you'll love dulce de leche! 

Photo via @foodiebride

It's also incredibly simple to whip up from scratch. You just boil it up in a pan for two hours making sure it's fully immersed (as I've been told stories of exploding tins!). Then open it up and dive in with a spoon. Theoretically it should last for weeks but in reality (and in my own experience) it's usually a matter of minutes! Here's a easy peasy recipe for those who enticed by this gooey wonder: Dulce de Leche Recipe 

Illustration via Georgina Luck 

On my British side, I'd have to go for yet another sticky substance: Marmite! The taste and even just the smell from the jar makes me feel at home. It reminds me of the times when I used to leave fairly obvious bite marks in my dad's slices of marmite-smothered toast while he was fetching his obligatory cup of tea from the kitchen! Marmite, along with melted cheddar, has the ability to make me all teary-eyed and nostalgic for old Blightly if I've been without it for too long. Thankfully, @spoonpirate has been supplying me of late and for that I couldn't be more grateful! 

4. Name one household object which best represents your culture

The humble teapot. Tea culture doesn't really exist in Italy. Italians do drink black tea and herbal tea but this usually just involves popping a bag in a mug. It's rare to see a teapot being used here and a lot of Italians don't own a kettle! Needless to say, a kettle was among the first items I bought when I arrived in Italy! 

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If you'd like to do this tag, please leave a link below so that we can read your post too! 
Click on the links below for other interesting folks who've done the Ethnicity Tag:

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Update: An extended family member wrote about some of the Christian missionaries in my family 
and I happened to find my name unexpectedly in the mix which was a nice surprise. 
An Interesting Take on Interfaith Dialogue from a Christian Perspective: The Whole Truth

Monday, 10 December 2012

30 Ways To Say "Turtle"

Recently, I was kindly invited by Jeanette Kramer (@jeanettekramer) to write a Guest Post for Latitude International Education:

The article looks at the surprising benefits of learning a new language, the advantages of attending a language school and the first-hand experiences of an Erasmus student in Bologna. 

Other interesting articles on the Latitude Website include:

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