Africa at Spitalfields….I have found the Market Mother Lode!

I am a self proclaimed market maniac. I love markets. I like the sounds, the smells, the sights, the bright colors. EVERYTHING MARKET. Sometimes I will take the long route home just to walk through my local market. So when Jess and Victoria of The African Mini-Market at Spitalfield’s told me that I should come out I was sooo excited.  “P” put NuNu in the pram and we headed out for some good ole family fun.

Spitalfield’s Market is known for showcasing handmade, one-of-a-kind items and having The African Mini Market take over every bank holiday fits into the theme with ease. The market  is perfectly located. Liverpool station is  just a moment away which makes it easily accessible by public transport. The surrounding area is packed with quirky shops, florists, cafes, so after you finish shopping you can have a sit down with a cup of tea or pick up some flowers to go along with your wall hanging purchased at the market.

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I must say, I don’t know why this is called a “Mini Market”  because it literally had everything you could possibly want and leaves absolutely nothing to be desired. Can you say LOADS of hand crafted, Africa inspired greatness?!  Before we even rounded the corner to the market square we smelled food. Yummy food! Chicken, rice, cupcakes, cookies…sweet and savory.  In addition, there were sounds of live drum play that could be heard throughout. As soon as I walked in I saw bunches of smiling faces, everyone having a good time. People from every background, enjoying what this market has to offer. Food, fun, handcrafted merchandise, togetherness…this is my kind of place!

One of the first stalls I went to was The River Hut Company (www.theriverhutcompany.com), selling sustainable, eco-friendly handbags. This company prides their brand on being not only functional but fashionable and this is so true. As a woman that owns handbags ( I won’t say how many as “P” isn’t aware of the purse filled storage unit in America), I had to add a River Hut Company bag to my collection. The product spoke for itself. Beautifully hand painted with silhouettes of  women with natural hair and the customer service was well above par.

www.theriverhutcompany.com

Had to have this one!

Had to have this one reminds me of myself, big natural hair!

Want one of your own? Head over to www.theriverhutcompany.com for a browse about  and make your purchase at https://marketplace.asos.com/boutique/the-river-hut-company or at their Etsy store http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/TheRiverHutCompany.

You know NuNu and I have to stick together. So what is a purchase for mommy without a purchase for her mini sidekick! NuNu has a little doll, creatively named Friend, that she carries around with her EVERYWHERE. So much so that I call them “my two big girls”. I thought it was time to add to her collection when I found these absolutely stunning African dollies by Dolls by Verona C. They are multi-cultural dolls (male and female versions available) that are dressed in vibrant fabrics. I was drawn to these dolls for NuNu because they aren’t just cute they are also extremely sturdy. They are soft (made of felt) yet stuffed perfectly to withstand the torment of little hands and gnawing gums! Sandra, the maker of the dolls was very helpful in aiding us in picking out the perfect one for NuNu. Now I have “three big girls”.

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I think "Friend" has a bit of competition!

I think “Friend” has a bit of competition!

You can custom order your doll by visiting http://www.dollsbyverona.co.uk or http://www.etsy.com/shop/DollsbyVeronaC. You can choose the color, fabric, style, hair color (black, brown, blonde, burgandy) and the gender of your doll. Dolls come in small, medium and large.

Next time I will allot more time to properly visit every merchant but I was literally just bursting with excitement so much so that I was all over the place! Here are just a few standouts:

Amédée

African inspired handmade slings used for baby wearing from birth to 35lbs. They also produce soft baby shoes, teething rings and bibs, all in beautiful bright colors of Ankara print fabric. 100% cotton and ethically produced. www.amadee.co.uk for purchase information.

Baby Wearing with Amédée

Baby Wearing with Amédée

Lovely Notebooks

Offers a range of covered, padded notebooks for everyone. Ranges include Africa, Contemporary, Abstract, and Signature prints. Great for students, graduates, professionals or those that just love nice things! Very reasonably priced and makes for a wonderful gift! www.lovelynotebooks.co.uk

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Psalmist Jewels

I fell in love with these bags when I saw them. Super sturdy and extremely stylish. Perfect for the woman on the go! I now know what I want for my upcoming birthday!

Dapri Jewels

Wonderful handmade jewelry with a unique and classy flair.

Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen

Had some delicious eats from ZGK. Just what I needed after the walking around. Young founder Zoe Adjonyoh delivers Ghanaian food with a unique culinary experience through frequent pop ups and events. To find out where ZGK will be in the future go to www.zoesghanakitchen.co.uk  and like them at https://www.facebook.com/ZoesGhanaKitchen.

Plantains!!

I had the vegetarian option. Yes! Plantains!!

Yojos

Cookies! So we are just walking around…MINDING OUR OWN BUSINESS and a nice young lady comes up to us with a basket of goodies and a good deal so we HAD to buy 2 packs, you know, since she twisted our arm and all! OMG they were sooooo good. So delicious that “P” almost went into a fit trying to hunt her down to buy some more. Needless to say we went home with 4 packs of cookies and only had one left by bed time. DE-LI-CIOUS.  www.yojos.co.uk

The Africa at Spitalfields Market was a great time for the entire family. I saw kids running around with huge smiles and they were even encouraged to take part in playing the drums which even gave little ones like NuNu something to enjoy:

NuNu preparing to play the Djembe drums

NuNu preparing to play the Djembe drums

More colorful images from Africa at Spitalfields:

Earrings!

Earrings!

Colorful Clothing

Market goers could grab one of the many seats behind the drums and join along in playing.

Market goers could grab one of the many seats behind the drums and join along in playing.

There were plenty of food options. Chicken, beef, rice, plantains, cupcakes, cookies, cakes and drinks!

There were plenty of food options. Chicken, beef, rice, plantains, cupcakes, cookies, cakes and drinks!

Lola's cupcakes were there selling a huge selection of cupcakes....YUMMY! http://www.lolas-kitchen.co.uk/

Lola’s cupcakes were there selling a huge selection of cupcakes….YUMMY! http://www.lolas-kitchen.co.uk

Art Work

Art Work

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When I got home, the first thing on my to-do list was to find out when the next Bank Holiday would be so I could go back for another fix. Then I looked at the flyer….GASP! “Promoting and Celebrating all things African one last time for 2013 at Spitalfields Market”. What will I do! I NEED The African Mini Market at Spitalfields in my life! Highly recommended!

Like them on Facebook to find out about their next event at https://www.facebook.com/AfricaAtSpitalfields.

Happiness requires something to do, something to love and something to hope for”  ~Swahili Proverb

*All items that were purchased were done so at full price offered by the vendor without special considerations. There was no compensation for any of the reviews. All reviews are based on my experience and/or observation.

Well Alrighty Then!

You  wouldn’t think that there would be a language barrier between Americans and English. I mean, we both speak the English language… right? Not according to “P”, my lovely hubby. Apparently, I speak American and he speaks “proper English” but I beg to differ.  Interestingly I have had my fair share of moments that were “lost in translation”. I am guilty of periodically giving “P” a confused look when he says something that just doesn’t  mean the same thing in America or when he uses terms that aren’t commonly used but make him sound as if he is fit to sit at the dinner table adjacent to the Queen herself. You know, words like fortnight…I mean, REALLY, we are not in the Middle Ages.  If you can imagine someone using words like dummy or nappy when having a conversation about your baby it can make you do a double take and wonder where the conversation is headed. That is, until you conclude that dummy is a common term for pacifier and a nappy is a diaper.

This brings me to my communication dilemma. In life I am hardly ever at a lost for words during an initial greeting but I find myself in that position at least 5 times a day, whether passing a neighbor on the stairwell, communicating with a shop-keep or having a chat with my in laws.The awkwardly uncomfortable exchange goes pretty much like this:

Person A: You Alright?

Me: (Blank Stare)

Person A: (runs along and doesn’t even look bothered about a reply or continues on with the conversation as if they didn’t just ask me a question)

Every single time, it never fails, I am left completely and utterly confused with a million thoughts running through my mind because of two simple words, “YOU ALRIGHT”. I don’t want to seem rude but was I supposed to say something in response? Why are they asking me this? Do I look like I’m doing bad? Do they really want to know how I’m doing? Seriously, I hear it so often and it catches me off guard so much so that I’ve even tried to catch the reaction of others when they are hit with the greeting, but it happens too quickly! My first few weeks here I was intimidated by greeting people. In my mind this is what it sounds like as I’m being approached and it sends me into a state of panic:

Totally exaggerated of course but you can see my dilemma. I’ve always thought that  if you ask someone if they are alright that typically means that they look like they aren’t well or you are asking if they need help, hence, they aren’t ALRIGHT. In America asking someone if they are alright is synonymous to asking (typically out of concern), “Are you okay?”

After a few weeks of this I finally decided to refer to my “in-home British to American translator”, “P”.  He reassured me that 9 times out of 1o the person initiating the greeting  (a) isn’t expecting a long drawn out answer, or (b) doesn’t really care if I’m alright, they are just giving an informal acknowledgement of your presence. In other words it’s kind of like saying, “What’s up” or “How are you doing”.  On the up side it doesn’t mean that I look as if I am in complete distress!

To keep you from showing up to a  fancy dress party (costume party) in an evening gown instead of a mask or bunny ears here are more words that aren’t typically used in America and their meanings:

English to “American” Words and Meanings(click here)

England and America are two countries separated by a common language”  ~ George Bernard Shaw

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Part II

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A while ago I posted a few stunning photos that I took outside of  BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (Neasden Temple) and I’ve finally been able to make my way to back to Britain’s first traditional Hindu Temple for a proper look around.

Before visiting, I made sure that I did a fair amount of reading up about what to expect while visiting. The official website http://londonmandir.baps.org/ has an abundance of information that includes visitor guidelines and photos of the various areas where cameras are not permitted. It is also important to time your visit (information about timing is also on the website) so that you are able to view Darshan. Darshan is one of the most basic forms of worship in Hindu, admiring the Deities. This is offered during particular times through the day when the shrines are open for viewing.

I know that there is no way that I can give such a beautiful place proper justice through words but I will do my best to document my experience. This is certainly a place that one must take in for themselves. When visiting places of religious significance I take it as an opportunity to learn. I listen and most importantly maintain respect for those that are worshiping. It took so much out of me to keep all of the Ooohs and Aaaaahs that were floating around in my mind from blurting out. The only reason that I was able to keep quiet is because I was rendered speechless by the beauty of the Temple inside and out.

Bags and cameras are not allowed inside of the Temple, they must be left in your vehicle or in the Security booth where these items must be checked in. The Haveli (cultural centre) is the point of entry into the Temple. The Haveli is made of 17,760 square feet of intricate wood carvings of Burmese Teak and English Oak.

Outside of the Haveli

Outside of the Haveli

Wood Carvings

Wood Carvings

Haveli

Haveli

Haveli Wood Carvings (www.http://londonmandir.baps.org)

Haveli Wood Carvings (www.http://londonmandir.baps.org)

It is customary to remove your shoes upon entering the Haveli complex where male and female shoe racks are provided.  As we entered we were told to hurry as we were just barely making the time to view the shrines. I must say that I knew that I was about to witness something beautiful but the energy that I felt once entering into the Mandir (Hindu place of worship) nearly bought tears to my eyes.

The Mandir is a Marble Masterpiece in the middle of a concrete jungle. It is made up of tons of limestone and fine Italian Carrera Marble etched and sculpted in India and lovingly put together in North-West London. In every piece you can see supreme craftsmanship. Go to http://londonmandir.baps.org/the-mandir/mandir-how-it-was-made/ to see how it was made and for more amazing photos.

The Mandir is a quiet place where you can literally feel the stillness in the air. You will see many people bowing, hands together in front of the images, some lying on the marble floor or sitting in meditation in front of the sacred images.

We visited during Hindola Utsav (Swing Festival) and were able to witness the devotional tradition which takes place 24 July-22 August 2013. The Swing Festival is where images of God are placed on swings and devotees rock the image away and toward them in a loving manner. Placing God on a swing symbolizes placing God in your heart and the rocking motion is symbolic of the desire to bring God closer.  The swings are changed and redecorated throughout various times of the month. On this particular day there were two large fish sculptures with the image of God placed on a swing in the middle with a long rope extended from the swing to the area where devotees stand. One by one they would approach the image and give a light tug.  http://londonmandir.baps.org/2013/07/hindola-utsav-swing-festival/ (more images of the completed swings so far).

swing

Also seen in the Mandir are the sacred images or Murti displayed in shrines throughout. They are not just seen as beautiful “images” but admired and cared for as a living being would be.  The images are dressed elaborately with colorful garments and headpieces and adorned with jewelry. The shrines are open during particular times and closed for others to allow times for visits, food offerings and a to allow the sacred images to rest, following a normal daily routine. Murti Darshan is changed daily. Pictured below is one Darshan displayed on the day of our visit.  The smell of fresh fruit was soaring through the air and each one was delicately and purposefully placed around the shrine.

Murti Darshan on 10 August 2013. (left to right) Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami,  Bhagwan Swaminarayan, and Aksharmukta Gopalanand Swami (courtesy of www.londonmandir.baps.org)

Murti Darshan on 10 August 2013. (left to right) Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami, Bhagwan Swaminarayan, and Aksharmukta Gopalanand Swami (courtesy of http://www.londonmandir.baps.org)

After walking through the Mandir, taking in the beauty and calm of it all, we visited the gift shop. There are books for children and adults, miniature sacred images, incense, candies and teas that bear the BAPS name. Additionally, across the street from the Mandir is Shayona Restaurant (and delicatessen) which serves a delightful menu of authentic Indian cuisine.

tea and baps

We were allowed to retrieve our cameras from the security area to take photos outside of the Mandir before leaving. These are a few of the images:

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Intricate carvings

Intricate carvings

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Upon leaving “P” turned to me to say that he now has a sudden urge to visit India and I agreed! I highly recommend visiting BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir to anyone visiting London, it’s a MUST SEE, a pleasurable, peaceful experience.

My First Roti!

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Sunday we took a trip out to the countryside to visit an Auntie. Feeling a bit homesick and missing my family in America it is just what I needed. The warmth, family time AND what is a visit with an Auntie without a delicious home cooked meal? She cooked up some lovely eats and I was secretly scoping out her recipes, particularly the Roti. The last time that I had Roti it was made for me by my mother in law years ago. This encounter took my taste buds back to a familiar place of deliciousness.

Roti is a type of traditional flat-bread consumed in many parts of Africa, India, Pakistan and parts of the Caribbean. It looks pretty close to what I know as a tortilla or chapati. Roti can be eaten in a similar manner with chicken, rice, beef, lamb, veggies or whatever you fancy.

Roti and Chicken Curry

photo of Roti and Chicken Curry

After having two helpings I knew that I couldn’t kick my craving for Roti nor would I be able to wait until the next visit to satisfy my NEED for it so I decided to get my behind in the kitchen to try it out for myself. Turned out great! “P” doesn’t know it but we will be having Roti for the next few days, it is now my “new thing”!

The recipe is simple and cooking time is fast which makes for a great addition to any meal. Forgive me, I never measure anything but you want to combine the ingredients to make a proper dough ball. Make sure it’s not runny or you will end up with American style pancakes!

Ingredients:

Flour (plain white or wheat, NOT SELF RISING FLOUR)

Hot Water

Vegetable Oil

Pinch of Salt (optional)

Directions: Combine the ingredients and roll into a dough ball. Pinch away pieces to make smaller dough balls and coat with a little flour and roll them out into individual flattened pieces with a rolling pin.  Place one flattened piece onto a hot non stick frying pan. Do not oil the pan. Bubbles will start to form. Flip it over and  you will see brown specks. Continue to cook the other side. Remove from the pan. You now have a Roti!

The finished product!

It's not perfectly round, but it's Roti nonetheless!

It’s not perfectly round, but it’s Roti nonetheless!

Here is a video that shows how to properly cook Roti, quick and easy!

Cocoa’s Card-A-Mum Tea

Lately I have been battling this nasty, stuffy, annoying sinus/allergy/cold hybrid thingy that sends me into a fit of coughing and sneezing like a mad woman.  I cooked up some falafel last evening and the smell of cardamom is floating through the flat and seems to be helping clear me up so I decided to try it in a tea.  I’m not much of a tea drinker as of yet (the tea culture is strong in England but that’s another post)  however, I am willing to do anything to ward off these symptoms.

So I asked my resident tea sommelier, “P”, to put the kettle on. I gave him a list of the ingredients and the end result was a fragrant, yummy, sinus clearing concoction that I can’t get enough of! If you are feeling a bit frisky or need to take the edge off I am almost certain that you can add a shot of your favorite spirit (Whisky or Brandy). It will make a good version of a Hot Toddy or as I have appropriately named it “Card-A-Mum” Tea.

Here are the ingredients

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Hot Water enough to fill your favorite mug

1 Tea Bag

2 Cardamom Pods

Lemon (a few squeezes)

Honey ( a couple of squirts)

Grated Cinnamon

Optional: Sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)

Optional: Slices of fresh ginger (will add an intense spice)

Optional: Spirit

Instructions:

Place the Cardamom pods into the mug of your choice. Pour in hot water. The Cardamom is an aromatic as well as a spice. The longer it’s in the better! Place your tea bag in. Add your honey, grated cinnamon and lemon (optional sugar and ginger and spirit). Give it a good stir. Take the Cardamom pods out or keep them in but don’t consume them.

You can let the mixture sit for a while and heat it up at your will. This will intensify the spiciness! Enjoy!

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**Alcoholic beverages are for those that are of legal drinking age. Always drink responsibly!**

Hammersmith Park Hideaway

I am a lover of all things tranquil. I love peace, I love quiet and I love a bit of “me” time. Now that I am a mum, “me” time is hard to come by.  I miss taking long uninterrupted bubble baths, heck, I miss uninterrupted bathroom time as a whole! I long for those days where I could meditate in silence without freaking out because I hear NuNu whimper or stir in her sleep. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing like being a mummy and the up side is that I have a tiny little travel partner, a side kick, a captive lunch date and someone to hang out in the park with in the middle of the day. These days I have to get in those moments of tranquility whenever I can. One of the places that we steal away to is Hammersmith Park.

Hammersmith Park is situated within the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. You will not find this park on a list of “tourist hot spots” but it is on my list of simple places that are good to go to when I need to sit in peace or a place to have a good read. It is filled with a mix of beautiful flowers, a mini pond, hidden stone trails, a bowling green, and a gated adventure playground equipped with slides, jungle gyms and picnic tables. Most importantly it’s a quiet place.

Here are just a few of the beautiful images that I was able to capture:

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flowers

paths

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bowls
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Gated Adventure Playground

Gated Adventure Playground

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I still get wildly excited about little things…I play with leaves. I skip down the street and run against the wind.” ~ Leo Buscaglia