Istanbul: Hidden Turkish delights

I went to Istanbul in the first week of April, at the start of Istanbul’s annual Tulip Festival. The mornings and evenings still clung to the remains of winter’s chill but the days were warm and full of sunshine. To prepare for my maiden voyage to Europe, I scoured the internet for the best travel recommendations for Istanbul and the best, by far, was Audrey Bergner’s 50 Ways to experience Istanbul.
Here are a few hidden gems I stumbled upon alongside sights that really shouldn’t be missing from your to-see list.

1. Privato Cafe by The Galata Tower

Order the continental breakfast– Europeans have perfect portions and use the best ingredients. Turkish yogurt and honey are downright sinful. Many thanks to my friends @thesamaras for the recommendation

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Privato Cafe– a little hole in the wall restaurant in the Italian-influenced streets of Beyoglu

2. Smell the flowers at the Topkapi Palace

The smell is absolutely heavenly. Fit for a king or queen. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been so fully immersed in the smell of flowers before–Bath Body Works so doesn’t do the trick anymore.

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A sea of beautiful, colorful tulips color the lawns of this amazing palace

3. Discover Glowing quartz pottery at Firca Quarts and Ceramic by the Aya Sophia.

Ask them to take you to the basement and prepare to see something remarkable.

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The entire Blue Mosque is designed in the same quartz that makes this vase glow in the dark

4. Feed your dreams at Alemdar Restaurant & Cafe

Ask for the Saç Kavurma. I kid you not, I am still dreaming about it! Bonus: get a free Whirling Dervish show.

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The best dervish show is in Sirkeci train station!

5. Turkish Ice cream

Such a unique texture, unlike traditional ice cream we get in America. I loved the Blackberry flavor the most!

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They love to have a bit of fun with you for your ice cream

6. Stop in Hafiz Mustafa 1864 in Taksim Square for the most unique and delicious baklava and Turkish delights.

They have some delicious combinations and flavors that I couldn’t find anywhere else in all of Istanbul. I finished a whole box, y’all… I hit the gym real hard when I came back. lol.

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The men are as lovely to look at as the desserts are to taste 😉

But overall, have FUN and talk to strangers. The lives of those we meet, their stories are what make travelling to far off places both foreign and familiar. Have a good trip! Or as the Turks say, İyi yolculuklar! Güle, güle!


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5 movies on Netflix perfect for a Valentine’s date with your literary lover

Dinner and a movie still make for the best date night. Add that personal, playful touch by arranging it at home. Just in time for your essential Valentine’s Day Netflix-and-chill session, here are 5 movies you can watch while you cuddle up with your lover. Order in a heart-shaped pizza from Papa John’s and the night is set!

  1. Clueless — based on Jane Austen’s Emma
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  2. 10 Things I Hate About You –inspired by Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew
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  3. Twilight — pulls from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights
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  4. The Princess Bride –of the same name by William Goldman.
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  5. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries– Ok, so this one’s not on Netflix, it’s on Youtube, so cast it to your TV some other way. It’s won a TON of Emmy’s for its brilliant take on Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. TLBD takes on Austen’s novel in 4-minute Youtube videos, making for a refreshingly relevant take on an all time classic.
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Not feeling like Netflix? Here are a few others you won’t want to miss:

  1. She’s The Man –a hilarious rom com inspired by Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night
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  2. Warm Bodies –love and zombies? Get some Romeo & Juliet action with this film
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  3. My Fair Lady –Shaw’s Pygmalion has inspired a lot of remakes over the years with Pretty WomanShe’s All That, and Trading Places, but the best and most classically acclaimed rendition is by far Audrey Hepburn’s My Fair Lady
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  4. Easy A–One of Emma Stone’s best jobs, Easy A takes The Scarlet Letter and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to new heights with its glorious high-school version
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Around the world, around the world…

Hey readers,

You may have noticed I flew around a lot this past year. That’s because I’ve been diagnosed with chronic travel bug. Since our trip to Pakistan last year, the FamJam has been itching for more and this year the symptoms are showing.

Since January, I’ve been to Chicago twice, Cleveland once, and to the great country of Turkey for the first time ever! The fun hasn’t stopped there either. My cousin got married this year too so we jetted off to Karachi again this summer (the heat. Oh God.) for 2 weeks (!!) to take part in the festivities. And this winter, I did a fun little road trip from Chicago to Toronto with the broski cuz bonding 💯. There was lots of color and to-die-for food that are just absolute must-have experiences. So, I’ve decided to add a few travel posts to the site. Expect one for Karachi, Chicago, and Istanbul in the next few months. I’ve got a hunch that I’m going to be adding a few cities to the list this year. 😉

Stay tunes, Belles!

Top 5 Books of 2016

Readers, open your books to page 394… May Alan Rickman rest in peace.

I read a grand total of 24 books this year and a lot of them were really good! More than can fit on this list, thankfully. Enjoy!

5. Hollow City by Random Riggs

In the second installment of Missouri Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series, gives sophisticated topics a fresh point of view. Full grown adults, forever trapped in the bodies of their youth- how is maturity effected when you are living the same day over and over? And how quickly does that rose-tinted view of life last once thrust into the throes of war?

4. Muslim Girl by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh

If you haven’t already, read my review of here.

3. Muhammad: His life based on the earliest sources by Martin Ling

Lings drafts out a complete and thorough narrative of the story of the life of Prophet Muhammad through a variety of sources. Commonly, his story is told in fragments, so hearing the story of his life from birth to death made the man feel complete. I really enjoyed this listen from Audible.

2. Heartless by Marissa Meyer

See my raves of this wonderful book here.

1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (R.I.P)

This haunting story of a man’s awakening was incredible. And I could listen to Tim Robbins’ reading it over and over again. Indeed, it is one of those books that leaves you with an eerie sense of incompleteness. You feel like you missed something very important the first time around because you were so engrossed in the plot. You want to go back and see if you can pinpoint what you’re looking for. A true classic, up there with Brave New World and 1984, Fahrenheit 451 is my top read of 2016.

Now it’s your turn, dear readers. What were your favorite books of the year? Tell me in the comments below!

How could you be so Heartless?

If you’ve not read Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, I greatly urge you to do so. I’ve always been a sucker for a good fairytale retelling. I’m still obsessed with Ella Enchanted. Meyer’s does wonders blending sci-fi and fantasy together in hers. 

Beyond her Lunar Chronicles series, Meyer’s new book, Heartless, does not disappoint. How did the Queen of Hearts find her catchphrase “OFF WITH HIS HEAD!”? We are given the thrilling experience of finding out.

love Catherine, with her kind yet passionate nature and strong sense of purpose. I found Jest to be a bit odd but I grew to like him, as I grew to like his whole tea party of friends. In a topsy-turvy world on the other side of Wonderland, Meyer ingeniously made me love a story I’ve never been fond of before. How? She has a very clear understanding of her characters and their actions and growth throughout the story feels devastatingly true. 

I swear to you, readers, I read the whole thing in 12 hours straight. No bathroom breaks or meals. 5pm to 5am. It was a whirlwind. And when destiny came knocking, I found myself sobbing. That’s how invested I was. At 4am, I was crying in big heaving sobs. By the end, I was an emotional wreck; my chest aching, hollow. 

Looking again at the title of the book, I have to ask, who does Meyer leave heartless? Because I could have sworn it was me.

 

Einstein’s Dreams

This book is old, you guys. A good 24 years old.  And it’s refreshingly good.

At 144 pages, Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams is a quick but heavy read. Lightman uses Einstein’s musings on time as source material, taking the many drafts of Einstein’s early work on the theory of relativity and building new worlds where time works in strange ways.

In one of my favorite worlds, we see time functioning like gravity,  growing increasingly concentrated and dense as we travel closer to its epicenter. To the observer,  two statuesque lovers kiss for what seems a lifetime. The lovers are wrapped in the sounds of their unified hearts’ slow,  laborious beating.

In another world,  time moves differently for each person in the presence of others.  A mother sees her little boy meeting a woman at a cafe while the boy feels himself aging fasterror and faster in the company of the woman he is sitting across from in the cafe.

What’s truly fascinating is,  though these worlds are mere fantasy, crafted from the crumpled and discarded pages of a theory, they all seem to relate to the human condition.  I caught myself relating to some of the eeriest representations of time.

Pick it up or buy it on your favorite ebook app and let me know which versions do you feel you relate to most! Let me know in the comments!

A Muslim Girl’s reflections

I’m reading Amani Al-Khatahtbeh’s Muslim Girl this weekend. I’m only halfway through but I’ve cried 3 times already! I didn’t realize how much my own experiences relate to hers, so much so that the lines between myself and the narrator are significantly blurred. We all know that our experiences are not unique and as much as we may think we’re alone in our struggles, we know there are plenty of people like us experiencing the same things, but reading them on paper! I never realized how much of an impact it would make.

Needless to say,  it’s been  very introspective read and is got me thinking about what it means to be an American Muslim Girl.

I was just recently naturalized. I’ve lived in the States for nearly my entire life and I’d pass the test that allowed me the privileges of citizenship,  but when I was speaking that oath I couldn’t help wondering, will the rest of society accept us as American? Does the rest of the country believe that a 10 question test is enough for one to attain the title of American that  leads so many to puff out their chests with pride?

Does it matter at all that I’m a Muslim American? There is so much history of American society turning on minorities among them, shouting the standard phrase, “Go back home!” It’s not just Muslims who have felt this pressure (and by Muslims I really mean people who look Arab, North African, or South Asian). The Chinese felt it sharply until 1965 when the Magnuson Act was repealed (because of the Masgnuson Act Asians were not only barred from immigration, but Asian Americans in all 50 states, including US citizens, were legally disfranchised and subjected to high rents and punitive taxes), Japanese Americans felt it soon after Pearl Harbor when over 62% of them were shipped to internment camps, and African Americans felt it as well. Their history is much better known than the others’ so I won’t go into the excessively cruel discrimination against them.

If after reading this you think “Well, looks like it’s the Middle East’s turn” then you’re missing the point. Putting aside the fact that you’ve just approved of discrimination and racism against the millions of “others” in this world, which you very well could be considered in any other part of the world, the fact is that this form of discrimination happened to legal American citizens. So what is the true value of citizenship in America? Freedom of speech? Freedom of/from religion? Both have been denied to one group or another in the past. Right to vote and the right to a timely trial and fair jury? The former was denied to Black Americans and the latter was denied to Anwar Al-Awlaki, Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, and Samir Khan, all citizens by birth, not even by naturalization.

What do you think? What makes an American? And what are the benefits of citizenship? Are we truly safe to live our lives in America as Americans?

Caution: Banned Books found here

Hey Readers,

I’ve been feeling rebellious recently. Maybe it’s because the days are growing shorter (what a phrase! Growing shorter?) and the nights are increasingly darker as winter arrives. Or maybe it’s my dark lipstick and makeup’s bad influence? Whatever it may be, I’m in the mood for a little rebellion. If you’re right there with me, take a stab at confronting censorship head on. Grab one of these banned books at your local library or bookstore.

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Native Son by Richard Wright –I wouldn’t read this book after dark. It gets pretty gruesome!
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak –Baffled? So was I. The dark themes of the story made quite a few people nervous about making this available to children.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

You can do a little jig walking down the sidewalk ‘cuz you’ve stuck it to the Man–and also because you know you’re in for a treat tonight. Nothing is better than cozying up in your thickest knit, a cup of coffee by your side, and a forbidden fruit–i mean, book–in hand.

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Freedom of speech is a big deal in America, but too often we glaze over it when it happens in our very own communities. The media’s pushing soundbites like little pills in the playground. You laugh, but take a minute to think about it. Are these really just succinct phrases that embody a complete whole? Can we say for sure that our outlook on issues and people in the news isn’t being skewed by these censored bits and pieces? Because that’s really what a soundbite is–censorship at its trendiest.

Do you agree? Where else do you see censorship at work? Next time you see it, call it out, and think about why it’s happening. Then, go out and get educated. That’s the only way to fight this particular illness, the symptoms of which are ignorance and gullibility.

Penny for your thoughts

Dear Reader,

I’ve a question for you. Which is the greater of the two, a story that has yet to be lived or one that simply remains to be written? Does it matter? Be it the author’s intention to recite a tale of longing and love lost, or a young girl’s leap into the thrilling unknown, you, oh reader, are experiencing it for the first time. You do not care for the ending until you arrive at it and yet you feel dread betwixt the drama, joy and a craving for the next when it arrives at the last page. If you agree, then let us begin at the end.

They lived happily ever after…

Sincerely,
Yours Truly

Wedding withdrawals

Hey readers,

Some of you may know from my Instagram feed that my sister got married last August. The bride and beau looked amazing, the food was divine (so I heard–didn’t get to eat any of it), and the bridal shower was a hit. Naturally, being the sister without kids or law school responsibilities, I took on the brunt of the pre-wedding festivity planning and execution.

I couldn’t have done it without my best friends, to whom I am forever grateful. Especially because I was also a bridesmaid in one of my close friends’ bridal party and she was getting married the week before! I have to give a shout out to Pinterest, too. I would have been completely lost if it weren’t for that blessed site. The bridal shower wouldn’t have turned out as beautiful as it did.

Best part of this whole post? The photographer’s album has arrived! Feast your eyes on an American-Desi wedding, readers. Enjoy!

All photos courtesy of Texpertz Photography