17. Read: The Kite Runner

20150704_KiteRunner_0016This book is fantastic. This is the reason why I read, to find books like this.

20150704_KiteRunner_0038I am a firm believer that the best thing you can do to better yourself in life is read. Through reading you expand your knowledge, learn empathy and gain hundreds of different experiences from the past, present and future which helps you become a wiser and more rounded person. They are lofty claims, but I really think that a book can be your best teacher. Which is exactly what Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner was for me.

The Kite Runner tells a story of loyalty, betrayal and redemption, through the eyes of a young boy Amir, growing up privileged on the outskirts of Kabul with his friend Hassan. The boys grow up together like brothers,  “running kites” and spending every day side by side. However, Amir and Hassan were not equals, Hassan was a servant in Amir’s fathers house.

The boys lives separate after Amir cowardly betrays Hassan and the war forces Amir and his father to flee to America. The one things that Amir’s new home cannot offer him though is redemption and eventually Amir must go back and right the wrongs he committed to his ever loyal friend Hassan.

The backdrop of war in Afghanistan elevates this story from the everyday to the unforgettable. I feel that I probably learned more about Afghanistan and it’s people through this book than I have through a lifetime of news reports. Because that’s what it has been in Afghanistan, nearly a lifetime of conflict, I can’t remember a time when Kabul or al-Qaeda have not been on my radar. Afghanistan has always been a war zone, far off in the Middle East, but this story makes it a country, a home, a place of children and grandparents. I love that this story really takes you to the heart of the Afghani people. The setting is so far from what I know, yet I didn’t feel disconnected at all.

I had a moment after reading Rahim Kahn’s recounting when the Taliban took over Kabul from the Northern Alliance “I actually danced in the street”. It was so harrowing to read of the celebrations this brought, knowing the huge costs the people would pay under the Taliban also. The Northern Alliance, in my limited understanding, was a military front set up to defend against the Taliban in the south. Both factions came up after the Soviet forces left Afghanistan.

20150704_KiteRunner_0054In the end the story leaves you with hope; hope for the characters and, a bit of hope for Afghanistan too. Definitely put it on your ‘to read list’ this story is a treasure.

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27 List: June Update with Croatia pics

20150711_Sail_Croatia_Day4_0439 I have just spent an awesome week sailing with friends in Croatia which is why this June update is coming late. It was a fantastic week of sunning, swimming, reading and most of all relaxing. Here’s a few pics.. Take me back…..

20150711_Sail_Croatia_Day4_057220150711_Sail_Croatia_Day4_093020150711_Sail_Croatia_Day1_0188And here is where I’m at with the list at the moment. There are lots of write ups in the pipe-line.. July will be a post heavy month.

1. Make a 3 tiered cake a la Sweetapolita Complete! Check out my practice run and the final baby shower cake.

2. Watch the entire series of Sex and the City  – Maybe I’ll be more productive with my evenings now that I have finished this. You can read my review here, spoiler – I loved it!

3. Write at least 27 more blog entries – Since writing the list, I have completed 26 posts just about to tick this off.

4. See The Book of Mormon theatre show – Saw it just before the Croatia trip and have been quoting it ever since, review to come.

5. Create a star constellation scarfI’m halfway done on this, it has been harder to motivate myself to find the time to do this than I expected it would be.

6. Host friends for a grown up dinner party

7. Make French macaronsDone!They were delicious. Here are my macarons and my Paris research.

8. Plan a travel trip to Morocco – It’s going to be Egypt and Jordan now!! See my travel planning business case here.

9. Make lolly infused vodka See my colourful attempt here.

10. Knit a peggy square blanket, maybe like thisBlanket = Stalled indefinitely.

11. Try out dance classes – Life got in the way and I stopped going to classes, I keep telling myself I’ll go back to it, but it has been a couple of months now…

12. Run a 10K cancer research raceThis was a real sister challenge and you can see how we did here.

13. Make salted caramel as gifts

14. Develop a uniform work wardrobe of at least 8 outfits – This is my starting point, my first 5 outfits.

15. Go to see an inspirational speaker (like a Ted Talk) –  I was inspired by many speakers at the Women of the World Festival.  An unexpected talk about The Myth of Talent really resonated with me too.

16. Take a DSLR camera course – I have bought the ABM DSLR Basics course and have been reading through the lessons slowly. I used the travel techniques on my most recent holiday, photos to come.

17. Read these books –  The Robber BrideFinished 13/03/2015, see my first attempt at a book review here. The Colour Purple – Finished 20/03/2015, see my purple post here. The Kite Runner – I’m nearly finished and I’m so happy to report it was worth the wait! review to come soon.

18. Make gimmick tea bag craft idea for friends

19. Hike along the White Cliffs of Dover

20. Move into a 1 bed flat with Ben – We’re staying in Tottenham! Here is why.

21. Stay at/visit a National Trust site

22. See a netball match, hopefully to support New Zealand. – It doesn’t look like NZ is touring England this year, booo! But England will be playing a few World Cup warm up matches in the next few months.

23. Have a cocktail at the Ritz – I have been doing some research on the Rivoli Bar at the Ritz, and the more I read, the more I’m not so keen on going anymore. It just sounds too stuffy and uptight for me to enjoy.

Instead I have been researching awesome London cocktails bars for somewhere else I would rather spend my money in. These are the candidates so far: Nola, a New Orleans style cocktail bar in Shoreditch; Mr Foggs, a Mayfair bar decorated in Victorian Explorer trinkets and trifles and Original Sin, this place looks incredible and is within stumbling distance from home. If you have any more recommendations please let me know.

24. Climb Snowdon Mountain, Wales

25. Do some study through work. Hopefully a Prince2 Project Management qualification. – I completed a 1 week intensive course mid-May, and passed!

26. Print a photo book – This will be a photo book of Croatia. I have some ideas of what I want it to be already. Croatia was soooo photo genic. We have come back with more than 2,500 after a week. Of course not all of these will be winners.

27. Eat at a Michelin starred restaurant – Booked! Ben and I are going to have lunch at Galvin at Windows for our anniversary. I think it’s the worst name for a restaurant I have heard, but the food looks delicious.

14. What I wear to work

_MG_0044I’m not someone who stresses out about dressing in the morning, pulling out every item of clothing and changing into numerous different outfits before settling on the one I started in 30 minutes later. That is not me, generally I just dress and go with little to no fuss.

Problems occur for me when disorganisation sets in and we have not kept up with the washing. Then I really struggle. The stress comes when I literally have nothing to wear, not figuratively, literally have nothing to wear. (When I say nothing, of course I mean nothing appropriate that hasn’t been lying in a pile of gym clothes and socks for the past week.)

I came across this article online a few months ago by Matilda Kahl called Why I wear the exact same thing to work every day. Kahl was fed up with yet another pre-work outfit dilemma and decided to revamp her work outfit into 15 simple blouses, a few pairs of trousers and a blazer for winter. Basically a work uniform, or if you’re male, a suit.

Reading this I had two thoughts:

1. I thought, that’s what I do.. kinda. I have five work appropriate outfits I feel comfortable in. They meet the dress code, they fit well and I generally have underclothes that fit comfortably with them. These five outfits work for me all seasons, in winter with thick tights and boots, in summer with bare legs and sandals.

2. She has 15 blouses? Wow! I have four. Four blouses, three dresses and two skirts.

That is why I have challenged myself to grow my work wardrobe by adding three more failsafe outfits to the mix. Clothes that are comfortable, good quality and make me feel good.

So the pics below are my starting point:

Five days worth of outfits that I wear over and over again. I ummed and ahhed about how to photograph my clothes and I finally thought, well if I wear these outfits pretty much once a week and in the case of these items, have been wearing them all for over a year. Then I should be able to handle posing for a photo in them. So every morning this week, Ben followed me out to the park across the road and took a few pictures of me. It was super awkward and I was completely out of my comfort zone. But I’m glad I did it. For one, these are clothes my family back home probably never see me photographed in. It’s also a random little snapshot in time which is completely mundane now, but could make an interesting keepsake for the future. I loved seeing pictures of my parents when they were younger and looking at all the fashions they wore.

Here we go:

_MG_0010Monday: I got the dress on sale at River Island last summer, I think it cost me £15. Love the pattern and colours. The boots were also on sale at a Kurt Geiger outlet near my work, these were £19 and are so comfy. The cardi was a freebie that I picked out from a pile of clothes that my old flatmate couldn’t fit in her suitcase back to Australia.

_MG_0046Tuesday: The dress is from Dorothy Perkins, I can’t remember the cost now but I imagine it was around £15. The boots are as Monday.

_MG_0055_MG_0061Wednesday: This skirt is an ASOS purchase that I got about 3 years ago. It is so easy to wear and I get a lot of compliments in it. Definitely a keeper. I wear this with blouses in summer and thin jumpers in winter. This blouse is one I got at Spitalfields Market for £10. The black open toe shoes are from the Clarks outlet near my work and cost £20. The necklaces are from my parents, the silver heart from my dad for my 25th birthday and the little green tiki from my mum when I first travelled by myself to Japan. It was gifted to her by my grandparents when she left to travel to England at around the same age.

_MG_0021_MG_0002Thursday: This little black number is something I picked up at H&M for £16. This is my go-to shape for dresses. High neck and A-line skirt. I hope this dress lasts forever. The black courts are from Clarks for £20. The skipping girl necklace I bought for $20 at the Cuba Street Carnival in Wellington. I was at uni at the time and I remember I couldn’t really justify the cost being a poor student. I still love it though, nearly 10 years later and wear it every chance I get.

_MG_0086Friday: The blouse is Warehouse brand and I think I paid around £30 for it, making it my most expensive work item. The skirt is from ASOS for £18 and the black courts again are from Clarks for £20.

These clothes are pretty monochrome, I do have much more colour in my casual wardrobe. Looking at these costs too, I also realise I spend much more on my casual and socialising outfits that I do on my work ones. I obviously have my priorities right.

So now I’m on the look out for three more outfits to add to the mix. Shopping anyone?