Book Review: “Other Words for Home” by Jasmine Warga

Hello!

Last year, I was scrolling through Facebook and this meme had popped up from a library, stating mainly to those who are adults, that it is okay to enjoy reading YA (young adult) books. I took this to heart because I have heard of my favorite booktubers feeling uneasy about checking out books in this genre, and to see this slip all throughout my social media has influenced my own journey branching out from other genres that I feel weird reading like children’s literature. I wasn’t a lover of reading (of any kind) when I was little, so now I’m diving deep into classics I had pushed aside in the past.

This book isn’t part of that list, but it is middle grade, which is targeted for students in junior high or middle school, at least that’s what I believe is the meaning behind it. An example of what is considered middle grade are the Harry Potter books. Of course, they take a darker note after ‘The Goblet of Fire’ but for the most part they are always regarded for pre-teens around the ages of 10-15.

WARNING: there are some spoilers below. So, If you are planning on reading the book in the near future, you might want to skip this post!

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I am learning how to be
sad
and happy
at the same time.


Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.

At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.

taken from Goodreads.

This was one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read, and a brilliant read for this month as it is Ramadan in the Muslim communities. As you may know, I love to learn, and a few years ago I was introduced to the holiday event Ramadan and Eid. This was one that I was not familiar with, but I was thrilled to learn what people do to celebrate the month of fasting, praying, and ultimately the renewal of life that comes with it. I’ve learned a lot in the last three years, as I always read at least one book around Ramadan, and this year I chose “Other Words for Home” by Jasmine Warga.

This story of a little girl who spent her early years in Syria, living with her family, going to school, and having the typical childhood, until the start of the violence there breaks every thing she is used to, and it immediately made me remember an old friend of mine, her name was Reem, and she lived in Syria. One of her last tweets was in 2014, and honestly, every time she came on with new updates about her and her outlook on the country as a whole was so heartbreaking for us. I haven’t talked about her much because it hurts to know how close she was to it. I don’t know if she made it out of Syria and I’ve checked her previous accounts on Twitter, but there’s nothing there. I always hope she is somewhere free of the chaos and that’s all I can really do.

For our main character Jude, you are able to see the innocence of this young girl navigating this new world in a way; I liked the way, we as the reader, were able to see the good and bad in Jude’s life. She goes to a school in America with her cousin, who was born here. It was interesting to see the differences between these little girls as they are part of the same blood but has been through different things. For Jude’s cousin Sarah, she wouldn’t be totally comfortable accepting a hijab after starting her period. You get the gist right away that she wasn’t raised like that and isn’t very accepting of Jude to being like that.

and I know I am not back home, but here, in this home.

Despite this, there was one girl that was a great addition to Jude’s life, and her name is Layla. She was born in the United States, but her family is from Lebanon and own a Middle Eastern restaurant that Jude visits to enjoy food and love of her native homeland. Layla is a great insight into what it is like for a child who doesn’t feel like she belongs and feels like she’s punished for it. I believe Sarah and Layla respect two sides of what it’s like being a girl in America. If people don’t understand something, they are afraid of it. I heard this phrase a lot as a teenager, but it really spoke to me while reading about Jude in this book.

A way of getting acclimated to her new school was instantly being in an ESL class. ESL means “English Second Language” and I can remember seeing several students in school growing up, having to be hallways to learn English, because as far as I knew we didn’t have those at the time. Honestly, it wasn’t until high school we were allowed to choose between two languages to learn as an elective, and they were German and Spanish. In Jude’s case, she has three other students in her class, and they were from other parts of the world, and it was sweet to see them learn slang words like “bougie” (which I did not learn about until I was 28!) and phrases such as, “you know?”

There were so many things I truly adored about this book, but I did not enjoy how it ended. I felt like it should have given the reader more of what happens after that final scene, but instead we were left with a cliffhanger ending and it really angered me because I thought it could have continued on a little more, but I’ll get over it.

Have you read “Other Words for Home” by Jasmine Warga yet? If so, what were your thoughts? What was your favorite scene(s) of the whole book?

snowflake

What I Love About Afternoon Tea!

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Hello!

Last October, when I stayed at my mom’s work while she recovered from her second surgery, my nana and I got to have a lot of fun together and one of the things we both got to enjoy was a theme dinner there at the nursing home.

Gail who works in the activities department explained to us that they try to have four different themes in a year. She and the other girls decorate the different dining rooms and they plan with the chefs of a meal that would go with that particular theme. The one I got to enjoy was “Serenade At The Seven Seas” or something like that. I liked it. I also loved trying the different courses, but the other ladies were a bit mixed though!

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The theme was called “My Fair Lady” and I guess the ladies in the activities department decorated the dinning rooms and made feathered hats or “bonnets” for the female residents! She took pictures and even wrote out the menu of what they served to the residents! I was going to use the one she made, but it had some spelling mistakes so I just redid it – later I realized I could have spelling mistakes on mine! Funny how they works!

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They also had a little tea party too!

According to Gail, in the film a couple of characters host a party and they decided to recreate that with the residents, so they decorated the large activity room with very pretty and colorful table clothes and had these beautiful centerpieces in the middle of them. They looked very vintage but yet modern too! They also made the ladies hats with feathers and ribbons in crafts. My nana really loved that, but as you can see apparently so did Alex!

28535342_1768924659838523_1707063689_nIn 2016, I actually wanted to have an afternoon tea themed birthday party. I had so many ideas that I wanted to do. I wanted to decorate my grandparent’s kitchen table with different fabrics, and since my birthday is like the day after Halloween, I knew my nana had a large black table liner and I thought if we put that on the table itself and laid out a red runner in the middle that way it wouldn’t look too dark and gloomy for the party!

Over the course of the last two years, I’ve actually wondered what I’d serve to this tea party if I ever had one! Since I read so many of my fellow blogger friends going to afternoon tea at different hotels or just plainly at home with their family members and/or close friends., I’ve been able to figure out what all is served, and I’ve grown to love the three teared stand of food that is laid out on the table. The first thing they give you is your tea. However, I’m like the 1% that doesn’t like coffee or tea, so I’m more interested in finding a good lemonade recipe. My mom actually made a homemade strawberry lemonade last year, where she let the strawberries sit out in the juice overnight to allow the flavors to marinate together. I’m kind of partial to anything raspberry, so whenever I see a “raspberry lemonade” on a menu at a restaurant, I instantly order it! So I’d rather have a raspberry lemonade instead.

As much as I’ve gathered, you usually start with the sandwiches, they are usually placed on the bottom and bigger tear. The traditional flavors are egg salad, smoked salmon and cumber all cut in small bites so they look more dainty, and they always have the crusts cut off! Now I look on Pinterest for other ideas to make this a little bit more casual, so I am curious about creating a sandwich or two as some kind of wrap or pinwheel–using the traditional plain tortilla or having a variation of spinach or whole wheat!

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On the second tear you had the scones, which apparently in the states we say the word completely wrong! I’d explain on how it’s really pronounced but I don’t even know how to describe it, so I apologize there.

I have actually seen quite a few of my favorite chefs make scones on their television programs, so I already know of some different kinds I’d like to try out. I also know that when you’re making them for the first time, they’re suppose to be crumbly, so there’s nothing wrong with them, that’s just how they’re meant to be! Ree Drummond created the Maple Oat Nut Scones after not being able to visit a Starbucks where she lives; they look really good! The way she described them on her show The Pioneer Woman they taste like a biscuit type of pancake, because it has a strong taste of maple syrup! However, I think I would have to keep the coffee out of it! And then there’s a Cheddar and Dill Scone recipe from Ina Garten, she’s made this with both cheddar and a Stilton, which is like a stronger blue cheese! She’s very inspired by French food and had a gourmet food store back in the day, so she’s figured out different ways to make a good savory scone!

28536475_1768924629838526_1468751189_nNow the real question is what would I do about the clotted cream and jam that they serve alongside the scones itself? I know we don’t have the traditional clotted cream or nobody makes it to that level as the British, so the next best choice to have would either be mascarpone or cream cheese! Personally, I’ve never been in jam or perseveres, so I wouldn’t necessarily put it out as an option if it was only me, but if I had a group of people, I’d probably get a small jar of strawberry or blueberry jam, but for those who want to be really adventurous they can try out the marmalade. You know, I love the smell of that stuff because it’s like oranges, but I have never tried it before and if it was put out there on the table, I probably would like to try a small dab of it.

As far as the top layer of the stand, my thoughts have differed, sometimes I think a very casual take on decorative cupcakes would work out very nicely! You could make minis so they’d fit on the tear better. However if you wanted to add a fun twist to them, like stuffing them, it wouldn’t necessarily work on the tiny ones. I’ve noticed I keep looking into French pastries. You’d think I’ve been watching too much Ina Garten lately! So the possibility of having macrons, which is something that is on my food bucket list (yes, I do have one those! I actually need to work on that soon!) and there’s the tarts or tarlets you can make, like the Mini Raspberry Tarts that Julia Baker made on her TV show! These were so cute and seemed really easy to make! If you’re a chocoholic, in which I sort of am, you need a couple of good chocolate desserts too! Truffles would be a good idea, as you can just eat it in one bite! You could dip strawberries in chocolate or make little pote de creme (puddings!) in mason jars too.

There doesn’t seem like there’s a right or wrong way to create your own afternoon tea! If you’re interested in learning and seeing what is actually served at the teas in the United Kingdom, I have compiled a list of favorite blog posts for you! I hope you have enjoyed this post!

A Candy Shop Afternoon Tea at Conrad St. James – Lux Life | Love Is In The Air at Langham London’s Valentine’s Afternoon Tea – Fresh And Fearless | Afternoon Tea at Mr. Fogg’s Gin Parlour – Little Miss Katy | Afternoon Tea at Rockcliffe Hall – This Northern Gal | Sweet Treats: Glam Rock Afternoon Tea at K West Hotel & Spa – AbsolutelyLucy

Have you ever attended an afternoon tea before? If you have, what was it about it that you loved the most? For those of you who haven’t, have you ever been tempted to create one yourself? Let me know in the comments!

snowflake

EP Review: “America” by XYLØ

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I found XYLØ while following a playlist on Spotify. I couldn’t tell you which one because I don’t remember and I literally unfollowed a bunch of different playlists back in January so it may have been on one of those too, I don’t know! Anyways, I found this brother and sister duo on accident and I’ve never looked back!

Chase and Paige Duddy are the creators of XYLØ and they are definitely alternative, but I’d sort of consider some of their music in the electronica category too! They remind me of what Sleigh Bells would be if they chilled out a bit. I love Sleigh Bells by the way! No judgement towards them at all! Everytime I listen to their track “Afterlife” I start swaying with hardly any self-control. After seeing they had released a new EP two weeks ago, I couldn’t help myself. I knew I had to review it and hopefully you guys will get interested in them too!

So to start us off, the first track is called “Bang Bang” and like I said above, they remind me of the group Sleigh Bells. This is the main reason of how they make me think of them. This is very chilled but interesting in a way. Normally, I kind of hate songs that have hardly anything in them, I feel like if you’re going to put in a chorus, you might as well finish the rest of the song too! The beat is pretty good though, that’s probably the only part that doesn’t bug me too much. It’s not bad though! The second song is the reason why I got interested in the band. I had a nice three weeks of playing this one and The Chainsmokers “Roses” back to back! No regrets! It makes me feel good. People use drugs to get high and relax, I just need beats like this! Sorry not sorry! Next up is the title track of the EP called “America” which is so beautiful. It kind of gives me old Prince vibes with the synthdrums in the background. I like the dark theme and feeling this one gives off. It’s so good!

The fourth track is “BLK CLD” and I’m not going to lie, I thought it was “BLK CD” aka “blank CD” at first. It pays to listen to the song before writing it out! This one gives me summertime at the beach vibes which is strange because I’ve never been to a beach in the summer! It just feels like a good summer themed track! It’s a pretty song but it’s not a favorite right now. I’ll give it time and a little bit of love. It might change things! Next is a song called “Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea” and I really like the drums throughout the entire thing. There are certain times when you can use any type of sounds to highlight a track. You can hear fanfare drums, keys, and what sounds to me like police sirens that are very disorinated. Somehow everything works together and makes it very cool! Last one is called “L.A. Love Song” and at first, I didn’t like this one and I’m still wondering why because now I like it! It’s another gentle beat, but I feel like that high piched note gives it a little bit of an edge! I wouldn’t say it sounds dark, but it’s slightly eerie.

XYLØ are a new group/band, whatever you want to call them! I’m already starting to like them and you guys know that I don’t normally like getting into brand new acts because I tend to get very impatient and always wanting more. If you like Banks, GEMS, or FKA Twigs, you might like these guys too! Give their stuff a listen!

snowflake

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