Monday, July 17, 2017

A Fancy Wedding Weekend

I was at the Gaylord National Harbor Convention Center for a family wedding; my first cousin tied the knot this year, and I can say that it has got to be the most beautiful wedding venue I have seen so far. I have attended weddings at the Hilton, Holiday Inn, the Waterford, and the Argyle Country Club (another cosy, beautiful favorite). The Riverview Ballroom at Gaylord overlooked a beautiful sunset upon the Potomac River waterfront. The Capital Wheel - a lit up ferris wheel - came to life as night fell. The venue was beautiful in daylight, and transformed to majestic by night. The gold and red color schemes were traditional Pakistani as chosen by my aunt and uncle.

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Appetizers were outside the ballroom, spread out in a gallery terrace overlooking the waterfront and the Capital wheel. I am a big fan of live cooking and that's exactly what the buffet service was like (video above). There was a Gol Guppa counter, a barbecue and snacks counter; serving grilled shrimp, chicken, chaat, and aloo tikki, and a dessert counter with appealing jalebis and kheer.
The foodie that Sara is! She spotted the Gol Guppay and there was a mandatory Gol Guppa selfie video session that took place right there. It is a skill! - to eat Gol Guppay - without messing up that lipstick and we are queens at pulling that off!

Being the bride's immediate family puts you in this special limelight. You get the best seats, the best view of the front and center of the wedding. I thoroughly enjoyed my evening sitting right besides the glass wall.
The ice sculpture was a showstopper. There were glitter filled gold stars inside which started shedding glitter as the evening progressed and the sculpture melted. And, here are photos of the wedding cake.
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Outfit of the day was this magnificent Eastern Pishwas dress that has got to be the most fancy bridal dress of my wardrobe. It is very heavy from the pearl and metallic wire embroidery on it. For a wedding of close kin and a venue this fancy, I decided to put my best foot forward. P.S. Both my feet are best *winks* I was highly uncomfortable wearing this and the jewelry accompaniments but it won so many compliments from so many guests. I had this dress made in Karachi when my brother was getting married. It has rocked so many weddings since. This was definitely the 3rd time that I have worn this superb piece of fashion. I must get more of these made on my following trips to Karachi or else people would this is my wedding attendance uniform. 

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A smaller, yet colorful and loud musical, affair was the pre-wedding celebration - the Mehendi at Washingtonian Marriott. It was very festive and typically Pakistani in terms of decor, colors, and food. We even got bangles for favors how cool is that?


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Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Potterhead's Tale

It was the year 2000 and I was living in oblivion in Karachi because nobody knew anything about Harry Potter there then. I was finishing 7th grade and I had no clue what I was in for when my father brought 3 books from a business trip he had taken to London. Throughout childhood we kids got our stash of movies from the HMV store which he visited every year in London. He would buy bestsellers from different movie genres and that's how we grew up as Disney kids. That particular year he walked into a London bookstore and picked up J.K.Rowling's bestseller trilogy that had taken up the stands by storm. 
The covers looked cartoonish and I asked what is Harry Potter? - a question the answer to which he clearly did not have except the words "It's a bestseller, the bookstore lady recommended it." Little did I know my world was going to change. But not just yet ...
Since I was unaware of the urgent, mandatory awesomeness that I was denying myself, I kept the books aside. I had exams coming up and I had no time for indulging in the books just yet. So, I waited until summer that came in a couple of months and I waited some more because I was lazy and then I picked up Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban that our father had signed and gifted to me. The two prequels were with my two siblings respectively. As I began reading I hit pause because I figured the first was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. This one was my sister's copy. She hadn't started reading so I did ...
The Boy Who Lived ...
Hmm, judging a book by its cover (which should not be done!) made me feel like it was something Mark Twain? I was thinking I was in for something like Tom Sawyer because that's what I had read the previous year in 6th grade as part of our English Lit. --- WORD --- It was not Tom Sawyer, it was not Huckleberry Finn, it was not Sindbad or Aladdin, or Jason of the Argonauts, or Hercules, or Tarzan or Atreyu from The Neverending Story. It was a different kind of magic on a different level. The book started with peculiar happenings ... cat reading a map, people in cloaks, whisperings, owls flying in broad daylight, shooting stars all over Britain, and a mysterious word about the Potters. I had been a Francine Pascal's Sweet Valley series fanatic and I had always had the curious cat in me. So, all this strange business managed to get my attention and I was hooked to the plot. Little did I know I would never read another Sweet Valley after this because my world was about to change. 
Get this ... I hadn't even read the summary of the book before I began reading it *facepalm* so I was awestruck when the tabby cat; sitting on the wall of Number Four Privet Drive of the Dursley's residence all day, turned into Professor McGonagall. Yes, this means I had 'other' theories about people in cloaks collecting together. WHAT??? This book has magic? Like Chronicles of Narnia? I was in mad love with Aslan, Edmund, Lucy, and Prince Caspian. I knew I was going to be glued to the books for the rest of summer. Clearly, baby Harry delivered by the giant Hagrid on a flying motorbike had a legacy - having defeated a supervillain wizard - and I wanted to be a part of his adventures ...
Harry Potter from the Cupboard Under The Stairs was a simple little boy who created his adorable little space in my heart. Immediately, I started feeling the same hate for the Dursleys as I had felt for Cinderella's sisters. I was happy when the Boa Constrictor snake was set loose and Dudley got the biggest scare of his pompous spoiled life. And I was as curious as crazy when the owl post began to arrive. And, when Hagrid broke in an entry and said those magical words "Harry - yer a wizard." I was jumping with joy! What next? They step into a wardrobe and go to Hogwarts? Or will they portal through a portrait on the wall? A hole in the ground?
 Even better!
As the wizarding world sucked me in and I walked through the streets of Diagon Alley, rode the Hogwarts Express at Platform Nine and Three Quarters, and arrived at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry ... I was the happiest girl on the planet. 
Catch my drift here ... I was the fat kid in the corner throughout school who was always picked at. I had only one or two friends who connected with me in class. But when I was home; and to myself during summers, I only had books and movies. There was always half a month of summer vacation somewhere in Europe or the US which I enjoyed with family. So, my world of imagination was my only hope. Disney was my only magic. And now ... Harry Potter was a whole new meaning.
By the time Sorcerer's Stone finished, I was best friends with Ron and Hermione, worst of enemies with Draco Malfoy and Lord Voldemort, and Hogwarts was my home.
Of course, you can imagine how quick I read the next two books. That summer of 2000 was the most perfect summer of my life. It felt like I had found friends, I had found my life, my world. Yes ... welcome to the mind of a nerdette. In my disturbed little head there was a niche of magic that kept me going through the bullying, humiliating body issues, and social pressures. I could relate with Harry Potter ... The Boy Who Lived.
The Goblet of Fire was released the same year (2000) and guess who was ready for fangirl action? I was headed to Singapore for the summer with family and once again Dad surprised me with a hardcover copy purchased from Changi International Airport as we boarded the plane for Australia! It was one AWESOME vacation! I spent my time in Australia reading the book (sniffing the pages!) and crying on the flight back to Karachi because Cedric Diggory was murdered!  
The next year (2001) I swelled up with excitement as big as the size of Aunt Marge when WB announced the cast for the first Potter movie. Daniel Radcliffe was the perfect little Harry, Rupert Grint was the world's best Ron, and Emma Watson was the perfect Hermione! All my favorite characters from my imagination came to life! I remember how nobody at school had any idea the movie was based on books I had already read!
I read The Order Of The Phoenix (2003) and then lost track of reading the rest of the books because my GCE O and A Levels took the joy out of my life. But I had transformed into a movies fangirl by then! Every summer when we traveled, my eyes were only set on Harry Potter merchandise which had started coming to stores - rare instances - because of the movies. There were no Potterheads in school or even college. So, the fangirling stayed between me and Sara who had become hooked to the books while I was finishing Cambridge!
The book readership in Karachi began flourishing and we got to see a Harry Potter book launch (Half Blood Prince) at a mall carried out by Liberty Books - a licensed distributor. The movies; however, took ages to become available because the country's cinemas still hadn't purchased any Harry Potter movies to play. We were members of a club in Karachi and they had movie nights but they only came as far as Twilight, never Harry Potter. Apparently, people were more interested in watching a vampire love story than the Boy Who Lived! I remember Sara and my brother watched The Order Of The Phoenix on one of our summers in the US because we just happened to be there at the right time. Original DVDs always made it to Pakistan very late, and pirated copies (which are the norm there by the way and not seriously illegal) had horrible prints. When news broke that The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter was going to open in Orlando, FL, I was shattered! It was 2007. Visas were not a problem for us because we were US residents and could go any time but my siblings were going through their GCEs every summer and travel was very cumbersome.
2 years later, we decided to move to the US, and in 2010 - the best thing in the world happened. I moved to the US - my real home! And everything fell into its right place! The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter had opened its gates - as if for us, to welcome us! - and we had moved to Maryland, the East Coast - just there! *tears of joy*
It was Sara's 21st birthday in 2012 when we first visited The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter. The first time - we flew to Orlando and the 3 day trip walking the cobbled stone streets of Hogsmeade, standing before the Hogwarts Express engine, sipping frozen Butterbeer, and riding The Forbidden Journey was too magical to believe for real. I don't remember how many times Sara and I cried tears of happiness when we saw the Hogwarts castle (crying right now!). We were home!  
These trips became an annual treat. As our lives were consumed by work and further studies, the annual trips became our escape from the world. But that's another story of dressing and celebrating the Potterhead way.
This is how my story - story of a Potterhead - started.  

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Wacky Finds Of July 2017

July 2017
The Wacky Finds Series is a monthly madness prompt happening at Sara's (my sister, my bestie!) blog, Sara Writes. In her words here's what it is all about.

"These are a monthly series I started out of sheer awe of how crazy things around me are! Here's what this is about ... Ahem Ahem: When my awesome self steps out of my bed each morning I meet a world of crazies. People, things, phenomena, and acts of nature which are simply too unusual to miss and not record! The Wacky Finds Series will cover all the weird stuff that I find along my way; good weird, awkward weird, bad weird, I-totally-don't-get-this weird .. all kinds of weird shall be recorded and snapped without any discrimination!"

So here are my top 5 Wacky Finds of the month!

The Great Gambler Ballgown: 
A recycling & waste management company sponsored competition winner

Harming Charlie: 
Ironic in today's times. Assuming Charlie was an immigrant!

Beauty Standards In Vegetables! :
Tomatoes that didn't make the pageant.

My Own Potty Show:
Something all my kids will surely know!

Dheet (Stubborn) Just Got Real

"That's all folks! Until the next five Wacky Finds, have a wacky day!"

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Bua Diaries: Because Being An Aunt Is Amazing

Photo courtesy: Sara (the Beeya in the Aunty Tales)
This gorgeous little princess is my 2.5+ year old niece Maryam (Mannee, as she named herself!) sitting by the window looking out at the snow. The photo is from last winter (2016) and since Mannee is the first of our house, she will continue being the main lead of Bua Diaries, InshaAllah. The day she was born something changed in some very remote corner of my heart. She gave me a reason to believe that unaltered, pure love still exists . 
'Phuppo' is Urdu (Pakistan's mother language) for Aunt. That's why the Team Phuppo pride badges. I do; however, feel a personal disconnect from the word 'Phuppo'. I chose to have Maryam call me 'Bua' - an alternative word used in India. My Nani (maternal grandmother) was called Bua by all the children of her brothers until the end of her days. She holds special importance in my life because I know her as a woman of steel, a zero nonsense, emotionally metallic woman who lived a simple and grateful life. I'd like to carry her title forward. And, this has got to be the most sweetest word anybody has ever said to me. Sara (my sister) is the younger aunt and she was 'given' the name 'Beeya' by Mannee herself! She wanted Mannee to call her Buee (a smaller version of Bua) but just like her aunts, Mannee baby loves inventing her own. 
We live super simple lives away from the politics, hustle, and chaos of social circles. In our isolated little world, this cutesy intruded with such powerful     magnitude and turned around the definition of happiness for us. She is a playmate, a buddy, a friend, a daughter --- everything!
In Bua Diaries I will share the stories of the beautiful moments of life shared with my little one as she grows up, inshaAllah [by God's Will], to be a beautiful woman. 
Bua, Beeya & Mannee 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Harry Potter July Happening At 'Sara Writes'

*shivers of fandom insanity* *Diagon Alley music score plays in my euphoric state of mind* It is always like a drug-induced state for me and Sara when anything and everything HP happens. For the past 5 years, almost every year, we have been walking the cobbled stone streets of The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter (Orlando, FL). And each year the magic keeps getting stronger and stronger (P.S. I have started to resemble Bellatrix Lestrange at home in my PJ mode). And Sara and I keep getting madder and madder. We could easily be taken as the lady version of the Weasley Twins. Together we make mischief happen! Whether it is us at the movies watching HP movies, screaming at the top of lung capacities when Bellatrix Lestrange plummets our Gringotts cart down into the dark of death, cheering like mad when we chase Harry through the Quidditch field 
Sara came up with the idea of Harry Potter July - because she can! - and it has taken off this year (2017 - to be written in history!) on her blog Sara Writes. I have no clue what I would be sharing but I know for a fact I have so much to share! You can expect to find:
  • Photos of my HP merchandise 
  • Videos & photos of our trips to The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter
  • Harry Potter crafts
  • Favorite HP quotes
  • So much more ...
Stay tuned for more! 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Why I Love America?

Happy Fourth of July! 
Like a Lady Boss that I am, I went out in the sultry heat and tied the Star Spangled Banner to our lamppost in that newly done Spring/Summer flowerbed. Trust me, it goes perfectly with the Dusty Millers and the Snapdragons (they're flowers if you are wondering). Doing this has been on my life's bucket list since 2001. Don't go figuring, I am about to tell you my USA love story.
I used to live in Karachi (City of Lights (and loadshedding (power cuts) in Pakistan). Now here is a BIG disclaimer for my Pakistani 'overzealous' patriotic friends who might be planning to charge at me with harpoons and spears! ... I am proud of my motherland, Pakistan, although I do have a vendetta with its social system (but then ... I have a global vendetta going on in me head!). This piece of writing is entirely about the sheer freedom, liberty, and blessed quality of life that my new motherland, America has given me. Despite the fact that we have a very difficult uncle serving presidency nowadays, but majority of the people want him to change for the better. 
I became a US alien (popped some antennae and grew bug eyes! *kidding*) in the early 90s. Ever since my family has been bouncing from this country to Pakistan on and off before we finally decided to live here permanently.
This Is The Home Of Disneyland, Universal Studios, & Hollywood!
I was a Disney kid! My summer vacations were Disneyland! The cups, plates, and bowls that I ate in had Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, and Donald Duck on them! This was serious. And each year, the trip costed a fortune. Then I grew up to be a movie buff. What are you going to do? Then Hollywood and Universal Studios became my dream spots. Everyone else who lived in America visited so easily, and I had to fly all the way across the planet to visit them. The insanity level of my Harry Potter fandom is beyond approximation now. So I am thankful The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios, Hollywood, and Disneyland are all around me now! I can breathe.
Seasons Are So Eventful Here
Barbecues and camping in Summer, leaf piles, changing colors of foliage, and bonfires in Fall, snow in Winter, and Cherry Blossoms in Spring. There is so much happening here. Every month there is something new to look forward to. The beautiful festivities minimize the tough parts of life. 
Craft Stores
 And this is just the colored paper aisle
DIY, stationery, crafts ... O my God I get a big fit each time I visit Michael's, Target, HomeGoods, TJMaxx, and etc. Karachi does not have heavy duty craft stores dedicated entirely to crafts and of the seasonal sort. There are aisles in stores sorted by the type of crafting hobby you wish to take on. Quilting, jewelry making, woodwork, painting, etc.
There is cable television (dunno what it exactly means) in Karachi and my provider did not give us the TLC and Freeform I need in my life.
Quality of Healthcare
Medical care is a boon in America. There are so many specialists that are skilled in dealing with specifics of the human body. Alternative medicine is very advanced here. The prime focus here is to minimize pain and maximize comfort and healing. I mean I have seen my mother suffer in agony bearing a colonoscopy while awake! My grandmother - a multiple myeloma patient - had a spine biopsy done while awake! A rheumatologist was abusing my mother on pain management drugs, and finding female practitioners was very, very difficult.
The People
They smile and greet you in stores and around. Despite the hate vibe going around, and the occasional nasty stares, majority of people I come across are friendly. I get compliments on how colorful my Hijab is and how beautiful my dress is. People mind their own businesses in Karachi. I cannot expect to get a compliment from anybody in stores in Karachi. Nobody care to even return your smile because that is simply not normal there. I was visiting once and I was at a supermarket and a lady came up behind me and started discussing a hair product. It is normal for American people to talk to each other and share opinions while shopping. So, I started answering a question she had asked. Then I said 'I don't know' to something and she wrinkled her face! She told me she thought I worked there (in a derogatory tone!) and I said a curt 'No I don't' and she gave me a head to toe look and shrugged saying I looked like a worker from the way I was dressed! Folks! This is where I wished President Trump's travel ban upon this wannabe who thought using a western hair product would solve issues INSIDE her thick skull too!
So Much To See
There are the natural wonders; caves, mountains, waterfalls, and forests, and there are the human wonders; Statue of Liberty, Disney, Universal Studios, Las Vegas, New York City, and so much more, and they are worth living close to. 
Law & Justice Systems

9-1-1 is real and they respond (personal experience!), security systems are real, the police force is competent for the most part and they do their job well, the F.B.I. is amazing, and the armed forces are tough and hardcore in their duties to the motherland. I am aware of rage hate crimes done by racially discriminating law enforcement officers, but those are unfortunate exceptions. I know that when I seek help, I won't be talking to a bunch of non-responsive idiots just doing their time in uniform. 
Everything Is Available!

Think like this ... if you are diabetic there is a world of no sugar added and sugar-free goodies, if you are lactose intolerant they have dairy-free, there is gluten-free for sensitive people too! Check this ... there are vegan options for vegetarians. There are even special shoes for diabetics.   
These were my two cents on why I love America. *winks* & also a photo of my Star Spangled Banner that I put out this year. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Abbie's Summer Bucket List 2017

Abbie Crafts of May & June: Mother's Day & Ramadan

May was Mother's Day Extravaganza at Planet Abbie. The very awesome fact that it comes in Spring puts a splash of color. And Sara and I are proud productions of our mother so we join heads each other and put together a treats and greets display that blows the minds of those who created Mothers' Day in the first place. It was a daughter Anne Jarvis to be precise. She was the daughter of a peace activist Ann Jarvis who attended to the needs of wounded soldiers of both sides in the American Civil War. When her mother died, in 1908, she held a memorial for her in a church and then began campaigning to make it a nationally recognized affair. Of course, the politicians won't budge but she kept campaigning until finally it was recognized. So the fact that it is a daughter's big deal for her mother we tend to glamorize it with added bling! What came together was a beautiful ensemble put together by Sara's Baked Creations & Abbie Crafts. 
Image may contain: food

Ramadan Crafts happened on my blog Sisterly Yours and featured some Springtime themed Ramadan crafts. I always wanted to do a skyline that had something to do with Islam that is mosques and etc. This was my idea of combining two themes together - Spring and Ramadan. There is an entire Ramadan Skyline Pictorial up for grabs if you want to save this for your next year's Ramadan art project. 
This was my Ramadan Nook for 29 memorable days. Do visit Sisterly Yours to read the details on how I put this together in Ramadan Nook 2017.