Friday, 30 December 2016

My 2016 and New Year Resolutions for 2017

A note from Joelle... 

2016 has been a weird, messy, scary, unpredictable bundles of chaos, but we have all come out the other end and that is honestly a major achievement. 
We've seen political shakeups, deaths of well-loved icons, humanitarian crises, mad memes, a shift in journalism and also a widening gap between people of difference races, genders, religions and classes.
This year will definitely go down in the history books as a bizarre time, but if I look at my life more closely, I have actually achieved things I could only have dreamed of. 
2016 is the year I said "goodbye" to fear and self-hate and chose happiness. It was a bumpy journey that had so many frustrating twists along the way, but boy, I'd do it again in a heartbeat if it meant I'd be as self-assured as I am today.

Doing things alone, like going to the cinema, parties or cafes used to give me the fear, but I conquered this by throwing myself into the deep end. A lot of us fear doing stuff alone because A) we are scared of looking lame/lonely or B) we don't actually like our own company. As an anxiety sufferer, I was determined to become more comfortable being alone and it's one of the best things I have done. 

And that's another thing... mental health. 2016 was the year I finally went to the GP, who diagnosed me with depression, anxiety and stress-related disorders. I was put on various prescriptions drugs (some worked, some didn't) and saw a counsellor frequently during my last year of uni. I talked a lot and got so much off my chest. I discovered triggers and ways to deal with stressful situations. If I had been more open, it would have saved me EIGHT YEARS of making really bad decisions, but I'm glad I finally did something about it.
I learned that mental health is just as important as physical health. You would never leave a broken bone unattended, would you? No, you'd go to your doctor and that is exactly what you should do for your mental health as well!
I was able to let my friends, family and uni lecturers know and the support I received from most was really great.
Throughout 2016, I chose to speak openly about my mental health journey and be as honest as I could about triggers, self-care, etc. 
Black people (especially women) are rarely included in the UK mental health discussions, despite many of us experiencing trauma and stress that could lead to mental health issues. That was why I used my voice, my words and my platforms to open up and encourage others to do the same. It has been the most rewarding thing and comforting in the fact that I am not alone. The article I wrote about self-care tips can be found on Leomie Anderson's website HERE.

This year, I ditched toxic friends and wrote about itI also published my most personal diary, which hundreds of people now have on their shelves. Psst, it's available to buy HERE. Mad, right? I mean, who does that? So many people were telling me not to do it, but the reaction to it has been extraordinary. 
Otherness Joelle Owusu
In June, I finally left university with a degree in Petroleum Geology, but then found the courage to move away from that field in order to pursue a more creative job. It was a massive risk, which after months of almost giving up paid off when I started my internship at a book publisher in London.
I don't see it as a break from education because I'm learning on the job every single day, but the difference this time is that I'm actually enjoying it. I'm allowed to use my own intuition and get on with things without an academic casting a shadow over me and judging my every move.

Moving into 2017, I've come up with a few goals:
1. Stop neglecting my blog - yeah, I know. This year, I barely blogged and a lot of you guys sent me gentle inquiries about when I'd be writing more. The truth is that I as just so busy making life-changing decisions this year. Talking about my fave handbags just didn't resonate with the new person I was becoming. Also, not having a camera anymore meant relying on a crappy iPhone 4, which meant my picture quality was shambolic this year (sorry!).
But I promise that 2017 will be a relaunch of this blog with more direction and less rambling!

2. Tithe - I am terrible at remembering to set money aside for church and charities every month. I will sort out some kind of direct debit!

3. Be more active - now that I'm not living in walking boots and scaling rocky hills, I need to find other ways to keep fit. I LOVE spinning, which is also great for my legs, but I am keen to take up boxing in the new year!

4. Promote responsible journalism - call out fake news and articles that blur opinion with fact. We consume so much nonsense online these days and the only way to stop hate is to call it out wherever possible. Regardless of our readership size, we all have a duty as content-creators to do this. Challenge ignorance and ignore trolls.

5. Read more books by people of colour and marginalised genders - I look at my bookshelf a lot and am really disappointed that I barely read books by Black, Asian, female, LGBT authors. This is going to change and I am going to immerse myself in their works.

6. Stop. Wasting. Time. With. Fuckboys. This is pretty self-explanatory... If anyone dares to waste my time in 2017, I'll drag their arse to court.

7. Take up space - this is a phrase I have been using for a year now (since I discovered the genius that is Gal-dem). It basically means being comfortable enough to create art, tell your personal truths and share your opinions unapologetically. As a Black woman, I have learned to write as much and as shamelessly as I can. Our voices are just as valid as everyone else's, regardless of race, class, gender, etc.

This year has been a year for self-care and trying new things and I only hope to do more of that in 2017. I tried experimental theatremindful origami, talked on two radio shows and a panel, met some Playboy bunnies, hung out in a cat cafe, let my social media followers be my tour guides, developed a love for foreign language filmspodcasts and activism (e.g. the Feminist Library).
I learned that self-care is NOT selfish. Feminism is made up of many many branches, not all of them good* and that changing my mind is totally normal. Life gets tough, life gets hard, but life goes on!

Overall, this year has been weird and messy. On a selfish level, it's been eye-opening and refreshing, but on a worldly level, there's a shit-tonne of work for us all to do.
What was 2016 like for you? What are you planning for 2017 Let me know! I wish you a very happy New Year!

*Psst! I'm working on an exciting new book all about this that I'll tell you about in January!
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Sunday, 11 December 2016

Seasons Eatings: Salt and Chili Prawns Recipe

A note from Joelle... 
Salt and Chili Prawns Recipe
This dish is a popular starter in Chinese takeaway restaurants in the UK, but they are so easy to replicate at home for festive dinner parties. They are crunchy, salty and full of flavour, with a little kick from the fresh chili.
Don't let the chili bit put you off  - these are not spicy, I promise!
This recipe feeds 4-6 people.

Ingredients:
250g large king prawns (deshelled, deveined and beheaded - defrosted from frozen or fresh)
1tsp Cajun spice and Chinese Five Spice
1 tsp sea salt
Ground pepper
4 heaped tbsp cornflour
Vegetable oil 
1 tsp chili flakes (optional)
2 chili peppers (sliced, with seeds removed)

Method:
1. Put the oil in a deep frying pan and place on a medium heat 
2. In a bowl mix the spices, salt, pepper and cornflour 
3. Fully coat the prawns in the dry mix a bit at a time
4. Fry for two minutes in batches as soon as the oil starts to sizzle (to test the oil, fry a small piece of bread in the oil. If it sizzles and turn golden after 20-30 seconds, the oil is ready)
5. Add the garlic and chili (I do this last because burnt/overcooked chili and garlic is really gross!)
6. Once golden, crunchy and the prawn starts to curl up, remove the prawns from the pan and place on kitchen paper to get rid of excess oil

Serve with a sweet chili dip, plum sauce or a cool chive and sour cream dip. You can also serve of a bed of baby salad leaves or rocket if you're feeling extra fancy.
If you'd rather make a meal out of this, fry carrots, bean sprouts, peppers and onions with soy sauce and then add the prawns to make a stir-fry to go with rice or noodles. 
The possibilities are endless!

Seasons eatings! Let me know if you give this recipe a go.

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Sunday, 13 November 2016

Festive Party Heels Wishlist

A note from Joelle... 
It's been ages since I've scoured the Internet, looking for affordable, on-trend things, so here it goes!
The festive season is coming around and I'm usually all about the dresses and tend to just wear the same, boring pair of black heels. They look nice, but I can't walk in them for longer than an hour, so what's the point?

I think it's time to find party shoes that are not only B-E-A-utiful, but also affordable and comfortable!
So I've spotted new wave of low-heel sandals that most high street brands have copied off the SS17 runways. Theses have been given a festive tweak with embellishment, embroidery and interesting textures. I'm all for it! Here are my favourites:
Festive Party Sandals Heels


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Sunday, 6 November 2016

Podcasts You Should Be Listening To (Part II)

A note from Joelle... 
autumn, earphones, and iphone image
source
Internet/media/tech culture is rapidly changing and I'm finding it so exciting. I barely tune into traditional shows on the radio or TV anymore. And even YouTube is getting a bit dry.
Maybe it's my inner 80-year-old coming out again, but my eyes need a break from all the screens I look at every day.
This is where podcasts come in. They have taken over my life as forms of entertainment and it's really refreshing because they are all so diverse... and free!
Like I said in my last podcast blog post, there's something for everyone and all you need to do is check the charts on Acast, Apple iTunes, or Soundcloud.

1. My Dad Wrote a Porno - Imagine your dad wrote and published an erotic novel... That's the reality for Jamie Morton, host of this extremely popular show.
In each episode, Jamie reads a chapter of 'Belinda Blinked', the amateur erotic novel his actual father actually wrote, with commentary from his friends, James and Alice. 
It's the number 1 UK podcast at the moment is over 2 million views and it's absolutely hilarious! 
Image result for my dad Wrote a Porno
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2. Backlisted - Last year, Unbound publisher, John Mitchison started a fortnightly book podcast with author, Andy Miller. Every episode, the team discuss an old book that most people don't know or have forgotten about. It's great because we get to (re)discover great books and bring them back to life, in a way. I recommend this show to book-lovers everywhere, as the genres are diverse and the chats  are as entertaining as they are informative.
Backlisted Podcast
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3. Lunar Poetry - Ever since I took up poetry last year as a way of dealing with depression, I found that the poetry scene is not the underground, cloak 'n' dagger scene I thought it was. It's modern, vibrant and inclusive and South London mag, Lunar Poetry is a great example of that. Their magazine (and twitter) is packed with poetry written by people from all walks of life and their podcasts interview poets from all over the world.
4. 3 Shots of Tequila - Everyone's favourite Instagram meme pundit, Marvin Abbey has his own podcast show and it's genius! With two mates,  he discusses sex, relationships, mental health, youth culture, etc. and it's refreshing to hear the voices of three Black British men. I am used to listening to podcasts with a female audience in mind, so hearing the male perspective on these topics has been quite eye-opening. Not forgetting to mention that the show is fucking hilarious!
5. Grammar Girl - Call me lame, but I think grammar is really important. These short episodes discuss words, spelling, grammar and sentence structure in a non-patronising way. As a writer and someone who works in the book publishing industry, I find these tips really helpful because it's so easy to forget the English rules we learned in school.
6. Get It On - This show is hosted by author and TV personality, Dawn O'Porter, who interviews her celebrity friends about their clothes and style habits. You may roll your eyes at this kind of show, but it's not as shallow as you might think. The episodes really delve into the psychology of style/fashion and each conversation is so different and personal. Dawn is a natural show host.
Image result for get it on dawn o porter
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7. Time Crisis - My future husband, Ezra Koenig (lead singer of Vampire Weekend) hosts this radio talk show with celebrity guests and his music friends. Hearing professional musicians talk so passionately about current, classic and obscure music is really interesting because they always have secrets  and background info that we missed, as mere mortals.
Image result for time crisis ezra
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8. Hey, It's OK - This is GLAMOUR Magazine UK's podcast, hosted by Editor-in-Chief, Jo Elvin. She invites celebrities and her staff to talk openly about everything from fashion and lifestyle to mental heath and feminism.
I've been a loyal reader of the magazine since my mid-teens and after meeting and interviewing Jo in 2012, I realised that it was more than just  a fashion mag. They have a clear vision to empower every kind of woman in whatever they want to do with their lives.
SO I was thrilled when they turned their 'Hey, It's OK' feature into a podcast, featuring conversations with inspiring women from all walks of life and professions.
I'm a new listener and have been loving
This podcast is 30 minutes of inspiration and refreshing bliss, even if the topic is uncomfortable.
Image result for hey it's ok glamour podcast
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Are you loving any podcasts at the moment? Let me know below!
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Sunday, 30 October 2016

Otherness.: I PUBLISHED MY DIARY

A note from Joelle... 
♫♪Happy Ending - Mika♫♪
otherness
noun
  1. the quality or fact of being different.
Otherness Joelle Owusu

A lot of you guys have noticed that I haven't blogged much this year. And some have even emailed, but  mainly tweeted asking if I am alright and if I'm leaving the blogosphere. The answer to those questions are... no, I'm not leaving and yes - I'm alright, now.

Basically, I've already touched on this topic, but at the start of the year, I was really, really unwell. So unwell, that I found it hard to leave my bed, let alone write 5 blog posts a week!
Buuuuut, during this time I kept a poetic diary. The reason I'm bringing that up is because I published it.
I chose to let the world read my thoughts because writing this was really therapeutic and was play a big part of my recovery. So much so, that I was curious if anyone else going through serious mental health problems would benefit from reading it. 
My poems are split into 5 chapters: denial, delusion, despair, defiance and dignity. These are the stages I went through before I found a new love for myself and embraced my 'otherness'.
That sounds insane, right? I mean, would you publish your deepest thoughts that were meant only for your eyes?
I think the really odd thing is that I wasn't even a poetry fan. I studied the classics at school, but that was it. It was only when I was about to publish that I discovered the likes of April Green, Madisen Khun, Nayyirah Waheed, Ysra Daley-Ward, Rupi Kaur, Lang Leav, Alison Malee and Nikita Gill through Instagram. I class these women as contemporary confessional poets/micropoets and really hope you check them out.
Although I had already written my book by the time I found them, they are all a huge inspiration, because they are fearless and unapologetic through their writing.

So, yes, it's really scary and  nerve-wracking to know that friends , family and total strangers are reading my brutally honest (an often uncomfortable) thoughts from early this year, but I am so glad I didn't back out.
Otherness Joelle Owusu
I would like to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who has supported the book so far. It really means a lot!
Click HERE if you want to buy my book. Oh, and please leave a wee review if you want!
Please let me know what you think! It's not all doom-and-gloom, I promise :).

This book isn't just for me - it's for everyone.
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Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Heinz Seriously Good Spoonfuls Event

A note from Joelle... 
Heinz Seriously Good Spoonfuls

Heinz, wonderful Heinz. We all know it and any of their varieties can be found in pretty much any British household. One of their latest ventures is Seriously Good mayonnaise, which is thicker and creamier than the others on offer.
Heinz hosted a competition where bloggers were tasked with creating a recipe (that could fit on a spoon) and I was invited down to taste the shortlisted recipes and see who won the competition.
There were black forest brownies, coconut crispy prawns, salmon parcels and even banana bread recipes, all made with Seriously Good mayo as an ingredient!
Heinz Seriously Good Spoonfuls
As you can see, my pictures came out incredibly blue due to the cool lighting in the studio space.
Heinz Seriously Good Spoonfuls


I can't even begin to explain how delicious and professional all the finished dishes were. My favourite had to be this one:

Extreme Salted Caramel and Petzel Brownie (bySmokey Joe BBQ)

Ingredients
For Salted Caramel + Pretzel Brownie
200g dark chocolate,70% cocoa solids, chopped into small pieces
100g self-raising flour
50g cocoa powder
200g caster sugar
100g light muscovado sugar
11/2tsp vanilla extract
3tbs salted caramel extract
3tbsp full fat milk
2eggs
100g mayonnaise (I used Heinz Seriously Good Mayonnaise)
Salted caramel (to drizzle over and decorate)
White chocolate (to drizzle over and decorate)
Pretzels (as many as you fancy to decorate)

Cookie Dough Base:
100g butter, softened
100g brown sugar, softened
1tbsp golden syrup
150g self raising flour
1/2tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Method
Make the brownie:
Heat oven to 170C/fan150C/gas4. Pour enough water into a small pan to one third fill it. Bring the water to a boil. Put the chopped chocolate into a large bowl that will fit snugly over the pan without touching the water, make sure you check the size and no one wants to cry over spilt chocolate! Sit the pan over the water and leave the chocolate to melt slowly for a few mins, stirring occasionally until it has melted evenly, make sure nothing sticks to the bottom. Remove the bowl from the pan, and then let the chocolate cool slightly.
Meanwhile, lightly grease and base – line (add greaseproof paper) a 19cm square cake tin that is 5cm deep. In a separate bowl combine the flour and cocoa. Using a wooden spoon, stir both the sugars into the cooled chocolate with the salted caramel extract, vanilla and milk. Stir in 1tbsp warm water. Break and beat in the eggs, one at a time making sure combined after each egg,  then stir in the mayonnaise just until smooth and glossy. Sift over the flour and cocoa mix, then gently fold in with a spatula without over mixing. Set aside to make your cookie dough base.

Cookie Dough Base:
Mix together the sugar and butter using a wooden spoon. Stir in the golden syrup.
Once creamy and smooth add the flour to the mixture. You want the consistency to be smooth but pliable, you need to be able to form the dough into ball without it being overly sticky. You may need to add a little more flour, but not too much.
When the dough is the right consistency you will need to add this to the prepared tin. Add dollops of the mixture to the tin, then smooth over so flat, ensure mixture reaches the corners. You want to fill the bottom of the tin without being top deep (any cookie dough leftover you can use to make cookies, just chuck in some chocolate chips and bake at 160 fan assisted for 10-12mins:)).
Pour the brownie mixture directly over your cookie dough base, then gently and evenly spread it into the corners. Bake for 30mins. When a skewer is inserted into the middle, it should come out with just a few moist crumbs sticking to it, you want it to have a little wobble to it. If cooked too long, the mix will dry out; not long enough and it can sink. Leave in the tin until completely cold, I normally leave it overnight in the fridge. Turn out onto a board, peel off the lining paper and decorate.
Melt the white chocolate in the same way you melt the dark chocolate. Once melted, drizzle over your brownie. Add some pretzels to deviate then drizzle over salted caramel and then add even more pretzels!!  
Cut into squares and serve with vanilla ice-cream! Perfection on a plate! By using Seriously Good Mayonnaise it gives the brownies a different dimension. It brings together the combo of salt  and sweet perfectly!

Amazing, right? I would never have guessed it had mayo in it, but it not had been as smooth and rich without it! What do you think? Would you consider adding mayo to more of your homecooked recipies?
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Sunday, 9 October 2016

RECIPE: Spinach and Goat's Cheese Tartlets

A note from Joelle... 

Hello there! Today, I bring you another super delicious and easy baking recipe that looks really impressive at picnics and can be eaten hot or cold. This  post really should have gone up in the Summer, but I guess they are so good, they can be eaten all year round!

RECIPE: Spinach and Goat's Cheese Tarts

Goat's cheese is so rich and creamy, so it's a surprise that it's not more popular. I think many people are scared of moving away from cow-based dairy produce, because that is what they have aways had. However, goat's cheese is so delicious and really is worth a try in a salad or a mini pie, like this...


Ingredients:

Flour, butter, salt and water to make the pastry or shop-bought shortcrust pastry, if you want to save time
Spinach (I used frozen, as it's more value for money, but fresh spinach is fine too)
Chives (chopped)
Single or soured cream
3 large eggs
1 tspn salt and white pepper

Method:
  1. Add the eggs, single cream, chives, salt pepper, spinach, cheese and chilli flakes into a  bowl and beat until all is combined and the cheese is broken down into small lumps
  2. Roll out the pastry and cut out circles that are larger than your muffin tray/pie dish (pastry shrinks when cooked).
  3. Grease the baking tin well with oil!
  4. Concertina the pastry over itself to make it fit neatly and also for that rustic mini-pie look
  5. Pour in the egg mixture almost to the top of the pastry cases
  6. Brush the pastry edges with a bit of milk for a nice golden shine
  7. *optional* sprinkle a bit of mature cheddar or parmesan on the top before baking
  8. Bake for 20 minutes at 180 degrees Celcius
  9. Don't worry if the egg puffs up, it will return to a flat state during cooling
  10. Once golden brown and firm, take out and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes

These tartlets may be small, but they are packed with a tonne of flavour and trust me, people will think you bought them from a shop! 
What do you think? Let me know if you give these a go!
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Saturday, 24 September 2016

Save The Feminist Library!

A note from Joelle... 
The Feminist Library
http://feministlibrary.co.uk/
Libraries are SO important, and hundreds have closed in the last five years under Government spending cuts. Many in the City, however, have been forced to close due to the local councils selling off land to luxury property developers. This is the case for The Feminist Library in Southwark, London.

Last week, I was invited down to the premiere screening of 'The Feminist Library' - a new short film by Anais Charles.
The film was shot as a series of interviews with women who have  had a connection with the library, both, past and present. 
The film comes after news last year that Southwark Council was to sell off the building that hosts the library and turn it into yet another block of luxury flats that never get bought and add fuel to the London houses crisis wildfire.
The Library has been around for over 40 years and is home to both famous and rare books, documents and journals, mainly from the Women's Liberation Movement era in the early 1970s.
When I heard last year the famous Feminist Library was facing closure last year, I couldn't quite believe it.I was naive to think that they had enough supporters and volunteers to keep it from harm, but that just isn't the case. So I knew I had to show my face at this screening to support and donate.
I can't lie to you, the building is in an awful condition. So much so, that as soon as the film commenced, a mouldy curtain in the corner of the room fell off its rail. This cannot be a healthy condition for the volunteers and the books, and it's shocking that they have had to put up with an unsuitable building and audacious rent costs.

As a book-loving Feminist, it is really sad to hear about the library potentially becoming homeless, with all those archives potentially being lost. Not to mention all the future friendships and relationships between the volunteers being no more if the library was forced to close. Because the truth is, the history of the British Women's Liberation Movement is not common knowledge. Yes, we may know about the Suffragettes in the early 1990s, but the history of British women after that seemed to have been pushed aside in favour of the American side of history.

There was a discussion after the film and it was time for questions. It was very refreshing to see that the majority of questions to the panel were in fact, men. The diversity of the room was great too, as Feminism, both here and across the pond has been under fire for ignoring the views of women of colour and certain religions/social classes. The bringing together of all of us young, older, black, white, Asian, female, male, etc. is what this library is all about - community. And it will be a great shame if it is lost due to greedy councils and investors.

The bottom line is that the really important books and documents in this special archive may be lost and inaccessible, which is pretty devastating. This is women's history - herstory, that deserves to be shared, discussed and respected.



Feel free to donate HERE to help the Feminist Library stay on their feet for as long as possible!


The Feminist Library
5 Westminster Bridge Rd
London
SE1 7XW
(until October 2016)

I will update this page once a new home for the library has been announced.
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