Sunday, 5 July 2015

Umm Salihah's Eid Gift Guide - Updated!

I first posted my simple list of Eid gift ideas in 2008, a few years later finding that Eid gifts was a popular keyword search around Ramadan, I updated it in 2013 and have been adding to it ever since as I come across brands and product I would be happy to give or receive.

I had hoped to post sooner, now that we are almost half way through Ramadan, there is less time to place orders for items, but I hope people find it useful anyway. Click on the image above to see the list of ideas and if you have ideas for gifts or relevant products that you have used and loved, please do leave a comment below.

Ramadan Journal 2015: Day 14 Mess

When I think of mess, one person comes to mind more than the rest – Little Lady (Gorgeous would get the distant second place) . She isn’t just messy, she has a gift for it. She can manage to spread her things across the whole house leaving evidence of where she has been and what she has been doing: dirty food bowls, books turned on their front at a certain place, school hijab and bag left on the sofa from when she comes in. We have been squabbling about this for years and it just seems to be a part of who she is: messy. The years have seen a small improvement, so I am half hopeful. I am just grateful that she takes care of her school books and organises her school work nicely.

At the moment she is fasting and I can see how tired she gets after school because of her broken sleep so I am not pestering her too much about her messiness, we can resume with that for Eid :)

 Little Lady sorting out Eid presents for the girls in her class.

Ramadan Journal 2015: Day 13 – Craving

On the way home from work I went past the supermarket and thought I would treat myself to something sweet for iftar, having avoided chocolate and sweets for most of Ramadan so far.

I forgot that you shouldn't shop when you are hungry...

Thankfully by the time I broke fast I didn't want it any more and some got fed to the children, some went to my neighbours and the rest of it is still sitting in the fridge.  I did eat the pecan plaits over about three days though.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Ramadan Journal 2015: Day 12 – 4pm

4pm sees me heading out of the door at work and full tilt for the train station. Then it’s three different trains and a bus to get home where I can strip off my abaya and hijab and breathe a sigh of relief that I am out of the heat. My husband usually picks and drops me from work, but while he is a way on his travels, I am commuting. The journey sounds horrendous, but by car it is about 15 minutes, the public transport connections are just roundabout between where I love and work. 

Once you are in the rhythm of the commute, it isn't unpleasant at all and the best bit is that I have been devouring book after book on the journey, something I otherwise struggle to make time for. Recent reads have included Mr Mercedes by Stephen King (good), The Bees by Laline Paull (amazing, couldn't put it down), Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey (very good debut, I loved the heroine), Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (I am utterly engrossed, really enjoying this book), Sanctus by Simon Toyne (interesting premise). I just need to try not to get so engrossed and miss my stop so often.

Ramadan Journal 2015: Day 11 – To-Do

I usually find Ramadan to be a productive time because of all the time that is freed up from not thinking about food, preparing it or eating it during the day. I have been trying to use some of my time to catch up on sleep, but that has still left with me with time to slowly work my way through my evolving to-do list.

I have a bit of a thing about to do lists and have used lots of different tools to manage my to-do list including my Filofax, paper lists and lists on my computer, half a dozen templates that I have designed for work to track my tasks.. The one that I have found the most helpful has been the to-do quadrant. I first came across this a few years ago in one of Stephen Coveys books (called The Covey time management matrix from his book First Things First).

It is set out like this:

I have adapted a little so that my headings are: 1. Urgent, 2. Important, 3. Day to Day and 4. Would Like to do. I use this about once a week to do a brain dump and list our everything that is in my head. Using this format helps me to no just create long lists but give the list some structure so that I can see what to target first

I usually do this onto a sheet of paper that I can update or cross off as I go. The paper list means that it can go into my handbag when I go out, as a reminder of things I need to do  when I am out. I usually leave a blank space at the bottom for shopping lists or things that don’t fit into any of the quadrants.

Most of my blogging ideas go into the “would like to do” list, but some make it into the important list if I have a commitment to review/blog about something or it is a long-term project that I really want to do and would just sit on the back-burner otherwise.

My strategy at the moment is to focus on the urgent and important tasks and put the rest aside during Ramadan so that I can focus on the best deeds to do during this month insh'Allah

Ramadan Recipe: Home-Made Masala Chips

This recipe is courtesy of my lovely neighbour. I mentioned I hadn’t made home-made chips in years and she suggested adding a little gram flour to the chip, as that was how her mum made them.

Potatoes – peeled and cut into chunky chips
2 tbsp gram flour
½ tsp chilli powder (adjust to your taste)
1 tsp salt (adjust to your taste)


Add the gram flour and spices into a bowl and mix. If you are frying immediately, add a splash of water and mix into a runny paste, add the potatoes and coat with the gram flour mixture. Otherwise you can leave for half an hour or more and the potatoes release water and turn the flour mix into a runny batter.

I really enjoyed these and would definitely make them for the children again.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Ramadan Journal 2015: Day 10 – Light

One thing I love about summer is the long hours of light in the evening, meaning the children can stay out in the garden longer and there is more time between prayers to handle bigger tasks. The light streaming through the gaps in my curtains in the morning helps me to wake up better, it’s a pleasure going to work or to drop the children to school when the day is already bright, unlike in winter when it’s still dark after you get to work. I have very poor eye-sight so I crave light and lack of it makes me irritable.

A Ramadan tradition that has established itself over the last few years in our home, is sitting outside in the bright summer evening before iftar time. It gets hot and stuffy inside so mum in-law will sit outside and make dhikr as the light fades. She takes the baby outside and sits her on our little trampoline with a toy. The older children will drift outside to rid their scooters or play football. This will lead to me calling out from the kitchen and telling the boys to stop flattening my flowers and be careful of their grandmother. Of course it was Gorgeous who managed to kick the ball onto her head on one occasion. As I cook, I can hear mum-in-law talking to my neighbour through the fence or Darling calling to the little girl next door or bossing the boys around. If I finish the iftar meal in time, I will head outside to sit and enjoy the cool evening breeze and company too, otherwise I will call the older children in to help set the crockery and food out before mum-in-law ambles back in, baby, darling and Gorgeous in tow.

Ramadan Journal 2015: Day 9 – Inspired By

I go through phases of feeling inspired by everything with ideas coming at me left, right and centre and down periods where I just need to push myself to get through the day and get things done and nothing piques my interest. At the moment I am in one of my “inspired” phases, with inspiration coming in all sorts of fits and bursts: with iftar and suhoor meals, with children’s activities and with Eid preparation. I always find Ramadan and Eid particularly inspiring times for creativity anyway.
At the moment, I've become very interested in graphic design and I am loving all things colourful, harmonious colours and ombre, patterns like chevrons and quatrefoil, watercolour effects and bright colour washes.

This pattern encompasses a number of these and has me thinking about colour themes for Eid d├ęcor:

I finally have a new desk where my sewing machine used to be, so that has inspired me to get my arts and crafts materials out and start playing again once I can free up some time after Ramadan.

Our home feels half empty without my husband here, despite five noisy kids and my mum-in-law being here, plus the normal procession of guests. So for iftar (the evening meal to break fast) we always say we’ll make something simple. My appetite gets the better of me and I am online on Facebook cooking groups, the menu page of restaurant sites and recipe websites looking for different things to try. This year I have made channa chaat, macaroni salad, potato pakora’s, aubergine pakora’s, fried chilli’s in batter, different types of rice, mini kebab roll, mini shawarma, baked chicken, home-made masala chips, pani puri, chicken and potato pasties, keema (leftover mince lamb curry) pasties, keema pasta, samosa chaat, date slices, mango milkshake, date milkshake and lime water. Plus the requisite fruit chaat (spicy fruit salad) everyday. That’s not to show off, but just to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed trying new things, experimenting in the kitchen and feeling inspired about cooking.

I am also enjoying all of the fashion and photography on Shutterbug Sisters and Harlequin’s blogs and Harlequins instagram, always lots of eye candy there.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Ramadan Recipe: Chicken Sandwiches

Fashionista Sister first made these and they have proved popular at our parties and picnics. A previous version of this recipe is here, this is an improved and updated version after much testing out of different ingredients. My husband also requests these when he is picking someone up from the airport and wants something light they can eat if they are hungry.

½ kg boneless chicken (I use breast), cubed
400g mayonnaise
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon chilli sauce (optional)
½ a cucumber, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 teaspoon salt
Bread of your choice

Boil the chicken in water for about 15 minutes until cooked through, check by cutting open and checking it is white all the way through. Drain chicken and break up coarsely with a potato masher or the back of a fork (I use the pestle from a small mortar and pestle set). Add the mayonnaise, ketchup, chilli sauce, pepper and salt and mix thoroughly. There is salt already in the mayo, ketchup and chilli sauce, so you only need to add a small amount or it can taste too salty. Add cucumber and carrot and mix. The consistency should be thick but dry, if it feels dry, then add a little more mayo so that it feels soft and mushy.

This should be enough for almost a whole loaf of bread. You can spread a little mayonnaise on both sides of the bread before you spoon on the mixture and spread it if you like.

Ramadan Journal 2015: Day 8 – Grateful For

There is so much to be grateful for at the moment – my faith, my family, my home, work, my health, the more you think about it, the more you realise that you cannot even begin to understand how much you have to be grateful to Allah (SWT) for, every small and big thing and so much we take for granted or are not even aware of.

This Ramadan, I am grateful for the opportunity to earn reward, to have my sins forgiven, I am so grateful at this opportunity to make dua knowing the dua of the fasting person is accepted and to ask for everything I need:

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “There are three prayers that are not rejected: the prayer of a father for his child, the prayer of the fasting person and the prayer of the traveller.” Narrated by al-Bayhaqi; see Saheeh al-Jaami’, 2032; al-Saheehah, 1797. 

When it comes down to it though, at the moment I am so very grateful for two basic things: sleep and food.

People often say Ramadan is not about eating and that we should stick to simple food that doesn’t require too long to prepare or eat. But at the end of a 19 hour fast, I don’t begrudge myself something I enjoy and I certainly don’t turn my nose up at the delicious food the neighbours sent round:

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle (
peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, "Allah said, 'All the deeds of Adam's sons (people) are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.' Fasting is a shield or protection from the fire and from committing sins. If one of you is fasting, he should avoid sexual relation with his wife and quarreling, and if somebody should fight or quarrel with him, he should say, 'I am fasting.' By Him in Whose Hands my soul is' The unpleasant smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk. There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord; then he will be pleased because of his fasting." (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 128)

The last picture, apart from the fruit salad, is entirely food my neighbours sent round, leftovers or food made from leftovers (lamb mince curry turned into lamb mince pasta and pasties). We barely managed to make a dent in all of that food (apart from the strawberries which nearly caused a riot).

Regarding sleep, I was always a very light sleeper until I had children, with each child I seemed to have become a deeper sleeper. Little Lady once remarked that she has never seen anyone that is already asleep by the time that their head hits the pillow until she saw me fall asleep after a long day. The broken sleep and long days of Ramadan coupled with early mornings for work and the school run means I am quite sleep deprived, on one occasion I fell asleep on my prayer mate and woke up close to suhoor (the morning meal before you fast) wondering if I made it to the end of my witr prayer or not. So when I finally get into bed after a long day of work, fasting, cooking and cheeky children, I cannot even describe the utter pleasure of finally letting the day go, my body and mind unwinding and it is something I am deeply grateful for.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Ramadan Journal 2015: Day 7 - Mood

The first few days of Ramadan saw my mood on a bit of a roller-coaster ride, suffering from exhaustion, missing my husband, wondering how I would get through this month and try and use the time as positively and productively as possible and try and gain the most rewards that I could.

That changed mid-week when I came home to find this:

Fashionista Sister had ordered a cake and had it sent to me as a surprise with the proceeds going to Islamic Relief's work in Syria.  She had said it was to cheer me up and it really, really did.

Never underestimate the effect of  good deed, no matter how big or small.  To the person on the receiving end it can make such a difference.

The kids thoroughly enjoyed this, as did both our neighbours.  I am eating sensibly at the moment, so made do with Darling's leftovers rather than a whole slice, but it was tasty nevertheless.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Aaila the Muslim Family Magazine – Ramadan 201/143 Edition

The latest edition of Aaila, the Muslim Family Magazine is now online thanks to the help and contribution of all its wonderful writers and volunteers. Some of the articles at the top of my to-read list this Ramadan include:

Are you a depressed Muslimah? by Akintobi Aminat Abiodun

Note to my 12 year old self by Sana Sarwar

Muslim Business Women Series Fehmida Shah: a Smart Sister by Farhat Amin

5 Steps to Breaking Depression's Back in Ramadan by Tabassum Mosleh

Getting Ready for Eid Before Ramadan by Anum Ali

As well as the magazines book club and series of product reviews. Please do take a look and if there is something you find beneficial, please do leave a comment to say, every comment or piece of feedback is very much appreciated. If you would like to contribute something for the next issue, please contact the editor Umm Imran at:

You can visit and follow the lively and engaged Aaila Facebook page here.