Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Little Man's Ameen Party

Little Man actually finished Quran last year, but with a new baby and my little sisters wedding, we pushed his celebration to a few months later instead.

We had considered a day out for the family instead or a boys day out with his dad to somewhere like go-karting, but the horrible weather and cost put us off.

Being a quiet, modest boy, I thought it would be nice too for him to get some of the attention that the others manage to monopolise most of the time.

We picked an easy blue and silver space theme and made the banner and frame a few days before.  The stars are the type used in shops and stalls to show prices and we just spray painted silver.  (I have no idea how the banner got hung so wonky and I am just realising from looking at these pictures how funny they look).

I love to dress my boys up and this outfit was one that Shutterbug Sister bought the boys on their birthdays last year.  They have matching trousers but I liked the way the shirts and waistcoats looked with jeans, they remind me of the 90's for some reason.  Gorgeous refused to wear them saying he would look silly, until I showed him some pictures, then he agreed to try the clothes on.  He looked in the mirror at himself and declared "hmm not too bad".

Little Lady, Darling and my niece all wore matching outfits that my mum had bought back from Pakistan recently.  Darlings bangles were too big, but as soon she saw them she had then on her arm and there they stayed.

Fashionista Sister made cakes for the occasion to fit into the theme.  The thing with this type of cake is that sometimes they look good but taste average, but these were delicious and really moist and disappeared really quickly.

I always think if nothing else is right, but the food is good, an occasion is saved.  This time we made nuggets and fries, macaroni salad, green chutney, potato and chickpea chaat and chicken sandwiches.  My mum brought lamb kebabs and my neighbour kindly made some yummy pakora's.  My aunt made us chicken biryani.

For games we had everyone guess the number of sweets in the jar to be able to keep them.

All of the adults joined in and I was just happy that my kids didn't win.

The other games required the kids sitting in a circle with straws around a plate of sweets.  Whoever sucked up the most sweets and dropped them into their bowl was the winner

It was like a rugby scrum, only more vicious with everyone trying to push their head into the middle of the circle.  Very entertaining for the mums.

Little Man's favourite part of the party was getting new trainers from Fashionista's husband, who my boys adore and look up to.  No chance of losing my son with those shoes on.

As ever the little girls made our day.  Baby hijacked Fashionista's little sweetheart's giraffe

Although Sweetheart then seemed to think Baby was a toy.

My favourite bit of the occasion was when we got all of the children to recite a bit of Quran starting with Little Man who recited Surah Yasin which he is memorising insh'Allah.  Even the smallest kids recited a little which was lovely.

I make dua that my dear son has an enduring, life-long relationship with the word of Allah and benefits from its wisdom and beauty in this life and the next insh'Allah.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Picture of the Day: 23.02.15 - Signs of Spring

It's still cold here, but we are seeing signs of spring.  It was so energising and uplifting to wake up to bright sunlight this morning.  Something that we don't get here for months at a time.  It made such a difference.

The garden needs tidying up and the flower bed needs to be weeded and turned over while we plan what goes into them this year.  But I'm leaving all of that until a warmer day.  The camellia always flowers first and it's beautiful big rose like blooms are just the thing to make you hopeful that warmer days are on their way soon.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Book Review: Sahar El-Nadi – Sandcastles and Snowmen

In Sandcastles and Snowmen, Sahar El-Nadi tells the story of how she grew up in Muslim countries but truly found her religion as an adult through her travels, life experiences and subsequent deep reflection. 

The book starts with an accessible introduction to the key tenets of Islam which is straightforward enough to make sense to non-Muslims.  It then asks some of the really big questions – Why am I in this world?  Why is there suffering in this world? As well as some questions that will pique people’s interest: What is shariah law? What is the ultimate goal of a Muslim?  The rest of the book covers Islam’s place in the modern world regarding just about everything:  art, science, trade, diversity, gender inequality, human rights and politics

I enjoyed El-Nadi’s way of explaining some Islamic concepts.  When faced with a liberal audience who could not understand why some things were halal or haram and how they could be assigned labels of good or bad, she replaces the terms good ad bad with healthy and unhealthy – concepts that her Swedish friends were more familiar with.

I was a little uncomfortable with her way of explaining how we get reward points for good deeds, it almost felt a little as if the faith is being explained very methodically without the spirituality behind it, however the Chapter on Reward and Punishment (Chapter 4) does take this further and explains rewards for good deeds, rewards for the intention as well as the deed and the reward for encouraging others to do good deeds.   The explanation is taken further with the understanding that heaven is for those who consistently make good intentions, try to act on them and try to make the world a better place.

I was moved by the section which described the authors experience of visiting the Kaaba in Makkah and I think many people would be able to relate to the powerful effect this has on her.  For those who are curious about the pilgrimage Muslims make to Makkah, the authors description of the  transformational nature of this journey should be of interest.

The chapter on manners and ethics included some good reminders and reasons on why Islam is a religion of peace, with emphasis on encouraging good and preventing evil, showing compassion to others and particularly the importance of good manners in faith.

The chapter on Islam and human rights is essential reading for all of those people horrified by the cruel things happening in the name of Islam.  The religions actual commands regarding the rights of women, children, parents and even animals are laid out, using short stories that Muslims will be familiar with as examples.

The book also offers some opinion and insight into a number of political issues such as identity and prompts us to consider how often we questions concepts such as middle east and third world?  There is an explanation of the true meaning of Jihad, a term much bandied about at the moment and some thoughts on the role of religion in the Arab Spring.

The chapter on gender roles and equality I found particularly insightful, especially the section on polygamy, as well as the authors beautiful description of hijab and her husbands reaction to her hair on their wedding night of all things.

The book did jump around a little from one topic to another, partly because of the sheer breadth of what the author tries to cover.  My first reading of the book was a slow and careful reading which took me plenty of time, just so that I could digest and weigh up what I was reading.  Definitely a book I would keep hold of and come back to, although probably more to dip in and out of and to provide food for thought.

With recent events in Pakistan, Paris, Syria and Nigeria making headlines and capturing the world’s attention, this book is a good one to help people who have become curious about Muslims and Islam to answer important questions.  It is also a useful guide for Muslims who want to help non-Muslims understand them better.  An ambitious, interesting and accessible book that I will be recommending to friends.

You can find out more at: Amazon, Goodreads, the website for the book, the Facebook page for the book and the authors YouTube channel.

“I discovered another analogy in the legacy of Prophet Muhammad that immediately clicked with me: that the angels put down their wings in humility for a person who seeks knowledge, and that all living things, even the ants in their anthill and the fish in the sea, pray for a person who teaches people good things.

When I read this, I literally felt the goodness flow out of my heart for all creatures. The beautiful mental image it evoked resonated with my concept of the universe as one unit, and of all living things seeking to live together in peace and harmony, and being grateful when humans tried to fit into the circle of life, instead of working so hard to disrupt its equilibrium”  
Sahar El-Nadi, Sandcastles & Snowmen

Monday, 9 February 2015

My Sartorial Wishlist

I have been taking a break from blogging for the last month in an attempt to simplify my life and create new routines as a mother of five that allow me to fulfil my most important responsibilities, stay sane and hopefully sneak in some fun.

So in the spirit of fun, I want to ease back into blogging with some eye candy.  Most of what I wear at the moment is either mismatched or the wrong size.  As soon as I manage to find something nice to wear, it has to go back in the wash because "someone" has either thrown up on me, exploded their nappy and leaked on me or wipes dirty hands on me.

Thankfully, there is Pinterest, with it's wishlist board acting as my imaginary dream wardrobe:

I love long coats and jackets over an abaya - modest, warm and elegant I think.

Love this bag, it would probably end up full of nappies and bottles, but it would still look so good.

I think this has to be my dream bag - I have a thing about green, have loved almost every shade of it since I was a kid, and the size -the sheer amount of tissues, wipes, bitten lip balms, pens and junk I could cram into it.

I have a thing for pomegranates - and the smoothness of those stones!

I have a jacket just like this one, love how it looked over my abaya, but suspect it might not fit any more when I go back to work.  Hankering after a dark red version.

(originally found here)

I can just imagine this tote with my journals, filofax and reading books and stationary, probably some chocolate sneaked in there too.  That green obsession showing again.

I doubt I could wear heels like this any more - but that colour...

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Word of the Year 2015 – Shukr

We don’t celebrate New Years in our home, except for the fireworks with the kids from their bedroom window and seeing if there is a good kids film on the TV on New Y ears Day at my mums. However the changing of the year is as good a time as any to reflect on how the previous 12 months passed and make intentions for the year ahead.

In recent years I have been picking a word for the year to motivate and guide me with some turning out more appropriate than others:

In 2011 my word was courage as I was keen to try new things and new directions in my life.

In 2012 I didn't pick a word but as I was expecting Darling that year and struggling to stay sane through a busy time at work and severe nausea, so in hindsight thought patience would have been a good one.

In 2013 the word was discipline - in my eating habits, spending and family routines – and how spectacularly bad I was at that one. I had promised myself when I turned 30 that I would be disciplined, particularly in my eating, so in 2013 at 34 I thought I had better keep my promise to myself. I think I will come back to this one and try much harder insh’Allah

In 2014 the word was focus – I had so many plans and felt so clear about how I would achieve them. But:

But they plan, and Allah plans. And Allah is the best of planners. ~ Quran 8:30

I found myself pregnant with Baby very soon after I chose that word and every plan went out the window, first because my body felt like it was breaking down under the pressure of a fifth pregnancy and then because my mind could barely keep up with the demands of five children and extended family. I have no idea what the word should have been - maybe acceptance would have been a good one.

My word for 2015 will be Shukr – gratefulness. I realise that we can’t do everything we want, our plans don’t always work out and sometimes the rug is pulled out from under us so hard that we have no idea whether we are coming or going. However in every situation, we can practise gratitude – for all that Allah (SWT) has blessed us with – the things we remember and those we don’t.

I hope to establish a daily practice of gratitude and through this I want to thoroughly take pleasure in the good things that He has bestowed us with – the small things, the everyday things. I want to enjoy the scent of nice soap and oils in my burner, the taste of fresh fruit and simple food, the colours of my garden, the sound of childish laughter and Gorgeous reciting his Quran lesson at the top of his lungs every evening and the feel of Darlings soft hair and chubby cheeks.

I know we are encouraged to think big, dream big, make big plans, but realistically I know that this year with the babies so little and the older children going through transitional stages, I have to set my focus on them and forget about big ambitions for now.

So with great pleasure, a shucking of anxiety, utter relief at not trying to achieve something and a deep breathing outwards my word for 2015 is shukr.

“So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me.” ~ Quran 2:152

“Why should Allah punish you if you have thanked (Him) and have believed in Him. And Allah is Ever All-Appreciative (of good), All-Knowing” ~ Quran 3:147

“And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed: ‘If you give thanks (by accepting Faith and worshipping none but Allah), I will give you more (of My Blessings); but if you are thankless, verily, My punishment is indeed severe’” ~ Quran 14:14

“And if you should count the favor of Allah, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, mankind is [generally] most unjust and ungrateful.” ~ Quran 14: 34

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: Look at those who stand at a lower level than you but don’t look at those who stand at a higher level than you, for this would make the favours (conferred upon you by Allah) insignificant (in your eyes). (Sahih Muslim, Book:42, Chapter: Kitab Al-Zuhd wa Al-Raqai’q, Hadith:7070)

There is no man who sees Allah’s favors upon him and says: “All praise is due to Allah with whose favours all good can be accomplished” except that Allah will make him needless of others and will increase His favours upon him.” - al-Hasan al-Basri

Gratitude helps us make the shift. Consequently, we are able to attract more good, more love, more joy, more money, as well as better health and blissful relationships in your life. Gratitude is one of the easiest and most frequently used methods to alter the signals one is emitting. What we need to master is the attitude of gratitude – the attitude of appreciating everything in life. - Bela Khan for Productive Muslim (Source)

Being grateful to Allah (SWT) does wonders. When you acknowledge His Hand in your life, miracles happen. You may be in the middle of a problem and not have the least bit of knowledge about what would happen next, then suddenly the solution will dawn upon you. It is like when someone would return you an old loan that you completely forgot about, when you are in dire need of money; or when you are thinking about your loved ones and they give you a call right then. And when something you are longing to happen, finally happens.- Bela Khan for Productive Muslim (Source)

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Treats from Pakistan

My mum and dad recently spent a month in Pakistan catching up with family and old friends and enjoying a change from every day life.  Mum has lovely taste and loves shopping and came back with a stylish new wardrobe for herself.  She also made the effort to find or have made a  gift for everybody including my sisters, sis-in-law and all of our children (seven kids in total).

These are the matching outfits she bought for Little Lady and Darling, they are summer outfits, but I would get the girls to wear them in colder weather with tights and a warm top underneath if a nice occasion to wear them presents itself in colder weather.  I really like the pleating and the pretty coloured borders.

This little outfit was for Darling too and a bit better in the colder weather.  I was planning to put it on her on a Friday (which is our Sabbath).  The little bells on the front are a really nice detail for a little girl.

The boys got these shalwar kameez outfits.  Mum always goes for quality over style and last trip bought the boys white salwar kameezes before which were such good quality they were a pleasure to see the boys wear them.  These were the same - no bling or bright colours but really nice quality warm fabric, really solid thread embroidery and some nice details like the velvety collar and buttons on the grey suit and the design round the armholes on the beige.

She also came back with these bangles for the three girls and these black bracelets for Baby which are supposed to be to ward off evil eye.

I got these two outfits.  The black one looks fancy but is super comfortable.  Its quite fitted so doesn't suit for nursing, but I intend to wear it more in the summer.

The second outfit was the one that mum picked to have stitched.  It's in the Kashmiri wrap style "Anghrakha" and I like that there is no bling on it.  After the trend of the last few years for everything to be covered with diamant√©, pearls and every other kids of itchy, shiny thing that catches on the rest of the suit and ruins it, the last two years or so have seen a move back to thread embroidery which this suit has.  It also has roses which is a motif I love on my clothes.

Other than clothing, she brought us back food including these roasted gram which tasted better than the ones you get in shops here:

These are the pine nuts (or chilgozay or nezay as we call them) which Shutterbug paid for and mum shared out to the rest of the family.  These are really expensive in Pakistan at the moment at about £25-£30 a kilo and most people can't afford them.  They seem like a lot of effort for a very small nut that you get and if you don't open it carefully you manage to obliterate half the nut inside.  I used to see my mum sitting and opening them and handing a handful to my dad to eat while they watched TV.  The other day I sat down to read with hubby only for him to pass me a shelled handful.

I knew they would come back with peanuts as they always do when they go in winter.  It is one of the winter harvests in my grandparents village and everyone seems to have at least one field devoted to them if not more.  So as mum explained, everyone who came to say good bye handed them a bag of peanuts to take back with them.

They are fresh and lightly roasted and I can't tell you how good they are.  We have been scoffing away.

I really enjoyed the gifts but most of all it's a real pleasure having them home and I can see the good their break has done them alhamdulillah.