Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Summer Break in Bournemouth 2018: Lovely Lulworth Cove

The children managed to find lots to moan about on our trip to Bournemouth, well the teenagers anyway, but even they were taken in by their happy memories of Lulworth Cove the last time we came here.  They remembered the art everywhere, the lovely little shops and the man who painted seashells in beautiful, bright gem-like colours by the cove – I bought them one each and they treasured them for years.

For all of these reasons, they stopped moaning and actually looked forward to our day trip to Lulworth Cove, despite all five of them getting car sick.

The little village leading up to the cove is full of small shops selling both useful and touristy things.  The visitor centre is big, with good toilets and exhibits about the area and how the cove was formed.

The cove itself is a pebbly beach with a beautiful view out to the sea.  The walk around the cove is pleasant, with the hike up the side only slightly challenging, the kids enjoyed clambering up and back down again behind their dad and grandfather.

A very beautiful place, with lots of little shops to explore and good for pleasant walks, Lulworth Cove is also good as a starting point to climb up to Durdle Door, another nearby beauty spot, if your legs can take it.  If they can’t, you can drive to a closer car park and walk from there.

Summer Break in Bournemouth 2018: Sunrise at Boscombe Beach

Whilst we were at Bournemouth I asked my husband to take me to the beach one morning after fajr (dawn prayers) without the kids.  Just the two of us.  He readily agreed as his dad was with us and would be home with the kids.

We snuck out early and took the short drive to Boscombe beach which was about the same distance away from us as Bournemouth beach.  Unlike Bournemouth beach, the place was mainly deserted except for the odd runner or beachcomber in the distance.

We enjoyed watching the sun come up and paint the sky on its way.  Even more I enjoyed being the centre of my other half’s attention and laughing at his attempts at romantic Urdu poetry. It felt so good to not worry about the kids for an hour or two, knowing they would be fast asleep and dad-in-law was pottering about back in the house we had rented.

We enjoyed the sand under our feet, the waves lapping at our ankle and the fresh sea air.  We found sea-shells to take back, I don’t think I have ever seen as many shells at a beach as I saw at Boscombe.

One thing I liked is that Boscombe seemed to have toilets and showers in the same place, right in front of the beach, to clean up after you have had a dip.  In Bournemouth, I struggled with the little ones trying to take them to the toilet and then finding a shower down the road which soaked me as I tried to rinse them off before changing me.

One the way back we took a look at the pier, unlike Bournemouth, Boscombe pier is free and a lovely modern design.  

Definitely a beautiful, soulful way to start the day, and the kids didn’t even realise we had gone.

Summer Break in Bournemouth 2018: Bournemouth Beach

The first thing we did when we got to Bournemouth, after putting our things in our rooms and the food in the fridge, was to head for Bournemouth Beach to meet up with the rest of our family.

I remember what a lovely beach this was from the last time we came here (a long ago 2011).  Sandy and clean, with a busy pier and lots to do.  The kids had brought their swimming gear and wasted no time in getting into the water, and then proceeding to kick water at me every chance they got despite my protestations and threats.

The sea is like soul medicine to me – the rhythmic sound is incredibly soothing and walking in the cold water as it laps around your feet just feels wonderful. At the same time, the vastness and the power of the waves wakens an anxiety in me and reminds me of the majesty and greatness of Allah (SWT) and the smallness of myself.

We spent a good couple of hours playing in the water and then drying off and wandering on the pier and taking pictures.

The beach is very picturesque and full of families and there were plenty of other Muslims there that day.  There is lots to do, but it all costs money and with a big family adds up.  The pier cost us money to get in and then money for any rides or game machines.  At the same time, the views are beautiful and there were lots of fun photo opportunities everywhere because the surroundings were so picturesque.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Summer Break in Bournemouth 2018: Accommodation For a Big Family

During the summer holidays, Fashionista Sister asked us if we would like to go to Bournemouth with her.  She had booked a hotel near the beach and suggested we take a look.  We last visited Dorset including Bournemouth in 2011 when my kids were not yet cynical teenagers and have lovely memories of that trip.

Unfortunately, we checked out the hotel and it worked out £1,000 for two nights for two room.  One of the perks of being a big family, the cost of everything seems to shoot up considerably.  I looked at other hotels in the area, cottages, accommodation a short drive away and longer drives away, all pretty much the same cost.  It being the holiday season and Bournemouth being one of the nicest beaches in the country, nowhere was going to be cheap.

As a last resort, I thought I would try Airbnb, I didn’t expect it to be suitable for a big family (us, five kids and their grandfather), associating it with backpacking students.  I was pleasantly surprised to find a five-bedroom house a 15-minute drive from the beach for £300 for two nights.  It had good reviews (basically that it was clean), so I booked, and our holiday was on.

We left mid-week, so we missed the bank holiday rush that came the week after and got to Bournemouth in just over two hours.  The house turned out to be clean with all of the basics including a fully working kitchen and to the kids delight a TV.  The kids happily nabbed their rooms and wasted no time in unpacking.  Dad-in-law tried to evict the boys from their room and give him theirs, but they weren’t having it.  The babies wanted a room each but eventually settled on sharing one.  Little Lady grabbed the one room with a big mirror and dressing table and promptly laid out all of her toiletries and makeup.

For some reason, the boys thought this was holiday packing (swimming trunks and junk food)

We had packed enough food to keep everyone happy for breakfast, lunch, and picnics allowing us to eat out in the evening.  Bournemouth turned out to be quite good for halal food, with lots of options.

Left over lamb curry from Eid and pitta bread we took with us

An interesting dish called tava chicken and cheese we tried at one of the local restaurants

In all we had a nice break, the weather held and we had lots of sun, the teens still moaned, but the babies made happy memories of their own.  We probably could not have afforded a break, even in the UK during school holidays, I am finding more and more that the cost of “staycations” is becoming quite ridiculous for working families with children.  Airbnb gave us an alternative and with a bit of research, we managed to see the best bits for pretty much free or at minimum cost.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Some Chaos Amid the Chaos

I am finding myself struggling to keep up at the moment. Between home, work, children, family and life the hours in the day never seem to be enough to get it all done.  I decided this weekend that I would catch up with housework, decluttering and chores and spend some time tackling the to-do list – mums bus pass, dentist and optician appointments and helping dad-in-law to pack to go home to Pakistan later this month.

So with the best of intentions, when my best friend suggested she visit, I happily agreed.  We spent an afternoon catching up and herding the combined nine children between us. I made them lunch and she kept me company as I worked my way through the laundry process (one wash in, one wash out, wash on line, collect dry clothes and pile up for the big folding assembly belt and uniform pile for ironing).

She offered to take us out for dessert and we trooped with our flock to the nearest dessert place which happily was empty at that time of the day.  We had the usual rigmarole of the kids getting overexcited, trying to order more than they could eat and then refusing to sit down. Then when the ice cream and cookie dough came they all attached themselves to the £1 to machine like limpets and started begging for pound coins.  Most of them wasted their desserts and tried to eat my besties one.  Being the enormous-hearted person she is, she fed most of it to them.  She is a better person than me, I would have told them all to go away.

At this point none of this mattered.  She ordered me a latte and fed me strawberries from her dessert and I sat in bliss.  Like the calm in the centre of the noisy children storm.  Give me a small skinny latte and I am your grateful friend sitting in my happy place.  Clearly it doesn’t take much to make me happy.

We had a lovely afternoon, she showered affection on my girls in buckets and our boys played computer games together. It was a lovely afternoon.  Even after hours together we didn’t manage to catch up about everything.  She is probably one of the only people who I can talk to about motherhood, work, life and faith and she just gets it. Completely.  I can’t tell you what an enormous blessing that is, to have someone hear you, understand you and have a common experience understanding about things with you alhamdulillah.

I never did catch up on housework.  Sunday I was blessed with two lots of guests so that was the rest of my weekend.  I think I am going to change to doing all housework on weekdays and just enjoy my weekends.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Middle aged now?

We are not big on celebrating birthdays in my household, hubby is against marking them and I have kept them very minimal with my older kids (hugs and kisses and allowing them to choose a toy when shopping).  In contrast my younger two are obsessed with the idea of birthdays, having cousins their age who do celebrate birthdays with beautiful themes parties and lots of gifts.

In more recent years, birthdays have been a time to reflect for me.  I turned 39 a few days ago and it felt like a very big number. I have never feared telling people my age honestly, I figure as long as I have done something positive and productive with my years I don’t have any complaints and I don’t feel a need to appear desperately more youthful than I actually am.  Saying that it felt very much like I was transitioning from one phase of my life to another – maybe from young woman to middle aged woman?  It’s not something I struggle with.  I think I have been preparing myself for this mentally for some time.

Instead I look back over the years and I think about how much time I have left, almost forty years gone and who says I have that many more – can I expect to live to seventy or eighty? That would be a good lifespan.

Abu Hurairah (RA) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “The lifespan of my Ummah is from sixty to seventy (years).” (Hadith No. 2331, Chapters on Zuhd, Jami’ At-Tirmidhi, Vol. 4).

I look back at the last almost forty years and it must seem like a long time for someone who us young, but subhan’Allah it feels like it has passed so quickly:
Ten years of childhood, innocent memories and a simpler time
Ten years of teenage, full of awkwardness, struggling to find my place in the world and discovering a fierceness in myself
Ten years of loving marriage alhamdulillah and the blessing of motherhood with small children
Ten years of a balancing act of faith, marriage, older children, younger children, work and ageing in-laws and parents.

I feel like the luckiest woman in the world alhamdulillah to be blessed with these things.

Still no grey hairs or winkles alhamdulillah
Plumper now than the waif-like girl I once was
I feel beautiful inside and out where I once felt awkward or self-conscious
Sometimes I feel a little battle-scarred
Sometimes I wish I had taken better care of myself, but I was so lost in taking care of everyone else
My limitless energy seems to have found it’s limit, but I still feel strong and I pray that Allah SWT keeps me strong and energetic enough to fulfil my duties insh’Allah
I question my parenting sometimes as my teens (mouthily) find themselves and then find relief in the sweetness and adoration of my two little ones.
I find all those years of work have come in to themselves as everything that comes my way at work feels easy and I am starting to do more fulfilling and challenging work

I think of the time I have left, and I am very clear that we are not even promised another minute let along another forty years:

Every soul will taste death, and you will only be given your [full] compensation on the Day of Resurrection. So he who is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise has attained [his desire]. And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion. (Quran 3:185)

39 years went so quickly, I am terrified that whatever is left will go in a flash, I am wary of what little I have to present to my Maker when it is all said and done.  I think of all of the things I want to do – the passion for life, for beautiful things and places, for good food and interesting company, the appetite for fun and new experiences, the love of books, nature, creativity and people in general.  I think how 100 years many times over isn’t enough to cram it all in.  I feel frightened that I am too immersed in this world and it is a distraction from the next one.  I am grateful for this ability to be happy and find happiness in everything that Allah SWT has blessed me with.  I am grateful that Alllah SWT has promised us another life after this that never ends, maybe something we don’t deserve, but certainly something that I can strive towards insh’Allah.

So as I pass my 39th birthday, I revisit what I have achieved, what I still want to do and where my focus should be.  A re-calibration and a reminder that life is so very short and each day is precious beyond measure.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Eid-ul-Adha 2018/1439 - Day 2: Family, Food and Photo-Shoots

The second day of Eid followed a familiar and much-loved routine, lunch at mums, followed by a day spent laughing and joking with siblings and doting over our clutch of little girls alhamdulillah.

I wore this blue kameez from edenrobe with white trousers and a silky royal blue scarf. My husband bought it last year from Pakistan but I ended up wearing something else when I tried it on and felt self-conscious.  I lost a little weight this year, so enjoyed wearing this:

I am really liking this type of Islamic geometric pattern I have been seeing all over Pakistani clothes in the last year or so:

I hadn’t planned to buy the babies new clothes this Eid as my mum bought them pretty cotton dresses from Monsoon which they wore on the first day of Eid.  I happened to come across these on clearance at a local shop that was closing down – the last two children’s dresses, in both my daughters’ sizes for a very discounted price.  I snapped them up and they got compliments all day alhamdulillah.

You know it is Eid in my house when the biggest pot I own gets dragged out from the back of our store cupboard.  This year I was tasked with making the lamb curry for our family gathering (recipe here).  Took ages but came out a treat.

My neighbour invites me over for Eid breakfast every year, but I never get to go. This year I wasn’t hosting and we moved Eid lunch from 12pm on the dot, to after Zoher prayers (after persuading my parents who are sticklers for time and routine), so I had some time to go and visit her.  The woman is an amazing cook mashallah and fed us halva, puri, channay, lamb curry and tandoori chicken for brunch.  May Allah (SWT) bless her home and family.

This was soon followed by our big Eid lunch at my mums.  Eid lunch was a joint effort this year, lamb pilau and kebabs by my mum, lamb curry by me, roast chicken by my lovely sister in law, chocolate cake by Fashionista sister.  Mums lamb pilau really is our treat for the year (or twice a year) alhamdulillah.

The cake really was good: moist, rich and with gooey choc icing:

Of course, after lunch is always the obligatory photo-shoot of the lovely outfits and the cheeky babies.

We spent the afternoon slowly clearing dishes, packing food and chatting with cousins.  We had to head home earlier than usual because we are heading to Bournemouth for day three of Eid for a short break and there is packing to be done.

These little peg dolls of us were a nice little gift from Fashionista, the artist used pictures of us to create them.  Little Lady calls them voodoo dolls and tells me she will poke my one next time I annoy her :/