Monday, 15 January 2018

First Day in the New Job

After a month long break I finally started in my new job today.  The original plan was to leave my old job and start in the new one the following week.  I think I would have started the new role on a high and full of confidence from my previous job.  As things worked out, I had a month long break and spending a month away gives you time to over think things and start questioning/doubting yourself.  Spending a month with a grumpy teen, warring boys and crazy babies also leaves you wondering if you could string a sentence together out loud that doesn’t involve shouting, cajoling or nagging.

I was a little nervous, but my siblings and friends messaged me in the morning to wish me luck and my friend F had good advice: make friends and play nicely – and that is exactly what I hope to do.  In contrast Little Lady bid me goodbye in the morning and wished me luck in her own way by saying “Don’t get sacked mum!”

So I was grateful to finally get started today.  I was lucky to get a gentle start and spend the day making introductions, understand what everyone was doing, find the prayer room and getting set up with my laptop.  I was surprised how exhausted I was for how little I felt I had done, it must have been the effect of trying to take everything in.

I think the easy start was just for the first day, my second day is already filled almost completely with meetings.  I am grateful though, the work is interesting and touches on things that I am passionate about (like equality and diversity and community cohesion) and will give me the chance to write lots.

Picture of the Day 12.01.018: Memory Jar

It seems to me that Pinterest is a wonderful place for beautiful ideas that I save with the intention of making, baking, trying, and drawing later, but never get round to.  Little Lady in contrast likes to try things out and I wondered what she was up to when she asked for a kilner jar.

It was for this Memory Jar:

Instead of folding her cards she is rolling them up and securing them into little scrolls with washi tape.  I have to say I am super curious what she has written in them, but know better than to try taking a look.

I want to try something similar for myself and the babies.  It seems like a nice way to capture and reflect on the good stuff and an opportunity to focus on the things that I should be grateful for.

Picture of the Day 10.01.018: Good Intentions and Good Luck Gifts

I did have good intentions for the month long gap I have had between jobs: experiment with an online shop, try drop-shipping, finish an e-book, try a few online courses, but when it came to it, I decided that I was unlikely to get another opportunity to forget work so thoroughly and just give myself a break

In the end I did the minimum – getting the house in order, getting systems in place to keep organised (like a system for paperwork) doing some reading for the new job, reading for pleasure, journaling and watching way too much rubbish online.  I spent my time with the children either during their Christmas holidays or doing the school run.  I made elaborate lunches for hubby to take to work much to the children’s amusement Little Lady remarked I just need heels and a little apron as I waved him off at the door, I am sure he has enjoyed the extra attention.

With my break over, much quicker than I could have imagined, I have been getting organised to get back to work.  It was nice to get a little good luck gift from my mum: two scarves and some chocolate, the black scarf is perfect or my first day.  I might save my animal prints and loud coloured scarves for later on.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

100 Days of Productivity

I recently came across something called 100 Days of Productivity Challenge, I really liked the concept. It requires you to do something productive every day and capture it.  The challenge is mainly found on students Tumblr accounts.  Being a grown adult and usually quite productive, I shouldn’t need a productivity challenge.  However, I seem to have spent the tail end of 2017 binge-watching Criminal Minds on my laptop instead of doing anything useful and I need to get myself back in gear.  I also don’t want to capture something productive, but challenge myself to get really productive and use my time in the best way possible.

I had to consider what I would include within the scope of productive other than day-to-day work or time wasting.  My list included:
Zikr and worship
Blogging and writing
Deep cleaning the house and organising
Cooking healthy food and trying new recipes
Arts, crafts, creative activities and photography
Journaling including updating the kid’s journals
Planning (for the following day or week)
Spending time with my children whether to help with their studies or do something fun6i
Spending time with my parents, siblings or extended family
Visiting friends and neighbours
Studying or reading up for work
Working on my projects (family genealogy, planners, e-books)
Sleeping – because I am terrible at making sure to get plenty of sleep and also to remember to take the sunnah midday nap (qaylulah), something that definitely increases my productivity and energy levels when I do.

There is probably more, but time spent on these things doesn’t feel wasted to me.

Day 1
I didn’t feel like attending the weekly taleem (ladies Islamic study circle), but I always feel that if I am careless about attending, I might end up never going when I get the chance.  I was pleased I went as it gave me a sense of contentment and it was nice to see the other ladies who are some of the nicest women I know. 
The same day Hubby told me about someone he had just done a delivery for, the couple had just moved into the area and had just had a baby by caesarean section.  They had been living off eggs and toast as the lady was on bed rest.  We made chicken soup, pilau rice and chicken sandwiches for hubby to take to them.  They were really surprised and promised to come and visit, Hubby also told them about the local Sisters study circle.
I decided to end the day by taking the children out for dessert as it was the last day of Little Ladies Christmas holidays.  I manged to tire them out enough to leave me alone for a while so that I could start journaling my goals for 2018.

Day 2
I spent the day cleaning the house from top to bottom, deep cleaning the bathrooms and organising the store cupboards.  It was the last day of the holidays for the rest of the kids so we ironed uniforms, packed PE kits and book bags and sent, re-sent and then dragged people to bed for an early bedtime.

Day 3
Lots of cooking with a focus on healthy and vegetarian where possible: spinach and potato curry, chickpea curry and sevaiyya (vermicelli in milk) for the kids for after school.  Also lots of blogging as I try and catch up on writing up some of my blog ideas and notes.
I used the back of my 2018 journal to list 100 things I wanted to do and then started another 100.

I probably won’t be able to keep up blogging all 100 days of productivity, but I’ll try to capture some of the things I do and also if there is anything that helps me to get more productive insh'Allah.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Tumblr Fun

Little Lady introduced me to Tumblr recently.  I have never quite taken to it as it always seemed so disorganised and random.  LL explained she uses it for inspiration for her studies – Tumblrs for students are called Studyblrs and there seem to be thousands of them, mostly covering study notes, revision preparation, stationary supplies and bullet journaling amongst other things.  She piqued my curiosity and I thought I would take a look, before I knew it I was immersed in a world of bibliophiles, vegans and bullet journal enthusiasts.

Tumblr’s format is so easy to use and play with.  I was impressed by two things: firstly the sheer volume of beautiful images and easy to digest content, I found so much I enjoyed looking at.  You could draw parallels with Instagram, but I found this even easier to use than Instagram with scope for good sized chunks of text if you want to add them (like some amazing book lists I have copied and saved to my Evernote).  The second element I really liked was the number of communities built up around different interests: of course I was drawn most of all to the book-lovers, mineralogists, nature-lovers and foodies.

I have my reservations, the medium is also known for the sheer amount of pornographic image Tumblr’s that exist.  I haven’t had any come through on my feed because I have been following accounts about books, mountains, fruit and rocks mainly. I have noticed some of the vegan accounts are full of selfies of six-packs and bikini’s, so I just avoid following those.  I like some of the messages that I have seen posted up about these:

I ended up creating two Tumblr’s, one to collate all of the things I love: books, henna, nature, gems and minerals, watercolour art, more book and more nature:

The other is to collate healthy food ideas and inspiration, because…good intentions and everything.

I just have to be sensible and not be re-posting stuff when I should be sleeping.  I still remember my Pinterest fixation when I was pregnant with my youngest and could not sleep.  Now I’m just waiting for Little Lady to tell me how “yesterday” I am.

Words of the Year 2018: Quran and Khidmat (Service)

I debated whether to have a word for the year as the last two have been hit and miss.  The word for 2017 was Salah (prayer) with the intention of improving my concentration in and the quality of my prayers.  This has something I have always struggled with and will continue to work on.  The word for 2016 was health with the intention of improving my diet and losing a little weight.  I did improve my diet and lose a little weight, but I remain in the thrall of chocolate.

On consideration I realised that part of the problem is that I am choosing areas of my life that I should improve rather than want to improve.  Ones that feel like real work and require discipline and will power, rather than ones I can enjoy focussing on and feel motivated to improve.

So this year I thought about an area of my life that needs work and the one that stood out was my understanding and study of the Quran.  I have felt keenly in recent years that I cannot justify not knowing, studying and understanding the Quran better.  I love to learn and study and if I take the approach to learning the Quran that I am increasing my knowledge in order to implement what I learn in my life, then I hope this will motivate me.  Saying that, I know that studying the Quran is important and something we should do.  This Word of the Year (Quran) is the one for my head, I hope as the year progresses, it becomes the one for my heart also.

I hope to start with the commentary called Tafsir ibn Kathir which hubby gifted to me and then look at options for further study or for learning Quranic Arabic insha’Allah.

The other Word of the Year, the one that come from my heart and feels like fun more than work, is Khidmat, or service to others.  I believe that we all have our own strengths when it comes to spirituality and faith.  There are those that engage in zikr (remembrance) and reflection, others that can remain absorbed in prayer for long stretches with concentration and devotion.  Some people are able to live in a simple, even austere way, treading lightly on the earth and others make an impact on everyone they meet through their compassion and kindness.  I have always struggled with prayer, over time I have found zikr easier and more pleasurable.  In comparison, I have always loved to help others if I can.  I believe that this is my path to Allah (SWT) more than any of the others. 

I will look out for opportunities to benefit others and make positive intentions insha’Allah. I have wanted to volunteer for some time but will have to consider what capacity I have.  Other avenues are cooking for others, taking care of and supporting my parents, caring for my mother-in-law when she is here, visiting someone new to the area or a new neighbour, visiting someone who is ill or alone, sharing my knowledge with others - a few people have asked me to help with job applications and forms.  I hope to keep an open mind and see what comes my way.

What would your word or phrase for 2018 be?
What do you want to bring your focus to this year?

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Free Instant Download: The Muslimah Life Planner 2018

I created the Muslimah Life Planner 2018 by taking the best of the techniques, tools and planners and journals I have used over the years to try and manage my life better. I have built on previous versions to make this the biggest and best version yet insha’Allah.

This year The Muslimah Life Planner 2018 is 449 pages long and includes:
  • Space to reflect on 2017
  • Vision pages to brainstorm or collage your vision of your future
  • Planning pages across a 20 year span and longer
  • Detailed planning pages for 2018 across different themes
  • Monthly overview for every month
  • Daily pages including daily schedule, goals, daily review and gratitude journal
  • Pages to look back at the end of 2018 and reflect on achievements and lessons learned.
  • Space to capture notes for 2019

I am sharing it the hope that Sisters find it beneficial in helping to set wonderful goals and feeling inspired to achieve them. I hope it gets Muslimah’s thinking about how 2018 could be an amazing year for them full of clarity of purpose, gratefulness and creativity insha’Allah.

“There is no intelligence like planning.” ~ Hadith Ibn Majah (via Provisions for the Seekers - Zaadut Taalibeen)

This planner will help you to work through listening to your inner voice (Vision Board exercise pages), deciding what the most important things are for you in the greater scheme of things (Life Planning pages) and then focussing on the parts that you can realistically do over the coming year (Daily Pages for 2018). 

The Daily Pages will give you lots of space to dream, explore, plan and review how you will make these things happen. The act of setting them down on paper will mean that rather than vague ideas they are laid out in black and white where they can be prioritised at the start of your day, included with your days work and reviewed at the end of your day.

I hope the journal also offers a safe space for introspection and for reviewing ourselves each day in order to learn and improve. I also hope it helps Sisters to find something in every day to be grateful about and to help cultivate a deep sense of gratitude in their everyday lives.

“And when your Lord proclaimed, 'If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favour]” ~ Quran (14:7)

Please do download and print, you can keep the journal in a ring binder folder. I have tried to keep the formats simple so that they are print friendly. There are some parts where you may need more than one copy of a page because you have lots of goals to plan out or because your vision is so expansive alhamdulillah. Simply print the extra pages and slot in where you want. This format is also conducive to adding in drawings, cuttings, art work, collages and articles you might want to save to inspire you.

Good intentions count for so much in Islam and planning ahead to maximise our good deeds is the first step in making those intentions.  After finding myself overwhelmed with everything I had to do with five children, a busy household and work, in the end it was using a daily planner that helped me to start managing my time better and understanding where my time stealers were.

If you find it useful, please make dua for me and my family. If you find the Journal useful or have suggestions for improvement I would love to hear from you at or in the comments and perhaps I could incorporate some of them into an updated version for next year.

Making Space to Work

Two years ago I had the bright idea of creating a space for myself for blogging, crafts and working from home for the office.  It was such a nice idea.  Hubby bought me a nice white desk and a lockable white cabinet to match.  I even had flights of fancy about an inspiration board and putting some artwork up.

What happened in reality is that everyone took over the space.  My husband set up the family computer on it, the kids did their homework at it, half the time it served as a mini dining table for the kids’ version of Netflix and chill (or in their case YouTube and chips).

When I worked from home, I ended up working from my bedroom where the Wi-Fi is temperamental.  Now that I am starting a new job and will be working from home sometimes, I thought this would be a good time to try again to set up a proper place for myself. I cleared the cabinet and the top of the desk, made space for my laptop and in the process got a lot of my filing cleared and my paperwork organised.

I had a highly therapeutic time clearing everyone’s junk out of my cabinet and setting out all of my stationary and supplies, including index cards that I use to make lists and inserts for my Filofax.

The bottom draw has more space and I am using it for my journals and art supplies, with the Sharpies hidden at the bottom in the hope that the Babies don’t get their hands on them.  In the past I have had to find every pen and pencil in the house and hide it out of reach to stop our youngest from drawing on every surface in the house.  I am hoping she doesn’t get any bright ideas in the time it takes me to find the key to the cabinet.

Setting up the space was the easy bit, the hard part is getting everyone to get away from my desk long enough to let me work.  Otherwise the other option is to go and hide in the library for some peace and quiet.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Baby Picnic

I have been promising the babies a midnight feast or a picnic for ages, mostly to get them to stay in bed at bedtime.  I used to do these a lot with my older three children and we all really enjoyed them.  They have outgrown them now, but I get the chance to do the nice parts of being a mum again with batch two (collectively known here as “The Babies”).

On this occasion Darling had felt poorly all day and I wanted to cheer her up.  Baby wouldn’t sleep the night before, so I told her we would have a midnight picnic if she stayed in bed, she tried her hardest to stay up until midnight, but feel asleep about half an hour after her bedtime.  I woke her the next morning for nursery and she excitedly asked if it was midnight yet.  I felt guilty and promised her we would have a picnic after dinner.

I managed to use the promise of a picnic to get then to do all sorts of things including eat dinner and put their things away.  At this stage, I thought I had better deliver.  Gorgeous saw the food and suddenly took an interest in helping me lay the food out.  This was always my favourite part of our little feasts.

I tried to mostly go for healthy options.  I told the kids we would be having a healthy holiday with less junk and more fruit and healthy meals.  The older ones were not impressed and have been moaning at me ever since.  Even more reason to be a mean mum and offer them vegetables.

After helping me set the food out, Gorgeous seemed to want to hang around and help himself.  He was adamant that he was only staying for the food, but I know that he is a big baby at heart and loves anything fun.

He did seem to help himself to most of the mini cookies though:

The Babies loved the indoor picnic and Darling was adamant we could not pack up while there was any food left.  I had to clear one tray and then distract them while I cleared the other and then convince them to get ready for bed.  I didn’t promise any more midnight feasts if they went to sleep, but will certainly find more reasons to treat them to one.

Chronicles of a Little Tornado - Volume 2

My youngest is a handful at the best off times, but recently Baby seems to have gotten more bolshy, more rebellious and even a bit meaner.  I wonder if it is the result of being the youngest and having to fight to hold her own.  Or perhaps she just inherited some of the spite that seems to run in my family.  Either way, she manages to keep all of us busy.  

Currently her busy schedule includes:

Refusing to sit the whole way through any single meal
Turning every room she walks through upside down
Demanding to help with the cooking and trying to climb on things to get to the kitchen counter (I am terrified of her getting near to the cooker)
Insisting on helping roll out chapatti's and rolling them hard enough to make them stick to the worktop
Pestering her nan for sweets as soon as she sees her
Accusing her brother of having smelly feet
Spilling every other cup of water she gets her hand on
Refusing completely to put away her toys 
Switching my laptop of while I am working on it
Opening the taps in the bathroom and getting her sleeves wet and knocking the loo roll and towels off of their place (every single time she goes in there!)
Jumping off everything.

The older kids have complained that they seem to be picking up after her numerous times per day, so in the end we confiscated most of her toys and put them in a black bag while she thinks about changing her ways.

The kids have named her Ramona the Pest after the book because of her hair style and all of her mischief and she seems to like the name.

The girl is lucky she has those big, innocent eyes and I have a soft spot for fierce girls, or she would be spending a lot more time on the thinking chair (our kitchen chair).

The good news is, she finally made a friend after a whole term on playing alone at nursery.  She is a bit of an introvert and likes to be left alone to explore (and wreak havoc) for stretches of time. Happily this friend is actually real and Baby even knows her name.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Product Review: Modestrove Mystery Box

I have always liked the idea of treats coming through the post, whether an unexpected gift or a subscription box (like the cosmetic ones that are popular right now).  So when Modestrove asked if I would like to try one of their Mystery Boxes, I jumped at the chance.

It all seems rather glamorous, something which I don't feel at all.  Having to do wudhu regularly limits how much make-up I can wear and spending time running from school, to work to kitchen means practical shoes and clothing for me.

I received the box through the post within a day or two and it came well packaged.

The Modestrove Mystery Boxes all come in this sturdy pink box with the Modestrove London logo.  Little Lady had asked if she can have it to keep her things in afterwards.

I liked the details, like the wrapping paper and the greeting card in the box.

The Mystery Boxes come in £10, £30, £60, £90 and £100 versions.  The website doesn't give any hint of what is in the mystery boxes, so I was super curious to find out what could be in them.  I received the £30 version to try and this was what was inside:

Three scarves in differing textures and colours.  The scarves were a nice quality and size, the smoky taupe coloured one in the middle is my favourite as it's quite a neutral colour and will go nicely with party outfits.  The scarves are not ones that are on the Modestrove website to the moment, so these seem unique to the boxes.

The Taherah soap (normally retails at £4) looks ordinary at first glance, but is described as containing vitamins A, C & E, clay, mineral salts such as magnesium, sodium, calcium, potassium, seaweed, palm oil and sandalwood.  I haven't tried it yet, but look forward to it.  Little Man is started to get his first spots (in time for turning into a teen next month), so I may let him try this one.  The sandalwood means that the smell is not overly feminine and quite fresh. 

I am a fan of matte stay-on lip glosses, so liked the addition of this.  This colour (the Miami Rose shade which is normally £12) looks like a slightly corally pink on first look and the swatch is consistent with this, but went on a very bright pink (more like a bubble gum pink).

It was a really nice treat getting a Mystery Box through the post.  The contents of the box were not necessarily items I would have bought myself, but I enjoyed receiving them.  Perhaps a good gift idea for those that like surprises, the girl who has everything or for the gift giver who can’t decide what to give.

You can check out the Modestrove Mystery Boxes here.

Disclaimer: I received this product at no cost to me for the purpose of testing it for review. The opinions expressed here are my own and from my own honest experience of using the product.

Monday, 18 December 2017

End of a Chapter: Last Day at Work

Last week saw my last day at my job after 10 years of service.  As you can imagine I had mixed feelings.  I leave behind some wonderful people, some who I count as friends, others who I have a lot of respect or and have learned so much from and others still who I consider mentors and people who opened doors for me or believed me to be capable enough to act as advocates of a kind for me.

I leave behind ten years of knowledge and experience I built up of the organisation and the chance to be part of the story as the organisation goes through significant change.

At the same time I am grateful and excited for a new opportunity and a new job.  Often starting a new job feels like starting all over again: proving yourself to be capable, building up your knowledge, convincing people about what you can do and building new networks.  But this time feels different.  I feel like I am taking my knowledge and experience with me.  The last two years of work have been challenging ones for me, but the challenge brought exponential growth in so many areas of skill and even character – I outlasted numerous people walking out because they couldn’t handle the work environment.

So this time I don’t feel like I am starting again.  I feel like I am bringing everything I have learned and done with me so that I can build on it insh’Allah.  The only thing I will miss will be working by the London Docks and my beautiful daily walks along the waterways.  Instead I am looking forward to making new friends and finding interesting new walks.

For my last day, instead of the usual leaving drinks (because I don’t drink…), I invited people to a pot luck lunch.  I brought in samosa’s, spring rolls, kebabs and roast chicken and a lovely friend brought in lots of pizza and cake.  I had friends from across the organisation come to with me well and even some that had left come back to see me off.

I took great pleasure in writing my good bye e-mail, I cleared my desk and made sure all my work was finished or handed over and I switched on my forever out-of-office.  I wished my colleagues goodbye and promised to keep in touch, I will e-mail them on the first day of my new job and let them know they are welcome to get in touch whenever they need to.