Thursday 30 July 2009

Cards: Butterflies and Blossoms

Blessings in The Long Days of Fasting

I was asked my opinion this week about something I had never come across before. A very bright sister I have a lot of affection and respect for was asked by a number of people about what she would be doing about the fact that the fasts this year would last from approximately 2am to 10am. People were suggesting that the hours be fixed for ease. She wondered if I had heard people talking about this and what opinions were becoming apparent.

I was entirely stumped. I had heard about nothing like this. In England we have quite dramatic differences in the length of the day between summer and winter. From 8am to 4pm in winter and from 4am to 10pm in the summer. When I was a little girl I remember the fasts opened after my bedtime and it was very much an accepted fact for me that those long fasts would come round again as an adult. I felt that we were very lucky that we got the short winter fasts during our formative years, so that we could handle better the longer fasts of summer.

Our weather is also quite mild, mixing sunny days (maxing at 30C) with rain showers. When I think of my family in Pakistan fasting in temperatures of up to 45C and not being able to drink water, it puts the whole issue into a different perspective.

I believe that when we fast to please Allah (SWT), he makes it bearable for us. I am thinking of fasting in Ramadan and how easy it is and then how hard it is after Ramadan. I don't think He asks of us more than we can bear. I’m going to aim to do the long hours and with the relish and pleasure that self-denial brings in this time of over-consumption we live in (and if I lose my post-baby fat in the process, I won’t complain at all).

Sunday 26 July 2009

Graduation Barbeque

It probably sounds a bit pathetic, but neither my family, nor my in-laws, nor my parents family have ever had a barbeque before, so we thought we would start a tradition. Also, noticing the fun we seem to have at our ladies only Eid parties, my husband has been threatening for ages to have a barbeque for the boys.

So I thought it would be nice to celebrate my brother-in-laws graduation from his MBA course and decided to throw a barbeque. I reminded my husband last week to buy a barbeque, then again six days ago, then again fice days get the picture. This afternoon he turned up with one at last, just when I thought I'd have to put everything on the cooker grill.

I marinated the lamb chops (recipe to follow) and chicken tikka pieces (using this recipe) the (mid)night before, and also prepared the mince for seekh kebabs (using the same recipe as for these).

The bunting I made earlier in the week came in useful again.

Neither I nor my husband were expecting the food to turn out that well. It was my first attempt at many of the things and also we assumed this whole barbeque thing would take practice (some burnt, some raw in the middle). Surprisingly though, everything tasted good.

Lamb Chops

This was the first time I had tried making naan (I used this recipe), and the turned out okay.

Ended up with a good meal overall, which we shared with my parents and sisters.

I tried to order a fresh cream cake and left it too late, so cheated by buying a tray bake cake and writing on it with icing pens.

Mum saved the day though, by turning up with a proper cake. Of course, the barbeque took a traditional English turn when it drizzled on us through most of the afternoon.

My favourite were the sweetcorn, which we left at the end, whilst we ate, to slow cook. They were delicious and I cleared up and waited for everyone to go in before sneaking back out with my sweetcorn to sit on my little bench in the rain and savour it. I managed three before my mother-in-law warned me to stop or I'd get stomach-ache.

We had great fun, I gave the kids bubbles to keep them busy and there are plenty of left-overs to take to work tomorrow. It's true though, what they say about barbeques, the woman does all the work and the man stands by the barbeque and gets all the credit

Teacher Lady's Graduation Party

We decided to throw a graduation party for fashionista yesterday. Although we have all graduated (sisters and cousins), we have tended to let the milestone pass without any fanfare. I thought it was about time this changed and we started to celebrate our acheivements together.

I found myself something nice to wear (to go with the nice olive Indian slippers I borrowed from Long-Suffering Sister about two years ago)

and headed over to my mum's, whose garden seemed the perfect place to play at parties.

The banner I made the day(s) before got put to use:

Fashionista made sure there were plenty of sweets...

...which the kids totally overdosed on:

Between us, we managed to lay out a good spread (the chickpea salad was mine):

One of Fashionista's friends brought her cakes and biscuits:

And of course there had to be cake

We had a lovely laid-back day, and the best bit was that I actually got through a whole day without doing any real cooking because freinds invited us to dinner.
My going out hijab and bling

Saturday 25 July 2009


I like the old-fashioned bunting that has made a come-back, especially the home-made fabric or paper kinds (like these, these and these), so I thought I would have a go.

I printed the letters off of the computer in colour, cut them out and glittered them with glitter pens spread out with a paintbrush.

Any idea what they spell?

I cut out triangles in different patterned cardstock t contrast with the colours of th eletters and pasted the letters down.

I strung them all onto some pale blue ribbon using UHU glue and left a length at the ends to tie.

The bunting turned out much longer than I expected, but I quite liked the end result. I plan to get lots of use out of it insh'Allah.

Friday 24 July 2009

Self-help applied to Faith

I’ve always been a big fan of self-help books since I was a teenager, and one of the key things I have learned (apart from they all like to state the obvious) is that if take any action towards our goal, no matter how small the step, it can really motivate us to get out of our mind-set of having doubts and being fearful.

Most people apply this to their career or life-goals and I had thought about this, but then came to the conclusion that the area that really needs the most work is my faith.

A long period of illness earlier in the year has meant that I had dropped the habits of reading from the Quran or of trying to read any Islamic books and have only been praying the basic fard (obligatory) prayers. I don’t think I have lost my iman (faith), in fact I feel like Allah’s (SWT) promise of ease after difficulty has been proven more than ever for me. However, I also feel that it is the nafl (non-obligatory) prayers and actions that strengthen our iman and help it to grow, perhaps because they are over and above what we have to do. I also feel like omitting these things had made a difference in other ways – forgetting to say a prayer before I leave the house or when putting the kids to bed, something I would never have done before.

With this in mind, I wanted to see what changes I could make, perhaps read a little Quran in the morning, or after esha prayer, perhaps read the nafl prayer after maghrib (evening prayer), maybe start learning some new dua’s or memorising parts of the Quran my dad taught me as a child and I have forgotten since. Looking at the matter this way has made me realise that faith isn’t something that you are either blessed with or not, but something you have to ask Allah for and work hard on.

Another suggestion I found was on this post on 100 lists which basically states that you should take a topic or problem and then lists 100 answers or solutions to it. The first thirty are supposed to be easy, the next 40 is where your subconscious mind becomes engaged and some more abstract solutions start coming through and the last thirty on the list is where the gems are supposed to be and where the possibility of a shift in perspective exists. I might just give this a go with “How Can I be a Better Muslimah” as the heading.

What suggestions can sisters out there give me to increase my iman and taqwa (god-consciousnes)?

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) related from Allah Most High that He said “… And my servant continues to draw closer to me by voluntary actions until I love him…” [Bukhari]

Thursday 23 July 2009

Teacher Lady's Graduation

I travelled with Fashionista and my mum to Guildford yesterday in Surrey to watch Fashionista graduate as a teacher. The ceremony was in Guildford Cathedral and was very, very nice.

We had to wander through Surrey University’s maze of a campus to get to the Cathedral which suddenly appeared looming over us at the top of a hill. The campus is one of the most pleasant I have seen with absolutely lovely accommodation for the students - it felt like walking through a student village.

The cathedral was rather gothic, even without a spire and the surrounding area was lush and green. The ceremony began with rather deafening and tuneless organ music which suddenly gave way to the tune of Sting’s Fields of Gold. All of the deans of the college then walked up in a column two-wide, looking as if this was no big deal and they did it all the time (probably do), except one very old, hunched-over man who walked along scowling with what looked like a sceptre in his hand.

As the deans approached I am sure the organ music switched to the Superman theme tune, Fash says she heard it too, so I am not going crazy, before going back to its mournful dirge. The Chancellor was introduced as veteran BBC reporter John Simpson (the one that was sneaking round Afghanistan in a burka ) and the nasheed artist Sami Yusuf was awarded a Doctorate of Letters which he followed by a speech. He was very shy, but his speech was very inspirational, focussing on having the courage to follow your dreams (most of the audience were English so had never heard of him before).

John Simpson handed Fashionista her degree and I totally missed the photo opportunity, but got lots of pictures of her with her friends with their mortar-boards in the air. The university put on a lovely reception after the graduation with not much to eat or drink, but a very lovely atmosphere, one of the graduates’ wives commented that it all reminded her of the film Dead Poets Society (which I have never seen), it did look very like an English wedding though with the marquee on the lawn and everyone dressed up.

By the time we got home it was seven pm (we’d left at 11am), so we were exhausted, but it was a lovely day. I loved the pomp and ceremony and formality of the whole event and the surroundings were very pretty.

Wednesday 22 July 2009

Graduation Cards

With term ending and graduations happening all over the place I thought I would make some graduation cards.

I made the scroll on the card above by rolling up some textured paper and tying a small piece of ribbon around it.

This scroll was made in the same way as above.

The paper with the lettering used in some of these cards was from a Christmas papers cardstack that I somehow ended up with.

This last one I sent to my sister-in-law in Pakistan who just graduated, studying whilst she was pregannat mash'Allah. The others will come in useful for my brother-in-law who lives with me and just completed his MBA an Fashionista Sister who is now a teacher lady mash'Allah.

Monday 20 July 2009

Dua for Illness

I have so far managed to take the news of the spreading swine flue with minimal concern, but the news stories at the moment are a bit worrying. I’m not too fussed myself because I am young and fairly healthy Alhamdulillah. I worry though, about my mum as people with respiratory problems are at higher levels of risk and she has severe asthma. I also worry because my children are so young. The most likely to come into contact with this illness are me and my sisters because we work in such busy atmospheres and because some of us use public transport. There have already been cases at my office and at Long-Suffering Sister’s workplace.

Alhamsulillah, I am reassured by the knowledge that Allah tests who he wills and keeps safe who he chooses and nothing we do will make any difference to what he has decreed. In the last few days I have been getting sent an e-mail with the following dua which I hope will be of comfort and use to others as it has been to me:

The Dua of Rasoolullah (PBUH):

اَللّهُمَّ إِنِّيْ أَعُوْذُ بِكَ مِنَ الْجُنُوْنِ وَالْجُذَامِ وَالْبَرَصِ وَسَيِّئِ الْأَسْقَامِ (رواه النسائي

'Allahumma inni aa-oothu bika minal junooni wal juthaami wal barasi wa say'y i-il asqaam.'

'O Allah I seek your refuge from insanity, mutilation, leprosy and from all serious illnesses .' (Nasai Shareef)

Samosa Factory

The oncoming beginning of Ramadan has been at the back of my mind recently and Sister Hijabi Apprentice offered a good reminder in her recent post. With this in mind I thought now would be a good time to start planning and preparing for this special month.

I try to ensure that my main focus is on improving my faith and working on my book of good deeds (insh’Allah), but food is also a focus. Planning food preparation beforehand also means that I get more time to do the things I would like to during Ramadan. One rule of thumb I have is to keep it simple – fruit, dates and a simple meal, when it is just us and something a bit more special if the in-laws are staying. This is because I can be a dictator regarding my own and my husband’s diet, but don’t feel it is fair if I decide what everyone else can eat. Guests for iftar also get the special food.

At the moment my mother-in-law and two brothers-in-law will be here for most of Ramadan, so I am trying to cook in bulk and freeze. This Sunday was spent making chicken spring rolls (I used this recipe for the filling) I did attempt one samosa, but it was very clear that nice neat little triangles weren’t going to happen (despite watching this excellent tutorial). I intend to wait until my mum makes hers (which are perfect of course) and then sit and copy her.

I will be attempting other recipes in the run-up to Ramadan and posting any that are decent. More than this I hope to find some motivation and inspiration to really improve my iman (faith) insh’Allah, get my children excited about Ramadan and make the most of this sacred month.

I can’t wait to see what other sister’s post about relating to this and would love to learn from sisters in the comments about what their goals for Ramadan will be and how they will achieve them.

Little Mischief Maker

My in-law’s have this philosophy that mischief-making in a child is a sign of intelligence. The naughtier the scrapes they get into, the brighter they are. Perhaps there is a grain of truth in this, I’m not sure.

I have been lucky in that my youngest child, Gorgeous, was a very good baby. He was the model of patience through my little dose of baby blues and mash’Allah he is a happy, cheerful little boy who loves to laugh, even when no-one is sure why, even when he’s fast asleep.

He seems to be making up for all his past patience though with a vengeance, or maybe he’s just training for his career as a daredevil? He particularly enjoys throwing himself downstairs if he sees someone coming up towards him, assuming completely that they will catch him. He scared the wits out of Fashionista Sister once, when he jumped from the top of the stairs as she was half way up. She just caught him and handed him over to me looking shocked saying “your kid is so thick!!”

His other past-times include poking his fingers into running fans despite our pleading with him not to and touching hot things like irons and the tawa (flat chapatti pan). Most kids will have a go at this at some point, but he seems not to learn and so does it again if your not watching him like a hawk. He recently hid the firelighters (for lighting the oven – our cookers ignition button doesn’t work) and refused to tell us where until the next day when we asked for them to warm his milk. He promptly opened the washing machines door and pulled them out. The same week he waited till I had to visit the loo and then stuck a firelighter into the fire under the saucepan and burnt the end off. He was copying what he thought we did and it was a lesson to me to switch everything off at the plug and then lock the kitchen doors and windows if I ever want to visit the bathroom again.

His latest little game is refusing to sleep. Although the older two children have been shipped out (and share a room with their grandmother), Gorgeous is still sleeping in our room. So I put him to bed at 8.30 and he runs off, I try again and go downstairs and can hear him running around upstairs again, climbing onto the top bunk of Little Lady’s bed and sneaking downstairs to see what I am doing. This goes on until about 11.30 when he either falls asleep on the sofa or tells me he’s tired, gets into his little bed (which he has broken the safety guard off) and asks for his blanket. Every time I try to tell him off he laughs, which just makes me melt.

I’m convinced the angels protect these little ones, otherwise we’d all fall on our heads, get up look stunned for a moment and then just toodle off as if nothing happened.

Friday 17 July 2009

Hijab Bargain – Wallis Pashmina’s

I love to spread news of a bargain and I know a lot of sisters have problems finding modest clothing and decent hijabs. So if I come across any good deals I will post about them.

I bought these pashmina’s yesterday in Wallis, they are linen mix, so good for summer and they were reduced from £18 to £5 (although the website is still showing £7). I wore the beige one today with chocolate brown abaya and pumps. The pink and blue will go to my sister-in-law in Pakistan as part of her graduation gift. (BTW – does anyone have any good ideas for graduation presents for both boys and girls?)

Thursday 16 July 2009

Baby Girl Card Request

I received a request for a baby girl card and came up with the collection below. These felt a little different to the cards I had made before and I felt happier with them.

The lady who asked for the card chose this one:

This was my favourite:

This one came in handy when we went to visit a new baby this week:

I really enjoyed trying some new arrangements and techniques. The only problem now is trying to make a little time for card-making and some space for the new table hubby has found me.