Friday 28 August 2009

Recipe: Chicken Kebab’s

Like last year, Lubna at Kitchen Flavours is hosting the Joy From Fasting to Feasting blog event asking us for a recipe and some Ramadan reminiscences. This post constitutes my contribution. Go ahead and click on the logo below or on the sidebar if you want to join in or see any of the other recipes.

The Recipe

I tried this recipe at the suggestion of my neighbour who is an excellent cook. She tried mine and approved the variations I made so I am posting here.

I usually make lamb mince kebabs, this variation is lighter and leaner and I was surprised to find had far less smell (the smell of mince kebabs really lingers). The main variation is less onion because the meat doesn’t hold together as well as minced lamb and too much onion will make the kebabs fall apart. They are also a bit quicker to cook.

500g mince chicken breast
1 large onion – minced
4-8 green chilli’s (birds-eye or bullet or any other you prefer. Increase or decrease number of chilli’s to suit your taste.
2 heaped tablespoons gram flour
1 level tablespoon salt (adjust to suit your taste if you like)
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
1 teaspoon of garam masala
1 tablespoon of ready-made chana masala (I usually use this brand)

I usually take the onions and green chilli’s along to the butchers and ask him to put them through the mincing machine with the meat to save me time. Add the rest of the ingredients to the meat and mix with your hands.

Take portions of the mixture and roll into small bolls (approx the sixe of a golf ball), this is easier if you wet your hands with water so I keep a bowl of water nearby. Flatten the ball into a round disc. Place the discs under the grill at a medium heat and cook until golden brown, turn and cook the other side until also golden brown. Wrap in foil until you serve to prevent them from going hard.

These are great between a bap as a spicy burger, with curry and chappati or nan bread, in a sandwich or on their own with tomato ketchup or chutney. I cooked half of the batch and froze the other half in the freezer for another day.

The Reminiscing

Thinking about the reminiscing part of this challenge just made me laugh. I can remember when I was little my parents would feed us early and send us to bed to get some peace during iftar. We then spent all evening sitting on the stairs trying to find ways to come downstairs and eat all the nice things everyone else was having. I am now having to deal with the same from my children.

As a teenager I remember coming downstairs at iftar time and seeing everyone come down one by one with the most miserable looks on their face. Kooky Little Sister was the worst for this as she has had a problem getting out of bed before 1pm since she was in nursery school. I remember thinking I want to give them all a slap.

As young adults, before I married, my mum’s samosa’s and lamb kebab’s were absolutely amazing. No matter how many you ate, you still felt you didn’t get enough. One year mum got fed up and decided she wouldn’t spend lots of time making samosa’s for Ramadan. She used the excuse that there is never enough space in the freezer. There was no way we were having this, so I and Long-Suffering Sister went out and bought her a chest freezer to keep in the cellar. She made us the samosa’s.

Since then, Ramadan in my home has been about keeping it simple and preparing food in bulk and freezing before Ramadan so that we can focus on prayer during the month. Most year I make Ramadan baskets for family and friends, although I haven’t got round to it this year (will see). My other favourite thing to do is to invite people for iftar and Little Man is harassing me at the moment to invite guests round although these affairs are usually a mad rush by the time the fast is due to open no matter how much prep I have done before. I also love being invited to iftar’s and trying out the lovely food that other people make.

I hope to create lots of positive associations and good memories of Ramadan for my children and also some good traditions for them to take into adult life for them insh’Allah, I think the best way to do this is to go back to what the Prophet (PBUH) and his Companions (RA) use to do during this amazing month and find ways to incorporate this into our lives Insh’Allah.

A Moment of Bliss

To me the best moments of happiness and joy are the ones which are least expected. Every now and again amongst the chaos and daily distractions you suddenly find yourself in a moment of bliss. Like this evening.

Some food in my stomach after a long day of fasting, standing on my prayer mat, peace and quite as the children head downstairs, the rain tapping away on my window. Maybe it was the fact that it was one of those rare occassions when I could pray in peace. Maybe it was the fact that whenever I hear rain on my window, it touches my soul. It was a nice moment to savour anyhow.

My dream home (image source)

Wednesday 26 August 2009

30 days for 30 years

I turn 30 this month which is really no big deal for me, but I have been promising myself for a long time that 30 would be my cut-off point for failing to take proper care of myself. I look at my mum and mother-in-law in their 50’s with their health issues and although no-one is promised tomorrow, if I do get to live a long time, I want to look and feel good for as long as possible.

With this in mind, I have decided to take 30 steps or make changes which will help me in the long-term.

1. Do an iman check. My best friend recently told me about a question and answer session she had watched on the Islam Channel with a scholar called Abu Hanifah. The caller-in asked about what she could do to improve her iman and he suggested that as our iman fluctuates during our lifetime, we should look back to the time when we were strongest in our iman and take note of what we were doing at the time. Praying extra nafl prayers? Taking classes? Attending lectures? Make a checklist and then add some new things to it. Start working on them.

2. Improve my Diet – The one thing I promised myself is that I would be more conscious of what I eat. Not eat till I am stuffed and eat less junk-food. This is going to be the hardest for me as I love my food – pizza’s, burgers and naan kebabs being at the top of that list. I hope to drink more water, eat more fruit and veg and more raw food and have smaller meals which leave me not too full, but more alert and awake insh’Allah.

3. Start using miswak. I keep meaning to, but never get round to it. This is the tooth stick which the beloved Prophet (PBUH) used all the time. I used this when on hajj and I was shocked that it was more effective than powerful antibiotics at clearing the phlegm in my throat when I caught a nasty bug out there. It also has numerous other benefits, the biggest one being that it is sunnah.

4. Order some bee propolis supplements. Over the years I have tried multi-vitamins and royal jelly for my skin. But the one thing that helped me to get from 6.30am to 12pm each day without feeling shattered was Bee Propolis which I used after I developed problems with my teeth and eyes after I had my son (It is a natural antiseptic). I can no longer find the veggie brand I used, so have sourced this one. It’s not cheap, but really did me a lot of good.

5. Learn some Surahs. I keep telling myself I will, but haven’t. Well it’s about time I got started with the short ones at the end of the Quran insh’Allah.

6. Learn some masnoon dua’s or prayers. I learnt lots of these when my kids were small and then tailed off. Fashionista says she is buying a laminating machine, so insh’Allah, I will create some pretty dua cards on the computer and print and laminate and stick them up at relevant places round the house. The mirror one on the mirror, the sleep one above my bed and so on.

7. Better skincare. I have found a toner I like (Clarin’s), but was yet to find a moisturiser I could agree with. I wanted something natural as I found that although my skin is the opposite of sensitive alhamdulillah, many creams still sting or make it feel uncomfortable. I am hoping some research on one of my fave sites, Earth Clinic, will help me find something I like.

8. Inspire Myself. I have been longing to make myself an inspiration board. Well I have the board, now I need to put together the images and words to inspire me and put it where I work. I will take a pic when it’s all done and post insh’Allah if it turns out half decent.

9. Refuse to feel guilty about “me time”. I’m old enough now that I shouldn’t care what people think. I would not be doing my children any favours by fretting every minute about how much Quran they are learning or how much maths or English lessons they are getting through and what I could be teaching them right now instead of doing my own thing. In my experience kids like to be left alone to do their own thing for a bit, and I am an much more positive and attentive mother when I have been left alone for a bit to do my thing.

10. Lose a little weight. I have always told myself I am fine as I am at the same time as being convinced I will fit into pre-motherhood that size 8 dress again. I am fine as I am, but it’s good to be healthy and to be honest with myself I would like to look slimmer. So I will be pestering my husband (whose pec’s incidentally seem to have slipped from his arms to his belly since the time we married – and you can’t even blame it on my hit-and-miss cooking) to go walking daily.

11. Learn to Say NO. Now that I am old enough to know my mind and know better to not care what people think, I have to learn to say NO to things I don’t agree with, whether that is removing my hijab, wearing something I don’t like, eating somewhere I don’t want to go, or doing something that I am not intesrested in (does housework count?). I have always kow-towed to others and let others have first choice over me because I didn’t want to offend anyone or look greedy or because I want people to like me. So now I will still let others have first choice/say, but because I want to not because I feel obliged to. So not LEARN to say no, have the GUTS to say no insh’Allah. This leads to:

12. Have the guts to be honest. I know I don’t need to please anyone but Allah (SWT) insh’Allah, but if I think what I say will hurt someone, it kills me to say it. I will either avoid the topic or stall. I also hate confrontation, so again, I keep schtum when I should say something. As a fully-paid up member of the supposedly grown-woman club, I will try to have the guts to be honest and assert myself where necessary insh’Allah.

13. Take stock of my finances. Despite my best efforts, I never did get into the habit of household budgeting or meal-planning or various other money-saving routines. I have never worried too much about saving and I always tell myself, don’t worry, you’ll get paid next month. So I think it’s about time I grew up with regards to my finances. I will be doing a basic checklist to ensure I don’t have any outstanding debts and can think of ways to save. I will also be scanning my bank statements to see where I am being thoughtless with my spending. Personal Finances Checklist and monthly household budget worksheet

14. Take charge of my household routine. Because I (still!) work full-time (and because I am a bit lazy), I often lag behind on household chores and everything I do in the evening is undone the following day by the kids. With the intention of taking charge and with the yearning for a clean, neat home, I am putting together a household organiser where I can store my daily chore routine, weekly menu, kids appointments and routines and to-do lists. The question is whether I can stick to the planners and get some control over things.

15. De-clutter my home. This is harder to do with children but not impossible. I am realising more and more than we accumulate way more than we need and then kill ourselves trying to contain and take care of it all. We also hold onto things we no longer need because of our sentimental attachments to them (“one day I will be a size eight again and those jeans will fit”, “my mum bought me that frame on my anniversary”). Insh’Allah I will try my utmost to clear the house as far as possible and donate, give away, recycle or sell what I don’t use or need – one room or cupboard at a time.

16. Increase my knowledge of Islam. I am desperate to attend tajweed (Quran pronunciation) classes, study circles or lectures but this never seems to happen anymore. I’m going to make the intention and see if there is one I can go to on weekends where I can take the kids with me or Little Lady at least.

17. Read more Islamic books. I love to read, but I am very aware of the pile of books on my bedside table of an Islamic nature which are half-finished and have been neglected for various works of fiction. Isnsh’Allah this Ramadan I hope to have a go at attacking some of the seerah’s (biography’s of our beloved Prophet Muhammad) and books of knowledge and giving my iman a boost in the process.

18. Let go. During my early twenties I was ambitious and very competitive. I had to be the best dressed, progress the fastest and achieve the most. As the decade wore on and I married, had children and the role of faith became more important in my life I have found that my priorities have shifted. I’ve come to realise that we aren't what we do and we sometimes just need to be and accept how we are, that our value doesn't lie in our qualifications or job, but is innate regardless of what we do.

19. Have more fun as a mother. I drive myself crazy trying to get everyone fed, bathed and in bed on time, making sure the kids are keeping up with Quran lessons (and failing miserably on occasion) and homework. As time goes by I find myself shouting at them less, finding it easier not to smack them (I am losing the desire to respond to irritation this way) and giving them a bit more space to make small choices for themselves (although the result of this in the outfits Little Lady chooses for herself are questionable.

20. Learn more Sunaan. Insh’Allah it would be good to learn more of the sunnah of our Prophet (PBUH); the things he did and the way he lived and implement them in my life.

21. Review my relationship with my parents. I have gone through phases of being very close with parents and periods if being far less so. Right now I feel like as I grow, my relationship with them does too. I have a renewed desire to be on the best possible terms with them and make sure I do all I can to take good care of them. This is a route to Paradise insh’Allah and hopefully my children will learn how to treat me one day.

22. Learn to cook. Even if it kills me. I’m not a horrendous cook, I’m just not a great or very adventurous one. My in-laws are very much the type of people who place a woman’s value by what she looks like or how well she can cook. This upset me for a long time and made me feel inadequate and resistant to learning anything new. But it’s about time I got over caring what anyone thinks. After all, I like food, and I like feeding people. I like the thought of my guests enjoying my food and I like the thought of me in the kitchen effortlessly rustling up gourmet treats. Okay, so that’s getting ahead of myself. But I will learn to cook well insh’Allah. A site that has helped me quite a bit has been Fauzia’s Pakistani Recipes. Anyone with any other suggestions, please do let me know.

23. Accept. As I grow older (and a bit wider), I need to accept that I will never look like the slim teenager I was, even if I am still 18 in my head. I will never have the flawless face, the perfect figure or be any taller. In fact I will probably get wider, wrinklier and darker (I’m not sitting in the house to keep pale for anyone!). I have to accept that it is okay to be this way. It is okay to look like you have children when you have had them and not feel pressured to look like a perfect (airbrushed) model. The extra space in your lap is needed to fit all your children in anyway. I have to accept that my face will age (although it was flattering when a Roma knocked on the door looking for my husband the other day and asked where my dad was – although he would have pitched a fit if he heard!). If I live a good and interesting life and I am ready with a smile for everyone, then insh’Allah I hope to age well anyway.

24. Read a tafsir (commentary) of the Quran. Insh’Allah I am planning to get hold of some Quran tapes with translation in Urdu and English and a commentary on the Quran to work through this Ramadan. I should have done this a long time ago, but haven’t got round to it. That’s one good thing about this blog, if you announce something to the whole world, you can’t then sneak your way out of doing it.

25. Improve my salah (daily prayers). This is something I have struggled with for a long time. I mentioned this on my blog and some sisters gave me some very good advice. I also noticed at times my concentration has been better than others. I need to take the time to understand what I am praying, reflect on it and take my time with the cations of the prayer. I need to stop a moment and think about the enormity of what I am about to do and the greatness of the One I am about to stand before in prayer. I also notice that I feel hurried because I have other things to do, so I have to remember my purpose on this earth (to glorify Allah (SWT)) and think about how important what I am about to do is compared to all of the small tasks I find myself. Also I need to study and gain knowledge about salah insh’Allah.

26. Study further. I have wanted to study further for a long time. I didn’t want to take away more time from my children though. So in the coming year I want to clarify what I want and where I want to go, although I might wait until my children are all at school before I apply anywhere.

27. Pick up some new skills. I want to learn more about policy work, diversity work and project management. I am lucky that my current job is in this area and is helping me to gain some of these skills and I am looking towards arranging some training. I also want to get better at doing henna. I’ve gotten lazy at practising on Little Lady, so will step this up (I am sure to her delight). My office are offering free henna courses at the local college but during work hours, so need to find a way to benefit from these if possible. Otherwise private lessons from a sister are an option.

28. Work part-time. I’ve worked part-time for ten years through three pregnancies and now with three kids. I am really very keen to go part-time. I’ve been hinting at hubby he should get richer. I’m also angling for promotion. Insh’Allah at some point in the coming year I would like to start discussing this with my employers and family. Even one day less would be a nice.

29. Be Grateful. After being ill earlier this year and suffering the most horrendous nausea which left me unable to do much, I am truly grateful to Allah (SWT) for giving me my health back. I can eat and enjoy my food again, I can get things done, I can take care of my children again. Insh’Allah I hope I remember this every day and am able to show gratitude to Allah (SWT) for all he has given me.

30. Remain young at heart. Just because my age and responsibilities have increased, that doesn’t mean that I have to grow up. At all thank you very much. I learned this from my dad-in-law who is 65 but still thinks he is 21. He is still up for every new trip, adventure and experience whether his body can handle it or not. He made me realise that youth is not about an age but about a particular attitude.

Tuesday 25 August 2009

New Baby!

I got home from work yesterday to receive the good news that my newest sister-in-law (who's wedding we attended last summer in Pakistan) has just given birth to a beautiful baby boy. Mother and baby are both well and the debate over baby names has begun already. Muhammad, Ali and Ibrahim are all contenders at the moment, although my father-in-law is gunning for Saad.

I intend to send the card above to her with lots of baby stuff, which I am going crazy over, when my mother-in-law goes back to Pakistan just before Eid.

Book Review: Sebastian Faulks - Birdsong

Looking at the cover, I recognised the author’s name, but could not recollect from where. Despite the slightly dry looking cover, I decided to go on all the plaudits on the cover and back of the book and give it a try.

This book is about the First World War from the point of view of the men in the trenches. The book begins with Stephen, a young Englishman, in France on a business trip in 1910, staying at the house of a wealthy factory owner. Stephen falls in love with the beautiful young wife of his host, Isabelle and a passionate affair is followed by a very intense love-story. The action then jumps to the trenches of the Somme in 1914 with Stephen seeing action as an Officer in the British army and surrounded by a varied cast of Englishman from the innocent Officer Wier to the jack-the-lad “sewer-rat” tunneller, Jack Firebrace.

The book is a real no holds-barred account of the First World War. The stench of the trenches, the claustrophobia of the tunnels, the bodies infested with lice, the horrendous injuries and suffering described in detail; this book is not for the faint hearted or for those who have a weak stomach. What stood out the most though was the author’s effectiveness in really showing the futility of the carnage. Faulk’s describes the men “going over the top” as they walk to their deaths, waves of young men, one after another falling under gunfire on no-man’s land for no gain or benefit to anyone. He also shows very well, the disillusionment of the soldiers and their disappointment at their families back home, who are unable to understand what they have suffered and often don’t want to know.

The story jumps between the trenches of 1914-18 and London in the 1970’s where a young woman, Elizabeth, is struggling to balance modern life at the same time as trying to translate the diaries of her late grandfather, Stephen. One thing that confused me was the way that there is a love story that seems to conclude and then suddenly a war novel begins. I wondered why Faulk’s had almost put two novels in one book. Was this to provide a back story and human face to Stephen? Or was this something to be picked up again later? Eventually it all becomes clear and the significance of the love story becomes apparent. I also found that whilst I was very much caught up in the events of 1910 and 1914-18, the parts of the novel set in the 1970’s were not as engrossing and I longed to go back to Stephen’s story with the exception of Elizabeth’s poignant meeting with the old soldier.

Even so, so many passages of the book were heart-rending:

"I do not know what I have done to live in this existence.
I do not know what any of us did to tilt the wold into this unnatural orbit. We came here only for a few months.
No child or future generation will ever know what this was like. They will never understand.
When it is over we will go quietly amongst the living. We will not tell them.
We will talk and sleep and go about our business like human beings.
We will seal what we have seen in the silence of our hearts and no words will reach us." p.422

The final scene of the war between Stephen and the German Officer left me with tears in my eyes and the accounts of what happened to soldiers after the war were very painful to read. On the back of the book a few of the reviewers say that they finished the book and wanted to go back to the start again. I wasn’t convinced, but at the end of the book, I wanted to do the same.

Saturday 22 August 2009

Variation On A Theme: Summer Blooms and Birds

Chilli's and Sweets

I was cynical when Little Man came in to tell me he had found chilli's in the garden, because the baby had trampled most of the plants and I had given up on the peppers and chilli's. So I was pleasantly surprised when I followed him out and found a handful of chilli's growing and some more just beginning to form. These will be useful in just about every savoury dish we make.

The recent clearout of my kitchen cupboards led to the discovery of a packet of dried milk with a date of February 2009. I suspected that the milk might still be useable, so decided to make barfi (Indian sweet a bit like soft milky fudge) as there was a recipe on the back of the packet. It took ages and the end result looked a bit darker than barfi usually does. I haven't tasted it yet, but if it's any good I might try some other variations.

Friday 21 August 2009

Ramadan Kareem, Happy Ramadan, Ramadan Mubarak

Iman Check

A while back I was talking with my best friend about improving my iman (faith) and mash’Allah she gave me a really good suggestion. She told me about a question and answer session she had watched on the Islam Channel with a scholar called Abu Hanifah. The caller-in asked about what she could do to improve her iman and what he suggested was that our iman fluctuates during our lifetime, so what we should do is to look back to the time when we were strongest in our iman and take note of what we were doing at the time. This might have been praying extra nawafil prayers, taking tajweed (Quran pronunciation) classes, attending lectures or surrounding yourself with pious people.

The scholar suggested making a checklist of all of the things you were doing and then adding some new things to it. Then you just start working on them.

I did pick up on some things – I went to tajweed classes when I was on maternity leave with Little Man. I attended study circles once a week in the past, I had some very good Muslimah’s around me that were strong in their faith, fearless in the hijab and who were working very hard to make sure Islam was central to their children’s lives. I managed to learn a few prayers at their encouragement and I rememeber at the time, nothing was more important in everything I did than Islam. My faith is still central to who I am and everything I do, but I can see that I have allowed myself to become distracted by so many other things. Alhamdulillah, I feel like I am slowly journeying back towards making faith the centre point of my life again in a way I can feel happy with. Insh’Allah I hope to ask myself with each thing I do: “Is this what would please Allah SWT.”

I recently asked my sisters out there for advice and for ideas regarding what works for them and some of what they said really helped me. I hope my sisters out there can help and encourage me in this journey insh’Allah.

“It is He Who sent down tranquility into the hearts of the Believers (mu’minoon), that they may add faith (iman) to their faith; for to Allah belong the Forces of the heavens and the earth; and Allah is Full of Knowledge and Wisdom (Quran 48:4).

Book Review: Stephanie Meyer – Breaking Dawn

WARNING – May contain spoilers for the previous books in the Twilight series for those who have not read them.

I read and reviewed the first three books in the Twilight series earlier with varying degrees of approval and enjoyment.

By the time I had gotten to the fourth and final instalment, not only was I not expecting very much, but I only wanted to read the books to find out how things ended and sort of get it over and done with.

Bella and Edward are now married and the question now is whether she will remain human or become a vampire. The story takes a rather odd twists which moves along at a fast pace. All of the old characters are there and many of those mentioned in the previous books appear as their stories are explained. Again Bella and Edward and the pack of werewolves that the vampires have a love-hate relationship with, have to face down seemingly-invincible enemies.

I almost didn’t bother writing this review. The book was that bad. The writing was bad and the tension that hooked the reader in the first book and fizzled out in the second and third book was pretty much completely gone from this last instalment. The story moved along well enough and there is a kind of clarification and closure in the last part, but like a children’s book it all ends too well with all of the loose ends tied up (even many children’s books don’t end that neatly any more)

In the end, I put it down with a slight feeling of having wasted my time and disappointed that Edward and Bella’s love story lost its sparkle.

Thursday 20 August 2009

Spontaneous Do

After the last few days I had really hoped for a quiet evening, so after getting dinner on the hob (courgette with chana daal) I settled down to do some work on my blog and barely switched the computer on when I got a phone call. It was my friend: "Can you come round to my party, sorry it's short notice, but we just decided to throw one..."
Well, I never so no to a party, so I grabbed the kids in from the garden, got them dressed in something less muddy and without food stains down my front and found myself something to wear.

I had to get hold of my better half and ask him to take us and he was gracious enough to get back from getting his new van serviced, get us all in the car, stop at the supermarket to pick up a gift and a cake and head to our friends house.

Little Lady got to dress up (I have never met a child who loves to pose so much):

The Mitchell Brothers were out in force:

The food was lovely (and I didn't have to cook it):

It was nice to meet some new sisters, including a mother of two teenage girls who just made everyone laugh, she was a lovely example for me in how young at heart and fun she was mash'Allah.

We finally left at 9.30pm with me heading home to get the fridge cleared out and the bins emptied in time for the morning and the husband heading out to do a removal job.


Oh dear, I can’t stop yawning and shifting about in my seat as I type this, to shake off the aches.

I had planned to take it easy on Tuesday evening, but got home from work to find nothing for dinner and a guest waiting for me. I grabbed Little Man and rushed back out to grab something to cook and something for the guest. I made the big mistake of putting lamb on to cook, which takes ages (from now on lamb is only ever for weekends!). I finally got to sit down and hubby suggested we take the kids to the park, which I felt bad about saying no so tagged along, to keep my daughter company on the swings of course (I got off when the queue of kids started to look mean).

On Wednesday I again planned to get some rest. I came home to find my sweetheart of a husband had made-over my kitchen for me. He told me to leave the clean-up for him to do later and rushed off to do a job. Of course my mother-in-law rushed to clear up the mess and start scrubbing everything in sight, so I had to join in for the next four hours, then put everything back in the kitchen before getting everyone’s dinner ready

So today, I am going to go home from work with the intention of doing lots of cooking and housework and knackering myself out – I might just get some rest that way.

Surprise Make-over

I often have this little pipe dream, that I go to work one day and my family invite over one of those TV programmes that do up your house or garden wonderfully, you then come home and get a big surprise. As lovely as he is, I would never have thought my husband would attempt anything like that.

Yesterday I got home from work and realised the kitchen was a different colour. On closer inspection I found my husband had rounded up his little brother and the two of them painted my kitchen (from a lurid apple green to a nice stone colour), painted the ceiling and the window frames and best of all fitted me a nice new cooker!! A big silver one, with the big inside grill I wanted and one where the ignition button’s work (so good bye fire-lighters…for now anyway).

A few weeks ago, my mum had come over for a barbeque and had commented on the state of my kitchen, I’d been feeling a little shame-faced since then. I did mention this to my husband and Little Man piped up a few days ago that “Daddy said he’s going to get a new kitchen”, which made me smile. We also all get the cleaning bug at the beginning of Ramadan, so that we all scrub the house from top to bottom and fix or replace anything that needs changing in time for Eid.

I still didn’t think I’d be surprised like this though. I’m over the moon and can’t wait to start cooking up all sorts of new things which I have promised myself to try on the weekend insh’Allah

A picture of the kitchen after the make-over. I wish I had a before picture, but maybe it's not a great idea to show the whole world how grotty your kitchen is (note the hot-pot in the corner ready and waiting for Ramadan). The white package on top of the microwave id powdered milk I unearthed almost past it's sell-by date. I wanted to have a go at making Indian sweets this weekend.

The inside of my cupboards after I cleared them out and organised them. They have never looked so empty. The next task is to find little boxes to decant all the little bags tied up with rubber bands (what my mum calls pandooklian - cool word huh?).

Book Review: Mukhtar Mai – In The Name of Honour

I tend to avoid the “Not In My Name/Death Of A Princess” type books which are generally about women who have been mistreated horribly by Muslim men, mainly for two reasons. The first is because it annoys the hell out of me when people read this kind of book and apply the nastiness of the situation to the 1. billion Muslims around the world without any further thought into the matter. The second is that many of the books feel sensationalist and have been written by people outside of the culture and faith, with little understanding or ability to separate these two things.

This book caught my intention because firstly it was supposed to be ghost-written for Mai herself and secondly because she is Pakistani and attitudes towards her really amazed me. When I picked up this book, the seller handed me a few more of the “Muslim woman in peril” literature which I politely declined.

This is a short and easy to read book which I got through in two days. The subject matter however, is far from easy reading. Mukhtar Mai came to prominence in Pakistan when she reported to the police that she had been raped on the orders of a village council to avenge her 11-year old brothers’ alleged rape of one of the council members’ sister.

On suffering this horrendous crime, she describes going through the motions of considering suicide and then finding herself unable to function at all. This gives way to such a rage that she goes against the expectations of her family, village and aggressors and reports the crime to the police.

What follows is obstruction from the police who, aware that she is illiterate attempt to make her sign a false statement and threats from the family. All of this changes when the national and international media take up Mukhtar Mai’s story. The rest of the book describes her terror and hope as she takes the matter to the courts and the support she is given by many in her country as well as accusations that she is a traitor, is blackening the country’s name and wanted to be raped to make money out of the story!!! (which says a lot about some nasty little people’s mentalities).

Mukhtar Mai comes across as humble, but determined in this book. She has dictated her story to a French journalist who then assisted her in getting the book published and written. There were a few occasions when I wondered if these were really her words and thoughts, but could not be sure. I was also intrigued by another person who is mentioned often in the book. This is Salma, the sister of the rapist’s who Mukhtar Mai’s brother is alleged to have raped. Mukhtar Mai very clearly has a great deal of animosity against her and again and again mentions her loose morals and dubious sexual history. This is despite her assertion that women are often kept in control by threat of being slandered. This small element stuck out for me every time it was mentioned.

Something else that struck me was how much of this I did not recognise. The events take place in the poorer south of Punjab. My family is from the more affluent northern part of Punjab, and whilst I have no doubts over the truth of the story, what happened to Mukhtar Mai under order of the village council, or “panchayat” as we call it would be unthinkable in that region.

Overall this is the account of a horrible event, told simply and sparely, without voyeuristic details and with a specific intention to bring about change and improvement in the lives of Pakistani women and children.

Sunday 16 August 2009

Variation On A Theme: Sweet Treats

Like my previous fruit-themed cards this set of cards was made with the DCVW Sweet paperstack. I like very much the idea of food-themed cards and have used the papers as sparingly as possible, so hopefully there will be lots more.

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

I had planned to do my six loads of laundry and a big cook Saturday morning and then spend the weekend lazing around and maybe making some cards. I wish. My husband casually informed me that we had guests that evening as he was on his way out to a job. So Saturday was spent cooking, more cooking, acting like making an out-of-the-packet custard trifle was rocket science, cleaning, grocery shopping and picking up a gift for our guests. I was hoping that there would be enough food for Sunday, but the pots were almost cleared out.

Sunday morning we headed to Dunton boot fair, where I didn't find much except two books I really like: Ingrid Bacci's "The Art of Effortless Living" and Dean Koontz's "Lightning" which I can't wait to re-read and see if it is as good as I remember and a kids torch for Little Man to pester his gran with (he likes to sleep in her bed).

I usually stash food in the car for the journey home as we are all starving. I got back to the car to find that my brother-in-laws had cleared the lot between them. I was feeling rather petty by the time we got home for lunch, so I warmed up the last of the food from the night before, filled my plate and the kids and left the brother-in-laws looking increduously at what was left. I should have felt bad. This isn't my usual habit as I make sure everyone else has had their share first, which is something I learnt from my mum. But in this case I didn't feel guilty at all.

In the afternoon we took the kids to a local park where a "Diversity Day" was taking place, which basically meant a few stalls, a few rides and a very bad DJ irritating us from the other side of the field. Still it doesn't take much to please us. Little Lady and Gorgeous had a blast on the bouncy castle:

Little Man insisted he wanted to go on the plane ride instead, not realising that it goes up in the air for a while. As soon as he got off, he burst into tears.

Of course that was rectified with some ice-cream for the kids and some hot chips for the adults.

We got home and everyone crashed for a nap, leaving me free to play around with my card-making materials. With perfect timing Fashionista Sister turned up to keep me company with her chatter (she has a very dark streak in her which I love). She took Little Lady (and her holiday homework) home with her for the evening (any bets whther she comes back home tonight or sweet talks her nan into staying over?).

I'm off now, to the kitchen AGAIN, to make some dinner but don't mind so much this time. I meet even make the boys a decent meal ;)

Variation On A Theme: Feeling Fruity

I managed to get my hands on a DCWV brand paperstack called Sweet which I just fell in love with. These are the cards I made with the fruity papers from the stack. I loved the bright colours and I loved that I could use lost of my favourite sour shade of lime green to go with them.

Thursday 13 August 2009

My Little Craft Corner

Sister Eternal Peace at too many thoughts asked me how I stored my craft items.

At the moment they are sitting in my bedroom blocking up the space in front of the window and making the place look messy. My husband brought this little bureau back from one of his jobs (my mother-in-law couldn't figure out what it was so I told her it was a big bread bin).

At the top, I have placed small plastic tubs which split wedding card stuff, baby card stuff, natural looking materials (weird split I know), half-made cards and paper-stacks. Inside are large sheets of card or paper and small boxes of gems and buttons. The bag at the front is full of the lovely ribbons iMuslimah sent me from the USA. I leave all of my half-finished bits inside and just pull the lid of the bureau down to keep the kids attention from falling on them.

Underneath I have an old wooden magazine rack (50p at a boot fair) to store my ideas journal and oversized card and paper.

The bureau is too small to sit at as I get a sore back hunched forward over it, so I spread my stuff all on the floor in front of it and work sitting on the floor. The blue tub has all of my stamps and inkpads and the clear box below has finished packaged cards.

On top of Little Man's little chest of draws is stashed the rest of my stuff. The box with the yellow lid houses all of my blank cards. The box with the blue handle beneath that is full of card toppers and stickers. Underneath that is my little box of gems which I am always looking for additions to. The box beneath that has my punches and my stash of ribbons.

The wicker basket has my finished cards which are waiting to be photographed before they are packed up. My "Handmade by Umm Salihah" labels to stick on the back and cello bags to pack the cards in are stored in the same basket. The mini chest below has all my small bits, punched shapes, wire shapes and any randon bits and pieces, the middle draw holds die-cut shapes and frames and the bottom draw has adhesive ribbon, peel-off sentiments (are you guys still following me with all the crafting jargon?) and rub-ons.

The blue mini chest came from another one of my husbands jobs. I have used it to store my loose paper and card with blues and greens in the top, red's, yellows and browns/naturals in the next draw, pinks and purples in the one below and printed papers in the bottom draw (did I ever mention I have a horrendous neat-freak streak? Girl Who Walks In The Rain has a card that describes the problem perfectly).

Of course it is nothing like my dream craft space (see below) but it is enough for me now.

picture source

Keeping The Kids Busy: Mini Garden Party

My better half had to tak the mother-in-law to hospital today, so all three of the kids were stuck inside all day. After work, I asked them to help me tidy up and we had a short Quran lesson after which I thought I would treat them to a garden party.

After the last post about healthy eating, this feels a bit hypocritical, but I went for the short cuts this afternoon, i.e. open the packet and pour out.

(Little Lady giving the neighbours girl a mean look after they have just had a fight, of coure the cake made it all better)

The boys were celebrating new hairstyles after the baby managed to get his hands on some scissors and cut a chunk out of the front of Little Man's hair. I suppose it's a good style for summer.

Please make dua for my mother-in-law who is having trouble controlling her blood presure but is back home now and resting.