Wednesday 24 February 2010

Baby Cards for March 2010

This week I was offered the opportunity to run a card-making workshop for a few hours at a local environmental awareness event. Although I was super-excited, I decided to turn the organisers down because although I could have taken the kids with me (and there were lots of cool activities), I didn't think I could do a workshop and watch the kids. So I loved the idea and was grateful to be asked, but had to decline. I asked them to think of me in future because if my mother-in-law visits soon, I would take the whole lot of them along. (I thought it would be fun to draw up a plan of how I would run such a workshop anyway, just in case).

In the meantime, I have been enjoying creating cards again and have been asked for lots of them by colleagues. I started off with the new baby cards, because seriously, there are babies and pregnant women everywhere around me mash'Allah:

Little Lady was a bit concerned about how this one would fit into the envelope, but the spotty paper really inspired me and I went with the yellow and pink colour scheme:

Monday 22 February 2010


I had a strange kind of a day yesterday, I often feel spaced out and out of sorts when I have a lot to do and don’t break it down into chunks to stop it overwhelming me. I had a long to-do list to get the housekeeping in order, but an utter disinclination to getting started.

I usually start the day by asking Allah (SWT) in my Fajr (dawn) prayer to make the day a good and productive one, for me to fulfil my role on earth and for the day to benefit me in the world and the next.

By midday, I hadn’t done much except eat ice-cream. I slapped myself (not literally) into getting myself into gear and on my way to pick up the groceries for dinner, called my mum to ask her if I should make enough for her too (her hand is still no good). She suggested I bring the groceries over and we cook together. I had a long and pleasant evening at her place with plates of rice, creamy boneless chicken curry and tandoori chicken, although by the end of the evening I think everyone wanted to tie my boys up (In hindsight I realise I should have given them a bit more attention and provided an outlet for their energy other than trying to wrestle with me).

So far so good, but a few bits of news and some reflection put me in a tearful state of mind last night. Hubby came home from a meeting at the masjid last night with the news that they have managed to secure a site for a madrassah about five minutes walk from us. I have been praying for a very long time for something to crop up regarding teaching my boys Quran and this is an answer to my prayers. The teacher will be provided by another masjid which was too far for us to get to every day, but which is serviced by a number of scholars and imams and has a long waiting list at the moment anyway.

At the same time I have been making a banner for someone. I almost had it finished and managed to wreck it, I was mortified. I had promised to send it out soon. I made dua before my Isha (night) prayer as I was feeling too down to concentrate and I had a flash of inspiration. I will be making the banner again tonight in far less time and with more joy as I won’t have to create a new set of lettering (pics to follow insh’Allah). I think I will get the kids to join in and help.

I was standing on my prayer mat and still hadn’t managed to start actually praying when something else came to mind which brought together my interest in coaching, personal development, self-expression, creativity and writing. I had to grab pen and paper and start writing. I felt truly and utterly inspired, if I manage to make something come out of this, I will share insh’Allah.

Between the madrassah, banner and the flash of creative inspirations, I was feeling very buoyed, positive and peaceful by the time I got to praying salah, I actually managed to concentrate and went to bed extremely grateful and peaceful. It was a reminder to me, to keep asking, to be patient, to trust in Allah (SWT) because all of the answers lie with him in the end.

Ice-cream in the Rain

I was very grateful to get a few days off during the children’s half-term holidays. Although there wasn’t much to do in the rain locally, we managed to go for pizza, to the library, visit the local museum and see an exhibition of life in the area over the last 100 years.

I also managed to take mum shopping and put lots of ticks on our to-do list for my brother’s wedding in March (can’t wait now). Managed to resolve a few things with the girls side, so no longer feel stressed about this.

Visited the bride-to-be on the weekend and saw her wedding dress – it truly rocked and she will look stunning (her mum also fed us very well). My clothes will turn up this week and the ever helpful, ever-sensible Long-Suffering Sister has helped me work out a strategy to be able to afford Little Lady and my little cousins dresses. It also pays to be nice to people. I found the perfect henna outfits for the little girls (they match my sweet bar!), but could not afford the price tag. I thanked the shop assistant for her help and told her the price was more than I could afford, as I left she whispered in my ear to come back during half-term when they would be half-price. We went back and they were discounted by 40%, LS Sister paid for one and Fashionista paid for the other which meant I could pay for my brothers white shalwar kameez outfit for his henna night.

We tried to order cards from a popular site, but found that the postage cost almost as much as the cards (£80 for £100 worth of cards), so we e-mailed a cousin, who e-mailed his brother in Pakistan, who sent us some designs to pick from, who said it should cost £10! Obviously we picked one with diamante’s stuck all over the place.

Yesterday, I found myself with one day left before going back to work and a list of things to do:
Mop the floors
Clean the bathroom
Sort the toys
Piles of laundry (I swear I have already done about four loads)
Go get the groceries for dinner

I started feeling stressed, so I made dua and asked Allah (SWT) to help me do what is important. I ended up taking the kids for ice-cream at the mall and traipsing home in the rain, then having a delicious meal at my mum’s in the evening. Better than cleaning bathrooms anyway.

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Healthy Eating With Kids 2

A while ago I posted Healthy Eating With Kids and then realised that my children’s diets, healthy eating, learning to cook well and growing my own food or finding fresh (from relatives gardens, farm shops and markets) are all growing into real passions for me. I think all of these aspects of food are closely linked.

I am finding more and more mother’s complaining that their children are fussy eaters, do not eat what they are given or constantly pester for junk food. A lot of the time these children come to my house and actually eat rather well. It’s not an issue, no-one is pleading with them, they are just doing what the other children are doing. Sometimes I can be a little facetious about this, refusing to give them coke even when their parents allow them to have some to stop them whinging – it just infuriates me when parents allow themselves to be bullied by their children.

Something else that is yielding good results is going back to nature. The children love the idea of growing food in the garden, picking it to eat or to use for cooking. I always tell them, “you helped me make dinner by bringing me peas” or “I’ll tell Dad you helped me make the sauce” when they bring in the mint. I can't wait for the weather to turn warmer so that we can start planting again. When they are involved in the process of bringing the food from the earth to the table, they become enthused about it. This process also includes the cooking. I am loathe to let the kids loose anywhere near knives or the cooker, but they can still bash the ginger in the mortar and pestle, stir the mixture in the bowl, or shell the peas.

We also like to talk about our food. The other day I bought some French Golden Delicious apples. These are my mum’s favourites and were very common in shops here until a few years ago when they seemed to disappear. I discussed this with Little Man who loves fruit and he was intrigued. This is not to say that we should become obsessed about food or greedy for it, Islam says:

Al-Miqdaam ibn Maadiy-Karib narrated: I heard the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wa salam) saying: "No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath." [Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasaa’i, Ibn Majah – Hadith sahih]

However, the current state of affairs where we cannot cook properly, are eating poor quality, low nutrition food and making ourselves ill contrasts strongly with our elders, both in Britain and in Pakistan, who grew their own food, had hearty, wholesome, simple diets and were clearly slimmer, stronger and healthier than us. We have to consider which legacy we want to pass on to our own children.

I recently came across a New York Times feature on wellness for children. More than the article, I found the comments from other readers very useful, one example that stood out was:

"As I read this, I was taken back to my childhood. I often cooked with my grandmother, who I lived with for many years. I don't remember ever being told to leave the kitchen. In fact, I often was put in charge of making at least one thing and setting the table. As I grew older, I made dinner at least one night a week. It was considered a treat in my family to cook for everyone.

I also don't remember being allowed to be picky about food. Food was put on the table and you ate. It wasn't that my grandmother demanded you eat. As Tara points out, demanding even that one bite may get you into trouble. It was simply that this is what we were going to eat so we ate. The only time we picked what we wanted to eat was one Sunday morning a month--we could eat a cereal that we'd picked at the supermarket on Saturday.

But in general, if we didn't like something (liver for example), we could explain why and that was it. If we were still hungry, we could have whatever fruits or veggies were left.

I don't have children yet, but my best guidance will be remembering how my grandmother brought me into the kitchen, taught me how to make good food and to enjoy the process of making--not just eating--food. She would have shaken her head over the fact that we even need this kind of advice. But I'm happy that the column reminded me of what my grandmother seemed to know intuitively."

Book Review: Gregory Maguire – Mirror, Mirror

Another recommendation from Kooky Little Sis (she is keeping me well-stocked with good books to read). McGuire seems to specialise in taking well-known fairy tales and turning them on their heads. His book Wicked was brought to the stage as the tale of the Wicked Witch of the East from the Wizard of Oz, from her perspective and I hope to get my hands on it soon.

Mirror, Mirror is McGuire’s re-working of Snow White, and what a reworking! The children’s fairy story as adult novel has been attempted numerous times, what is different this time perhaps is the style. This book was different from almost anything I had read before. The famous story is broken down into very short chapters told haphazardly from the viewpoint of a large number of characters. There is barely a chronological order, the writer veers off subject from Machiavelli, to the Roman Catholic Church, to magic to the crusades and back again with every random subject you can imagine thrown in between. Sound like a fairy tale yet?

Bianca is the daughter of a widowed Spanish nobleman settled in Renaissance Italy with an estate and crumbling mansion. The estate appears to include a friar and a cantankerous and bawdy old cook who are constantly at war. The beautiful and spirited Bianca’s world is limited to the estate and these few people until the arrival of the Borgia’s – the infamous and debauched Lucretzia and Cesare, illegitimate children of the Pope and feared through Italy. Bianca’s loving father is sent on a long and mysterious mission and Lucretzia takes charge of her upbringing until the fateful day that she is dragged into the nearby woods.

Religion, or lack of it is a recurring theme through this book with most of the characters either pretending to be religious or openly rejecting religion. The exceptions are a good friar who pretends to be senile and Cesare Borgia who exhibits a hypocritical passion for faith which contrasts with his cruelty and lasciviousness. Other themes are magic, politics, power, love and the nature of reality.

I enjoyed the book until about midway, where my attention faltered as the father languished in the dungeons of a monastery, Bianca sat in the forest and Lucrezia dissipated further. At this point, rather than take advantage of the momentum built thus far and flow forward, I found that the book slowed to a bit of a lull.

After this point, the book didn’t quite recover. Although the plotline is resolved, it is in a haphazard way which felt slightly unsatisfying.

The characters of Primavera and Fra Ludovico, the family servant and priest, bring plenty of humour to the book and were my favourite characters. Many other key characters in contrast were not quite as developed, the curious hunter being one. I did enjoy McGuires take on the origins of the poisoned apple however.

Slow in pace at times, playful in tone, the novel has flair in its use of language. This was not a great read, but good enough.

Saturday 13 February 2010

Small Acts of Kindness

Sometimes it takes a very small act to make a great deal of difference. I have a memory of my school years which changed my thinking about the effect of our actions for the rest of my life.

As part of a school trip the class was to meet at the local train station and my mum happily waved me off with a £10 note. I had to take the bus to get to the train station and when the bus finally arrived, the driver refused to take my note. Not having any change, I begun to panic, until the lady getting on behind me paid the 20p it cost for a child fare then. Such a small thing, only 20p, but such a big thing to me. It meant I could get to the station on time, go on the trip and not be left out. The lady did not know me but she taught me that sometimes it only takes the smallest action to make a big impact.

Sometimes we feel we cannot do much, we feel bound by our lack of resources, our lack of time, our duties, the restrictions on us because of our cultures or our family, especially as woman. But sometimes a very little is enough, a kind word for a stranger, paying for someone’s tea or sandwich because they found their purse unexpectedly empty in the canteen, a visit to your neighbour, a kind word or hug for a sister, calling your parents to ask how they are, even a smile for no other reason than to serve another and be true to your innate fitrah to help others and of course to please Allah (SWT) in the process. Better still, to be a living example of what beauty and mercy there is in Islam.

The Prophet (Peace be upon him) has said: 'Your smile for your brother is Sadaqah.' (Bukhari)

Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.” Shirley Chisholm

Muslim Youth Helpline Acts of Random Kindness

Friday 12 February 2010

Recipe for Strength

My mum seems to be struggling to recover from the injury to her hand caused by her skip in the recent snow. Her cast is off at last but she is still in a lot of pain and her doctor indicated that her arm would not be the same as before (she broke it, then fell on it again, and then carried her shopping home!)

I decided to take her some chicken soup around and make some of this mixture which a friend reccommended. The friend managed to sustain a nasty head injury when she fell off the back of a motorbike and her mum made this for her to help her recover and to gain strength.

Equals measures of:
Pumpkin Seeds (Char Magaz)
Cous Cous

I used 250g bags of each and ended up with a big batch

Break all of the ingredients down in a grinder and mix so that you have a rough powder.

You can eat it as it is and my friend reccommended that one spoon a day is enough as it is supposed to be strong stuff (and "hot" under the traditional Pakistani way of looking at food, so too much isn't ideal). I found it slightly dry, but decided it was medicinal so this was okay. My husband and mum on the other hand, felt that it needed taste, so mum has added a handful of ground "gur" or raw sugar to the mix.

Tuesday 9 February 2010

Prayer Room Blues

I knew it would happen, I just knew it. It did. This time though there is no satisfaction in being proved right. I’ve felt quite grateful that we have been provided with a quiet room to pray in at work although I had my misgivings in the beginning when the brothers used the prayer room and the sisters started using the adjoining mothers room for their prayers. It’s good to have privacy and a space for sisters, but I was wary that we would lose our presence in the main room we used for prayers.

It wasn’t long before other people started using the two rooms, as they are entitled to, but what presented a difficulty was when people started locking the doors so others could not use the room. This was usually to eat or sleep in the room. On more than one occasion I knocked and was told “this is not a prayer room!!”, to which I now wished I had responded a bit more assertively instead of just rushing off with an apologetic look on my face.

The offices Christian Fellowship asked to use the room exclusively at certain times and this was agreed to with the brother’s praying in congregation around them. No-one thought to ask the sisters it seems. It wasn’t long before both rooms were out of use for hours at a time and during those hours we were resorting to knocking and being ignored. (My cousin is also having similar problems at the Council he works for, where a curtain to divide the prayer room for brothers and sisters has been ripped down by other users of the room).

Oh and then there was the lady who spoke in tongues. The first time I came across her, she was in the main quiet room sitting on the floor, with her head on a chair, sobbing, hiccupping and babbling loudly and pleading with God to help her, over and over. I didn’t want to have to come back and so went ahead and prayed in one corner of the room anyway. A few days later, a colleague came up to me and asked about the lady, saying she had prayed but was terrified that the woman would do something to her whilst her back was turned (she is quite a scary sight). I thought, well at least she isn’t locking the room and she is harmless enough, even if she does make us a bit nervous.

That was till this week. We found that the mother’s room has been locked permanently (who by or why, I am still trying to work out). The brothers have tried to be accommodating (ahem), by issuing the following type of guidance:

Sisters to use the room at:
Zohr 1.00 to 1.20pm (Wednesdays/Fridays 12.20 - 12:50 until 28/03/10 then 2.30 - 3.00 from 29/03/10)
Asr before men's Jamaat up to 3.20pm
Magrib after men's Jamaat (20 minutes after start time)

Which is all very well, but it means that if we miss our slot, we have to stand outside the quiet room until the brothers come out. Too much standing about when you are supposed to be at work! (It’s also confusing and I can’t remember all the timings). In turn the brothers are thoughtful and if they see us they come out and let us pray before going back in. Last week I had to pray and then leave early, so I just waltzed in and prayed (far) behind a brother, who looked very uncomfortable.

This in itself is leading to some discomfort with sisters. Most of the brothers are perfectly reasonable, normal blokes. You see them around laughing and joking with colleagues, both male and female. Not with these colleagues it seems. Every time one of us walks past the quiet room and says salaam, they suddenly find their feet super interesting and look like they want to melt into the walls. What!!! We are not going to tempt you into haram/ steal your prayer mat/make you look bad in front of the other brothers! It was annoying to be treated this way until I realised they were probably wary that we looked very serious in our hijabs and abaya’s. I think this is something that we will deal with better over time as people get to know each other. Brothers and sisters need to know that they are looking out for and supporting each other.

In the meantime, we are trying to negotiate use of two rooms instead of one and I have even found myself a stationary cupboard on my floor to sneak into to pray. There are also positive aspects to this scenario. Two of our community (a brother and a sister) are senior managers in the organisation and they have been negotiating with services on our behalf regarding extra prayer space, facilities to make our ablutions (don’t even get me started on this topic) and provision of halal food in the canteen amongst other things.

One of the brothers has started a mailing list with the names of all of the users of the prayer room which everyone is using to keep each other updated on prayer times, what is happening with the canteen and issues we have raised with human resources and facilities.

It makes me think of the idea that from adversity comes opportunity, if you are willing to be positive and resourceful and look at what other ways there are top deal with an issue (and there are always other ways), you may benefit from even a bad situation. In any case, I strongly believe that if you make a good intention, Allah (SWT) will make the path to fulfilling that intention open up for you.

Hadhrat Abu Hurairah (Radhiyallaho anho) narrated that Rasulullah (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) has said, "If my servant comes closer to me by one span, I go towards him a cubit’s length; if he comes to me a cubit’s length, I go towards him an arm’s length; and if he walks towards me, I run unto him." (Bukhari & Muslim).

Sunday 7 February 2010

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

I came across this poem and it moved me as a mother and reminded me of the healing power of nature:

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

by Wendell Berry

Monday 1 February 2010

Sisters Who Blog Interview

I have been having fun recently answering Amber Misks questions for her Sisters Who Blog site.

You can find her questions and my answers here.

Book Review: Alice Croggon – The Crow

The third instalment of the Pellinor series shifts the focus of action away from the main protagonist Maerad and onto her young brother Hem. As Maerad continues her search for the mysterious "Treesong” whilst trying to evade the Nameless Ones armies, Hem has been installed in the bard school of Turbansk, the greatest city of the Suderain in the South of Edil-Amarandh. Suderain is also the closest of the kingdoms of Edil-Amarandh to the realm of the King Sharma, the Nameless One.

Like Maerad, Hem has suffered throughout his childhood. Fearful of the prophecy that a child of Pellinor will destroy him, the Nameless One has destroyed the kingdom and school of Pellinor where Maerad’s mother rules as First Bard (or mage) and steals Hem dumping him into a cruel orphanage. Before long, he is taken away by Hulls, bards who have joined Sharma in return for promises of eternal life, who attempt to corrupt him. He escapes and joins the Pilanel, or travelling folk before they are traced and slaughtered by Hulls. He is only saved by the intervention of Maerad who eventually realises Hem is her brother and sends him to Turbansk hoping he will be safe there.

Hem is enthralled with Turbansk but struggles to fit into the school. His childish woes are short-lived though when Sharma’s forces threaten to attack Turbansk and the city has to be evacuated.

The rest of the book is a poignant account of a beautiful and loved city under siege, of heroes knowingly walking to their deaths (including the valiant queen of Turbansk, who is an amazing character) and of the horror of war. Hem escapes after the fall of Turbansk, but finds himself in Den Raevan, the realm of the Nameless One and what he finds there is so horrific that it seems that there is no hope of return.

When I started reading this book straight after the other two, I was a little annoyed that the story had switched from Maerad and onto Hem who I wasn’t so interested in. It took me a while to get into the book, although Croggans descriptions of Turbansk and the effort she puts into describing the history, language and people of the Suderain and the rest of Edil-Amarandh certainly helped.

Before long though the pace is ramped up and the descriptions of a city under siege are full of tension. The charge of the heroic warriors, the fall of their standard in battle and the ruin of the city are very moving and the armies of the Nameless One, particularly his Dogsoldiers are horrible. The real horrors though are yet to come.

The book takes a nasty turn as it describes how the Nameless One has ruined the earth and created deformed creatures (a bit like radiation poisoning causes) and is sending children into battle. Hem witnesses the brutalisation of the traumatised children and their descent into savagery, and doing so, almost gives up hope of surviving his ordeal.

Not in the same league as the second book in the series which has been the best so far, but certainly enjoyable and it does help the story to progress as well as developing some of the secondary characters introduced in earlier books. I can’t wait to get started on the fourth and last instalment of this series, which despite not being too crazy about at the beginning, has really turned up trumps.

Book Review: Alison Croggon – The Gift

Book Review: Alice Croggon - The Riddle

Book Review: Alice Croggon - The Riddle

I read the first book in the Pellinor series, The Gift and found it readable but nothing amazing, I was too inclined to draw parallels with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Garth Nix’s Sabriel series. Even so, once I had started I had to get the rest of the books and find out what happens next as The Gift ended whilst the story was still in full flow. Kooky Little Sister managed to find me the other three books and I made a start on the second one – The Riddle. In The Gift we meet Maerad. An orphan and slave, she endures a brutal existence in a remote settlement until she is rescued by the bard Cadvan – a great magician who is travelling through the area as he escapes from the Landrost – the evil spirit of the surrounding mountains.

The books are set in an ancient land called Edil-Amarandh which is governed by seven schools of bards – people gifted in the finer arts of life and also in magery. Once renowned for their skill and service to ordinary people, the bards went to war against the evil king Sharma, remembered as the Nameless one (by this point both Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter has come to mind more than once) and were almost destroyed as he wreaked havoc in the land before the bards became strong enough again to subdue him. Many years later, he threatens to return, now more powerful than ever, and destroy Edil-Amarandh.

As he flees with Maerad, Cadvan is amazed at the power he recognises is residing within her and comes to the conclusion that she may be the one foretold in prophecies as the “Fire Lily”, the destroyer of the Nameless One.

In this second book, Cadvan and Maerad are found fleeing the servants of the nameless One and some of their own people, many of whom they realise have come under the evil Sharma’s influence. They seek help from the Pilanel, a nomadic people of Edil-Amarandh, as they try to decipher what Maerad’s role is and what the prophecy means when it says that they must search for the mysterious "Treesong", the key to Maerad's destiny. Maerad struggles to control the power of the “Gift” within her and soon finds herself alone and in dabger with the Ice King Arkan, once thought to be an ally of the Nameless One, on her trail.

This book felt a world away from the first. Any accusations that the book covers territory that other books have dealt with before are left behind as Croggan really comes into her own with this instalment of her quartet. The world of Edil-Amarandh, its people, its bard schools and languages are all explored in detail. Croggon has taken the time to develop a language for the bards and her efforts pay off giving the book depth and a feel of history. Croggon’s writing overall is eloquent and often, her use of rare words made me smile and wonder if they weren’t just made up.

The character of Maerad grows and becomes more complex in this book and her relationship with Cadvan more interesting. Her relationship with the Winter King also left me holding my breath waiting for something to happen. Unlike in many (perhaps most) fantasy novels, the female characters are developed and are often shown to be incredibly powerful and wise.

This instalment of the series is faster in pace, far less predictable than the first one and by its end left me insanely curious to find out what was going to happen next.

Book Review: Alison Croggon – The Gift

Book Review: Juliet Marillier - Foxmask

After reading, and enjoying Wolfskin, I was looking forward to reading the sequel, which of course, Kooky Little Sister obligingly found for me. Wolfskin was about the warrior Eyvind, the cunning Somerled and the priestess Nessa. Foxmask is about their children – Eyvind and Nessa’s sweet-natured daughter Creidhe and Somerled’s intense and introspective son Thorvald.

Creidhe has grown up loved and happy and has always loved Thorvald although he appears not to know she exists. Thorvald is raised alone by his stern widowed mother Margaret with the legacy of his fathers murderous reign of the island hanging over him.

When Thorvald is given an old letter by his mother that indicates that his father may be alive in a distant island he resolves to sail there and find him. When Creidhe realises what he plans, she stows away on the boat carrying him there, much to his anger. Their squabbles are soon forgotten when they think they have found the island they are looking for only to realise that something terrible has been happening there.

The inhabitants of the island believe they are under a curse which kills their newborns and that they must go on an annual “hunt” in an attempt to find the cause of the curse losing the lives of many young men each year as they do so. At the same time Thorvald believes that he may have found his father, but is not prepared to reveal himself until he can prove himself worthy of being the son of a great man.

This book is set in the remote islands off of the Scottish shore and Marillier succeeds in creating a harsh and windswept landscape. The plot moves along at a decent pace, but I did find it quite predictable. I got tired of the introspection and self-pity of the characters after a while. They did not quite have the attraction of the preceding novels main characters and I got tired of all the sailing, rocks and wind.

The first book benefited from the descriptions of Nordic life, the interactions between the Folk of the Isles and the settling Norsemen, the friendship between Eyvind and Somerled and the chemistry between Eyvind and Nessa. This book revolved around miserable people on a miserable bunch of rocks. The supernatural element is far stronger, in Wolfskin it complemented the story, here it is no longer subtle, but takes centre stage.

I thoroughly enjoyed Wolfskin and got very involved with the characters. I did not find that Foxmask had quite the same effect on me and only read to the end to see if what I thought would happen, did happen. It did.

Book Review: Juliet Marillier - Wolfskin

Meeting Girl Who Walks In The Rain

I am always keen to meet new people and see different faces, so I looked forward to meeting fellow blogger Girl Who Walks In The Rain this weekend, especially considering our mutual love of books. We agreed to meet in a coffee shop and then managed to visit all the coffee shops in town before getting to the right one. I have to say I was a bundle of nerves by the time we met up and I kept blabbing and tripping over my own words.

My boys got to meet her lovely juicy-cheeked baby (he is soo not a boogster mash’Allah), although Gorgeous managed to fall off of his chair three times in a row. We enjoyed coffee and carrot cake and chatted about babies, school, work and Pakistan.

She bought me some beading treats (crystal spacers and coloured cord) and books for the kids and me – Winter and Madrid by C. J. Sansom and Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin which I have been hankering after for ages and can’t wait to get stuck into.

This meeting bloggers business in the real world is fun, slightly surreal sometimes, but fun.