Tuesday 31 May 2011

Party Banner for Kooky Little Sister

I made a banner for my little sisters party, however I left it quite late minute andrealised I didn't have many alphabet chipboard shapes left.  I salvaged the letters of her name from a few different sets iI had random letters left from (I always run our of A, E, N and H's) and found some 4x6 card in similar colours (courtsey of Sister iMuslimah).  I and Little Lady had fun adding whatever embellishments we could find.



Insh'Allah I intend to try and get hold of some more letters (or better still try making some) and make some more of these banners (Ramadan and Eid will be here before you know it).

Monday 30 May 2011

First Summer Party of the Year

We don't really celebrate birthdays in my family, but Kooky Little Sister is always trying to find ways to get the family together, so she threw a summer party.  We had a lovely, food-filled, windy, colourful day.  I made her a banner (more pics to follow):

Mum always has fresh flowers around the house, so we carted some of them outside.

I and Kooks are both fans of dessert tables, but didn't get round to buying any sweets for one this year, so we had to make do with whatever we could find.

My cakes (that's a napkin with cake pictures underneath if the picture looks confusing):

There was plenty of yummy food thanks to mum, including Dahi Bhalle (dumplings in yoghurt with spices, chickpeas, cucumber and tomato).

Minced lamb samosa's and chicken spring rolls:


Fasionista's yummy sandwiches (chicken, mayo, carrot and cucumber - recipe to follow at some stage):

Mum's tandoori chicken legs:

Mango, strawberry and melon which went down a treat.  My boy's grabbed most of the mango and I think I polished off most of the strawberries.

Kooks also hired a bouncy castle which the kids went mental over.  We all had a turn, one of Kooks friends even managed to get our usually sedate and proper mum onto it for a bit.  No-one managed to match Gorgeous' staying power though.  He was on there for hours, including eating on it, tandoori chicken leg in hand:

Although the afternoon was not injury free: one of my little cousin's flew off and missed the mat, hitting the concrete and getting some nasty bruises to show for it.  Little Lady managed to break the straps on her maxi dress and carried on jumping in leggings and t-shirt.  Another cousin tripped and feel with his glasses flying one way and his mobile the other.   Little Man in contrast sneaked off inside to watch Scooby Doo on his own for a bit:

Alhamdulillah it was nice to dress up in a halal environment, let the kids loose without worrying (boy did they sleep well that night) and enjoy mum's cooking.

Grow Your Own (Hopefully)

Usually at some point during spring it gets warm enough for me to venture outside after ignoring the garden for months and months and I find myself getting gardening fever.  This year my trip to the Eden Project (1 and 2) added fervour and inspiration to my annual gardening bug.  So I looked for the various implements and pots scattered around the garden and got myself organised.  My garden gets used as a junkyard come dustbin by hubby and kids all winter, so getting organised meant taking out eight bin bags full of rubbish, broken toys, junk the neighbours kids like to pitch over (and recently through) the fence and paint and petrol cans and trying to find homes for various other bits of wood, cement, bags of sand too heavy to lift, doors, window frames and other unidentifiable bits.

I managed to get my hands on some wonderful vegetable plants from a nearby grocers (for £1 each) and rescue some plants from previous years.  Below are tomato and chilli plants:

This is a jasmine plant.  I grew one last year that got quite big and then didn't survive the winter.  I have tried a different spot this year and hope to train it up the wall eventually.

These are peacock lilies which me and Little Lady grew from bulbs bought in thee £-shop.  We are very excited to see them get this big and I am looking forward to see the beautiful blooms (and maybe take a bunch for my mum insh'Allah).

Cucumbers, marrrows and gourds:

I planted this grape vine bought from the £-shop last year and it has gone crazy.  It is trying to take over both of my beds and the whole of the broken fence we share with our neighbours.  I want to train it along the fence, but am waiting until hubby replaces the fence.  I can't believe how many tiny bunches of grapes cover the vine, although from last years experince, these will be very, very sour.

My cherry tomato plant which I am waging a war with slugs and snails to keep safe:

The kids little strawberry patch is in full flow with no work required from me at all.  The only problem is the grape vine threatening to swallow it up.

The mint also grows back every year, although it is getting a bit woody in parts now.  We use this for mint sauce, pakora's and biryani amongst other things.

This camelia has been trudging along very slowly for the last three or four years.  This year it has suddenly had a growth spurt, but I suspect it is still too young to flower.

The chilli's are doing well too, unfortunately I have forgotten what kind they are (or were they peppers?)

I lined up every pot I could find and planted everything I could lay my hands on.  These are a nice alternative for me as my garden has two small-ish beds which I have to plan every carefully what goes where.  Some things are blooming and others being taken over by weeds already.


The kids helped out with the garden and Gorgeous waters the plants for me every evening whilst the older two are at madrassah. 

There is still lots to do though.  I am hoping hubby can get rid of some of this lot.  If he does I want to throw a summer party for sisters and kids insh'Allah.

Saturday 28 May 2011

Gratitude Journal 28.5.11 - The Beauty of Allah's Creation

Drenched in colour
The light filtering through branches
A sight to sooth my sore eyes.

Saturday 21 May 2011

Lessons from Motherhood – For Those Not Listening.

I recently overheard a conversation (no I wasn’t listening, it’s an open plan office) between two of my colleagues about motherhood. They were two of a number of recently married, hip young women, in their mid-30’s, a little older than me and mostly a few grades senior to me.

They were discussing motherhood and thoughts about trying to conceive and options around leaving work. I thought to myself, I have been through all of this numerous times and learnt so much, yet I didn’t feel like I was part of that conversation. Perhaps because I felt like they couldn’t see my past my hijab and brown skin to imagine I had something worth saying. Perhaps I was unfairly assuming these things about them. Also partly, because I didn’t feel I could butt into their conversation uninvited – there should be a book about the etiquettes of the open plan office.

Anyway, it got me thinking about what I had learned through this journey of motherhood, so even though those ladies are not listening, I’m going to carry on and share my thoughts on this anyway.

1. If you are ambitious and want to do well in your career, know that having children will set you back in your career path. Unless you are a professional with a well-defined career path. I felt like six months of maternity leave put me back two year in my career for each child. At the same time, you cannot pursue what you want in your career path blindly – I gave up long hours, overtime and turned down many opportunities for interesting projects or jobs because I didn’t want to steal time and energy I currently give to my children. I was recently encouraged to go for an Olympic-related post dealing with local authority operations during the two weeks of the Olympics, when I didn’t, a lot of people asked me why. In the end I had to be honest and say I was not willing to work long hours as family was priority. But honestly, it doesn’t matter so much anymore – a small loss for a massive gain alhamdulillah.

2. Your priorities change, sometimes radically. My ambition to get to the top and prove myself has been replaced by a desire to do things that I enjoy and that are meaningful to me. I care less what others think and more about the effect of what I do on my children, the legacy that I will leave behind and the importance of my actions in the long scheme of things (a whole life and an afterlife).

3. You are stretched enormously as a person. Your temper, temperament and behaviour all come under your own scrutiny as you find that muttering a bad word under your breath suddenly means an unwanted addition to your child’s vocabulary, or your habit of flying of the handle soon starts to be exhibited in your little one. As your child’s first teacher and life-long guide, you have to strive so much harder to be a better person and find better ways of responding to the world.

4. If you are to have any chance of happiness as a mother, you have to tear up the rulebook and write your own rules. According to “them” the undefined world in general, whether you work, stay at home, home-school, do nothing with your kids and let them run wild, or do everything under the sun – you are still somehow doing it wrong. It helped me to think through and write my own definition of motherhood. So far the list of what works for me is:

- Love unconditionally
- Allow yourself to be loved
- Have fun, sing, laugh, play
- Let your children guide and lead you
- Come down to your children’s level
- Stop saying NO all the time
- Be honest
- Value and honour yourself as a mother
- Allow yourself to make mistakes and when you do to start again.

“Know that the cockeyed definition of motherhood to which most of us are trying to measure up, makes it very hard to love being a mom. Only when you begin to write your own definition of great mothering, embracing the contradictions within, will you truly feel at home in your new life” - Mary Stark.

Friday 20 May 2011

Awards, Competitions and That Friday Feeling

Assalam-alaikam and Jummah Mubarak.

Still enjoying my day off, even if it means sorting though my to-do list as I go (kind of therapeutic).  I had no idea so many people call and visit while I am not home!

It does mean I can sort through my e-mails though and I found two particularly lovely e-mails.  The first from an intern working with Sister Ponn Sabra of American Muslim Mom who has ranked the most popular Muslim mother blogs according to Alexa rankings (a system which measures the traffic to the website).  I came in at number 11 much to my surprise.  Even better though I came across lost of other fabulous Muslim mama blogs which I look forward to visiting. 

The second e-mail was Circle of Mom's who are running a top 25 Faith Blogs by Moms competition.  I was amazed to be on theree to begin with, but even more stunned that I got 5 votes (compared to the couple of hundred some others got, but made me happy anyway).  You are very welcome to click on the link or button and vote for me (have to scroll down the page some).  Or even better nominate yourself - I would love to see more sisters in the competition.

Thursday 19 May 2011

Things That Make Me Smile 9

Haven't done of theseTTMMS posts in ages and am in a super good mood as I have Friday off of work.

Old trunks, the more battered the better:

(image source)
 Lemons, especially watching the kids lick them and wince.  We all lovee liking lemons, except for my husband who can't stand them.

(image source)

Rain patteering on my window (especially when everyone is tucked up warm in bed):

(image source)

Bento Boxes - I love the idea of making these for my children, as my friend Aunty F says, the eyes eat before the stomach.

(image source)

I have always disliked orange, but the colour has suddenly seems such a lovely one to me.

(image source)

I and Little Lady love high tea - setting everything out is usually more fun that eating it:

(image source)

One of my favourite memories will always be the rush to get off of St Michaels Mount in Cornwall as the path becomes submerged in the rising tide.

(image source)

There are a few styles I favour - art deco, luxe, gothic, but one of the ones I like most with an abaya is Victorian - a velvet coat and lace-up boots (with jet beads and an old brooch of course).

(image source)
 What is making you smile today?  What are you finding your joy in?

Friday 13 May 2011

Muslim Women and Sports Participation

I was doing some research for work today on equality in sports participation and one of the most striking findings I came across was the lack of participation of Muslim women in Sports. Quite a few of the research reports and studies had attempted to gauge the reasons why Muslim women did not participate in sports, both at a personal and competitive level. Some of the reasons were spot on, others were missed out, many I think because people don’t like to talk about them. I think this is an issue we should make our voices heard on, so I have listed some of the reason’s I think Muslim women don’t participate in sports and physical education:

1. Many of us have had a bad experience of Physical Education (PE) in school. PE teachers who just had no idea what our needs were and who were not willing to be flexible. Some of the reports touched on this, but did not give reasons as to what those negative experiences were.

2. One of these was dress. Having been raise to cover my arms and legs, then having to wear a swimming costume or shorts or even shorter PE skirt was a no-no. So even with a jogging bottom, I still had to wear a half-sleeved t-shirt which I didn’t like.

3. Which leads to teenagers and body hair - embarrassing I know, but these are the things that no-one talks about and so PE teachers and coaches can’t be considerate of. When most people reach teenage, they have a fine down of blonde hair on their arms and legs which no-one really notices. When Muslim (actually read Asian) girls hit teenage, you get fair-ish skin with a layer of dark, very visible hair. This is usually at an age before they learn about the technicalities of shaving/waxing and so exposing arms and legs can be utterly excruciating for that awkward year or two.
4. Staying on embarrassing topics, periods is again something that affects everyone. However, Muslim girls prefer not to use tampons as they have anxieties about them breaking the hymen. So swimming is a no during this time of the month. I remember bunking off numerous swimming lessons, despite being a good girl at school and knowing I would be caught because the PE teacher just did not understand this issue.

5. Mixed-gender lessons. We were still doing swimming with the boys until about the second or third year of high school (about age 12-13). After this the girls were split, but the life-guard was a man. Hence the bunking. Not all, but many Muslim women feel more comfortable in a women only environment, especially if they have removed their abayah or headscarf for the occasion.

6. Lack of support at home. Even where Muslim girls are keen on sports (again read Asian girls mostly), parents are not always supportive. The way many parents used to think when I was younger was that what was the point of doing a sport if it wasn’t going to help you become a doctor, lawyer or get married. Especially if it was going to cost you money or mean you would be away from home in the evenings or overnight.

7. Timing of sports practice and events. Many sports lessons or practice sessions happen in the evening when Muslim children are often having their Islamic or Quran studies. These can last between 30 minutes to two hours and don’t leave much time for other activities. Many sports events and competitions happen away from home and mean participants have to travel. Parents don’t always like their daughters staying out in the evening or staying elsewhere overnight. There is the worry as to who they will be mixing with and what they will be doing. This lack of permission for some young girls severely curtails their opportunities to participate and even means young women avoid bothering with extra-curricular and competitive sports altogether – they know there is no point in getting involved, when they won’t get permission to pursue it further.

Fortunately, generations younger than mine are seeing some change. Most schools allow hijab and modest dress for PE now. There are modest options available, like the burkini. We have lots of amazing role models coming through (Ruqaya Al Ghasara, Ambreen Sadiq, Sara Khoshjamal-Fekri, Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir). Parents are starting to understand the importance of physical education and sports participation to a healthy body and long-term lifestyle.

Interestingly, one study found that people’s views on sport were affected by whether they identified themselves by their culture or religion:

Many Muslim women are constrained by their ethnic backgrounds from participating in sport. For example, research conducted by the WSFF on Bangladeshi women found that they led sedentary lives with little priority given to exercise and physical activity, as it conflicted with their role as a mother and homemaker. Asian cultural ideologies do not always promote exercise and physical activity for women, although many of the women in the research understood its significance for health. A study in Norway showed that Muslim women who identified themselves in terms of their ethnicity were not interested in participating in sport as it challenged the boundaries of femininity and cultural identity. Those who regarded religion as a source of identification, viewed physical activity positively as it was in line with Islam’s stance on health.

This is consistent with the Islamic view that our bodies are an Amanah or trust from Allah (SWT) that must be looked after. I hope that listing some of the reason’s Muslim girls and women tend to participate in sports less will lead to some understanding on the part of sport and PE providers, but particularly parents. One generation of confused, extremely embarrassed and not very sporty teenage girls is enough I think.

Thursday 5 May 2011

Kooks Outdoing me at the Blogging Game

Kooky Little Sister has always been one of my partners in crime when it comes to books (with Long Suffering Sister akey supplier for my habit and Fashionista a no-nonsense critic - we all liked Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Fashionista's verdict was - "I can't believe I just wasted so many hours of my life").

Anyway, Kook's has seriously been distracting me with her new blog:

Her pictures of my jewel box (thats my story anyway).

Her pictures of Cornwall which totally put mine to shame:

images source

She has been showcasing her artwork:

image source

Her strange sense of humour also comes through:

image source

Her book reviews are ceratainly more literate than mine, as are her thoughts on current affairs like Nigella Lawson's burkini.  The thing that has most captivated my attention is her Weekly Links Roundup (girl you need to stop surfing the net and do some work!!).  The must read one is the link to this Twilight Spoof which has had me laughing so hard I had tears rolling down my face - I watched the film afterwards and could not keep a straight face.

The gem photo was taken by Long-suffering Sister who is a keen photogropher.  She has been adding photo's to her Flickr here, but this photo was my favourite as we all tried to get good shots of the seals at Newquay Seal Sanctuary, but she seems to have got the best one:

image source