Saturday 30 June 2012

Something Suspicious

Cousin: "What's this party you're having?"
Me: "What party?"
Cousin: "The one your sister mailed me about"
Me: "I haven't got a clue what you're talking about"

Me: "Kooks what is Cousin A saying about a party?"
Kooks (not very convincingly): "I dunno"

Friend on phone: "I'm coming over for the party"
Me (somewhat bewildered): "What party?"
Friend: "The one at your house"
Me:"I'm sitting on my bed, looking like a tramp, eating chips! What party!"
Friend: "Oh okay, no worries"

Me: "What party was my friend K talking about?"
Kooks (not very convincingly): "I dunno"

Hubby: "Lets go to the park"
Me: "I'm cleaning and it's too hot outside"
Hubby "Come on"
Me: "I've just put bleach all over the bathroom"
Mum-in-law: "Leave it, let's go"
Me: "Fine!! But the bathroom will have melted by the time we get back!"

I'm glad we went, there was a lovely fresh breeze and it was great fun watching Gorgeous follow a pretty girl around the playground. Hubby was on the phone though I think to one of my sisters.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Thursday 28 June 2012

Picture of the Day: Henna Trial

I accompanied Fashionista for a henna trial for her wedding. We went to a henna artist who had been reccommended by a few people. Fashionista really liked her portfolio and also her happy bubbly personality so booked her for her henna ceremony and the wedding. Fashionista picked a design she liked (very different to the one below). We also managed to sort a package out for the rest of the family and guests, so thats one more thing sorted!

Monday 25 June 2012

Dousing the Rage with Order

Despite being determined to be kinder to myself during this pregnancy, I am absolutely shattered today. I am finding that it is one thing to know what is best for yourself, quite another to put it into practice. After a wonderful but full-on wedding and a day of bulk cooking, cleaning and visiting I found getting up for work early the hardest I ever have.

I think I am going to have to take this rest thing a lot more seriously. It doesn’t help I had a very unsettling day yesterday. I work up with a feeling of lethargy and sluggishness which reminded me of the baby blues I had after Gorgeous was born. It scared me a little, that dark place is somewhere I never want to go again. I sat quietly for a while then forced myself to get up and get moving. Action is usually the one thing that overcomes lethargy, indecision and anxiety for me more quickly than anything else. I tried getting breakfast ready and helping the kids getting homework out of the way, but all this did was make me more and more angry.

Have I ever mentioned I used to have the most horrendous problem with anger? Throwing things, hitting people (I hope my sisters are not reading this!), shouting and suddenly blowing my top without warning. Controlling this is something I have worked very hard on because I didn’t feel that my lovely, kind husband and my innocent children should ever have to bear that kind of behaviour. I prayed and prayed for this and over the years was amazed at how much I had changed from the person I use to be. I have read the following a while ago:

"Love brings up everything unlike itself. Fear is detoxed, subconsciously brought to the fore whenever love arrives. Once aroused, it will either trigger us or depart from us, depending on whether it is forgiven or punished." ~ Marianne Williamson ~

I believe that my husband’s love, patience and kindness helped to work through much of my anger.

But yesterday I could feel the rage come back in full force. I shouted at the kids a few times and lobbed a few things down the stairs before I realised this was getting stupid and the kids hadn’t really done anything. I decided to step away before I hurt someone. I asked mum-in-law to take over with lunch and fled to my room where I spent the next half hour taking my bedroom apart, getting the kids to take all of boxes of beads downstairs, covering up my card making supplies with a big black shayla and emptying out draws. There was only so much I could do before lunch and I ended up with lots of piles of stuff around my room, but getting started felt good.

I realise now that I have felt this anger surfacing a few times over the last few weeks. I am not sure if it is hormones, anxiety about the state the house has gotten into over the years or just a feeling of being very restricted in how much I can do which has left me struggling to fulfil many obligations. I think a mixture of all three.

The act of emptying out those draws was so cathartic though. Just putting things in rows and straitening out draws and making the decision to get rid of things I know I will never use really helped.

The midday prayer also helped, as prayer always does. By the time I went to the Sunday afternoon Sisters halaqa (study circle) I felt calm again. I spent the afternoon exhausting myself cleaning and cooking. Having Little Lady in tow helping with throwing spices into the pot, measuring out rice, finding ingredients and washing vegetables was nice, a bit like making amends for all of the loud scolding in the morning.

I think I am going to continue with the big clear out, half an hour at a time – just what I can manage. I am also going to try very hard to find a space in the day where I can rest – every single day! It’s a small thing, but such a big mental shift for me to be able to stop doing all of the time and just be for a while. For today, that quiet, restful space will be my mum’s sofa I think.

First Summer Harvest

Little Man has been watching his strawberry patch for the last few days and giving me daily reports on it. I had to stop him and Gorgeous from eating the strawberries whilst they were still green.

Yesterday he called me out to the garden to ask if the strawberries were red enough yet. I let him bring in his little harvest.

I visited my uncle and aunt to see their beautiful new baby girl yesterday afternoon and my uncle got his son to pick me some peas, the only thing thats grown in his garden full of plants so far this year (everyone seems to have planted late this year).

I knew I would never get to cook them, the kids are sitting on my bed as I type and Little Lady reads aloud, eating them raw.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Picture of the Day: From Garden to Kitchen

I like having Little Lady or Little Man in the kitchen with me when I am cooking. They are handy for fetching and washing vegetables, handing ingredients over and occasionally stirring the pot. Their favourite is adding the spices and watching the colours in the pot change.

On this occasion I sent Little Lady into the garden to bring in some mint so that she could make some mint chutney in the blender (recipe here). The gloves are in case of spiders.

I love the idea of having fresh ingredients from the garden – with their more intense aromas and taste. Most of all though I want the kids to see how much trouble it is to get enough from your garden for even on meal – the patience and care this takes. I want them to have some awareness of the effort it takes to bring the multitude of food into the kitchen and what a blessing this really is.

Friday 15 June 2012

Wedding Outfits and Finding an Abaya

Preparations for Fashionista’s wedding later this year are gathering pace in the family. We have sorted out most of the big things now – venues, decor, food (the one thing you CANNOT get wrong at an Asian wedding). Fashionista has found her wedding dress which is absolutely stunning (and nothing like what she originally planned) and another dress for her walima (grooms reception) which we are waiting to see.

I am trying to sort out outfits for my kids and hubby. Some have come from Pakistan courtesy of my mum and others I have found here. I always find the boys easy to buy formal clothes for. For my daughter, it takes much more searching because the colour scheme in all of the Asian shops seems to be limited to teal, pink, purple and royal blue, so I am still looking. My mum did suggest I find a mini version of my sisters wedding dress. I have seen one of the bridesmaids dress up as a mini version of the bride at some weddings in Pakistan, but didn’t think this was a good idea.

Mine are always the most difficult. I wear abaya’s at weddings and just change the colour to go with my sisters outfits. I found most abaya’s online for either black, too tight, or way above my budget (I can’t justify paying £300 for what is supposed to be modest dress).

In the end, after much searching and trawling through much rubbish, I found a shop on Green Street called SS Designers. I don’t usually promote businesses, but this one was a joy and I am mentioning in case someone has the same difficulty I had finding an abaya for an occasion. They had a basement full of abaya type dresses, when I found them over my budget (approx £100), they found some about £50 above my range and put the price down. Then they redesigned the whole thing to create the colour of dress and the type of embroidery I wanted. Most importantly, they changed the shape so that it accommodated what will be my then seven and a half month baby bump including moving pieces of embroidery away from the stomach and creating empire line shapes. The changes didn’t cost any extra and the dresses will be ready in four weeks (many places told us it takes 2-3 months), so I will see if they live up to my expectations, but I am happy so far. They are also happy to adjust the abaya’s again after I have had the baby.

I am off to Green Street again tomorrow to help Fashionista choose jewellery for her henna, help my mum pick some bling to go with her wedding day outfit and find something blue for Little Lady.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Identity, Ownership…and Litter?

I recently worked on a project where I had to do some research around litter and initiatives around the country to tackle the amount of litter people throw in the streets. It was an interesting project and I learned a lot, but one thing stood out – people throw litter in the streets but not in their homes (I hope anyway). They have a sense of ownership regarding their home, but not the street outside of their home, or their neighbourhood or their city.

It struck me that this is very much the case with Muslims. I remember going to the first Islam Channel Global Peace and Unity event (in 2009?) and one of the things I remember from that event is the ridiculous piles of rubbish left everywhere around the venue. The second time I attended, I went with my husband who was making deliveries for the event caterer, so I got to see the venue at the end of the day and the souk area looked like a sea of rubbish.

I felt disappointed, after all Muslims are supposed to exhibit the best manners right? Often in places I have visited where there are large Muslim communities; there have also been large amounts of litter dumped in the street. I don’t think this is necessarily a result of there being a lot of Muslims there, there are multiple factors (like some Muslim communities having greater levels of deprivations and living in areas that are already run down and dirty). But it is saddening that we don’t seem to care.

One thing that might contribute to this is the culture some Muslim communities have brought to this country. I have seen people in Pakistan just lob their rubbish into the street once they are done with it, my relatives included. Perhaps people in other cultures around the world don’t have the same bugbear about litter that many of the English do – although I can’t imagine any culture that encourages people to make the place they live in dirty.

I think another factor is that many Muslims don’t have enough of a sense of ownership over the neighbourhoods and communities they live in. The first generations of South Asians certainly came here with the intention to earn money and then return and many of them did. Subsequent generations have lived with confusion over where they belong – Britain? England? Scotland? Pakistan? Bangladesh? India? Where was home? Here or “back home”? They mostly didn’t want to go back to where their parents or grandparents came from, they didn’t always feel fully accepted here and there was also a strange logic in the background, that if you said you were English or British, you were betraying your roots in some way. Perhaps because of this, we never developed the sense of belonging we should have.

I think that this is happening now, with the younger generations starting to affirm their Britishness, and with a British Islam emerging that allows us to claim Britain as home without feeling we are being disloyal to our faith (by showing loyalty to a Christian country?)

The litter is still there though. I would love to see Muslims with a reputation for being the cleanest, more responsible people in the country. I would love to see areas where there are concentrations of Muslims to be clean and safe, with a positive reputation, so that people are happy to walk through such places. This might sound like a pipe dream, but a lady I once met in Birmingham told me, she liked living in a “Muslim area” because she felt safer.

I rather like the example of the Japanese, who have a reputation for leaving a place cleaner than they found it – on attending concert and sports venues, not only will they take their own rubbish away with them, but any they find there (I vaguely recall a television commentator mentioning this about their attendance at an international sports event – but can’t remember which).

I have taken this quite seriously with my children since they were very small. I either ask them to hold onto rubbish such as food packaging until they pass a bin or give it to me. They now do this as second nature, especially with the messages about littering and the environment that they get from school. I like how shocked they always are when they see an adult dropping litter.

As part of my research I came across the Litter Project, which basically encourages us all to resolve to pick up just one piece of litter a day. My children love this and I have to stop them from picking up more than one piece of litter or picking up something inappropriate (wet, sticky, dangerous).

I was impressed by how many communities had taken ownership of the areas they live in and undertaken litter picks and clean up days. I liked also that there were a number of Muslim environmental groups (WIN, IFEES, Muslim Green Team, Green Muslims, AMEN, RITE, SHINE, etc) that champion the care of our environment.

So it seems we are taking a role in tackling this problem, but I would love to see more people stepping up, showing they care for the places they live in and making a difference. As Sheikh Tawfique Chowdhrey put it at the Twins of Faith conference earlier this year – If all of the Muslims left the UK, who would it make a difference to, would anyone even care? I think it’s our job to make enough of a difference that people are glad to have Muslims amongst them.

Little Lady Fashion

I love the brightly coloured clothes of Pakistan, but mostly I like seeing them on other people. Both of Little Lady's Grandmothers really like to go to town when it comes to her clothes.

My mum just brought back the dress below. I like the shape which is a bit like a ringmasters jacket, with the back being slightly longer than the front. The colour and the enbroidery is fab too.

Mum brought back this too. Hubby did a second take when he saw this one. But Little Lady seems to love it.

This one though, brought back from Pakistan by mum-in-law, has to be the pièce de résistance of Little Lady's wardobe this year. The picture doesn't quite do the luminous green shade justice. She can't wait it to wear it.

I can't really poke fun. My favourite outfit as a ten year old was a flourescent pink and green satin shalwar kameez with puff shoulders. I wore the thing to death. I would have post a picture of me wearing it Kew Gardens many years ago, but thankfully that picture is buried deep in the back of cupboards at my mums house.

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Five Months Down and Some Good News

Thanks to the dua’s of kind sisters my nausea has subsided and I am starting to feel better. I went for my five months scan yesterday and was told everything looked okay alhamdulillah. After so many years and five previous pregnancies, I thought I would be a bit more clinical about these things, but as always I cried when I saw the sprog on the screen.

I have also been for my blood test results and much to my surprise found that my sugar levels were very high. I have to go back to do tests for gestational diabetes. I am also at risk because Gorgeous was so big (9lb 2) that he dislocated his shoulder muscles when he was born, cue weeks of physiotherapy (women with diabetes or gestational diabetes tend to have larger babies).

In the meantime, I am being very strict with my diet, cutting out sugar and junk food and trying to eat carbs that break down slowly. As I have lost my taste for sugar and can’t tolerate chilli anymore, this was much easier than it should have been.

At the same time I have been slowing down at work, rejecting requests to work longer hours during the Olympics and trying to rest more. There are days when I am grateful for the distraction of work from my constantly uncomfortable mid-section which feels like it is turning into rock some days. On other days I start to wish I could spend the day at home lying down (we have a mother’s room here, but so far I have not used it). Recently an opportunity to apply for a promotion came up and I have resisted thinking that I wouldn’t stand a chance now that colleagues know I am pregnant. But when the deadline was extended I decided to try my luck, reasoning that if something is meant for me by Allah (SWT), then no-one can take it away for me and if not, that is okay too, but at least I tried.

The other good news I have had is that my Aunty had a baby girl. I was at the hospital for my scan when she went in. She had had a very, very difficult pregnancy and ended up having a caesarean. The baby is beautiful with a good set of lungs mash’Allah, but my aunt has a long recovery ahead of her, please make dua for her to get better soon insh'Allah.

National Zakat Foundation – Become a Champion


You might have come across the National Zakat Foundation who have been working hard to raise awareness of their charity which aims to distribute zakat (alms) to needy Muslims in the UK. Most Muslims in the UK have traditionally sent their zakat abroad, not realising the desperate situation of some people in their own country (you can read case studies here)

The National Zakat Foundation are currently encouraging people to register on their website to become NZF Champions to help raise awareness of the charity and its work:

“Just 10 hours of your time over 10 weeks (15th June to 24th August 2012) can make a real difference to your brothers and sisters who are facing hardships such as sleeping rough, not having enough food to eat or being unable to adequately clothe their children.

As an NZF Champion, you will be the voice of NZF in your community, raising awareness about the importance of Zakat and giving it locally to help causes which affect Muslims here in the UK. Each week you will be set a simple but important task to complete which will take us a step closer to helping those in need insha’Allah.

You will be given full support and training, an NZF Champion Welcome Pack as well as the opportunity to meet your fellow Champions at events across the country. This really is one opportunity which you cannot afford to miss!”

I like this initiative because not everyone can afford to give large sums of money to charity, but to dedicate one hour from the 168 hours in the week seems manageable. You can register here to become a Champion.

Thursday 7 June 2012

Mercy Mission Annual Sisters Conference – Ustad Musleh Khan on Happiness

This weekend I was fortunate enough to attend the annual Mercy Mission sister’s conference. This year the theme was Me, Myself and Allah.

The venue was the lovely Kensington Town Hall and on arriving I was greeted with a host of stalls which included information and opportunities around Islamic knowledge and education and outreach (I liked the Lush stall too!).

I found the speakers interesting and their advice very useful, it was certainly a discussion point for me and hubby, who mash’Allah was greatly supportive in me being able to attend.

I’m hoping to type up the brief notes from each speaker at the event in the hope that they are as beneficial to others as they were to me. The first talk was by Ustad Musleh Khan on the theme of Happiness.

Ustad Musleh Khan – Happiness

Ustad Musleh Khan outlined seven things which he had come to conclude helped us to achieve happiness in this life:

1. We should strive for the pleasure of Allah (SWT). Everything we do, we should try to relate back to how it can contribute to pleasing Allah (SWT). This will lead to contentment. The Ustad quoted from the Quran:
Say: Lo! My worship and my sacrifice and my living and my dying are for Allah, Lord of the Worlds. (6:162)

2. Be grateful with the Qadr (power and decree) of Allah (SWT). Be grateful with what has been given to you and what is prescribed for you. This is to test you and to encourage you in good deeds

3. Satisfy your heart and soul through zikr (remembrance of Allah (SWT)) and good naseehah (advice). Make use of the early morning and start the day on the right track.

4. Choose wise companions and good friends. They will determine your happiness. You become like your friends - whether they be rude and ill-mannered or pious. An example of this is the way Islamic scholars tend to befriend other Islamic scholars. We should choose friends who set a good example to us and encourage us to strive harder. We should also look at how our friends treat their families as there are many people who are nice in public or in the masjid, but then rude in the home with their families or parents. The ustad quoted the hadith that “The best of you are those who are best to their families, and I am the best of you to my family.” (Tirmidhi, Sahih)

5. Prioritise Your Life – What do you think about first thing in the morning? How many celebrities can you name and how many Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet PBUH)? Do you know the seerah (biography) of famous actresses or the Prophet’s (PBUH) wives/ We need to undertake intellectual as well as physical prioritisation, particularly because what we think about comes about through our actions.
Most of all we should prioritise the Quran and reflect on it all of the time.

6. Choose a righteous husband – one who guides and reassures you and provides a sense of encouragement. He gave the example of the Prophet (PBUH) who used to spend time listening to his wives and just talking with them because he enjoyed their company. The ustad suggested three qualities a sister should look for in a spouse: a) Someone who is good to his family, b) someone who can physically and financially take responsibility for his wife, c) someone who lets you set your own routine in the home and is accommodating to this.

7. Make the Quran a part of your life. Ask yourself “When have I read Quran just for the sake of loving your Quran?” What is your plan to make the Quran a part of your life from today. The ustad pointed out that the Quran is easy to memorise, giving the example of a sister who did so at the age of 81!

In conclusion, true happiness lies in good deeds done for the sake of Allah (SWT), these make us feel happy.

Insh'Allah I will try to post notes from the other talks over the next few days.

The Green Fair

I went to a Green Fair this weekend, hoping to learn something new. It’s funny how differently we all experienced it. The fair had stalls for plants, home-made and organic food and toiletries, crafts (lots of jewellery stalls) and information on local voluntary and charitable projects of various types.

I found it beneficial and came away with information on volunteering, local women’s groups, a local organic food box company and some recycling projects.

Mum and mother-in-law rushed around and declared the place was full of junk and they were bored. Fashionista raised an eyebrow and declared it looked like a big rubbish version of a boot sale. The kids moaned a bit but were happy once they had punnets of raspberries and strawberries, which the boys scoffed before anyone else got a chance. I and Kooks found a very cute book hedgehog, We then got hubby to pick every one up and sneaked off for a not very green or organic, but very tasty burger.

Monday 4 June 2012

Watching the Boats on the Queens Diamond Jubilee

London was adorned for the celebration of the Queens Diamond Jubilee yesterday. The highlight was the flotilla pageant of 1000 boats and ships sailing down the Thames with the Queen at its head. Generally the rush meant people were discouraged from trying to drive into the city or commute in as the tubes were too packed.

Waited till later in the day after the pageant had finished and the boats stopped at Tower Bridge. Without any sensible plan, we packed kids and mum-in-law into the car (she had arrived in London 1am the night before) and headed into the city centre. Hubby found somewhere near the bridge to park whilst I worried we were going to get a fine, or clamped (these things don't usually bother him).

There were still lots of people around in celebratory mood. We managed to find a good spot on the bridge and watch the boats sail back under the bridge towards the east.

The Gherkin and the wonderful Tower of London.

Tower Bridge:

The kids managed to find a spot where they could see the boats and Little Lady was dressed appropriately for the occasion in red, white and blue.

The tall ships were my favourite, but stayed where they were as they were too tall to pass under the bridge.

The red and gold boat visible in the picture below is the Queens Barge called the Spirit of Chartwell, although obviously she wasn't still on it at this point.

I noticed the party that was going on in this boat, it was fun to see all of the ladies dressed in their party dresses and hats despite the rain.

Sunday 3 June 2012

Aaila Magazine - May/June 2012 Edition

The latest edition of Aaila, the Muslim Family Magazine is out now. Mash'Allah as always brothers and sisters have submitted some brilliant articles and columns including articles to help get ready for Ramadan:

My Ultimate Guide to Travelling with a Little One by Shazia Ahmad
Infertility: Diagnosing the Cause by Dr Subohi Alom
Why we Homeschool by Deborah Qalballah
Muslimah Dilemma: Managing Your Time Productively During Ramadan by Tasnim Nazeer
Ramadan: A day in the life of a single Muslim Mother by Misbah Akhtar
How to include young children during Ramadan by Ameera Rahim
5 Ways to Entertain your Kids this Ramadan by Grandma Jeddah

I am also ever so pleased to see Shutterbug's Sisters photo's used in the magazine.

As always we welcome submissions, so if you love writing, are passionate about something you want to share or have some advice, a recipe or review that fits the theme of the magazine, please do get in touch with the editor Sister Sumaiyah Umm Imran at