Monday 31 March 2014

An Easy-Breezy Mothers Day

We had a rather sweet Mothers Day this year, the day was spent eating strawberries and playing badminton in my mum's garden and oohing and aahing over the babies (Darling and my sweetheart niece who likes to hug her).

A lot of Muslims don't celebrate Mothers Day saying that for Muslim's every day should be Mothers Day.  Whilst I agree that you should take care of your mother every day rather than single out one day, I don't get flowers every day, so if I get them one day of the year, I'm not going to complain.

The very pretty bunch below were from my sisters:

This gerbera was from my children.

My mum loves Mothers Day and always gets inundated with flowers.  Below are a few of the bunches she got.  I think there are about four bouquets squashed into these two vases.

This one was from my children, we were sold on the rainbow rose:

Mothers Day Card

I made this card for my mum for Mothers Day.  She loves flowers and sparkle and girly things, so I didn't hold back.

The butterflies are felt with gems and the flowers are felt and punched paper flowers with adhesive gems for sparkle.  She really liked it.

Saturday 29 March 2014

Cards for March 2014: Rainbow Doodles

The printed papers I used were all from American Crafts Amy Tangerine Sketchbook 12x12 book of papers.  I like the bright colours and and-drawn feel of the papers.

This last one was my favourite.  I can't resist rainbows.

Things That Go Bump in the Night (Me)

I used to be a very light sleeper, until I had my children.  I don’t know if it is the busy-ness of my days or sod’s law (that the less the kids let you sleep, the more you want to), but now I can sleep as soon as my head hits the pillow and through crying babies and kids that have decided to sneak out of bed.  My daughter once slept in my bed when hubby was away and commented that she couldn't believe I just lay my head down and fell straight asleep.

Recently I've started going to bed a bit earlier and I find myself waking up in the night every few hours.  Most people would hate this.  I have friends and colleagues who complain about insomnia and struggling to get up the next morning and often being late for work (Whatsapping people until 2am in the morning contributes to the problem, but no-one wants to admit that).

I actually like being awake in the night.  I love to be awake when everyone is asleep.  But what is there to do when you are awake at 2am, then 4 am and then 5.15am?  This is what I like to do:

1.    Let my mind wander.  I am a born day-dreamer.  I love to let my brain take me into meadows and woods with rivers, to parties and important meetings where I rule and to lecture halls where I rock at the lectern.  Over the years, I have realised that day-dreaming is not just a waste of time, but creates a rich inner life full of meaning and means you can never be bored in your own company.  It has also taught me that behind the stories and scenarios that your brain throws up, there are glimpses into your hearts desires and what you really, really want in life but sometimes don’t have the nerve to admit.

2.    Play with Pinterest on my phone.  I am a bit of a fan.  I love the access this website gives us to the wealth of design, ideas and eye-candy that wasn't so easy to find before.  I like how you can follow one pin to another, finding the perfect clutch which leads you to your dream emerald earrings from a designer you have never heard of before which leads you to the pinners home page where you find the hand bag of your dreams.  Like scrapbooking without the mess, or daydreaming on the computer screen.

3.    Check on the Kids.  Every time I wake up, I wonder if the kids have their covers over them.  I don’t always get up, but when I do its always Gorgeous and darling who have their feet hanging off the bed and the covers off (or in Darlings case her bum in the air and her face buried in her pillow).  Is there a point when mums stop doing this?  Like before their kids are adult and leave home?

4.    Read rubbish on my phone.  The kind of junk I refrain from during the daytime because it is a waste of time, unproductive and probably because I don’t want people to see what I am reading.  Like fashion websites, celebrity news or movie spoilers.  Sad, but my little secret guilty fix.  Plus I don’t have to worry I'm ignoring the kids or hubby because I have my face in a little screen.

5.    Check my blog on my phone.  There is no reason this can’t wait until the morning.  But I still get so psyched when someone leaves a comment or the stats show how many people visited and where from.  Last month there were 1643 visits from people in China and I always wonder how Ukraine makes the top ten countries for visitors to my blog every time.

6.    Annoy my husband.  Every now and again he snores and if he does it sets me on edge, so we play the poking game (not what you think, thank you).  I elbow him he stops snoring.  He starts again, I poke him, he stops, I almost fall asleep and he jars me awake again.  I try to nudge him so that he shifts and is breathing easier and usually this works.  I am amazed at this man's patience, he has never complained about the poking and elbowing, or maybe he’s not quite awake enough for it to register properly.

Thankfully, so far my night-time musings and brain-wanderings aren't leaving me too tired to function during the day.  If that starts happening I’ll have to put the phone under hubby’s pillow and start thinking about work in the morning; that will put me back to sleep.

Monday 24 March 2014

Picture of the Day 24.03.14 - Sick Babies

We have been sharing viruses in our family, like the sharing, caring people we are.  My poor mum and dad have been ill and driving each other up the wall with their irritableness, my brother is recovering from the same thing and now all four of my kids have got it.  My nose is tickling and my teeth hurt because of my blocked sinuses, so I know I have a good time coming my way too.

Gorgeous got sent home from school, Little Man threw up a few times and then the nurse sent him back to class, Little Lady moaned a lot.  They all have stomach and head aches, nausea and very runny noses.  They are all lying about coughing under baby blankets and refusing to eat.

For all his mischief, I hate when Gorgeous is ill, he is so well-behaved, it doesn't suit him at all.  Little Man not eating is like fish not swimming, he is like one of those very skinny people who always win "eat the most" competitions.  Somehow, Darling manages to look adorable even with snot coming out of her nose (I tried to take a picture and she wouldn't let me, seems even at one years old she has SOME dignity).  Little Lady is offended that we sent her to her Arabic class and doesn't think she should go school tomorrow.  

Hubby has been trying to get a doctor's appointment, which is a Herculean task at our local surgery.  I think we might just keep them all home tomorrow.

Picture of the Day 23.03.14 - Twilight in the Garden

It was all very English on Sunday, alternating between rain and sun.  I've been working on my little garden, planting flowers and cleaning up (before and after pics to come).  As soon as the rain stopped I rushed outside and started sticking flowers in the ground.

There is something about rain and the evening light that I love - something mysterious but also comforting.  Next stop, fairy lights and perhaps some little fruit trees.

Picture of the Day 22.03.14 - Boys with Books

I took the children into town on Saturday morning and thought I would treat then by letting them choosing a book.  Of all places, TK Maxx sometimes have an interesting selection of discounted children's books.  I let the cashier scan them and handed them back to the kids.   After I paid, I turned round to find this:

I always worry about my boys not being interested in books, so I found the sight so heartening.  I've recently found that Gorgeous is reading by himself more often in his calmer moments, whereas Little Man still likes to be read to.

Little Man picked the World History book and came over every time he finds something about someone being disembowelled (William Wallace) or hung, drawn and quartered (William Wallace again) or sacrificed (Mayans and Aztecs).  I absolutely love this book, I think it deserves a review of its own.

Gorgeous picked Amazing Adventure Stories and has been reading to himself and giggling away ("Mum look, after the race they went to the cafe and had a sip of oil!")

Little Lady picked the drawing book and invited our 19-year old neighbour round to draw with her.

This was Darling's stash:

I love the classics like Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle Duck.  The Where's Spot book is paper unlike the others which are cardboard, but she will love the surprises behind all the flaps, so we can use this one together.  The Kitten book is same as one Little Lady had when she was little and loved, Darling likes stroking the cats fur inside the book too.  The Lego book came with Duplo blocks to make the characters in the book, she is fascinated with how the blocks stick together.

The books averaged about £3-4 for the big ones and about £2 for the baby books, about a quarter of the RRP price, so I am quite pleased and if it gets the boys reading, I am going to be very pleased.

Thursday 20 March 2014

The Ripple Effect of Education

I read something interesting today:

Education has a ripple effect… Educate a girl, and you educate her children and generations to follow. ~ John Wood in What Matters Now (free e-book here).

I think a lot of people would agree with this.  It resonates with me on a very personal level though.  For me education does not have a linear effect: a woman goes to school, she sees the value of education and sends her daughter to school, who then sends her own daughter to school.  It absolutely has a ripple effect.  I believe that the benefits don’t just get passed along; they ripple outward increasing and accumulating at each step.

Why do I think this?  I know the value of education from a  very personal perspective and from seeing the impact on those that don’t have it.  My mum lost her mother at the age of two and so her education was never prioritised.  She grew up in a time and place in Pakistan where women were not generally educated unless it was for a few early years – enough to read and write at a basic level.  The older generation of men in our family did not approve of sending girls to school because it was a threat to the tight grip they kept over their womenfolk.  They feared that educating their children would lead to women becoming independent, thinking for themselves and worse still making their own decisions – like choosing who they wanted to marry.

My mum came to England in the 1970’s and the impact of not being able to read or write either in her own language or in that of her adopted country affected her significantly.  She could not write home and tell her family of her living conditions, she could not read letters from her beloved brother, who she did not see for 16 years at one point, unless she found a trusted friend to read them to her.  She could not support her children in their education by helping them with their homework.  Over time she learned to read and write a little English by watching children’s programmes with us and as we got older we would write letters to her brother for her.

The difficulties she faced meant she never wanted to see her daughters in the same position.  i recall that when I was very small she kept a pretty black and gold mirrored bag on top of her wardrobe and whenever she picked up a children’s book she would stash it in this bag.  She showed me her bag when I was about four and told me it was for when I went to infant school.  Something about how special and important that bag was rubbed off on me and I have been a passionate bibliophile throughout my life.  She made sure we always had what we needed for school and kept dropping hints that one of us should think about becoming a doctor (none of us have quite managed that …).

At the end of high school, my dad was very uncomfortable with me continuing my education - the idea of his oldest daughter going out into the wider world must have terrified him as would have the idea of the dangerous world out there influencing me.  My mum was the one that supported me to continue into college and acted as a buffer between my ambition and my dad’s discomfort.  When I was in college, Tony Blair did something that I will never forgive him for: introduce the payment of fees for university education.  I decided that this meant I could not afford to go to university, so I would look for a job.  My mum encouraged me to apply to university saying she would find a way to pay the fees – this coming from a woman who worked very long hours as a seamstress to earn sometimes less than £100 for a weeks work.  Thankfully my dad grudgingly let me go to university – the first woman in my family to do so.  I didn't have to pay the fees because the universities actually started to charge the year after and I found a part time job to pay for my books.

I will never forget the support my mum gave me to study and whenever I look at her arthritic hands caused by her years of working as a seamstress, I am reminded of why Muslims believe that paradise is under their mothers feet.  I am reminded also of the sacrifices it can take to move outside of your comfort zone, create a new path and change what came before.

Again it was not just a case of a simple linear benefit – the fact that she could not read and I could.  The ripple in my life was massive.  I could enter the world of work and worked for the civil service and then local government.  I read everything I could get my hands on and despite a sheltered life, felt as if I had seen so much in the world.  New ways of thinking, being and living opened up to me that I could pick and choose from to implement in my life.

Now it is my turn to create the ripple in my children’s life.  But it is not just a case of I received an education, I could get a job and now my children can.  It’s not even about trying to get the best grades from the most prestigious schools.  The ripple has the potential to run so much further and wider.  For me it’s about opening up to the endless possibilities and experiences that are out there – the idea of following your passion and using it to serve the world, the idea of learning from everyone you meet and sharing what you learn, of thinking and acting big, of exploring the world.  As an immigrant community, for so long we focussed on surviving, then fitting in, that we have not always had time for these strange, new ideas.

For my children I am making time for these ideas.  I have chosen to opt out of the competition to see whose child gets the best grades or gets into the best school.  I want to choose a wider definition of education for my children.  I love to share new ideas and emerging thinking with them.  I love to discuss world news and politics with them and I am surprised by their take on things sometimes.  We watch TED talks and Islamic lectures together (recently we watched Mary Beards lecture how women are silenced in public life – I wonder what our old men would have made of that!).

As little lady gets older, I find her picking up some of my books instead of her own (which completely threw me out of my comfort zone at first).  I am introducing her to spoken poetry and activism (check out Sarah Kay's If I should have a daughter and Rafeef Ziadah's Shades of anger and We teach life, sir, if you want to get a taste of this, you might end up hooked like we both are).   I will encourage the children to volunteer in our neighbourhood once they hit their teens and I will try to find ways for them to travel and experience the world (if I can let go of my terror of allowing them out of my sight first).  I want them to take the lead on what they want to educate themselves about and how they will be of service to their community and the wider world as they use what they learn.  I yearn for them to be so much more than me, to soar in the world and to help those in difficulty at the same time.

Where will the ripple started by my mum end?  Who knows who will be served by her sacrifice and dream and where it will take the generations to come.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Product Review: The Muslim Sticker Company Sticker Books

When the Muslim Sticker Company asked if I would like to do a review of their latest product, I was keen to take a look.  I have seen their products in my local Islamic goods shop and found them eye-catching and attractive.  I previously used their stickers as a finishing touch to some Eid treats I made for my children:

They sent me three copies of thier new sticker book for my children to try out.  I did think they would be suitable for younger children so suggested that Gorgeous (7 years) try one and perhaps we let the neighbours 6-year old and another child try the other two.  Both Little Man and Little Lady declined and decided to use the books theirselves. 

Like the stickers I bought previously, the books were colourful and glossy.  The book uses good quality thick white paper with a lot of colour used on the pages.  This book focussed on shapes and I would say it would be perfect for smaller children around 3-7 years who are learning about shapes and would enjoy the simple activities.

I found some of stickers, especially the prayer mats and elements of the masjid such as the dome, very nicely designed and all of the stickers a nice quality.  The pages have themes such as Eid, Ramadan, the masjid and a childs room.  The activities include drawing, colouring, shape matching and shape sorting.

The children enjoyed these and I always look out for of Islamic-themed fun activities and this met the bill. I would say this is the right size and level of difficulty to keep a young child busy during a long trip or a half-term holiday. One other use for the stickers could be for crafts such as card-making, it almost seemed a shame to let the loose on the stickers

Friday 14 March 2014

Feroza: New Arm-Candy for Spring

It's been a bit quiet on the Feroza front, but we've been keeping busy sourcing new products, researching new collections and creating campaigns to bring to you all!

One of the things we have added are some kundan-style stone-set bangles, which are one of our most popular products. I love this set of bangles which we acquired recently, set with clear stones and feroza-coloured ones - naturally it's something which caught our eyes!

We've also recently added these beautiful bangle cuffs, which would make a beautiful accessory for almost any outfit (both Western or Desi).  The clear stones look wonderfully sparkly and this make lovely arm candy! These are being sold individually but can be worn as a single bangle or as a set of two - we'd love to hear your ideas about how you would wear it.

We will be adding new products over the coming days, so do have a look at the Feroza shop. Now that spring is here, it's a great excuse to shop for pretty jewellery and scarves - so please do check it out!

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Thursday 13 March 2014

Authoritarian Teaching (or Gorgeous Meets his Match)

Gorgeous’ lovely class teacher has just left for maternity leave, when I heard who would be replacing her I had a smirk on my face all week. This week all of the parents in his class were invited to meet his new teacher. The smirk has now been wiped off of my face.

Gorgeous is very cheeky and whether there is mischief, chaos or something utterly ridiculous has happened, he is usually nearby. I always ask his teachers about his behaviour and they always tell me how wonderful he is. The boy is very charming and I have always struggled to discipline him because it doesn't seem to have any effect and because he knows how to turn those big, brown, sad eyes on me as if he is completely and utterly innocent of anything. Ever. 

(Gorgeous with the haircut he gave himself when he was 4)

I know he gets up to things at school, because his older brother and sister tell me – soaking people at the school water fountain, wrestling in the playground with his friends, mixing up all of the classes packed lunches. He just doesn't seem to get caught. So when I heard his new teacher was Mrs C, I smiled. She was previously Little Ladies’ teacher and I remember how strict she was. She marked the class down at the beginning of the year because she thought the teacher the year before was too lenient in her grading. I remember her one parents evening telling another parent that her child didn't seem to understand she was in school to learn not play and talk to friends. Little Lady hated her.

So when I found out she would be taking over as Gorgeous’ teacher, I thought he had finally met his match. I left work early to get to the meeting and found the teacher in her class with a flip-board with a list of points under the headings behaviour, learning and attitude. She proceeded to tell us all that after observing for two weeks she had found that the children were not doing well enough. Their behaviour needed to be better, their work needed to be better, they needed to make more effort, have better presentation and their attitudes were not good enough. They were in year two now and only had one and a half term to their SAT tests, so needed to get their act together (the penny kind of dropped then because during this year children’s test scores are reported to government).

She finished up by telling us not enough children were finishing homework, bringing in PE kits or coming in the right uniform. This is the point where all of the parents smiled and nodded and pretended it was everyone else’s children who the teacher was talking about (I know for a fact that Gorgeous keeps wearing his angry bird and Superman socks to school instead of the grey ones I buy him – he is obsessed with socks).

During the whole 20 minute talk, the kids sat on the carpet looking around proudly as they do when we go to their special assemblies – clearly they didn't seem to think the teacher was talking about them either.

I waited until the parents were leaving and approached the teacher to ask if they were any specific problems with Gorgeous I could work on. She said he was very bright, but every single time she turned her back he was up to something. “I have given him chance, I will give him no more chance” (imagine a strong Polish accent here– I like how direct Polish people are). She also mentioned his handwriting which we have been working on for the last three years and which degenerates every time we stop practising (he thinks writing ten words in giant writing across the page constitutes a page of writing and will get him out of any more practice – wrong!).

So it seems that Gorgeous has finally met his match. We will be having lots of conversations about the need to respect and listen to teachers, about the importance of working hard and about abiding by the class room rules. It remains to be seen if his charm works on Mrs C or if Mrs C manages to tame Gorgeous and by the end of the year he is wearing his grey socks.

Sunday 9 March 2014

Picture of the Day 08.03.14 - You Asked For It

I have been trying hard recently to add some exercise into my routine.  I did Pilates for a while from videos I found on Youtube and that really, really helped improved my movement and flexibility.  But I stopped when I felt under the weather and I haven't wanted to start again since.

What I really wanted was to walk every day, but there has been no-one to watch the kids and after a few months, I felt like I had no energy and walking felt so haaard...

I decided to get an exercise machine, but had no idea where to start and no budget.  In frustration I moaned at hubby that it was his fault I had gained weight, because before I married him I was skinny.  I knew I was being completely unreasonable.

He did the best and worse thing a guy can do in such circumstances and said nothing.  The next day I came home from work to find this:

So now I really have no excuse.  I have been doing five to ten minute stints (read that as almost five) about three times a day.  I'm trying to build up my strength and the kids are having great fun using at a slide (one sits on it and another runs and makes him slide off) and trying to turn the gradient up when I am not looking.


Saturday 8 March 2014

Picture of the Day 6.03.14 - Walk Along the Docks

The weather recently in London has been mild and sunny for March.  It has certainly lifted my spirits and made me want to go outside.  I decide to take a walk at lunchtime with a friend and we ended up walking so far, I couldn't get back in time fora meeting.

We ended up near the East London Docks:

The new cable car ride across the docks to Greenwich, the O2 dome and pointy Canary Wharf.   I do want to try the cable car, but I'm terrified of heights.

This boat is the SS Robin, a  cargo-carrying old steamship that is being restored to serve as a museum.  I really like the building in the background.  It's called the Millennium Mills and is a derelict turn-of-the-century art-deco style building (a style I really, really love).

If developers ever show any interest in it, I hope they retain the look of this lovely old building.

Monday 3 March 2014

Cards for March 2014: Doodled Flowers and Paisley Shapes

A funny thing happened this weekend, I found a pocket of time and made some cards.  Little Lady went to both thee neighbours house and invited them around (one is 12 and the other 18) to play Monopoly.  So whilst they argued, fought, sulked ("I'm not playing!", "hey what about me, I am playing!") and cheated like crazy.  I got some time to play with my papers, gems and ribbon.

Of course there is not much chance of Darling taking a nap at the same time, so I had to let her explore my materials too.  Until the Monopoly game caught her attention and she ran away with a pile of money.

The printed papers I used were all from American Crafts Amy Tangerine Sketchbook 12x12 book of papers (you can see some of the amazing papers in this book here).  I like the hand-drawn feel of the designs and that the sketched flowers and paisley shapes remind me of henna designs.  I also liked the watercolour-like washes of colour.

The embellishment I used at the top of the card above was a bindi:

I'm pretty sure the sparkly embellishment on the card below was a body tattoo.

Above is a chipboard embellishment, below is a sticker from a nearly finished pack I've had for ages.

It was lovely being able to get creative again.  I haven't even started on the papers in this pack, so looking forward to trying some more.  I actually sat down to make some baby cards, because I know I will need some, so will have a go at some of those too insh'Allah.

App Review: Muslim Quiz & Games PRO - Islamic Academy

I often get asked to review apps, so when a friend asked me to recommend some good app, especially Islamic themed Apps, I thought I would start reviewing them now and again.  The first one is Muslim Quiz & Games PRO - Islamic Academy by Tentacle Solutions.

I don’t have an ipad or tablet and I don’t usually let the kids touch my phone apart from the rare occasion I need to occupy them when we are at someone’s house and end up using the phone to distract them.

The app is fairly easy to navigate once it is on your phone.  A brief shot of space points you to a map which offers the option of navigating to one of three islands: Games Island, Education Island or Puzzle Island.  The Game Island include memory and sorting games (using Arabic alphabet).

There was an interesting Game that asks you to look at a shopping list and spot if there is anything haram (prohibited to Muslims) in it. 

The education island lets you view how well you are doing and has a series of question and answer games on Islamic themes, including an option to play against someone else.

The puzzle island has a picture sorter, spot the difference, and a matching games with Islamic images and calligraphy to match.  There are various levels of difficulty, with players completing one level to unlock the others.

I liked that the games had an Islamic theme, the colourful and clear graphics and the ease with which you could navigate the app.

My 11 year old (Little Lady) didn’t find the games challenging and would have liked to see more games which the app does say that more games are added as a bonus.  My 7 year old (Gorgeous) enjoyed the app and seemed quite engrossed in the games.

Overall I didn’t mind paying the cost of the app and I prefered it to the usual kind of games my boys like (anything where they can race or shoot something).

All images from the iTunes preview page for Muslim Quiz & Games PRO - Islamic Academy by Tentacle Solutions Limited