Saturday 28 February 2015

Gorgeous Umrah Cakes

Our family has always been reserved  and quite proper in the way we do things - part of this has been shying away from showing love and affection.  That doesn't mean we don't feel it, we just struggle with showing it in conventional ways like big hugs, declarations of affection and general cheesiness.

Instead we try to show our love by taking care of people, trying to do things for them, help them in some way or give them something.

Recently Fashionista's husband's uncle became very, very sick and the whole family were in immense pain seeing him in this condition.  Fashionista is very close to her in-laws mash'Allah and was in tears too when she told me (mash'Allah her in-laws are some of the loveliest people I have ever met and truly understand what it means to hold onto the ties of kinship).

One of their uncles dearest wishes was to see the house of Allah SWT again, so the whole family set off for Umrah (pilgrimage) to Makkah.  They came back this week and Fashionista made these beautiful cupcakes as a welcome home gift.

I can imagine all of the love and care and concern she poured into these and I'm so proud of her.  I love the details and the beautiful combination of light green and gold (although I have no idea how she made black icing).

Her husband's Uncle is still very unwell, please remember him and his family in your dua's.

If you like the look of these, you can see lots more of her creations here.

Aaila the Muslim Family Magazine - January/February 2015 Edition

The latest edition of Aaila, the Muslim Family Magazine is now online alhamdulillah with lot of useful content. Top of my reading list are:

Would you buy your 10 year old a SMART phone? By Farhat Amin - an issue that is often discussed in our home.

Nurturing the Next Generation to Pray By Hafsa Waseela - an issue that every conscientious Muslim parent will consider at some point.

Yasmin Mogahed: The greatest quest: Steps towards an everlasting marriage By Sumaiya Umm Imran (Editor) - I found so much inspiration in this post mash'Allah.

The milk of love By Nabila Fowles-Gutierrez - about the role of the human emotion of love in breastfeeding from a midwife.  I'm nursing at the moment so I loved this article.

6 things you should know before you buy your kids a kitten By Farhat Amin - another ongoing point of discussion in our house!

My contributions are here, here, here, here , here and here.

As well as the magazines book club and series of reviews. Please do take a look and if there is something you find beneficial, please do leave a comment to say, every comment or piece of feedback is very much appreciated. If you would like to contribute something for the next issue, please contact the editor Sister Umm Imran at:

You can visit the lively and engaged Facebook page here.

You can follow the magazine via Bloglovin (which is what I use to keep up with my favourite sites) here to make sure you catch new articles as they are published.

We would also love to hear from you if you have any expertise around marketing, advertising or photography. We are always looking for ways to make the magazine more beneficial and vibrant.

If you want to advertise your business, service or product, Aaila might be just the forum for you. You can contact Sister Umm Imran at the above e-mail for further information.

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Little Man's Ameen Party

Little Man actually finished Quran last year, but with a new baby and my little sisters wedding, we pushed his celebration to a few months later instead.

We had considered a day out for the family instead or a boys day out with his dad to somewhere like go-karting, but the horrible weather and cost put us off.

Being a quiet, modest boy, I thought it would be nice too for him to get some of the attention that the others manage to monopolise most of the time.

We picked an easy blue and silver space theme and made the banner and frame a few days before.  The stars are the type used in shops and stalls to show prices and we just spray painted silver.  (I have no idea how the banner got hung so wonky and I am just realising from looking at these pictures how funny they look).

I love to dress my boys up and this outfit was one that Shutterbug Sister bought the boys on their birthdays last year.  They have matching trousers but I liked the way the shirts and waistcoats looked with jeans, they remind me of the 90's for some reason.  Gorgeous refused to wear them saying he would look silly, until I showed him some pictures, then he agreed to try the clothes on.  He looked in the mirror at himself and declared "hmm not too bad".

Little Lady, Darling and my niece all wore matching outfits that my mum had bought back from Pakistan recently.  Darlings bangles were too big, but as soon she saw them she had then on her arm and there they stayed.

Fashionista Sister made cakes for the occasion to fit into the theme.  The thing with this type of cake is that sometimes they look good but taste average, but these were delicious and really moist and disappeared really quickly.

I always think if nothing else is right, but the food is good, an occasion is saved.  This time we made nuggets and fries, macaroni salad, green chutney, potato and chickpea chaat and chicken sandwiches.  My mum brought lamb kebabs and my neighbour kindly made some yummy pakora's.  My aunt made us chicken biryani.

For games we had everyone guess the number of sweets in the jar to be able to keep them.

All of the adults joined in and I was just happy that my kids didn't win.

The other games required the kids sitting in a circle with straws around a plate of sweets.  Whoever sucked up the most sweets and dropped them into their bowl was the winner

It was like a rugby scrum, only more vicious with everyone trying to push their head into the middle of the circle.  Very entertaining for the mums.

Little Man's favourite part of the party was getting new trainers from Fashionista's husband, who my boys adore and look up to.  No chance of losing my son with those shoes on.

As ever the little girls made our day.  Baby hijacked Fashionista's little sweetheart's giraffe

Although Sweetheart then seemed to think Baby was a toy.

My favourite bit of the occasion was when we got all of the children to recite a bit of Quran starting with Little Man who recited Surah Yasin which he is memorising insh'Allah.  Even the smallest kids recited a little which was lovely.

I make dua that my dear son has an enduring, life-long relationship with the word of Allah and benefits from its wisdom and beauty in this life and the next insh'Allah.

Monday 23 February 2015

Picture of the Day: 23.02.15 - Signs of Spring

It's still cold here, but we are seeing signs of spring.  It was so energising and uplifting to wake up to bright sunlight this morning.  Something that we don't get here for months at a time.  It made such a difference.

The garden needs tidying up and the flower bed needs to be weeded and turned over while we plan what goes into them this year.  But I'm leaving all of that until a warmer day.  The camellia always flowers first and it's beautiful big rose like blooms are just the thing to make you hopeful that warmer days are on their way soon.

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Book Review: Sahar El-Nadi – Sandcastles and Snowmen

In Sandcastles and Snowmen, Sahar El-Nadi tells the story of how she grew up in Muslim countries but truly found her religion as an adult through her travels, life experiences and subsequent deep reflection. 

The book starts with an accessible introduction to the key tenets of Islam which is straightforward enough to make sense to non-Muslims.  It then asks some of the really big questions – Why am I in this world?  Why is there suffering in this world? As well as some questions that will pique people’s interest: What is shariah law? What is the ultimate goal of a Muslim?  The rest of the book covers Islam’s place in the modern world regarding just about everything:  art, science, trade, diversity, gender inequality, human rights and politics

I enjoyed El-Nadi’s way of explaining some Islamic concepts.  When faced with a liberal audience who could not understand why some things were halal or haram and how they could be assigned labels of good or bad, she replaces the terms good ad bad with healthy and unhealthy – concepts that her Swedish friends were more familiar with.

I was a little uncomfortable with her way of explaining how we get reward points for good deeds, it almost felt a little as if the faith is being explained very methodically without the spirituality behind it, however the Chapter on Reward and Punishment (Chapter 4) does take this further and explains rewards for good deeds, rewards for the intention as well as the deed and the reward for encouraging others to do good deeds.   The explanation is taken further with the understanding that heaven is for those who consistently make good intentions, try to act on them and try to make the world a better place.

I was moved by the section which described the authors experience of visiting the Kaaba in Makkah and I think many people would be able to relate to the powerful effect this has on her.  For those who are curious about the pilgrimage Muslims make to Makkah, the authors description of the  transformational nature of this journey should be of interest.

The chapter on manners and ethics included some good reminders and reasons on why Islam is a religion of peace, with emphasis on encouraging good and preventing evil, showing compassion to others and particularly the importance of good manners in faith.

The chapter on Islam and human rights is essential reading for all of those people horrified by the cruel things happening in the name of Islam.  The religions actual commands regarding the rights of women, children, parents and even animals are laid out, using short stories that Muslims will be familiar with as examples.

The book also offers some opinion and insight into a number of political issues such as identity and prompts us to consider how often we questions concepts such as middle east and third world?  There is an explanation of the true meaning of Jihad, a term much bandied about at the moment and some thoughts on the role of religion in the Arab Spring.

The chapter on gender roles and equality I found particularly insightful, especially the section on polygamy, as well as the authors beautiful description of hijab and her husbands reaction to her hair on their wedding night of all things.

The book did jump around a little from one topic to another, partly because of the sheer breadth of what the author tries to cover.  My first reading of the book was a slow and careful reading which took me plenty of time, just so that I could digest and weigh up what I was reading.  Definitely a book I would keep hold of and come back to, although probably more to dip in and out of and to provide food for thought.

With recent events in Pakistan, Paris, Syria and Nigeria making headlines and capturing the world’s attention, this book is a good one to help people who have become curious about Muslims and Islam to answer important questions.  It is also a useful guide for Muslims who want to help non-Muslims understand them better.  An ambitious, interesting and accessible book that I will be recommending to friends.

You can find out more at: Amazon, Goodreads, the website for the book, the Facebook page for the book and the authors YouTube channel.

“I discovered another analogy in the legacy of Prophet Muhammad that immediately clicked with me: that the angels put down their wings in humility for a person who seeks knowledge, and that all living things, even the ants in their anthill and the fish in the sea, pray for a person who teaches people good things.

When I read this, I literally felt the goodness flow out of my heart for all creatures. The beautiful mental image it evoked resonated with my concept of the universe as one unit, and of all living things seeking to live together in peace and harmony, and being grateful when humans tried to fit into the circle of life, instead of working so hard to disrupt its equilibrium”  
Sahar El-Nadi, Sandcastles & Snowmen

Monday 9 February 2015

My Sartorial Wishlist

I have been taking a break from blogging for the last month in an attempt to simplify my life and create new routines as a mother of five that allow me to fulfil my most important responsibilities, stay sane and hopefully sneak in some fun.

So in the spirit of fun, I want to ease back into blogging with some eye candy.  Most of what I wear at the moment is either mismatched or the wrong size.  As soon as I manage to find something nice to wear, it has to go back in the wash because "someone" has either thrown up on me, exploded their nappy and leaked on me or wipes dirty hands on me.

Thankfully, there is Pinterest, with it's wishlist board acting as my imaginary dream wardrobe:

I love long coats and jackets over an abaya - modest, warm and elegant I think.

Love this bag, it would probably end up full of nappies and bottles, but it would still look so good.

I think this has to be my dream bag - I have a thing about green, have loved almost every shade of it since I was a kid, and the size -the sheer amount of tissues, wipes, bitten lip balms, pens and junk I could cram into it.

I have a thing for pomegranates - and the smoothness of those stones!

I have a jacket just like this one, love how it looked over my abaya, but suspect it might not fit any more when I go back to work.  Hankering after a dark red version.

(originally found here)

I can just imagine this tote with my journals, filofax and reading books and stationary, probably some chocolate sneaked in there too.  That green obsession showing again.

I doubt I could wear heels like this any more - but that colour...