Tuesday 30 June 2015

Ramadan Recipe: Chicken Sandwiches

Fashionista Sister first made these and they have proved popular at our parties and picnics. A previous version of this recipe is here, this is an improved and updated version after much testing out of different ingredients. My husband also requests these when he is picking someone up from the airport and wants something light they can eat if they are hungry.

½ kg boneless chicken (I use breast), cubed
400g mayonnaise
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon chilli sauce (optional)
½ a cucumber, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 teaspoon salt
Bread of your choice

Boil the chicken in water for about 15 minutes until cooked through, check by cutting open and checking it is white all the way through. Drain chicken and break up coarsely with a potato masher or the back of a fork (I use the pestle from a small mortar and pestle set). Add the mayonnaise, ketchup, chilli sauce, pepper and salt and mix thoroughly. There is salt already in the mayo, ketchup and chilli sauce, so you only need to add a small amount or it can taste too salty. Add cucumber and carrot and mix. The consistency should be thick but dry, if it feels dry, then add a little more mayo so that it feels soft and mushy.

This should be enough for almost a whole loaf of bread. You can spread a little mayonnaise on both sides of the bread before you spoon on the mixture and spread it if you like.

Ramadan Journal 2015: Day 8 – Grateful For

There is so much to be grateful for at the moment – my faith, my family, my home, work, my health, the more you think about it, the more you realise that you cannot even begin to understand how much you have to be grateful to Allah (SWT) for, every small and big thing and so much we take for granted or are not even aware of.

This Ramadan, I am grateful for the opportunity to earn reward, to have my sins forgiven, I am so grateful at this opportunity to make dua knowing the dua of the fasting person is accepted and to ask for everything I need:

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “There are three prayers that are not rejected: the prayer of a father for his child, the prayer of the fasting person and the prayer of the traveller.” Narrated by al-Bayhaqi; see Saheeh al-Jaami’, 2032; al-Saheehah, 1797. 

When it comes down to it though, at the moment I am so very grateful for two basic things: sleep and food.

People often say Ramadan is not about eating and that we should stick to simple food that doesn’t require too long to prepare or eat. But at the end of a 19 hour fast, I don’t begrudge myself something I enjoy and I certainly don’t turn my nose up at the delicious food the neighbours sent round:

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle (
peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, "Allah said, 'All the deeds of Adam's sons (people) are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.' Fasting is a shield or protection from the fire and from committing sins. If one of you is fasting, he should avoid sexual relation with his wife and quarreling, and if somebody should fight or quarrel with him, he should say, 'I am fasting.' By Him in Whose Hands my soul is' The unpleasant smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk. There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord; then he will be pleased because of his fasting." (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 128)

The last picture, apart from the fruit salad, is entirely food my neighbours sent round, leftovers or food made from leftovers (lamb mince curry turned into lamb mince pasta and pasties). We barely managed to make a dent in all of that food (apart from the strawberries which nearly caused a riot).

Regarding sleep, I was always a very light sleeper until I had children, with each child I seemed to have become a deeper sleeper. Little Lady once remarked that she has never seen anyone that is already asleep by the time that their head hits the pillow until she saw me fall asleep after a long day. The broken sleep and long days of Ramadan coupled with early mornings for work and the school run means I am quite sleep deprived, on one occasion I fell asleep on my prayer mate and woke up close to suhoor (the morning meal before you fast) wondering if I made it to the end of my witr prayer or not. So when I finally get into bed after a long day of work, fasting, cooking and cheeky children, I cannot even describe the utter pleasure of finally letting the day go, my body and mind unwinding and it is something I am deeply grateful for.

Sunday 28 June 2015

Ramadan Journal 2015: Day 7 - Mood

The first few days of Ramadan saw my mood on a bit of a roller-coaster ride, suffering from exhaustion, missing my husband, wondering how I would get through this month and try and use the time as positively and productively as possible and try and gain the most rewards that I could.

That changed mid-week when I came home to find this:

Fashionista Sister had ordered a cake and had it sent to me as a surprise with the proceeds going to Islamic Relief's work in Syria.  She had said it was to cheer me up and it really, really did.

Never underestimate the effect of  good deed, no matter how big or small.  To the person on the receiving end it can make such a difference.

The kids thoroughly enjoyed this, as did both our neighbours.  I am eating sensibly at the moment, so made do with Darling's leftovers rather than a whole slice, but it was tasty nevertheless.

Friday 26 June 2015

Aaila the Muslim Family Magazine – Ramadan 201/143 Edition

The latest edition of Aaila, the Muslim Family Magazine is now online thanks to the help and contribution of all its wonderful writers and volunteers. Some of the articles at the top of my to-read list this Ramadan include:

Are you a depressed Muslimah? by Akintobi Aminat Abiodun

Note to my 12 year old self by Sana Sarwar

Muslim Business Women Series Fehmida Shah: a Smart Sister by Farhat Amin

5 Steps to Breaking Depression's Back in Ramadan by Tabassum Mosleh

Getting Ready for Eid Before Ramadan by Anum Ali

As well as the magazines book club and series of product 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 Umm Imran at: editor@aaila.org

You can visit and follow the lively and engaged Aaila Facebook page here.

Ramadan Journal 2015: Day 6 - Suhoor

This Ramadan with hubby away, has been one of the quietest ever for me.  With us all eating in our own quiet little corners, barely awake and slightly dazed.  Mum-in-law is unwell so eats in bed, Little Lady slinks off with her food after being told to wake up three or four times.  I wake the boys if they plan to fast on the weekend and they sit there looking at the food as if they do not know what it is,  after being told off a dozen times and blackmailed with threats of not being allowed to fast if they don't get eating.

For my suhoor I usually have a small chappati,some date slices, a glass of milk and a big glass of water.  On the day of this prompt, I happened to have leftover pizza and chicken and potato pasties that were left over from iftar.  Suited me just fine.

I love how peaceful the house is at suhoor and especially at weekends when I don't have to worry about getting back to bed for work.

Ramadan Journal 2015: Day 5 - Throwback

For the theme of "throwback" I knew it would be a post where we shared iftar at my mum's house.  It was a toss up between this occasion in 2013 which was my favourite barbecue ever, this one in 2009 which was a lovely balmy summer evening or this one also from 2013 where my in-laws joined my parents for iftar and Dad-in-law decided to get up in the cherry tree and get picking despite us all looking on worriedly.  Of course it was the last one:

I remember the cherries were gorgeous and he got quite the haul

Of course the food was perfect as mum's always is:

Ramadan Journal 2015: Day 4 - Eyes

I thought that Eyes was a rather difficult prompt for Ramadan, so after much thinking and not getting very far, I thought I'd share this beautiful hadith qudsi:

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Allah has said: I have prepared for My righteous servants what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no heart has conceived. So recite if you wish: No person knows what is kept hidden for them of delights of the eye as a reward for what they used to do (32:17).And in Paradise there is a tree under whose shade a rider can travel for one hundred years without stopping. Recite if you wish: In shade extended (56:30). And the space in Paradise occupied by a whip is better than the whole world and everything in it. Recite if you wish: Whoever is removed from the Hellfire and entered into Paradise is indeed successful, for the life of this world is only the enjoyment of deception.” (3:185) ~ Sunan At-Tirmidhi 3292

By coincidence, Little Lady showed me her art work from school and I thought it suited the theme too.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Super Mum Reality Check

I posted recently about how I felt as if the children were running rings around me and trying to get all sorts of mischief past me and how hard I had to take firms steps to take back some control. I also mentioned how exhausting I found it to continuously keep my focus on them. A sister asked a question in the comments:

… how do you do it? I mean with a small baby - diaper changes, nursing etc, how do you manage to keep your eye on the older kids and follow through with consequences? What if you're in the middle of a lengthy nursing session or changing a messy diaper so you can't possibly leave . . . and you know very well one of your other children is doing something they shouldn't - or you just have no idea at all what they are doing - how do you deal with that. Also what about if you have absolutely no help whatsoever with housework, cooking etc (and hiring is not an option) - how do you get everything done while keeping a tight rein on the children? Doesn't watching them so closely take all the time?

I thought it was a very valid question and it reminded me of a conversation I had with a colleague at work, who is also a good friend. She mentioned sisters she knew who seemed to have the perfect life – jobs in the city, dressed amazingly, great marriage, kids. They seemed to have a great social life and their Facebook and Whatsapp conversations always showed images of amazing tea parties and barbeques they hosted with numerous beautifully presented dishes and even though they work they seem to cook up elaborate meals on weekdays. She was curious as to how they did it, when the rest of us seem to stumble into work, stumble home and then try to work out what we can pass off as dinner.

My response to her was that I am not convinced at all by the beautiful images on Facebook. We all know we filter what we put out into the world whether through our conversation or social media. What I also know is that we all have the same 24 hours in a day. We all have the same need to sleep enough that we don’t get ill, we all need time to take care of our and our families needs. We all find ourselves at the mercy of unexpected events that mean all of our plans go out of the window, these sisters will be no exception.

The truth is that something always has to give – if you are doing it all then you either end up losing sleep and feeling perpetually tired and irritable, you neglect your own needs and become resentful. Perhaps you are working hard to deliver at work and are too tired to focus on your children – after all your children cannot fire you if you do a bad job, so you take short cuts like letting them play computer games all evening.

I think you can do it all – work, home, family, but I am not convinced that you can do it all well, let alone perfectly. In answer to the sisters question, you can only do one thing at a time, so you do the thing that is most pressing. When I am nursing or changing a nappy I have to be resigned to the fact that I can’t get up and stop Gorgeous from doing what he shouldn’t be (and the heck he’ll stop because anyone is telling him from across the room!). What I have had to do is be consistent about addressing something the first chance I get, rather than letting it go because it happened when I was busy. So once I have finished with the nappy change, I will call back the child I need to deal with and check in with them: have you done your homework? Why are you crying? I saw you do x how will you make up for this?

That is the best I can manage and the children know that just because I didn't do something immediately doesn't mean that there won’t be a consequence.

With regards to housework – I think that’s the something that has to give sometimes. When we have more tasks than it seems we can do in the 24 hours we have, then we have to prioritise. Allah (SWT) does not burden us with more than we can bear, yet we become so immersed in the demands and requirements of our worldly lives that we increase our workload to a ridiculous level (that is aimed at myself first and foremost. At the same time Allah (SWT) has some requirements of us. In the balance of things which things are most important? I think you have to start with being clear on the things that are not negotiable for you. For me the non-negotiables are prayer, my children’s well-being and supporting my husband.

That means in the last year since we were blessed with Baby, my house has often looked a mess, I am mortified at the thought of guests seeing my bathroom during the week, the laundry piles up. I had to give up blogging and crafts for a long time. But my non-negotiables were taken care of, until a time that I could manage things a bit better and consider taking on a bit more.

That didn't mean it was easy. I have often heard my mum and mum-in-law say that if you really want to see the quality of a woman look at the state of her kitchen and bathroom. Which would make me a poor quality woman. Except I know that I am not. I have friends who give a lot of of their time to worship and dawah and they too have less than perfect homes, yet it is very clear to me that they are women of immense quality and excellent character.

So the simple answer is, you can’t take care of your children, be consistent in your parenting whether setting ground rules for older children or taking care of the needs of babies and always stay on top of your housekeeping and make gourmet meals every day, whilst retaining your health and sanity. You have to pick the things that are most important and focus on those, whilst giving yourself some leeway on the rest.

The things that are most important also have to come from you, not external pressures from family or friends or society. So you may know that your child’s need is most pressing, but you may spend most of the day with him in front of the TV so that you can send a whole day cleaning because your mother-in-law is coming to visit and might notice the mess, or you feel the need to make a feast to impress visiting friends. Once you are clear on what is important, then you can take the next step of letting go of those things that can wait. This can sometimes push you towards making very grown up choices to stop doing things that will please and impress others and stop trying to be perfect even if you know it will lead to people thinking poorly of you – like me and my bathroom mid-week (I often think that the best kind of growing up is to stop caring what people think and do just what you want).

In reality, its still hard work. Just the work of keeping my focus on my children, following through consistently each time and negotiating through resistance can take up most of my time and leave me mentally exhausted (I have a very short concentration span and drift off all the time). But as its one of my non-negotiables and the one that has the most far-reaching consequences, I have to let other things go and focus on this.

Ramadan Journal 2015: Day 3 – Love

What I love about Ramadan this year is:

My husband doing dawah work, something he is passionate about and something I hope we will get equal reward for supporting him in.

The long days without eating that free up time to do other things

That quiet time in the morning after suhoor when you can pray and read Quran in complete peace, rare in this house.

Napping in the afternoon on weekends

Sharing food with the neighbours and being sent iftar.

Ramadan crafts – I love green and blue and the quatrefoil pattern often used in Islamic art so have used it for my theme this year.

The thought of all of our dua's being accepted and Allah (SWT) taking care of our problems.

What I don’t love so much is:

Missing my husband

Feeling a little disconnected from the life of the masjid because he is not here

Feeling crazy sleepy a lot of the time.

Struggling to concentrate at work

Worrying about my mum, mother-in-law and dad-in-law who are not always well and find it harder to fast as the years go by.

Monday 22 June 2015

Ramadan Banner and Framed Print: Dreamy Greens and Blues

I really wanted to make a new banner and frame with my children for my home to welcome Ramadan.  I love the Moroccan-style quatrefoile tile print, I love greens and blues and colours that are harmonious next to each other and I love anything with an ombre effect.  So you can imagine I came across this print and really liked it.  I simply added a white box with curved corners and added text in teal in a Calibri font.  I printed to A4 card and set in a frame.

For the banner, I used the colours from the frame as my inspiration.  The letters were large wooden letters I spray painted silver.  These are actually recycled letters from a banner I made for someone and they were kind enough to give me the letters back after using it, which is handy as my A's and E's always get used up first.

The coloured card is plain card stock from DCWV and the ribbon is the last of two spools I bought from Wilkinson because I adored the colour.  the silver minaret, crescent and star are from a pack of "Happy Eid" peel-offs I use on cards.

Alhamdulillah I was pleased with it and it cheers me up every time I walk past it.

Ramadan Journal 2015: Day 2 – Black and White

Not many things in life are black and white, but when it comes to Ramadan there are a few things which are clear: making sure you eat properly and rest properly during the long days of fasting to be able to get through the day and have some energy left for prayers.

Some people learn the hard way though. I have always taken the position that you are meant to carry on almost as normal in Ramadan with work and housework. This has been okay in past years when I was younger and the days of fasting were shorter. This time round though, we are fasting around 19 hours a day and losing a lot of sleep.

I managed to get to the third day, before I finally had to accept that your normal non-Ramadan routines were not going to work. I had to make a trip into town which exhausted me and I spent part of the day in the kitchen standing for hours making batches of chicken pasties to freeze and ended up with a painful back and legs. By the end of the idea I had a nasty headache and nausea and just spent the evening curled up trying not to throw up. It took until midnight for it to ease up enough for me to keep something down.

I promised myself I am not going to overdo it again. The pain was a big enough lesson. Ramadan deserves its own routine – less time in the kitchen, simple food, more rest, shorter work day where possible, naps after work, sleeping in on non-work days as long as you need to and napping in the afternoon.

I’m still tired and my back is still sore, but I am getting through the day. I'm a little piqued by how much less I can do – the piles of laundry, the sink full of dishes that get left for the morning, the million and one ideas for projects that I have to leave for now, the to-do list, Eid preparations, but piqued is still better than in pain and completely unable to function.

Ramadan Journal 2015: Day 1 - Prepare

I was happy to see that Neelu of Neelu’s Journal, a very pretty blog, is hosting the Ramadan Journal Challenge again this year, a list of daily prompts to blog or journal your Ramadan. Last year she decided to skip a list of prompts and set goals to share with readers instead. In previous years she has set the prompts and I have either used them to blog daily or group them into a few days at a time when I have been too busy to blog.

If you would like to join the challenge whether through blogging, or as many sisters seem to be doing, by keeping their own private journal of some kind, you can find her explanatory blog post here with a list of prompts for the whole month.

Ramadan Journal 2015: Day 1 - Prepare

When I think of preparing for Ramadan I always think of food and meal planning. This year I haven’t really focussed on that, but on preparing by planning my time and setting goals. I finally published my Ramadan Planner for 2015, months later than planned and I am using the goal setting approach in the planner which asks you to identify how you want to feel during Ramadan or Eid and then identify the activities that will help you to feel that way. 

I have also printed off daily planners to help me to manage my time. I know my main problem during Ramadan will be major sleep deprivation, so I am hoping to plan my time so that I get naps after work and can see where time gets wasted

My favourite bit of planning was my daughters. She found herself a little pillow and one of the babies blankets to take to school with her. The school has given the fasting girls permission to nap in the afternoons in the prayer room which is lovely and cool and dark. I would kill for somewhere like that to take a nap at work at the moment.

Friday 19 June 2015

The Mercy of Starting Again

On the way home from work yesterday, I was mulling over the fact that I have been yelling at the kids a bit recently. Because their dad is travelling at the moment, there is more for me to do and because I am commuting instead of him taking me to work and picking me up, I have less time to do it all in.

The kids are also missing their dad, but especially Little Man who is close to him and can play up when he is away. So the mixture of tiredness, feeling rushed and moany kids has set me off a couple of times – leading to yelling and saying things I don’t mean and then feeling terrible.

I used to shout quite a bit when the older three were little, probably because I was a little stressed with three children under 5. As they got older I found for a long time I didn't need to shout and that I could take a more laid back reasonable approach with my children – firm boundaries but open to negotiation if this was done in a respectful way.

Recently I seem to be at it again. It’s embarrassing because I suspect the neighbours can hear it, which I can live with because I remember when their kids were younger and we could here them yelling. What’s more embarrassing is that their grandmother is staying with us and is probably thinking I've lost my mind, or the plot and we are all behaving like crazy people. But the embarrassment I can live with. The thing that bothers me is the thought of teaching my children that this is how you deal with people – get angry and shout at them. I know full well from my own experience how these behaviours pass down through generations, internalised and then regurgitated when our children are presented with similar situations themselves, almost as if they are automatic reactions to that situation.

Anyway, on the way home from work, feeling guilty, I decided I would try and find a way to manage our days until their Dad comes home that was a little gentler. I got home, listened to their various grumbles from their day and told them I had a proposal and that they should get an ice pole each and come and listen. That got their interest piqued.

So we all huddled around on my bed and I suggested that if they do their daily Arabic lesson, daily tuition, put their things away and manage to keep their hands to themselves, they could have half an hour computer time each evening. Heck, they could even play games and I wouldn't say a thing. They loved this idea. We did spend the whole evening with everyone squabbling about how much homework someone else had compared to them or that they were running out of time to go on the computer before bedtime. But I felt good about stepping back and trying something different.

I don’t usually allow computer use on workdays unless its for school homework, but I decided that relaxing the rules was okay if it gave me a bit of peace during Ramadan and motivated the children to manage the things they needed to do without constant reminders. I think it’s a blessing with children, that you can get really angry or say something that you shouldn't have and the next day they have forgotten and you can start again. Wouldn't it 
be good if adults could be like that?

Thursday 18 June 2015

The Prophet's (PBUH) Sermon on Ramadan

Alhamdulillah, the Prophet's (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) sermon on Ramadan never fails to inspire me, remind me how blessed it really is for us and take me back to why we fast and what we should be doing during this special month:

Baihaqi reported on the authority of Salman Al-Farsi (Radhi Allah ‘Anh) that Prophet (Sallallaahu Alaihi Wasalaam) delivered a sermon on the last day of the month of Sha’ban. In it he (Sallallaahu Alaihi Wasalaam) said,

“O People! The month of Allah (Ramadan) has come with its mercies, blessings and forgivenesses. Allah has decreed this month the best of all months. The days of this month are the best among the days and the nights are the best among the nights and the hours during Ramadan are the best among the hours. This is a month in which you have been invited by Him (to fast and pray). Allah has honoured you in it. In every breath you take is a reward of Allah, your sleep is worship, your good deeds are accepted and your invocations are answered.

Therefore, you must invoke your Lord in all earnestness with hearts free from sin and evil, and pray that Allah may help you to keep fast, and to recite the Holy Qur’an. Indeed!, miserable is the o­ne who is deprived of Allah’s forgiveness in this great month. While fasting remember the hunger and thirst o­n the Day of Judgement. Give alms to the poor and needy. Pay respect to your elders, have sympathy for your youngsters and be kind towards your relatives and kinsmen. Guard your tongue against unworthy words, and your eyes from scenes that are not worth seeing (forbidden) and your ears from sounds that should not be heard.

Be kind to orphans so that if your children may become orphans they will also be treated with kindness. Do repent to Allah for your sins and supplicate with raised hands at the times of prayer as these are the best times, during which Allah Almighty looks at His servants with mercy. Allah Answers if they supplicate, Responds if they call, Grants if He is asked, and Accepts if they entreat. O people! you have made your conscience the slave of your desires.

Make it free by invoking Allah for forgiveness. Your back may break from the heavy load of your sins, so prostrate yourself before Allah for long intervals, and make this load lighter. Understand fully that Allah has promised in His Honour and Majesty that, people who perform salat and sajda (prostration) will be guarded from Hell-fire o­n the Day of Judgement.

O people!, if anyone amongst you arranges for iftar (meal at sunset) for any believer, Allah will reward him as if he had freed a slave, and Allah will forgive him his sins. A companion asked: “but not all of us have the means to do so” The Prophet (Sallallaahu Alaihi Wasalaam) replied: Keep yourself away from Hell-fire though it may consist of half a date or even some water if you have nothing else.

O people!, anyone who during this month cultivates good manners, will walk over the Sirat (bridge to Paradise) o­n the day when feet will tend to slip. For anyone who during this month eases the workload of his servants, Allah will make easy his accounting, and for anyone who doesn’t hurt others during this month, Allah will safeguard him from His Wrath o­n the Day of Judgement. Anyone who respects and treats an orphan with kindness during this month, Allah shall look at him with kindness o­n that Day. Anyone who treats his kinsmen well during this month, Allah will bestow His Mercy o­n him o­n that Day, while anyone who mistreats his kinsmen during this month, Allah will keep away from His Mercy.

Whomever offers the recommended prayers during this month, Allah will save him from Hell, and whomever observes his obligations during this month, his reward will be seventy times the reward during other months. Whomever repeatedly invokes Allah’s blessings o­n me, Allah will keep his scale of good deeds heavy, while the scales of others will be tending to lightness. Whomever recites during this month an ayat (verse) of the Holy Qur’an, will get the reward of reciting the whole Qur’an in other months.

O people!, the gates of Paradise remain open during this month. Pray to your Lord that they may not be closed for you. While the gates of Hell are closed, pray to your Lord that they never open for you. Satan has been chained, invoke your Lord not to let him dominate you.”

Ramadan Kareem 2015/1436

I am astonished to find myself so quickly at the start of another month of Ramadan.  I make dua that we make the most of the beautiful opportunities this blessed month presents to us: to purify ourselves spiritually and physically, to renew our iman, to work on our relationship with Allah (SWT) and to increase our worship and good deeds.

The length of these summer fasts is challenging, but the last few years has proved that we can do it and that Allah SWT makes it bearable for us alhamdulilah.  I look forward to sharing the month with my children insh'Allah and watching each take something different from it

May Allah (SWT) bless this Ummah during this month with an increase in iman, with forgiveness, mercy and with the acceptance of their dua’s. May He increase the rizq (sustenance) of the believers and take away all of their hardships.

Please remember our brothers and sisters who are suffering in Burma, Palestine, Syria and across the world. Please don’t forget to make dua for those who are being persecuted for their faith, who are questioning their beliefs and who are alone because of their faith.

Please remember me and my family in your dua’s insh’Allah and please forgive me if I have ever said or written anything that hurt or upset you.

"Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you many learn piety and righteousness" ~ Qur'an 2:183

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle (peace be upon him) said, “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained.” (Bukhari - 31:123)

Narrated Sahl: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “There is a gate in Paradise called Ar-Raiyan, and those who observe fasts will enter through it on the Day of Resurrection and none except them will enter through it. It will be said, ‘Where are those who used to observe fasts?’ They will get up, and none except them will enter through it. After their entry the gate will be closed and nobody will enter through it.” (Bukhari - 31:120)

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle (peace be upon him) said, “Allah said, ‘All the deeds of Adam’s sons (people) are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.’ Fasting is a shield or protection from the fire and from committing sins. If one of you is fasting, he should avoid sexual relation with his wife and quarrelling and if somebody should fight or quarrel with him, he should say, ‘I am fasting.’ By Him in Whose Hands my soul is’ The unpleasant smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk. There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord; then he will be pleased because of his fasting.” (Bukhari - 31:128)

Picture of the Day: 17.06.15 - Ramadan Preparation

I have been a bit slow with Ramadan preparation this year,but getting there slowly...

Picture of the Day: 16.06.15 - Unexpected Detour

My husband usually drops me to work, but as he is in America at the moment, I have been commuting.  It takes a bus and three changes of train to get to work, to cover what is essentially a 15-20 minute car journey.

It sounds quite miserable, except for one thing, I get time to read twice a day, which I am enjoying thoroughly.  I was enjoying it a bit too much yesterday and looked up from my book and realised I had taken a train in the wrong direction at ended up with an interesting view.

I can see the building below from the other side from my office in the distance, a gothic looking old warehouse called Millennium Mills which is currently abandoned.  The second picture is of the famous Thames Barrier which protects London from flooding.  I enjoyed the view but maybe not the extra 30 minutes added to my travel time to correct my journey.

Wednesday 17 June 2015

Cat and Mouse

I have always tried to be honest with my children and always encouraged them to be the same with me. In our house mistakes that are owned up to are met with understanding not anger and we work together to put right the mistakes we make. This policy has worked fairly well most of the time, except now and again with Gorgeous who seems to think that misbehaving and then immediately owning up means getting away with things, or occasionally with Little Man who is a people pleaser and doesn't like to disappoint me, so will not own up even if there is no prospect of punishment. For a child like him, losing approval or seeing disappointment in your parents’ eyes is the biggest punishment of all.

Because of this way of dealing with things, I have always tended to give the children the benefit of the doubt, if they tell me something I usually believe them and accept their story.

I used to think any parent would be foolish to trust a teenage child, especially knowing what my friends used to get up to and knowing that their parents never had a clue. I also think sometimes parents can be blind to their children’s faults – not willing to accept that their child is no longer a baby but being influenced by their peers and environment.

Personally I always felt that I knew my children well enough to gauge when they were being honest and if they are hiding something. Little Lady has never tended to lie, she is bold enough to tell the truth because she is always right and that’s it. Little Man will tell tall stories sometimes, sometimes to impress us and occasionally because he has done something he should not have and doesn't want us to be disappointed. This backfired when he organised a party for himself and told us he had invited his friends. We didn't believe him, went out and started getting phone calls from the mothers of his school friends who were standing outside out house with gifts, cake and balloons.

Gorgeous is brilliant. He can’t tell a lie to save his life. You know he is trying to fib, because he just can’t look you in the eye, will fidget and change the subject or try to distract you with his clowning. His attempts at denying he did something are ridiculously entertaining.

Knowing all this, I thought I was a step ahead of the kids. Recently I have felt more and more I have felt as if I my oldest two are either not listening, or trying to find ways round doing what I have asked. Things like sneaking off with the laptop after I have told them to shut it down or saying they have done ablutions for prayer, when I can clearly see tell they haven’t (we have a very noisy bathroom fan which is set off by the light switch, so I know when someone is in the bathroom, plus wet bathroom slippers, damp hair are give-aways). Having sweets or money I haven’t given them, or sneaking their tablet into their room so they can watch cartoons after bedtime (they still don’t know how I found out about that – their grandmother snitched on them J)

I have felt overwhelmed with both the babies, a busy household and trying to fulfil everyone’s needs. I felt as if sometimes they would tell me something not quite correct, knowing I wouldn't check because I don’t have the time. Or I'm tired, or stressed and harried. At one point, I explained to Little Lady and Little Man separately that I was not their enemy, I was on their side and that we had to be honest with each other so that I could help and support them. This didn't quite work.

I felt that the kids were getting online without my permission, not getting off of their PC or laptop when I told them to, trying to get out of prayers, moaning like it was the end of the world every time I asked for help with housework, reading story books instead of revising, dragging bedtime out to a silly time with squabbling and requests for a glass of water or the need to go toilet again.

The situation came to a head two weeks ago when we took them to a funday at a local park. They were treated to pizza and chips, allowed a fizzy drink and treated to fair rides by Shutterbug Sister. One of our family friends were there and on seeing the drinks, their son who is Little Man’s age exclaimed “wow you guys are lucky!” It was a reminder than many of our friends are young families who struggle financially and can’t always treat their kids. I reminded the kids of this and they didn't seem to think they were lucky. On the way home, they moaned that they didn't get to go on enough rides, didn't go on the scariest ride, had to follow me around whilst I looked at the clothing and jewellery stalls and whatever else came into their heads. I couldn't help but thinking they were becoming spoiled.

After listening to their Olympic moaning session all the way home, they finally found my limit. I lined up my oldest three and first let hubby engage in a good, severe, telling off. Once we had their undivided attention, I really went for it. Everything that had been bothering me was addressed in severe terms.

I happened to be getting through a big pile of ironing at the time, so had plenty of time to lecture my captive audience at length. They were left very clear about all of the small and big things that were concerning us and what was expected of them.

I realise now why parents like to lecture so much, it’s quite cathartic. After really going for it like a sergeant major at an army drill and seeing their worried faces, I felt much, much better.

To follow up and show we were serious, I confiscated and hid the tablet, mini PC and Games PSP (not one of which I have bought them by the way). I hid the chargers in a different place. The family PC is password protected (which they have been trying to crack for the last five years) and used for homework or the occasional treat time.

I confiscated all money and banned Little Lady from running her little business empire (selling bookmarks, fashion drawings, anime drawings and handmade bracelets) until after exams. She is also banned from visiting the sweet shop on the way home from school.

I have drawn up a daily revision plan with Little Lady for evenings and after fajr until her exams and instead of hiding in her room all evening, she is to study at my new desk downstairs. I have established a daily time for the boys to do some maths and English practice.

I am on their backs at every prayer time and will not let up until they have prayed.

Everyone is being roped into chores and moaning is not tolerated, with the exception of Gorgeous who still behaves like he is about to be crucified rather than asked to take a dish to the kitchen or put something away.

The difference is a massive relief. Bed time is earlier, I don’t spend my time trying to drag them off devices and I get help with the babies. Little Lady is on best behaviour and her attitude has improved since she realised I wouldn't tolerate anymore. I think this is what the kids in my neighbour call “under manners” in the local slang. I really like that description.

I think the problem was that I had taken my eye off the ball. I wasn't paying the older children as much attention and they knew it. When I asked them to do something and they didn't, I didn't follow up with a consequence as I always did when they were younger. When they were supposed to put devices away, they knew I wasn't going to come down and enforce my instruction quite yet because I was feeding the baby, or changing a nappy, or had the dinner on the stove. In addition Little Lady is coming to that age where she thinks that she is smarter than her mum, can run rings around me and do whatever she likes by quietly disappearing or avoiding the issue. She probably will be a lot smarter than her mum, but not yet.

So now I have my full undivided, focussed attention back on them. Enough to follow through on my instructions, physically steer people who are not listening, lay out clear consequences and enact them and check regularly where the kids are with revision, or a lesson or their prayers.

I am all for gentle parenting, but not when it is being used to lead me on a merry dance.

The whole situation has reminded me of why parent have to first and foremost parent and not be friends to their children. I am certainly in fierce mama bear mode at the moment and I think it has done them and me good.

Monday 15 June 2015

Product Review: Heart Hijab Scarves

I was asked by Heart Hijab if I would like to review some hijabs for them.  Heart Hijab sell a wide range of hijabs, as well as abaya's and modest clothing.  They describe themselves as an ethical business who try to keep prices as low as they can, to support sisters with financial difficulties, serve their community and put reward before business.  I liked a quote that they share on their website:

“A truthful and honest trader will be a companion of the prophets, the righteous and the martyrs on the Day of Judgement.” [Tirmidhi]

I mentioned to the sister at Heart Hijab that I liked the look of the ombre effect ones and they sent me one ombre, one very sparkly one and a subtle sparkly one to try out.

The first one I tried was the Vanilla ombre effect hijab.  I love colours that are harmonious more than strongly contrasting to each other, so I love anything shaded in this way. Some of the other colours in this range have a stronger gradient of shading, but this one was quite a light colour and the ombre effect quite subtle.  The shading is across the width of the scarf rather than the length, so you get it all along the scarf when you wear it.

I tried pairing this with both my black and brown abaya's and it looked great with both.  I would wear this to work, but the soft, fairly neutral colour means that I might wear it with an evening or party dress too.

The fabric is very soft rayon and the scarf is a generous size.  I think this first hijab was my favourite of all of the ones I tested.

The second hijab I tried was the purple shimmer hijab.  This was made from a textured jersey type fabric and smaller than the ombre hijab, but about the exact size I like to wear because I find it most manageable.  I was worried about ironing it, but ironed it on the back without any trouble.

This hijab has some serious sparkle and is definitely one for a special occasion.  I think I would wear this with black to really dress up a simple outfit, or as a stole with a plain outfit.  I can imagine someone younger like my daughter really enjoying experimenting with ways to wear this.

The third hijab was the subtle shimmer hijab in grey.  The fabric is viscose with flecks of glitter that show up in the light.  I think I would be more likely to wear this to a wedding or special occasion as it feels easy and elegant.

Overall I found these to be good, reliable hijabs in a good size.  I found the service fantastic and was seriously impressed by Heart Hijabs prices, if I tried them in future I would probably go for the ombre hijabs or the print hijabs for work.

If you are thinking of taking a look, they currently offer free shipping on orders over £15 in the UK and very reasonable shipping to other countries.  They also include a free gift on orders over £23 (excluding postage).

You can find their website here as well as Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram pages.