Friday 31 July 2015

Picture of the Day: 31.07.15 - Beautiful Start to the Day

I had a lot to do today, so had an early start to the day today.  I love staying up after fajr (dawn) prayers, I find it is such a blessed time and when I do, I get so much done and my day is off to a head start.  At the moment the dawn prayers is between 3:30am and 5:20, which feels too early to stay up, so I usually go back to sleep.

Today Hubby was off to work at 5am to start what will be a very long day for him and I have an Eid party tomorrow to organise myself for.  So after he had left, I got through the dishes, loaded up the washing machine and took the bins and recycling out (probably should have done all of that last night).  

I went out in the garden to leave the kitchen bin out there to dry after I gave it a wash and the soft early morning light and the peacefulness just captivated me.  We live near a very busy main road full of shops, so along with a noisy house, that means I very rarely get to experience silence now.

This big hibiscus flower just glowed in the pale light of the garden, I had to go back in to get my phone to take a picture.  The early morning, the silence and the lovely flower have just started me off on my day in the loveliest day.

So before the kids have woken, I have done some blogging (yeah!!), cleared some things out to take to the charity shop, put my first lot of washing out and the second load in and gone through my box of party stuff to see what I can use tomorrow.

I'm off to make my list of ingredients for what I am cooking tomorrow, go grocery shopping,  get the cleaning started (or maybe lots of hiding things whilst guests are here) and pick out everyone's outfits and get ironing.  But first I will wake Little Lady and take her out for breakfast and get some party shopping done.  We have been craving some time together to hang out and she complained yesterday that her whole holidays so far have consisted of studying and helping with the babies, I felt really bad, so I think I'll treat her to some hot chocolate somewhere where we can just chat and hang out for a bit.  Hopefully we'll be back before everyone else even wakes up.

Eid ul Fitr 2015/1536 - Day 2

The second day of Eid was a lot more raucous than the first one with everyone gathering at my mum's house or HQ as my sister-in-law called it.

Fashionista came with some really lovely cupcakes which caught everyone attention (they tasted as good as they looked).

And one of my cousins brought this cake. 

Lunch was as amazing as ever, my mums cooking really hits the spot.  The last few years she has complained of how tired she gets on Eid day.  This year we suggested we all bring a dish and she can make one thing, she tentatively agreed, but nearer to Eid day she was adamant she would make everything herself.  None of us managed to get pictures, probably because we were all too busy eating.

The babies were in cuteness overload mode, Baby:

This one is Darling's soul-sister, they even look like sisters, probably because Darling looks a bit like Fashionista.  She has just started toddling and is a pleasure to watch wandering around the house babbling to herself.

Darling and her bestie, my brothers cheeky little girl had fun hanging out and posing for pictures

This one is so much fun, well for us anyway, she keeps my sister-in-law on her toes with her mischief.  I can never get enough of the funny things she says.

Little Miss with the unicorn that both she and Darling got as gifts from Fashionista

Her Mum loves fashion, so if mum wears a statement necklace, Miss Cheeky had to have one too:

The boys were good for most of the day (it's crazy how much time goes into trying to stop these two walloping each other).  The minute they managed to get their hands on Harlequin's husbands phone, they were off in whichever la-la-land boys go to when 

We all dressed up, but again I wasn't very good with getting pictures.  I loved what Harlequin wore, such a pretty colour:

You can see more pictures of her outfit and some of the others here.

Darling and Miss Cheeky got this tea-set from me, I like wooden toys and thought it would be safer than some of the porcelain sets for children I saw.  I also needed something without too many tiny parts because Baby is still small enough to try and eat anything with a small part left lying around.

Darling loved playing with hers and spent the afternoon harassing everyone with cups of tea to drink.

Eid ul Fitr 2015/1536 - Day 1

I am finally getting round to posting about Eid.  My laptop has been used either by Little Lady studying or Mum-in-law Skyping dad-in-law in Pakistan.  So I am posting this at 7am whilst everyone is asleep.

We celebrated Eid a day before most of the rest of our family this year.  This used to upset me, but we have done this on and off for so many years that it doesn't really bother me, I just stretch my celebrations out to three days with my parents instead of two and am content with that.

The first day of Eid was a lovely, calm, family day for us.  I enjoyed dressing my children up, sharing food with family and decorating the house.  I didn't get any good pics of our outfits, but there about a hundred of the babies:

Baby playing with Harlequins shoes (you can see pics of her outfit and those sparkly shoes here).  I can't believe this cheeky little girl is about to turn one already.

Darling running off with our balloons.  I love how excited and happy she was to see the balloons and banners up

We had lunch at my favourite Uncles house...

...and hosted dinner in turn for my Aunt and also my parents and sisters who were fasting, so broke fast with us.

Eid ul Fitr 2015/1536 - Henna

I really wanted to get my henna done this Eid, but usually find myself too busy around Eid day or the night before to sit still for  the time it takes to apply and then dry.  This Eid, my very sweet neighbours invited us around the day before and applied it for us - myself, Little Lady, my mum, Shutterbug Sister and my mum-in-law.

I thought she did a fantastic job:

Friday 17 July 2015

Eid-ul-Fitr 2015/1436 - Eid Mubarak

Eid Mubarak everyone. Taqabbal Allahu Minna Wa Minkum (May Allah accept it from you and us).

It seems as if Ramadan has passed in a flash and I found myself at the end of the blessed month wishing I had a little more time to make dua.  As with last year our happiness is tainted with the suffering around the world: the Rohingya in Burma, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and many others.

This year, again as per last year, I have discouraged expensive presents in favour of people spending time with my children or creating experiences to share.

I hope that all of my brothers and sisters have a blessed Eid full of happiness, joy, good deeds Allah (SWT)'s mercy and the companionship of people they care about insh'Allah, ameen.

Ramadan Journal 2015: Day 29 – Eid Prep

Thursday 16 July 2015

The Waiting Game…

My husband has been away in San Francisco for the last 45 days doing dawah work. This is the third Ramadan he has been away (last year to Germany and the year before for two months to South Africa). Usually when he goes the first few days and the last few days seem the longest, with the weeks in the middle passing in a blur of activity. The house is strange with no man, just women and children.

He is due home tomorrow. I can’t wait to hear about everything he has seen and done. I’ve been thinking about what I will cook, what I will wear and if the kids will make a mess of the house I have spent all week tidying just before he gets through the door.

I am counting the minutes…

Ramadan Journal 2015: Day 28 – Reflect

Looking back on Ramadan, my mind tends to focus on what could have been better – I wish I could have read more Quran spent more time in salah (prayer), given more sadaqah and spent more time in dhikr (remembrance of Allah).

But I know that we live in the real world, where spirituality is to be found in the context of work, housework, the care of our children and our duties towards our families. I know I tried to do what I could each day whilst I was sleepy and tired.

But there are some things I reflect on and feel positive about. The fact that my husband has been doing dawah work whilst I hold the fort at home, I hope to share some of his reward insh’Allah. I made lots and lots of dua for everything big and small I could think of, it felt as if it was a massive chance to get big rewards insh’Allah. I also felt a stillness and peace one night (the 23rd night), that made me think it was Lailut–ul-Qadr (the Night of Power), that was pretty amazing.

I always try to take a good habit from every Ramadan that I can implement throughout the year. This year I did not raise my standard enough to instil a positive new habit. Instead I will take a lesson: to never underestimate the power of dua in times of happiness and in more challenging times.

We have indeed revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power:
And what will explain to thee what the night of power is?
The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.
Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by Allah's permission, on every errand:
Peace!...This until the rise of dawn! — Quran 97 (Al-Qadr), verses 1-5

image source

Wednesday 15 July 2015

Ramadan Recipe: Chicken and Potato Filling

This tasty filling can be used for samosa’s, spring rolls and pasties.

1 kg boneless chicken (I use breast), cubed
3 medium onions, finely diced
6-8 medium potatoes
1 tablespoon whole cumin (sabut zeera)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon chilli pepper (adjust to suit your taste)
1 tablespoon salt (adjust to suit your taste)
½ teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon oil

Add all of the ingredients apart from the potatoes into a cooking pot and cook on high heat, stirring frequently, until the chicken is cooked through, there will be some juices released by the chicken, continue to cook until these have dried. Break up the chicken coarsely with a potato masher or the back of a fork (I use the pestle from a small mortar and pestle set).

In a separate pot, boil the potatoes with their skin on. When cooked through, drain and allow to cool before peeling and dicing. Add to the cooked chicken and mix thoroughly. I have used this simple mixture for spring rolls before and liked the result.

This Ramadan I have used it for mini pasties using ready made sheets of puff pastry and the mixture was enough to make sixty, they were a hit in my house.

Ramadan Journal 2015: Day 22 to Day 27

Day 22 – Colour

I didn't grow anything in my little garden this year after the boys managed to kick balls into everything last year and destroy it. This year, I thought I would leave the garden for them to play ball and zoom up and down on their scooters. That was until the neighbours complained that Gorgeous kept climbing up on their extension roof and they were frightened he’d fall off and hurt himself. After telling him off, getting reassurances he wouldn't do it again and then getting another complaint, Gorgeous is banned from the garden for the time being. That meant I could go and get some lovely flowers to plant, which I have done and it is a pleasure to sit outside and admire them in the cool evenings.

I have also been checking through everyone’s Eid clothes to see if we have everything we need. Little Lady has had a growth spurt, so the clothes that her grandmother bought from Pakistan don’t fit. I ended up spending a few hours tramping around the local Asian shops and squabbling with Little Lady who didn't like anything colourful, bright, printed or not black. In the end we settled on this long kameez for her, which I upgraded with the sparkly buttons.

Day 23 – Three

Little Lady has finished school for the academic year at the same time as I have taken a week off of work. This means that I get a blessed week at home with my three lovely girls. The boys are threatening mutiny at the thought of having to go to school when the rest of us are home, but it’s nice getting an extra hours sleep in the morning before its time for the school run and not to have to rush through the evening.

Day 24 – Happy

Being on holiday and getting to do what I want means I am back to my default of being happy Alhamdulillah. This week has been all about getting the house in order, Eid shopping and sharing iftars with friends and neighbours.

Day 25 – Write

Whenever my husband is away, he writes to me. Long letters telling me about everything he is doing and how he is finding the people and the places he comes across. Little Man is allowed to have the stamps for his collection and I read and re-read the letters to raise my spirits and keep me going in his absence.

Day 26 – No

I have learned in recent times that saying no to something gives you the freedom to do something else. This Ramadan I have said no to things so that I can sleep after work. That is “no” to blogging, complicated meals, reading in the evening and spending much time online.

Day 27 – Listen

With either two or three days of Ramadan to go, the sound outside of my window is of traffic and lots of people. The main street that I live off of gets manic in the days leading up to Eid. Every evening around iftar the mood is festive with people buying mangoes from the stalls all along the street and the grocery and butcher shops packed. The Asian clothing stores are very busy as are the restaurants with people getting food packed for iftar. Just before iftar it gets crazy as everyone is trying to get what they need and get home in time.  Then it all goes much quieter as people count down to the time to break fast.  

Another day or two and then it will be chand raat, the night before Eid and then the noise will last almost all night:  boys making their flashy cars roar, hooters and whistles, there was even a drummer last year.  The roads will be packed with throngs of people doing last minute shopping, women getting their henna done and people out to enjoy ice cream or just soak up the atmosphere.

Ramadan Journal 2015: Day 15 to Day 21

Day 15 – Iftar

Since the beginning of Ramadan, the kids have been quite rowdy at iftar time. Between work, trying to get some sleep, prayers and making the iftar meal, I haven’t had time to feed them all beforehand, so they have been eating with us when we break our fast. The older kids stay up for prayers so would be awake anyway and I have been letting the babies sleep later so they can sleep for longer into the morning whilst their dad is away and their grandmother who has the during the day can get some respite.

By about mid-Ramadan, I was truly fed up of the squabbling and moaning when I just wanted a few minutes peace to make dua and eat something in peace. I love the idea of peaceful and positive parenting, but on this occasion I lost it and yelled at everyone. My mum-in-law hates yelling and it upset her a bit and I was so annoyed I couldn’t eat anything that evening. I banned computer time, sweets, take-away food, all gifts and treats including the “unhealthy” Friday treat they are allowed by the school in their pack lunch. While I was at it I cancelled Eid too, or at least Eid presents.

Ever since they have been quite good, I am sticking to my guns on treats and eid presents for now.

Day 16 – Capture

This is where I am supposed to post a picture of a perfectly captured, beautiful Ramadan moment. This Ramadan has so not been like that. The nearest thing on this day is my Asr (afternoon) prayer. As much as I struggle to bring sincerity and concentration in my prayers, the Friday Asr prayer is a special one for me and I always make time to pray it peacefully and in an unhurried way.

Day 17 – Wish

One of my favourite things about Ramadan has been to make dua with utter abandon – the important, the urgent, the things I would like to have or do, my problems, my anxieties and worries, my hopes and my deepest desires – everything comes up in the form of dua. It leaves me feeling so blessed and hopeful.

Day 18 – Make

This week I need to print off the new poster and banner I am making for Eid. The colour scheme that captivated me was this ombre blue, purple and pink Moroccan style quatrefoil print, I will make the “Eid Mubarak” banner in colours to match.

Day 19 – Read

I am trying to make more time to read Quran at the moment, but when I am able to read, such as during my daily commute, at the moment I am reading Broken Verses by Kamila Shamsie. It feels both familiar (about Pakistan) and strange (but not really a Pakistan I recognise).

Day 20 – Me, Today

I found this Ramadan challenging due to the sleep deprivation, at one point I was starting to feel a little distressed at the thought that I could not cope and was just weaving in and out of wakefulness at work trying not to fall off my chair. It got so bad that I just made desperate and intense dua asking Allah (SWT) to help me get through the month in a way that I felt I was trying to earn some of its blessings, not just stumble through the days. Since then I have been okay Alhamdulillah, tired, but no more than outside of Ramadan and able to get through the day either with a short nap after work some days or without any extra sleep on others. I truly feel as if I was not coping and Allah (SWT) had mercy and made things easier for me.

Day 21 – Smile

This little girl makes me smile so much. She is my mini me in so many ways, not least that her default is happy and she loves to smile. Every time I turn to look at her, I get an enormous smile that just lights up her eyes. She is crawling at full speed and is just cutting both her top teeth. She is absolutely fearless about abseiling off beds and sofa’s holding onto anyone that is nearby, rocking full speed on Darlings little rocking horse or trying to jump off wherever she happens to be.