Tuesday 29 March 2016

Sponsored Post: Whole Fresh Dates

I have been working hard the last few months to try and improve my diet and lose some weight.  Dates have certainly been part of my efforts as snacks and also as a healthy start to the day as part of my breakfast.  I find they stop me getting hungry too quickly and snacking on junk or over-eating at lunch.

So when Whole Fresh Dates approached me about a sponsored post, it felt very relevant to my journey right now and I was certainly up for working with them (I only work with brands and companies that I feel are consistent with my blog content, I would happily use myself or I think might be of interest to readers).

Whole Fresh Dates are based right in the middle of date country USA in Yuma, Arizona. They are able to provide the highest quality dates because of their ability to source from several high quality Medjool date farms throughout the Southwest. These farms are located in Bard California, Yuma Arizona and the Coachella valley. 

Their website explains that date growers grade fruit dates based on size, skin condition and moisture content. These grades are Jumbo, Large, Extra Fancy, Fancy, and on the lower end, Cooking, Convection or Mixed dates. Whole Fresh Dates only package the three highest grades to ensure only premium quality

The Whole Fresh dates website offers lots of information about the health benefits of Medjool dates including:

  •         Packed with fibre
  •         High in Potassium
  •         Full of a multitude of essential vitamins and high-in-B vitamins including: Vitamin A, K, B, B1, B6, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate and Choline
  •         Medjool dates contain Magnesium, Iron and Manganese

  •         No cholesterol, sodium or fat

Some of the reasons Whole Fresh Dates are the best place to buy your dates in the States include:

  •          They offer FREE Shipping to anywhere in the United States.
  •          They only sell the current year’s crop, which yields the freshest dates possible
  •          They GUARANTEE you will receive the freshest Medjool dates possible, or the cost of your purchase will be refunded up to 2.5lbs
  •         All of their dates are packed in a registered FDA facility.
  •         They offer the option of safe payment through PayPal
  •         Their customer support is available 24 hour, 7 days, by phone or e-mail.
They have some fabulous recipes on their blog, I really like the look of their Medjool date cake and I want to try the Decadent Medjool Date Scones.

I like that they also have a blog post called “The Importance of Fruit Dates during Ramadan” which explores the importance of dates in the Muslim world and their significance in Ramadan.

You can visit their website to learn more or to order a variety of date and date products including: almond date rolls (I love the combination of almonds and dates and have tried it in a Ramadan recipe here), coconut date rolls, date sugar (including an organic variation) and honey date balsamic, the last two of which I have not heard before, so certainly something that piqued my curiosity.


Whole Fresh Dates are also offering 15% off of your first order.  Just use the code “FIRSTDATE” when you checkout to receive your order.

You can also keep up to “date” (sorry couldn’t help it!) with their latest news and information via their Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube pages.

Planning for the Holidays With Your Children

I wrote quite some time ago about planning for our half term and end of term breaks in a way that makes the most of our time off of school or work but also includes the children in the process.  The example below was where I let the kids fill the activities out in the grid themselves.

This Easter holiday, I somehow ended up with two whole weeks of holidays with the kids.  The timing could not have been better as the last few weeks at work have been so intense and frantic that I was starting to feel a little worn down.  I wanted to make the most of them to catch up with housework, my to-do list, get some rest and me-time and to do some fun things with the kids.

My first step was to collect all of the information I needed.  Most of the brochures below are from our local library and some from trips that Little Lady has kept for her travel journal.  I also had lists and notes lying around in the back of my organiser.

When I had a quiet moment at my mums, I laid everything out on her kitchen table and made a list of all the places that we could go.

Then I plotted out the days out on a piece of paper with the weather forecast next to each day.  I used my organiser to add any activities or events that we were already committed to, such as sister’s circle, jumuah prayers and plans with family. 

The blue stars below are where my husband has said that he is not available to take us out, usually because he has a job booked.

Once it was clear when our free time was, I asked the kids to go through the lists of places and make some sensible suggestions about where they would like to go and things they would like to do at home (baking, painting, crafts, computer time).

You can find more suggestions for activities in this post here.

Picture of the Day: 28.03.16 - Pakora's in the Rain

We have had a few days of windy and wet weather here.  I don't know what it is, but my husband has a thing about wanting pakora's when it rains.  It's what his mum used to make at home in pakistan when it rained and somewhat of a family tradition.  I don't know if it is a Pakistani thing, I suspect it is with a big cup of tea, or a family quirk, but whenever we have really good long day of rain and dark clouds, he wants pakora's.

One of my husband's really sweet characteristics is that he is very undemanding, he will eat whatever I cook and he won't ask for things.  Sometimes I wish he would, it takes the guessing out of what he feels like eating for me.  So when he wants pakoray, he will say something like: "so, shall I make some pakoray then?" to which I respond: "okay let me make some pakoray".  Any ingredients missing and he is off the grocers across the road like a shot, rain or no rain.

Pakoray's are fritters made of gram flour, potatoes, onions and spices, deep fried in oil, although you can make them with slices of aubergine, whole green chillies and even chunks of chicken.

My recipe for these is here, but I have finally got the hang of my mum-in-law's recipe, which is the best I have ever tasted, I will share soon insh'Allah.

Monday 28 March 2016

A Love Letter for Beloved Lahore

I got a call from my mum yesterday afternoon, she sounded upset.  She had called me to tell me that there had been a massive bomb blast in Lahore, in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park and she was worried about my in-laws.  Having no TV this was the first I had heard.  I tried to get hold of them first via Viber, then Whatsapp, eventually getting through on Skype.  They were all fine alhamdulillah, but upset at what had unfolded in their beloved city. 

On weekends one of my five brothers-in-law will often take all of the sisters-in-law and the kids to one of the local park’s (all 13 at the last count).  They will often pick a picnic or take something to barbeque and spend a good part of the late afternoon and early evening there.  Usually they head to Iqbal Park or Jallo Park, occasionally they go to Gulshan-e-Iqbal which is enormous and full of families enjoying their day off school, or work, especially working class people who might not be able to afford more expensive leisure pursuits.

This weekend they were all too busy to go out with the kids.  When I called, mum-in-law had checked up on everyone and made sure they were safe.  She was sitting with the rest of the family watching on TV and trying to understand.  There had been a call for blood donations at hospitals, which were packed with people who had responded.

To be honest, even when the rest of Pakistan seemed very unsafe, Lahore had seemed the one place that was relatively safe from the hellish suicide bombings and attacks on schools and police stations.  Its people are so very resilient and so full of life that nothing seems to get the down.  But to attack their children and women in their innocent places of play is something else, without warning or care.  It’s enough to make you feel despondent and heartbroken.

But this is Lahore we are talking about.  I spent summers there as a child, running around on the streets with my naughty boy cousins, eating carrot halwa from street stands and visiting Badshahi Masjid and Minar-e-Pakistan.  I spent a month there as a newly-wed, falling in love with the city as I fell in love with my husband, the streets of Lahore at dusk a romantic backdrop as we sped around all night on his motor-bike.  I took my daughter back as an infant and was amazed at how far the city had come and how good life could be there is you could afford it.  I took my oldest three back again a few years later as massive inflation and load shedding (electricity shortages) kicked in, making life so much harder for people.  

So you can imagine this wonderful city has a place in my heart.  But even more so I have a soft spot for the wonderful big-hearted people of Lahore.  In Pakistan they are described as “zinda dil” – or alive, lively.  Whether good or bad, religious or louche, they are larger than life, very friendly and everyone wants to know your business.  They love to laugh and have fun.  In my mind Lahore is a city of pleasure and pleasure-seekers: Basant, the kite festival, when everyone spends days partying on their roof as they compete to fly their kites the highest.  The pleasure gardens and parks, Food Street and even better the million street vendors each famous for their own speciality: channa chaat, gol gappay, roast charga chickens or burgers and chips. There is a famous saying about Lahore: "Jinne Lahore nahin wekhya, jamia ae nahin" – if you have not seen Lahore, you have not been born.

My dad-in-law served in the Pakistan army through two Indo-Park conflicts and he would talk about how brave the people of Lahore were, even when the Indian army advanced, people would not leave the city.  He recalled how the army would always get a warm welcome home to Lahore, being cheered and showered with flowers.

So this horrific attack will stun the people of Lahore, it might make them more careful, but I know for a fact that it will not get them down.  My prayers are with the city and its people.  I make dua for the people who have been hurt and lost loved ones, May Allah (SWT) give them sabr in this devastating time and help them find some piece and May Allah (SWT) keep them safe.

Sunday 27 March 2016

The Good Parenting Guide: No.1 - Let Your Kids Fight in Public

I grew up fighting with my siblings, especially the brother closest in age to me: hair pulling, karate fighting, wrestling and the usual shoving and fighting.  I won’t mention the time I threw a high heel at him and cracked his head open (I think I was 9 and he 8, he still has a scar) or the time I hit my sister over the head with a very thick book in the library, I managed to make a poor elderly man standing nearby jump from the “bang!”.

So how I thought I could raise my kids not to fight, I have no idea.  I don’t mind them play wrestling or pretending to karate fight each other.  But my older three, especially both the boys can drive me slightly mad with their squabbling, arguing and occasionally getting physical with each other.  I can live with that and I can do the usual routine of time outs, reasoning, sending to different rooms, occasionally shouting over them and even telling them to go away and argue somewhere else.

What I really can’t stand is when we are at someone else’s home or have guests or are out together and they start fighting:

“I had the remote first”
“He stepped on the back of my shoes”
“I wanted to sit there”
“He burped at me” (oh. my. days.)

They completely forget where they are, or who else is there.  They are not shy or embarrassed at all.  Sometimes I just despair thinking my kids are mini barbarians and everyone else’s seem to sit there quietly.  I know that’s not true, but everyone elses kids seem to have enough sense to fight when everyone is not watching them at least.

That was until a few weeks ago I went into my local supermarket and saw a sister wearing niqab (the face veil) with her three early teen boys.  Of course I am as susceptible to stereotypes as anyone else and I have an image in my mind of sisters who wear niqab being better Muslimah’s than myself.  With this goes a belief that they must be amazing mothers and must be raising their children as exemplary Muslims.  I know it might not necessary be true and that these sisters are just human like the rest of us, but the stereotype is there.

This sister turned around to tell her boys to behave and stop squabbling.  She then turned the corner and went around the aisle.  The next thing I saw was them karate kicking each other by the chcoclate digestives.  I was a bit incredulous, I thought my boys were the only one who did that randomly in the shopping mall or supermarket.  I have to say it got me thinking, if this sisters kids did it, maybe I’m not doing such a terrible job after all.  Although I hope mine are not still doing it when they are teenagers.

So Lesson No.1 in the Good Parenting Guide: let your kids wallop each other in the supermarket, it makes me feel better.
I’m going to have so much fun writing this series insh’Allah J

Saturday 26 March 2016

Picture of the Day - 26.03.16 - Rainy Holidays

I am usually careful with my work leave, spreading it our over the year and saving some in case of emergency, but this year for some reason I have ended up with two weeks of holidays whilst my children are on Easter holidays.

It could not have come at a better time, with work so intense that I feared burning out or being buried under minutiae and endless emails.

I am trying to plan fun things for the holidays, but so far I am winding down, revelling in the amount of time I have off and not committing to doing much of anything except reading yet.  Plus after some lovely days of spring sunshine, as soon as the holidays hit we had a rain shower.  So books in bed it is.

I did try and get a half decent picture out of almost every window in the house but failed completely, so these pictures were taken by Shutterbug Sister on her DSLR Canon camera.

Tuesday 22 March 2016

Amazing! Magazine Giveaway for 10 Readers!

I recently got the opportunity to review Amazing! magazine for children.  It got a big thumbs up from my children who loved it.  The creators of Amazing! magazine have kindly offered to give away 10 free copies of their next edition to readers.

To win a copy, like either their Facebook or Twitter page and leave a comment in the comments below to say that you have done it.  I will pick 10 people at random and ask you to me e-mail me your contact details for the magazine to be sent to you direct.

In additon, you can buy the magazine through their website here or through major supermakets and newsagents.  It is also available from iTunes, GooglePlay, or Kindle.  As a special offer the people behind the magazine are offering Happy Muslim Mama readers a 10% discount off of subscriptions when bought through their website.  To qualify go to the website http://www.amazing.org.uk/ and use the code: WOW10 at checkout.

I look forward to all of your entries!

Product Review: Amazing! Magazine and 10% Discount

I was asked to review a new magazine for children called Amazing! magazine.  The magazine brings together the editor of Horrible Histories magazine (which my children are avid readers of) and writers from the Simpson's and Beano comics, the latter which my children are fans of.  With this in mind, I had high expectations of the magazine.

It is based on the national curriculum and each magazine covers different topics such as maths, English, science, history,geography, art and personal development, based around one theme.  I was sent issue 16 about Roman's and issue 18, the human body special.

The magazines arrived with a lovely covering letter in the style of a comic.  The other side is bright yellow with some nice illustrations, beside the point, but a nice touch I thought.  The magazines are glossy with good quality paper and full colour.

Inside the body issue each page was dedicated to a different topic. This one focuses on body in the context of geography:

Each magazine includes an art and design page that shows you how to make something, games and brain teasers and one edition included a recipe:

The Roman issue shows the themed pages for English and Maths:

This issue included an A2 poster in the centre with a cool quote:

Alongside the topics you expect like science, maths and English, there are also pages that cover areas such as sports, personal, social, health and careers.  I was impressed with the pages below from the Roman issue for the personal development topic which discusses special educational needs (SEN) including a definition, examples and how it can affect children.

More games:

I could clearly see in the layout and drawings the influence of Horrible Histories and The Beano alongside a variety of other styles.  I liked the breadth of topics covered within each issue and the interactive nature of the magazine.

After having a careful perusal, the only thing to do was to hand them over to the kids and leave them to take a good look and see what they said.

I gave them a few days and then asked them what they thought.  Their response was overwhelmingly positive.  They loved them.  When I asked why, the feedback was that they were funny, they liked the games and they liked that there were facts that they hadn't seen before.  Both boys love non-fiction books, so if the information was run of the mill, they would have come across it before in one of their books about dinosaurs, animals, planets etc.

I asked if there was anything they didn't like and they said they wished it was even bigger because they got through it so quickly and wanted to read more.

I would give this magazine a thumbs up, I like the educational content, and they really enjoyed reading them and trying out the games and activities.

You can buy the magazine through their website here or through major supermakets and newsagents.  It is also available from iTunes, GooglePlay, or Kindle.  As a special offer the people behind the magazine are offering Happy Muslim Mama readers a 10% discount off of subscriptions.  To qualify go to the website http://www.amazing.org.uk/ and use the code: WOW10 at checkout.

You can find out more at their website here, their Facebook page and Twitter which has lots of fun and silly tweets and pictures.

Monday 21 March 2016

Mad Hatters Tea Party at Valentines Mansion

Shutterbug Sister recently alerted me to the "Find Your London" festival which celebrates London’s outdoor spaces such as gardens, parks and markets.  There are a series of events up until 28th March across London, you can see the full list in the brochure here.

We took the kids along to the one nearest to us at Valentines Mansion, where a Mad Hatters Tea Party was taking place, with the theme from the famous scene in the book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

We decided to make an afternoon of it and met my sisters and my sister-in-law there with my neice.

I really liked all the themed detail that had been created, like the sign below that says "we are all mad", a line from the book (you can see more of this theme at my sister Harlequin's Mad Hatter Eid Tea Party last year).

Lots of the kids were dressed up as characters from the book, including two little boys who were dressed as Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee like the sign below.

There was lots for the kids to do including croquet, quoits (where you throw a hoop made of rope over a peg), a stepping stone type game, a fruit kebab stall, face painting and a small tea cup ride for little children. We put Darling and my neice on the teacup ride and they immediately had a fight over the steering wheel while we all called " no hitting" at them.

The little girls were enamoured with the giant biscuit stand and of course they all wanted the same biscuit and were ready to fight for it.

There were people dressed up as characters from the book that were great fun.  At one point they got Little Man to say that the Queen of Hearts was beautiful, much to his embarrassment, while I had a good laugh.

My favourite bit of the afternoon was when the Queen got all of the little children to hold hands and form hoops so that she can play croquet using the smallest children as hedgehogs/balls that run through the hoops (in the books the Queens guards form the hoops, flamingoes are croquet mallets and little hedgehogs are the balls).

Darling and Princess Cheeky formed one of the hoops much to our aahing and taking way too many photos.

We also went inside and wandered through the house for a bit.  There were simple craft activities indoors, but my older kids were not interested and the little ones too small, so we gave them a miss.

The house is lovely, with big bay windows, antique furniture and stained glass windows.

This bed had a sign asking people not to sit on it.  I warned my boys not to get on it (like last time we visited) and it was barely a minute before another group came in and one of the adults sggested they get on the bed.

It was a nice afternoon, a bit of distraction for the kids and a nice day in the park.  With the Easter break coming up, I'm looking forward to seeing what else we might go along to.