Saturday 19 August 2017

Book Review: My First Book about the Qur’an by Sara Khan

My First Book about the Qur’an tackles the weighty issue of the beginning of creation in the Muslim scripture and the role of the Quran in our lives, but for an audience of small children.  The book takes us through the creation of the heavens and the earth, the elements, the animals and humans.  It highlights the beauty of all of creation and the uniqueness of human beings.  It then comes to the books of Allah (SWT) and how they teach us to live good lives, for instance by telling us to care for our parents, be good to our neighbours and take care of the earth.  It touches on the five pillars, mentions family life and ends with the promise of Jannah.  The last pages of the book contain some simple facts about the Quran and some questions and answers.

It is a solid little board book of a nice size that can be handled by the smallest hands.  The different things mentioned in the book act as a nice starting point for lots of conversations with your little one.  The illustrations are what really stood out for me, they really are beautiful and very high quality – with bright washes of colour and lovely drawings on every page.

The book reminded me of one or two books my older children had when they were younger, books about creation and where the world came from, but this is of a higher quality and aimed at smaller children (2+).  My two and four year old girls enjoyed having it read to them and looking at the pictures alone.  Darling (aged four) liked the page with the wedding, Baby (aged two) was fascinated with the pictures.  Gorgeous (ten) decided to take a look and remarked that many of the facts in the back of the book would not be known to some adults.  It was a little reminder of how important it is to start learning about the message of the Quran from a young age and as the first step of a life long journey.

You can buy the book here or here on Amazon and learn more on Facebook or Twitter

Friday 18 August 2017

Good Deed Friday: The Hajj Riders

I have been following the Hajj Riders recently and their big dream, dedication and hard work has really inspired me alhamdulillah.

The Hajj Riders are a group of brothers who are cycling from London to Madinah to raise awareness of the humanitarian situation in Syria and raise £1 million for Human Aid UK’s Syria EMS Ambulance, Medical Equipment and Emergency relief projects insh’Allah

They will be crossing seven countries (United Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Greece and Egypt) over a distance of 35,000 km, during a period of six weeks.  Once they get there they intend to perform Hajj.

The latest e-mail update says:

“The Hajj Riders have passed the half-way point where they have already been through France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Greece – as well as facing the gruelling test of the Alps along the way. However their toughest tests have yet to come as the riders approach Egypt and Saudi Arabia in the desert heat where temperatures reach 50 degrees.”

The latest update from their Facebook page tells us:

“No one said it would be easy,
No one expected the tests that came though.
In times of old they faced *diseases* (illness), *wars* (political and physical), *bandits* (thugs), *starvation* (financial issues) *etc*...
Ships would sink, paths would be blocked and the animals they rode would die!
As a Hajj Rider I can tell you now that we tasted a test similar or equivalent to every one of these at some point.
It truly has been a journey that has reminded me to be grateful for the ease of our generation and to reflect on how these journeys would mean so much to those who embarked upon them.
After weeks of trial and test in 100 different ways they have finally reached the shores of Saudi Arabia.”

You can find out more at their website, or Facebook page where they are posting regular vlogs and updates.
You can head over to their givebrite page if you want to donate.

"And proclaim that the people shall observe Hajj pilgrimage. They will come to you walking or riding on various exhausted (means of transportation). They will come from the farthest locations." ~ Quran (22:27)

"And whoever saves one - it is as if he had saved mankind entirely." ~ Quran (5:32)

Guest Post: Top Seven Parts of the Home Every Housewife Forgets To Clean by Fran McEvoy

You may think that cleaning thoroughly your whole house every week is enough to keep your home clean and well-protected from germs. However, have you ever thought about whether you are truly cleaning every single place in your house? You might be surprised how many spots you are actually forgetting. Next time when you do your house cleaning do not neglect those seven places and you can be certain that your home is properly cleaned.

The Ceiling Fan
Just because you can’t see what is going on with the upper part of your ceiling fan that doesn’t mean that there is not a huge amount of dust and grime which has piled on with time. To clean your ceiling fan grab an old pillowcase and drape it around the blade and press with your hands while you slide slowly the case off the blade.

The Washing Machine
That is right, the appliance you are using to clean your clothes can actually get quite dirty. Whether you are living in a humid place or you are often leaving wet clothes inside the washing machine for too long it can quickly become an environment suitable for mildew. In order to prevent that PrimeCleaners are saying that you can mix one cup of chlorine bleach and two cups of water. Use the solution to wipe the rubber seal of the door and run an empty cycle of washing by setting the temperature of the water on high degrees.

The Coffee Machine
Don’t neglect your smaller appliances. Although they look just fine on the outside, their interior gets quite dirty. In order to clean your coffee machine run a few brewing cycles by pouring a solution of equal parts of white vinegar and water. After the first brewing, use clean water for the next few cycles of cleaning to make sure there is no trace left from the vinegar.

Your Books
Even if you dust off regularly your bookshelf this is not enough to keep your books in a good shape. You should wipe the covers of your books with a clean towel and riffle the pages to make sure there are no dust particles which can ruin the condition of your books even if you haven’t read them for a long time.

Your Electronic Devices
When you think about it this makes a lot of sense because we spend a lot of time, every day on our phones and computers. The TV remote is yet another thing which is filled with germs. To make sure that you are well-protected use a clean towel and damp it with a solution of one cup of water and one cup of rubbing alcohol.

The Light Switches and Doorknobs
As light switches and doorknobs are something we are always touching they are all covered in different germs. It is very important to clean them often in order to keep your home truly clean and bacteria-free space. To wipe the light switches and doorknobs of your house you can damp a paper towel with some rubbing alcohol. This will disinfect your home immediately.

The Garbage Cans
If you consider your garbage cans just as tools which store your trash, you might want to start cleaning them more regularly to avoid any bacteria and bad smell. You can rinse them with water and use a white vinegar do scrub any stains. Let them dry well before using them again.

If you add these seven things to your cleaning chores you can be sure that your home will be always cleaned to perfection and you will eliminate the germs, so that you can enjoy the comfort of your clean and well-disinfected home.

Guest Post by Fran McEvoy

Thursday 17 August 2017

Entrepreneur Interview: Soapy Soap Company and

Mohammed M. Mahdi, Mohammed A. Mahdi, and Anthony Duncan are the Soapy Soap Guys, the entrepreneurs behind the artisanal soap business: the Soapy Soap Company. Their brand came about through a desire to create a more natural, functional bar of soap.  They have recently launched their new website:, the world’s first online soap-making studio where anyone can design their own handcrafted, halal soaps.

As an introduction, can you please tell us about yourself, your background, and what lead you to create
We (Mohammed M. Mahdi, Mohammed A. Mahdi, and Anthony Duncan) are roommates who have always been fascinated with DIY projects, how things work, and how things are made. One day, we realized we were out of bar soap, so we “Googled” soap-making.

We had heard about all-natural soap, and, upon investigation, realized that many commercially available soaps were made with sodium tallowate, derived from animal fats. This didn’t square with our Muslim values, so we decided to try to make halal soap with all-natural base oils like olive oil, palm oil, and canola oil.

We became increasingly intrigued and obsessed, staying up all night making batch after batch of soap. It didn’t take long before our kitchen was filled with enough soap to last 100 years or more. We shared the end product with friends and family who loved the product and we would soon launch Soapy Soap Company (April 2012), as a result. We started doing farmer’s markets and got our soaps into retail locations. After bar soaps, we expanded into lip balms, body sprays with essential oils, body balm stick lotions, and bath soaks.

Early on, we also had the idea to offer small batches of custom soap, but the need for soap to “cure” for 30 days or more made this idea commercially unviable at that time. It wouldn’t be until we perfected our volcano soap-making technique that this concept would be back on the table, and would finally become a reality in 2017.

What made you choose to become an entrepreneur?
We honestly just stumbled into it. I don't think any of us set out to be entrepreneurs, but we are entrepreneurs at heart! Plus, we needed our kitchen back, so we could actually make dinners at home again--instead of batches of soap!

What is the overall aim of the Soapy Soap Company/
People increasingly care about what they put IN their bodies, but they seldom think about what they put ON their bodies. We want to help them start thinking about that--and we want to provide people with the very best, high-quality, cruelty-free, vegan, and halal soaps that we can through Soapy Soap Company.

As far as DesignMySoap goes, we wanted that to be all about empowerment and fun. It isn't just about using or having access to all-natural soap, but also actually getting to actively choose what goes into their soap. From the skin type base to the scents and exfoliates and even the label and what they name their soap, it's like a "selfie" made out of soap.

What problem are you setting out to solve and how?
We wanted to create vegan, halal, and hypoallergenic products that we would want to use ourselves. And we wanted to use simple ingredients that we could actually pronounce! ;-)

What were some of the biggest challenges for you when you were starting your business?
One of the biggest challenges (both then and now) is competing with other body care product companies that make claims that they legally aren't supposed to make. We carefully follow all of the cosmetic product labelling laws, but, unfortunately, not everyone else does. As a result, the playing field isn't quite level.

What do you wish you had known before you had started your business?
We believed strongly in the idea that "If you build it, they will come." We put all of our energy into creating the best possible products, and we did very little in the way of marketing. We now understand that you can have the best product in the world, but, if no one knows about it, it doesn't really matter so much. So, with that said, we wish we had paid closer attention to marketing back then.

What is the most satisfying aspect of running your own business?
We love obsessing over every little detail--from sourcing Rainforest Alliance Certified palm oil for our soap to drop-testing the glass bottles that our body sprays are packaged in. All of our products are made with food-grade quality ingredients and are all-natural, vegan, halal, cruelty-free, gluten-free, and non-GMO and we feel really good about that.

Also, we try to run our business by these specific core principles:

*We value being truthful in all things.
*We value the well-being and happiness of others.
*We value continuously improving ourselves, what we produce, and how we produce it
*We value being compassionate towards all things.

Where do you see your business in the future?
We have had regional success in area stores and at farmers' markets with our Soapy Soap line of products, but we want our products to become nationally known in the U.S.A., with a bigger focus on online retail sales. One way we think we can accomplish that is through since there is nothing else like it around!

What words of wisdom would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who may be hesitant about taking the first steps towards starting their own business?
Be passionate about what you're doing, be honest with yourself and those around you, and have fun along the way.

I really enjoyed the interview and the sense of fun the guys bring to their work.  They have also been featured in the latest edition of Oprah's O Magazine (September 2017), which is an impressive achievement, if you happen to come across an issue, do check it out. 

You can find out more about the Soapy Soap Company here and here.

You can also find them on FacebookTwitterYouTube and Instagram.

Picture of the Day 14.08.17 (2) - Rainbows in the Twilight

There is something about rainbows that lifts my spirits immensely and leaves me slightly in awe of its beauty.  This rainbow appeared at the tail end of a light drizzle on my way home from work.  It arched across a great portion of the sky and the colours were really bright and intense.  It was one of those times that I wish I had a better camera or knew how to take better pictures with my phone camera – the pictures don’t do the beauty of the rainbow I saw that day any justice at all.  I guess you can’t capture everything and the thing to do at such times is to stand back and enjoy the beauty of the moment.

Upon the authority of Ibn Abbas (Radhiyallahu ‘Anhumaa) who said: “The rainbow is a safeguard for the inhabitants of the earth that they will not be drowned (as a form of destruction as in the time of Nooh) and the Milky Way is the door of the heavens and the splitting of the heavens will begin from it (i.e. on the day of Judgement)” (from Imam Bukhaari in his Adabul Mufrad 767/590)  

Thank you Shutterbug Sister who told me about this hadith, she also happen's to be better at taking pictures of rainbows that me (here and here).

Picture of the Day 14.08.17 - Pakistan Independence Day

Monday was Pakistan Independence Day - 70 years on from the day the country was created.  I have never been much of a nationalist, but my family in Pakistan are and I have certainly married into a family of real patriots.  My father-in-law served in the Pakistan army and fought in two of the Indo-Pak wars.  Many others in both my husbands and my extended family are retired from or currently serve in Pakistan's armed forces.

I have heard lots of people trolling online and in some cases not trolling but stating what they genuinely believe - that Pakistan is a failed state, that it is a corrupt country that should never have been created, that it is a bedrock for terrorism.  Never saying anything positive about the country, but exaggerating negative things when they have never actually been to Pakistan.

My experience of Pakistan is that like any other place it has it faults and flaws, but some things stand out that make me really proud: the beauty of the people, their compassion and hospitality.  The sense of fun of my husband’s home town Lahore, some of the most beautiful landscapes and places, a young and ambitious population that is starting to make strides insh'Allah, built on the shoulders of their elders, who have built the country with their immense contribution.

Most of all when i see the situation of Muslim's in many places I am grateful for a country where Muslim's can practise their faith safely.

So on its 70th birthday I make an abundance of dua for Pakistan: May Allah (SWT) keep it and its people safe and well, may it prosper, have plenty and develop further into a country where everyone is happy and has a beautiful future.  May its people and land be blessed always insh'Allah.

I also send my best wishes to Indian's who celebrated their Independence Day the next day – may you prosper and feel safe.  May your people live in harmony and have abundance and may you always see us friends and not your enemies insh’Allah.

I usually don’t do anything, but this year I fancied joining in the fun a little, so we celebrated by joining the party on the main road outside our home, dressing the babies in green and drinking slushees.

Monday 14 August 2017

Picture of the Day 12.08.17 - Sweet Smelling Gifts

Shutterbug and Harlequin Sister went to visit a Lavender Farm in Surrey this weekend.  They had some great pics (to follow on their blogs soon I am sure) and came back tired and bearing gifts:  a bunch of dried Lavender and Lavender flavoured chocolate which I am yet to try.

The Lavender has a lovely strong smell which I could smell as soon as I walked into my mum’s kitchen.  I haven't tried the chocolate yet, but am told you can taste the Lavender.  The chocolate peanuts are one of my favourite treats.  Shutterbug Sister is very careful and conscientious about halal food.  She checked earlier in the year and found that the chocolate peanuts contained a coating of shellac which is considered by some scholars to be haram (forbidden) for Muslims.  She checked again recently and was told the shellac was no longer used and that the product was suitable for vegetarians.  I was very pleased to hear this and happier still that she had bought me a bag to celebrate alhamdulilah 

Fashionista Sister, not to be outdone, treated me and Little Lady to new water bottles.  The kids have been dropping hints about these which I have ignoring.  These keep the water cold for 12 hours or hot for 6 hours.  I picked purple and LL was pleased with her white one.

It's good to have sisters ahamdulillah, may Allah bless them with health, wealth, happiness, contentment and all that is good insh'Allah, Ameen xxx

Sunday 13 August 2017

Picture of the Day 11.08.17 - London Olympic Stadium

Harlequin Sister managed to get me some tickets to the IAAF Athletic World Championships London 2017 qualifying games.  It has been a long time since I saw the inside of the London Olympic Stadium and it was a wonderful day out with my oldest three children.  The venue is lovely and has a really fantastic vibe and the atmosphere at the games was so upbeat.  Something we normally would not think to do and it felt like a privilege to be able to watch world class athletes compete.

Picture of the Day 08.08.17 - Written Complaint

I usually come home from work to a mixture of leg hugging from the babies and a litany of complaints from everyone.  One day this week I came home to find a written complaint from Little Lady on the living room door:

Neither the culprit nor the nature of the multiple complaints surprised me.  Gorgeous revels in his mischief and mess.  He is lucky he is so charming that he gets away with all sorts.  He seems to have a natural knack of knowing exactly where the line can be drawn before I go ballistic and always stay just on the right side of it.  Although my response to any swearing at the moment is handing him a tasbeeh (prayer beads) and telling him to make astaghfar (repentance) 100 times asking Allah to remove the bad word from his book of deeds. 

Thrifty Haul August 2017

Hubby is away until after Eid, so usually visiting boot sales would have been out of the question.  But my mum and dad are planning to go Pakistan later this year, so have been visiting boot fairs at the weekend to do some their shopping.  Last weekend, they called me soon after fajr (dawn) prayer and asked me if I wanted to go with them.  I didn’t need to be asked twice.  

We ended up driving about an hour away to the Chelmsford BootFair.  This was the first time I visited this site and it turned out to be one of the best boot fairs I have been to.  We left late morning to return home laden with bargains.  I found some really nice things for next to nothing alhamdulillah.

I bought the red alphabet toy and the microphone as soon as I got there.  Both were working with batteries and cost £1 and 50p respectively.  The assortments of purses, walkie talkies and wind-up torches were all 50p each.

Most of the items in the picture below were also 50p, everyone ended up with a pair of sunglasses, I kept the pretty necklace with the crystal hearts and Little Lady has already filled the acrylic butterfly with her earrings.  The grey mirror matches her bedroom.  LL also took the tin of post its and the naughty book.  The naughty book has been a source of great hilarity.  I come home from work and every day the days misdemeanours are recorded in it much to both Darling and Baby's dismay (ok maybe Darling, Baby loves to create mischeif). Even I and my mum-in-law get a mention.

The practice books were 20p each and the watercolour pad and book were 50p.

This was my pile for myself, varying from 20p to £1. I have been interested in NLP for some time, so look forward to seeing what I can learn from this book.

Picture of the Day 03.08.17 - Sweetheart Henna

Darling and my neighbour’s daughter N are soul sisters - very, very girly.  They share a love of henna, nail varnish and pink.  Every now and again N will do Darling's henna.  Darling is happy to sit patiently while it is applied and then sit still while it dries and the colour stains the skin.  I love how precise N’s application is, taking the same care on a child as she would an adults design.

Book Review: #BabyLove: My Toddler Life by Corine Dehghanpisheh

Mums will be familiar with the ability of babies to hone in on their mobile phones, utterly fascinated, or sometimes just using it as a teether.  My Toddler Life incorporates this fascination by babies into its narrative.  The book follows a small child through the eyes of his mother, or more accurately the frame of her phone as they play and makes memories.

 The little one is shown counting, colouring and making music with mum recording the fun and sharing.  This is until he is tempted by him mum’s phone.  Knowing he mustn’t touch but unable to resist, he takes the phone and tries taking selfies and pictures of the dog before dropping the phone and getting scared.  Mum handles he situation with love and utmost gentleness, encouraging him to apologise.

This is a good sized, glossy soft book, more suited to reading to a child than letting them handle it.  Slightly older children who understand how to take care of a book might also enjoy it.  The pictures are bold and colourful and easy on the eye for a little one, I really liked the expressions and actions of the dog throughout the book.  I liked that the prose is written in rhyme, making it more pleasurable to read.  The book does have a lot of pages, so takes a bit of time to get through when reading out loud.

I wondered if the book would be judgemental, as people so often are when parents use their smart phones, but there was no preachy message about putting your phone down, instead the book ends with the mum sharing her special moments on the phone, hugging her little one, then outing her phone down to play with her child.

Friday 4 August 2017

Trip to the British Museum

I took my two boys to the Street Eats event organised by Halal Gems last weekend.  We only stayed for about two hours, so Harlequin Sister suggested I make the most of the afternoon and take them to the British Museum.  I haven't been since Little Lady was born, although the older children have been with their school.

After a short train ride to Tottenham Court Road and a walk led by Google maps through back roads, we found the British Museum fairly easily.  There were queues to get in, these were fast moving, but still took about ten minutes to get in due to bag checks.
It is an enormous museum, we spent about two hours flitting from one exhibit to another and still only managed to see a small part of it.  Different sections have different styles and character to them, with the rocks and minerals housed in a part that felt like a beautiful old library.  There was artwork displayed individually like at a gallery and ancient relics displayed in themed rooms.

Some of the key exhibits include the famous Rosetta stone and the mummies which we didn’t even get round to seeing.  We did spend time in the ancient Greek, the America’s and the Mesopotamian.  You forget what a privilege it is to have free access to probably the best collection of antiquities in the world.  It also made me think about how the world was pillaged by Europe at one point and the treasures brought here. 

The boys were impressed by how big some of the guns were, they were also very curious about this tiny little sword, until I pointed out the description label which explained it was a tooth and ear pick with a case:

I had to drag them away from this staircase because they were busy making noises at the people below.

The covered courtyard sits in the middle of the building and is the largest covered courtyard in Europe.  You come upon it unexpectedly as you walk through the building and it is quite awe-inspiring.  It’s one of my favourite spaces in London, serene, relaxed but with lots going on.

The time we spent there was a good use of our time.  I would take the kids back, but allocate a lot more time, or pick one bit and focus on that section, particularly if it related to their work at school that term or if it is a special interest for one of them.  The shop is full of gorgeous things, but very expensive, so only window shopping for me. A fun, interesting, educational afternoon.