Tuesday 30 January 2018

Product Review: Sunnah Box by Muslim Box Co

MuslimBox Co. is a Muslim brand which describes itself as being founded on the Prophetic principles of generosity, sharing and gift giving.  They recently contacted me to ask if I would like to review their Sunnah Box, a hand-packaged set of grooming items drawn from the legacy of the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wasallam‎).

I was intrigued by the idea and liked the idea of getting hubby in on the act and getting his opinion for the review.

The Sunnah box came beautifully packaged in old fashioned craft paper and string which I liked.

The box is walnut wood with a smooth finish and a minimalist look.  The hinge at the front is of good quality with an antiqued gold finish.

The website doesn't say which type of miswak (or tooth stick) is in the box, it looks like the same as my husband uses, which is the standard one available everywhere.  I really liked the miswak holder, which is ideal for travel or home storage.  I find miswak dries out once open if left out and people often don’t like to leave it uncovered.  

The smaller comb, or beard comb is a bit like a detangling comb for curly hair.  I loved the feel of it, very smooth and silky and very tactile.  The folding comb is probably hubby’s favourite item.  I have been looking for one for him and this has a pocket clip and folds smoothly.  I thought the comb was too fine to comb a curly beard, but hubby tried it and didn’t have a problem.

The beard oil, black seed oil and perfume come in nicely labelled glass bottles.  They have a plastic seal under the metal lids.  My husband was weary they would leak and would have to be kept upright, but the plastic seal meant that they were fine.

The beard oil is made of sweet almond oil and pure argan oil with cedarwood and lemongrass essential oils for scent.  The smell was quite subtle, hubby wasn’t crazy about it as his usual beard oil is a synthetic one with perfumes, so this one wasn’t as fragrant as he is sued to.

The black seed oil is raw, virgin and cold pressed. I really liked this.  I have had my mother in law bring me black seed oil from seeds that she bought and had pressed in Pakistan, the result was so pungent in taste and small that I didn’t really like it.  This has a milder smell and I may use it to mix with another oil for skin and hair.

The third bottle is described non-alcoholic attar perfume.  I would describe this as almost unisex.  Hubby thought it was pleasant, I really liked it.  I’m not sure how to describe it, perhaps musky, maybe slightly floral.

I thought this was a nice gift for a special occasion, I suspect my dad would appreciate something like this.  It’s also a nice way to introduce someone to some Sunnah practices in a really nice, gentle way.

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Small Things that Make a Difference: Wudhu at Work

I have been at my new job a week and a half and I am thoroughly enjoying it alhamdulillah.  The day goes by in a flash, I am learning so much and there is lots of opportunity to be creative and throw around ideas.

One of the areas I am doing a lot of work in at the moment is Equality and Diversity, both internally as a workplace and externally as part of a wider community. It’s funny though, sometimes its small things that can make such a difference as a Muslimah in the workplace.

There seems to be some cultural sensitivity and understanding, in that male co-workers haven’t tried to shake my hand.  My manager is really supportive about my need to pray and best of all, there is a good facility to make wudhu (ablutions) for prayer.

Pretty much in every place I have worked, I have made wudhu in the disabled bathroom for privacy and almost in every case this has a very small sink with a tap that sprays everything and leaves you and your surroundings dripping wet.  I wear a plain abaya, so wearing any colour other than black makes it very visible that you are walking around with the front of your clothes wet.  In the last place I worked the disabled toilets were locked and only those with the pass keep could access them.  One toilet was left unlocked, but on more than one occasion I went to use only to be told off for trying to use a disabled loo.

In my current workplace, there is a disabled toilet on every floor with a shower.  People use the showers after exercise etc, so I don’t feel like I will be told off for using it to make wudhu.  Best of all the sink is big, the taps flow freely rather than spray everywhere. 

I have struggled with praying at work for years, not because of the prayer, but because it always felt like so much work washing up for prayers.  It was always a relief when I was on my period and didn’t have to pray and could avoid the rigmarole of taking everything off, getting wet and messy, then cleaning everything up – all as fast as possible in the hope that no one is waiting outside to moan at you.  I had to remind myself that the ablutions are as much a part of the prayer as the prayer itself.

Now it’s a relief that I can relax when I make wudhu, there is space to put my things and there is a clean space to wash up.  I think it’s something I will raise with my employers to let them know it might seem like a small thing, but it makes a difference and has really improved my experience at work.

My wudhu bag for work

Sparkly Superhero Fun

The children's school recently encouraged them to come in dressed as Superheroes and donate £1 to a charity that supports Rohingya refugees.  I didn’t like the idea of buying a costume to wear for one day and in the past it has been a lot of fun thinking of and making our own costumes.

This time round, I looked for the cheapest plain t-shirt I could find and customised it with a simple logo – a lightning bolt.  I whipped out the trusty answer to all homework problems, spray piant, and cut a template out from plain card to spray through.

In hindsight I should have put more newspaper down around the template as the spray paint gets everywhere… but you live and you learn I suppose.

I paired the messy print customised t-shirts with plain leggings in the same colour and a sparkly tutu.  Little Lady pointed out that light pink doesn’t go with burgundy.  I pointed out the pink tutu’s were the cheapest I could find.

The cape is a good old fashioned pillow case safety-pinned to the t-shirt.

The girls really enjoyed wearing their costumes and enjoyed the kind compliments from their teacher.

Monday 15 January 2018

First Day in the New Job

After a month long break I finally started in my new job today.  The original plan was to leave my old job and start in the new one the following week.  I think I would have started the new role on a high and full of confidence from my previous job.  As things worked out, I had a month long break and spending a month away gives you time to over think things and start questioning/doubting yourself.  Spending a month with a grumpy teen, warring boys and crazy babies also leaves you wondering if you could string a sentence together out loud that doesn’t involve shouting, cajoling or nagging.

I was a little nervous, but my siblings and friends messaged me in the morning to wish me luck and my friend F had good advice: make friends and play nicely – and that is exactly what I hope to do.  In contrast Little Lady bid me goodbye in the morning and wished me luck in her own way by saying “Don’t get sacked mum!”

So I was grateful to finally get started today.  I was lucky to get a gentle start and spend the day making introductions, understand what everyone was doing, find the prayer room and getting set up with my laptop.  I was surprised how exhausted I was for how little I felt I had done, it must have been the effect of trying to take everything in.

I think the easy start was just for the first day, my second day is already filled almost completely with meetings.  I am grateful though, the work is interesting and touches on things that I am passionate about (like equality and diversity and community cohesion) and will give me the chance to write lots.

Picture of the Day 12.01.018: Memory Jar

It seems to me that Pinterest is a wonderful place for beautiful ideas that I save with the intention of making, baking, trying, and drawing later, but never get round to.  Little Lady in contrast likes to try things out and I wondered what she was up to when she asked for a kilner jar.

It was for this Memory Jar:

Instead of folding her cards she is rolling them up and securing them into little scrolls with washi tape.  I have to say I am super curious what she has written in them, but know better than to try taking a look.

I want to try something similar for myself and the babies.  It seems like a nice way to capture and reflect on the good stuff and an opportunity to focus on the things that I should be grateful for.

Picture of the Day 10.01.018: Good Intentions and Good Luck Gifts

I did have good intentions for the month long gap I have had between jobs: experiment with an online shop, try drop-shipping, finish an e-book, try a few online courses, but when it came to it, I decided that I was unlikely to get another opportunity to forget work so thoroughly and just give myself a break

In the end I did the minimum – getting the house in order, getting systems in place to keep organised (like a system for paperwork) doing some reading for the new job, reading for pleasure, journaling and watching way too much rubbish online.  I spent my time with the children either during their Christmas holidays or doing the school run.  I made elaborate lunches for hubby to take to work much to the children’s amusement Little Lady remarked I just need heels and a little apron as I waved him off at the door, I am sure he has enjoyed the extra attention.

With my break over, much quicker than I could have imagined, I have been getting organised to get back to work.  It was nice to get a little good luck gift from my mum: two scarves and some chocolate, the black scarf is perfect or my first day.  I might save my animal prints and loud coloured scarves for later on.

Thursday 4 January 2018

100 Days of Productivity

I recently came across something called 100 Days of Productivity Challenge, I really liked the concept. It requires you to do something productive every day and capture it.  The challenge is mainly found on students Tumblr accounts.  Being a grown adult and usually quite productive, I shouldn’t need a productivity challenge.  However, I seem to have spent the tail end of 2017 binge-watching Criminal Minds on my laptop instead of doing anything useful and I need to get myself back in gear.  I also don’t want to capture something productive, but challenge myself to get really productive and use my time in the best way possible.

I had to consider what I would include within the scope of productive other than day-to-day work or time wasting.  My list included:
Zikr and worship
Blogging and writing
Deep cleaning the house and organising
Cooking healthy food and trying new recipes
Arts, crafts, creative activities and photography
Journaling including updating the kid’s journals
Planning (for the following day or week)
Spending time with my children whether to help with their studies or do something fun6i
Spending time with my parents, siblings or extended family
Visiting friends and neighbours
Studying or reading up for work
Working on my projects (family genealogy, planners, e-books)
Sleeping – because I am terrible at making sure to get plenty of sleep and also to remember to take the sunnah midday nap (qaylulah), something that definitely increases my productivity and energy levels when I do.

There is probably more, but time spent on these things doesn’t feel wasted to me.

Day 1
I didn’t feel like attending the weekly taleem (ladies Islamic study circle), but I always feel that if I am careless about attending, I might end up never going when I get the chance.  I was pleased I went as it gave me a sense of contentment and it was nice to see the other ladies who are some of the nicest women I know. 
The same day Hubby told me about someone he had just done a delivery for, the couple had just moved into the area and had just had a baby by caesarean section.  They had been living off eggs and toast as the lady was on bed rest.  We made chicken soup, pilau rice and chicken sandwiches for hubby to take to them.  They were really surprised and promised to come and visit, Hubby also told them about the local Sisters study circle.
I decided to end the day by taking the children out for dessert as it was the last day of Little Ladies Christmas holidays.  I manged to tire them out enough to leave me alone for a while so that I could start journaling my goals for 2018.

Day 2
I spent the day cleaning the house from top to bottom, deep cleaning the bathrooms and organising the store cupboards.  It was the last day of the holidays for the rest of the kids so we ironed uniforms, packed PE kits and book bags and sent, re-sent and then dragged people to bed for an early bedtime.

Day 3
Lots of cooking with a focus on healthy and vegetarian where possible: spinach and potato curry, chickpea curry and sevaiyya (vermicelli in milk) for the kids for after school.  Also lots of blogging as I try and catch up on writing up some of my blog ideas and notes.
I used the back of my 2018 journal to list 100 things I wanted to do and then started another 100.

I probably won’t be able to keep up blogging all 100 days of productivity, but I’ll try to capture some of the things I do and also if there is anything that helps me to get more productive insh'Allah.

Wednesday 3 January 2018

Tumblr Fun

Little Lady introduced me to Tumblr recently.  I have never quite taken to it as it always seemed so disorganised and random.  LL explained she uses it for inspiration for her studies – Tumblrs for students are called Studyblrs and there seem to be thousands of them, mostly covering study notes, revision preparation, stationary supplies and bullet journaling amongst other things.  She piqued my curiosity and I thought I would take a look, before I knew it I was immersed in a world of bibliophiles, vegans and bullet journal enthusiasts.

Tumblr’s format is so easy to use and play with.  I was impressed by two things: firstly the sheer volume of beautiful images and easy to digest content, I found so much I enjoyed looking at.  You could draw parallels with Instagram, but I found this even easier to use than Instagram with scope for good sized chunks of text if you want to add them (like some amazing book lists I have copied and saved to my Evernote).  The second element I really liked was the number of communities built up around different interests: of course I was drawn most of all to the book-lovers, mineralogists, nature-lovers and foodies.

I have my reservations, the medium is also known for the sheer amount of pornographic image Tumblr’s that exist.  I haven’t had any come through on my feed because I have been following accounts about books, mountains, fruit and rocks mainly. I have noticed some of the vegan accounts are full of selfies of six-packs and bikini’s, so I just avoid following those.  I like some of the messages that I have seen posted up about these:

I ended up creating two Tumblr’s, one to collate all of the things I love: books, henna, nature, gems and minerals, watercolour art, more book and more nature:

The other is to collate healthy food ideas and inspiration, because…good intentions and everything.

I just have to be sensible and not be re-posting stuff when I should be sleeping.  I still remember my Pinterest fixation when I was pregnant with my youngest and could not sleep.  Now I’m just waiting for Little Lady to tell me how “yesterday” I am.

Words of the Year 2018: Quran and Khidmat (Service)

I debated whether to have a word for the year as the last two have been hit and miss.  The word for 2017 was Salah (prayer) with the intention of improving my concentration in and the quality of my prayers.  This has something I have always struggled with and will continue to work on.  The word for 2016 was health with the intention of improving my diet and losing a little weight.  I did improve my diet and lose a little weight, but I remain in the thrall of chocolate.

On consideration I realised that part of the problem is that I am choosing areas of my life that I should improve rather than want to improve.  Ones that feel like real work and require discipline and will power, rather than ones I can enjoy focussing on and feel motivated to improve.

So this year I thought about an area of my life that needs work and the one that stood out was my understanding and study of the Quran.  I have felt keenly in recent years that I cannot justify not knowing, studying and understanding the Quran better.  I love to learn and study and if I take the approach to learning the Quran that I am increasing my knowledge in order to implement what I learn in my life, then I hope this will motivate me.  Saying that, I know that studying the Quran is important and something we should do.  This Word of the Year (Quran) is the one for my head, I hope as the year progresses, it becomes the one for my heart also.

I hope to start with the commentary called Tafsir ibn Kathir which hubby gifted to me and then look at options for further study or for learning Quranic Arabic insha’Allah.

The other Word of the Year, the one that come from my heart and feels like fun more than work, is Khidmat, or service to others.  I believe that we all have our own strengths when it comes to spirituality and faith.  There are those that engage in zikr (remembrance) and reflection, others that can remain absorbed in prayer for long stretches with concentration and devotion.  Some people are able to live in a simple, even austere way, treading lightly on the earth and others make an impact on everyone they meet through their compassion and kindness.  I have always struggled with prayer, over time I have found zikr easier and more pleasurable.  In comparison, I have always loved to help others if I can.  I believe that this is my path to Allah (SWT) more than any of the others. 

I will look out for opportunities to benefit others and make positive intentions insha’Allah. I have wanted to volunteer for some time but will have to consider what capacity I have.  Other avenues are cooking for others, taking care of and supporting my parents, caring for my mother-in-law when she is here, visiting someone new to the area or a new neighbour, visiting someone who is ill or alone, sharing my knowledge with others - a few people have asked me to help with job applications and forms.  I hope to keep an open mind and see what comes my way.

What would your word or phrase for 2018 be?
What do you want to bring your focus to this year?