Friday, 17 September 2010

Our Eid Party

I've been meaning to post about this for days but didn't get around to it.

This year we had an Eid-ul-Fitr party at our place.
I love parties and any other kind of entertaining. I love planning a menu out, thinking about personal touches, paying attention to the small details. I love it from start to finish. Sometimes I think I should be an events organizer, but I would only want to do halal events with no booze or pork products! But lets face it, every Muslim household can put an event together.

Anyway, this year I decided to put up a red canape on the ceiling to create a cosy Arabian tent like feeling. Last year on my step daughters birthday we came up with this idea and we all liked it so much.
So we had the canape up, we had fairy lights draped over a bookcase, red lanterns with candles inside, the dining table was decorated with red flower arrangements and candles. Next to where I served the starters I also had a wide shallow bowl filled with water which had floating candles in. It was lovely, everyone was so surprised and really impressed with our creativeness.

The food was well liked too. For starters I made mini shami kebab, mini samose and chicken tikka. I didn't want people filling up too much on starters, so I made everything in a mini size, with them I served, mint and coriander chutney, a yogurt chutney, imli and a spicy ketchup type chutney.

For main course I served lamb curry, chicken curry, channe, pilao, naan, grilled chops, yogurt, salad.

And for desert I made gulab jamun and served them warm with vanilla ice cream. Yummy!

Everyone really enjoyed the evening. There was a lovely atmosphere, we chatted and laughed until late, one of my guests did my mendhi after I served tea since I didn't get around to it the night before, (because of all the prep).

For the little kiddies, when they arrived I gave them little goody bags to keep them busy during the evening. I put in those bottles you get to blow bubbles with, some chocs and treats, that went down nicely too. After tea we gave the children their Eid presents, everyone really liked what they got. And as everyone left I handed out little packages of cupcakes I made the day before, packaged in cellophane and tied with ribbon.

Everyone appreciated the thought and effort that went into it, and I think this one will certainly be a memorable Eid for everyone, not only because of the decoration and attention to detail, but also because of the lovely atmosphere. My younger step daughter said it was the best Eid ever, so that's a massive compliment!

Here are some pics:

Monday, 13 September 2010

Eid Mubarak

The blessed month of Ramadan has passed so quickly.
Eid Mubarak to everyone everywhere, May Allah (swt) accept our prayers, forgive us for our sins and continue to guide us and keep us on the straight path and protects us from shaytan. Ameen.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Being a stepmum

Some days I think its harder being a step mum than it is being a biological mum.

With your own child, you've bonded, nurtured it, you can explain things in a way that he/she will understand. There is your imprint on that child, a connection.

When you're a step mum, you have to find ways of reaching that child, of communicating, bonding and understanding one another. All the while, you constantly have this barrier between you of someone elses imprinting, another persons heavy influence and that's when a push / pull situation starts.
Don't get me wrong, both my step children are lovely, but there are testing moments, as is the case with all children, and perhaps even more so with teenagers.

A big part of the tension I think is that their mum has brought them up very differently to how my husband and I now do. They haven't had a religious environment and now although they would never say, I think at times they find our religious practice a little too much, perhaps "slightly overwhelming" is a better description.

They are both bombarded with western influences and their friends parents are a lot more relaxed about things than we are.

Another part of it I think is their age, with toddlers you still have a chance to bond with them. I want to spend more time with them bonding, I really do, but sometimes I'm busy with work or chores and sometimes they've already made plans. On several occasions now, I've thought to myself, "tomorrow perhaps we can do this..." and then when tomorrow comes I find out they've already made plans and its too late. I need to get in there quicker before they plan something else.
Other times, we make plans, and then something changes and it doesn't happen.
Like yesterday for example, the youngest said to me, "we haven't spent anytime together in ages, I want to spend some time with you" (so cute), so I jumped at the chance, this was my window, I changed my plans, decided to postpone a few things, and cleared my diary and suggested a few things we could do. She popped out to buy something and when she came back, she'd decided that instead she wanted to do something that just involved her, she said when she's done, she'd like to do what we had planned. But that never happened.

This kind of thing has happened a few times now and I don't blame her, it's not intentional on her part, she doesn't realize that she's making plans with me and then not doing them. She's free spirited, the kind of person that thinks outside of the box, and I like that.

There are so many daily challenges that I couldn't even list them to you. All I can do is be patient, make myself available and be kind and loving.

If anyone has any suggestions on fun activities to do with teenagers, I would love to hear them. Funny thing is when I was a kid, my elders never made time to do fun activities with me. In the holidays we just kept ourselves busy and helped out around the house without being asked. These days things are different. And even if they were my own biological children, I would still be thinking of things to keep them entertained.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Ramadan & Food

This year I decided that during Ramadan I am not going to make as much food as I usually do.

In previous years, we've broken our fast with a feast! Feast for our eyes, feast for our taste buds and for our bellies! Juices, dates, fruit salad, samose, or pakore, or kebab this chutney and that chutney and such. Pray Maghrib, then sit down to a pretty big meal.

This year, I decided all that food wasn't necessary so I've kept it simple. We break our fast with water and a date or two. Pray Maghrib. Then sit down to a small meal. Something we would usually have any other time of the year.
So for example, some grilled chicken, green beans and a salad, or a stir fry. Something simple, and low carb, (I find it so difficult to finish a meal with carbs after fasting the whole day).

Then insha'Allah when Eid comes round, that'll be when our feast happens and we'll all appreciate it more too.

I just keep thinking of all the poor people across the world who won't have any food at all to break their fast with, Muslim or not. So many people will go to sleep feeling hungry tonight, while we get to quench our thirst and satisfy our appetite.

My family in Pakistan were saying that before the floods happened, milk was already difficult to get hold of, and the cost of meat was very high, but since the floods, so many animals have died, they don't know what will happen now.
We are blessed to be living in the west were we have supermarkets and halal meat shops on almost every high street. I don't want my family to take that for granted.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Ramadan Mubarak

Its finally Ramadan! Ramadan Mubarak to everyone, May Allah (SWT) make our fasts easy for us, and forgive us for our sins, continue to guide us and draw us closer to His mercy and love for us.
May this month be full of learning, enlightenment and growth, insha'Allah, Ameen.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Rheumatoid Blues

I feel so awful today. I haven't felt this bad in ages now.

I had a million things to do today, I wanted to get so many things done before Ramadan starts, which is only tomorrow! But I just couldn't get up today and resting or sleeping for longer usually helps my joints when they're bad. But today not even that helped. My joints are painful, my cartilage is crunching, I hate that acid like feeling inside the joints, everything hurts, my chest is even more painful than usual today and I'm struggling to stand up straight.

I wanted to finalize all our Eid outfits before Ramadan, I don't want to shop whilst fasting especially as these fasts will be pretty long. Which is why I really have to go to the shops today and tie up a few lose ends on outfits. I also need to make a batch of samose and someone as organized as I am now feels terribly disorganized and that's really bugging me too.

I feel like crawling back into bed but I haven't got time to sleep, but then again, if I don't rest today I may not be well enough to keep a fast tomorrow :-(

I think I'm going to have to rest and just do as much as I can sensibly manage.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Allah knows best

I've recently been thinking a lot about a friend that I haven't spoken with in some years now.

This friend used to be a colleague of mine. We worked in the same office but in completely different departments, we would get chatting over the photocopy machine and that's how our friendship started.

When I got married, she and one other person were the only people I invited from my office to my wedding. I had a small wedding, so each and every person there was very dear and special.

Soon after I got married I changed jobs and my new office was nowhere near the old. But we continued to stay in touch over email, SMS and phone. We met up a few times, and when I was with her I always enjoyed her company, we got on well, understood each other, had a similar sense of humour, made each other laugh a lot.

Soon after that I started wearing hijab. I was a little nervous at how certain people might feel about it, but thought if they are true friends it won't bother them.
The response I got from colleagues was really positive actually. It was a great conversation starter, and people were sincere and interested to hear about my reasons behind it.

People from my office were also friends with people from my old office where I used to work, where my friend still worked.
Gradually I found that every time I texted her, I wouldn't get a reply, if I called, no-one answered, if I left a voicemail no-one returned my call, if I emailed, still no response. This went on for almost a year and then one day I finally got a response to a voicemail, in the form of a text, saying "sorry, manic year, all is well, hope you're ok". That was it, despite more attempts on my part I have not had any other contact from her. And lately, I have been wondering if she had heard about my hijab from someone and maybe that was why she stepped away from me. I know that if that is the case then I should just think that I now know that she isn't a true friend, but I just find that so hard to accept. You have to remember, my wedding was really small, and she came to it because her friendship was really important and valued, how can such an important friendship just vanish like that? I thought she was a friend for life.
So it hurts.

But yesterday when I was reading Qur'an something I've read many times before just clicked something new within me.

I won't go into what it was that I read, as I don't wanted to be quoted out of context later by anyone, so often in the western media verses from the Qur'an are quoted out of context and makes our holy book and Muslims look bad. But the point is that Allah (swt) has given us so much guidance in the Qur'an and He knows best, and even though that has been difficult for me to swallow that I no longer have her friendship, I now feel satisfied and at rest about it since reading that verse, and its something I've read so many times before, but this time, its meaning had something more for me. I love that about the Qur'an no matter how many times you read it, you still learn something new from it.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Blueberry yuminess

A few days ago the eldest fancied baking something, (each week I bake something for them but this week the eldest wanted to).

So after thinking about it, she declared she wanted to bake a blueberry pie. Yum. This is what she baked, I was very proud of her.

It was so delicious, the hardest part was waiting for it too cool down enough to eat! We had a slice with vanilla ice cream.

If you'd like to try a slice of this yuminess here's what we did.

Made shortcrust pastry

250g plain flour
50g icing sugar
125g cold butter

Sift the flour and icing sugar, add the butter and rub it in till it looks like breadcrumbs.

Add an egg and a splash of milk. bring it together roughly, do not over mix it, it should look like the wet ingredients aren't properly mixed in with the dry. Pour onto your work top, pat it down and together, wrap in cling film, and put in the fridge for 30 mins.

Roll your pastry out between 2 sheets of cling film to make it easier, line your dish with the pastry, trim off the edges. Put the dish in the fridge for 30 mins.

Roll remaining pastry out and cut into strips.

For the filing

570g blueberries, fresh or frozen, or any other berries you fancy.
50g caster sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp corn flour

Mix all together. Take the dish out of the fridge and pour the filling straight onto the uncooked pastry. Then make the criss cross pattern with the strips of pastry. Brush pastry with milk.

Bake at 180 for fan ovens for 20 mins, then turn down to 155 for 35 mins.

Should be served at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Will keep for 2 - 3 days at room temperature.


My search for the perfect shoe

As some of you know now, I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. I've had it for a few years and I've now reached the point in the disease where I need to wear much more comfy footwear.

This is quite difficult for me to accept, my background is in fashion and I have always been the one that was trendy and fashionable in my family and amongst my friends.
Having said that though, I have now accepted that I need better footwear with support and comfort. So I recently embarked on what I now know as a mission in its own right, to find a pair of comfy shoes.

When you think of comfy footwear, your mind goes to the likes of Clarks, or Hush Puppies, or perhaps even Russell and Bromley. But when shopping there, I found that Clarks shoes were comfy, but so ugly even with my new found acceptance, I could not bare to wear them, they were the kind of shoes my mum would wear, and that's fine for someone in her 70's, but not for me.
Hush Puppies are pricey, but ok, I'll spend the extra money if they're good, I was disappointed there too. Forget Russell & Bromley for the same reason.

I have searched high and low on the high street for the perfect pair of comfortable shoes that will offer me support and comfort and not be too ugly to look at either.
Since my high street search proved unsuccessful I decided to hit the internet in pursuit of the perfect pair. I have tried a brand that John Lewis carry called Gabor, ordered a pair I liked but they were too big, so sent them back and they didn't have the next size down.
I have ordered Gabor shoes from another site I came across called Javari and they seemed lovely, fitted well, and thought, yes, the end of my search has come, I finally have found THE pair. So I wore them out in my local area, and they dug into the back of my heel so much that my feet bled. So that was no good. I ordered another pair, and they too were no good.
Then I tried shoes by Scholl, I never knew they did footwear, I thought they only did foot cream and soles and corn plasters etc, but these shoes were apparently very good, they offer support and comfort in all the right places, they relieve your legs of that tired achy feeling after a long day on your feet, and they are gentle on your joints, perfect for me right? Wrong. I can not believe I am in between sizes and they don't do half sizes, and the width is too narrow, I am bigger than a standard width but narrower than a wider fit in the Scholl shoes.

I have ordered more than half a dozen shoes now and sent them back and I do not know what to do now.

Is there anyone out there that can help / advise on what shoes might be good for me?

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Allah's Blessings

How is it that in this day and age, it takes around 86 days to cap an oil well leak.

If I recall correctly BP were aware of a leak before the explosion happened, the explosion just made the leak worse.

To think of all that oil gushing into the sea for almost 3 months now. I hate to think of all the devastation to the poor wild life that's been caused. This is the worst oil spill in history.

It is amazing though, Allah (swt) has placed oil beneath land and sea and has given us the brain power and capability to reach it and find so many uses for it. His mercy is boundless and He has blessed us with so many things.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Kids & food

It isn't always easy getting kids to eat fish.

My step children are lovely, they never complain about what I cook them, they happily eat it even when they're not keen on it. With the eldest its easier, but the younger one is a bit more particular, for example, she's not keen on fish, but she will eat it. Even if the poor thing's still sitting at the table finishing after everyone else has left.

But I have found, white fish, without skin and without bones (obviously), goes down much easier! Its even better when you make the plate of food look colourful. This is what we had last night.

I baked the fish topped with a spoonful of sliced black olives, chopped pickled red peppers, a clove of garlic sliced, salt & pepper and a good glug of olive oil. Then wrapped it in a parcel of greaseproof paper.
Asparagus and a big salad on the side.

No complaints, went down before you could say "chargrilled asparagus" .

Summer hols 2010!!!

The school holidays are fast approaching and this is about the time I start thinking about what to do with the kids.

I work for home and find having a white board great for creative thinking, brainstorming and organizing myself, but as the holidays approach, I always give the white board to the kids and tell them to list all the things they would like to do during the holidays and we'll do as many of them as we can.

So far for the Summer holidays we have on the white board:

Picnics in various parks around London.
Cycling, walking, jogging.
Visiting the Science Museum to see the Butterfly House.
Experimenting with photography.
And one that I'm adding in is baking! Hey come on, you gotta have some cup cakes and things during the Summer hols!!! ;-)

Has anyone got any suggestions or ideas on what else to do with teenagers during the hols? It's easier to do stuff with kids when they're younger, but it's harder with teenagers so would appreciate any tips you may have!


A few years back, exactly one week after I turned 29, I developed Rheumatoid Arthritis.

The studies tell you that anyone from 20 to 50 years old can develop this, but the odds that someone as young as me will develop it are minimal.

It came on very quickly, literally over night. I went to sleep feeling fine and normal and woke up with a body full of pain and stiffness. At first I thought I had caught a chill during the night, perhaps the duvet had come off me and it was winter time. So I kept warm all day and had a hot bath that evening. The next morning, I woke up feeling a fraction worse.

After a week of this I went to see the Doctor. My regular GP was on holiday so I saw a Locum. He did some preliminary push / pull tests on me and said, you're too young for Rheumatoid Arthritis, it can't be that, you've probably picked up a virus that's all. Rest and if in 2 weeks you still feel the same, come back and have this blood test done, he handed me a blood test form, and off I went. Feeling a little fobbed off and not convinced by his exam and assessment I slowly walked home, crocked and crouching because it was too painful to stand up straight. But I decided to give his advice a fair chance and follow doctors orders.

Over the next week, I deteriorated even more. I was developing more and more symptoms and my husband was worrying a lot and started googling my symptoms.

I had the blood test done, after a week. But before I could get the results back I went to see my usual GP. I was in so much pain that I just could not wait any longer, and had to see her because the amount of pain I was in was just not normal. I couldn't sleep, could barely dress myself, struggled to shower and squeeze the shampoo bottle, I was struggling to work and started taking the odd day off. Even breathing would hurt my joints, just the slightest movement was painful. I was so stiff it was difficult to put my arms through sleeves.

My Doctor, as usual, was excellent and recognized immediately things weren't right, she repeated my tests, and gave me anti-inflammatory pain killers. Less than a week later, my results were in and it wasn't good, it looked like Rheumatoid but she referred me to a specialist for a full and proper diagnosis.

I got to see the specialist within a couple of weeks. She examined me and ran lots of blood tests, asked a million questions and had two strong theories about my case. She prescribed me some more serious anti-inflammatory pain killers and I saw her the next morning, (yes, they got the blood test results back that quickly). She confirmed, it was Rheumatoid Arthritis. She also suspected I had Sjorgren's syndrome which after a biopsy was ruled out Alhamdolilah.

My treatment started immediately, I was given a specialist nurse to contact with any questions either by phone or email. I was given all the details I needed to contact my specialist as well. I had access to a wealth of support and knowledge and understanding.

The first thing they teach you about this disease and they tell you to explain to your friends and family so they can understand, is that with it, you experience a new level of tiredness and fatigue, like nothing you've ever felt before.
Before I could run for 5 miles and feel good at the end of it, I would have the energy to go home and prepare a feast, cook for hours, clean the house, entertain and would still feel good at the end of the day. But now, I have to take baby steps and pace myself, and even now, I still struggle to find the right balance, and knowing when to stop isn't so easy. With this disease every aspect of your life changes, and things you took for granted before, are now not always possible.
On bad days its debilitating and hideous, you feel utterly useless and even making yourself a cup of tea is a mission. Forget about chores, and if you haven't got something easy prepared for dinner, even cooking for the family is a nightmare. Sleep is constantly disrupted because every toss and turn is painful and you pray to Allah to make your struggle easy to bare and to give you strength. Prostrating in prayer is impossible and on those days I would have to sit on a chair to pray, like the elderly do. Even brushing your teeth is painful and can bring tears to your eyes. (Alhamdolilah I haven't had a day like that in a while now). On good days you can just about manage to do the things you need to do, like work a little bit, run your household, a few chores and cook food for your family, at the end of that day you're exhausted but you know sleep will bring you some respite.

My situation would be miles worse though if I didn't have the support, understanding and advice of the NHS. They have been amazing, efficient, pro-active and so on-the-ball that I can't credit them enough. Often we hear horror stories about the NHS, about the lack of cleanliness and hygiene in hospitals, about when medical professionals have dropped the ball big time, but we never hear about how well they do, and to be honest, the horror stories are the minority and most of the time, they're brilliant.

My GP, Specialist, and Specialist Nurse are all amazing people and may Allah Bless them for their good work and the help they provide for people like me.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Thai Beef Salad

With all the hot weather we've been having lately, even I lose my appetite, (I know, hard to believe). So as a result we've been having more salads, but I don't mean a bit of iceberg lettus and tomatoes and cucumber, I mean serious salads like this one.

Thai beef salad, I found the recipe on-line and decided to try it, my husband LOVES steak, so do the kids, especially the eldest, so went down a treat!

If you fancy trying it to, here's the recipe.

For 4 people

2 steaks, weighing total weight of 500g, cut about 1 inch thick.

1 Chinese leaf
2 carrots
4 spring onions
10 radishes
2 tbsp chopped coriander & mint
hand full of roasted peanuts

6 tbsp thai sweet chilli sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 lime, zest & juice

Heat a griddle pan till its smoking.
Brush the steak with olive oil and grill the steak for 3 - 6 mins on each side, depending on how you like your steak.
Take off pan, let it rest for 5 mins.

Finely chop the Chinese leaf, chop your carrots & spring onions into sticks, slice the radishes, add half the coriander and mint.

Mix the dressing, pour half over the salad and give it good mix.

Plate up, top with sliced steak, drizzle remaining dressing and sprinkle remaining coriander & mint, throw on some peanuts. Yummy, spicy and fresh.

Fruit is such a blessing

Recently one Saturday I made what can only be described as a giant fruit breakfast.

We had sweet waffles and chocolate croissants which were only additions to the main thing, which was fruit, and lots of it.

We made platters with chopped watermelon and pineapple, and a platter with red grapes, cherries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, passion fruit, kiwi, mango & banana.

We placed whipped cream on top of a waffle and piled on the fruit, this is the one I made.

The kids loved making it, loved creating their own combination's and loved eating it! We talked about the abundance of fruit Allah has blessed us with, so many different types, colours and flavours, and we thanked Allah for Blessing us with all this fruit.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Loving hijab

I love wearing my hijab and couldn't dream of life without it now.

I reverted to Islam in 2002 Alhamdolilah, (I say reverted because of course we are all born Muslims, pure and sinless). In 2007 I decided to start wearing hijab, I know it took me five years getting to that point, but that's another story.

When I first started wearing it I noticed immediately how people start behaving towards you. Generally men give you more respect, a wider berth in shops etc, drop their gaze and speak politer, and this applies to men of all races and backgrounds. With women however, I found many would often judge me and assume I was an immigrant and didn't know how to speak English. When wishing to communicate with me for whatever reason, they would gesture with their hands and facial expressions, only for me to reply, "oh I see, you would like me to ...." whatever the case may be. They'd stare back at me dumbfounded thinking, oh, she speaks fluent English.

I was recently out with 2 ladies who are Muslim but don't wear hijab, (at least not yet anyway inshAllah), and a Iranian hijabi Muslimah was standing at the same bus stop as us and started giving me a strange look, she kept looking at me and then my companions and just could not help herself from giving us what I frankly can only describe as a dirty look. It made me feel very uneasy and uncomfortable and I knew why she was doing it. It was because I was wearing hijab and they weren't. I couldn't decided whether I should ask her about it or just ignore it. Before I could decide, our bus came and since I was in a rush, I took the bus and went. But since then I have been wondering what the right thing would have been to do. Should I have politely asked her why she was doing this, or just ignored it?

I believe hijab has to be something the individual decides. They need to want it and chose it and love it. And fellow Muslimah's should encourage this through love, kindness and insight. Not through forcing or ordering someone to do it.

Chocolate brownies

As you can see from the little piece about me, I love baking.

So I thought why not share some of the recipes I have with anyone out there interested in trying them.

Here's my recipe for chocolate brownies, which whenever I make never last for long, and everyone who tries them absolutely loves them, especially my step children, (what bigger compliment)!

200g dark chocolate
150g butter
225g caster sugar
3 eggs
150g plain flour
1tsp baking powder

20cm square tin lined with greaseproof paper.
180 degrees or 160 degrees for fan ovens.

Once you've switched your oven on and prepared your tin, melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl sitting over a pan of simmering water.

Once completely melted, take the bowl off the pan and add the sugar, stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Add the eggs one by one and mix after each addition.

Sift in the flour and baking powder and mix well.

Pour into your prepared tin and make for 35-45 mins.

The surface should be crispy and the centre should be moist, check its cooked by inserting a skewer and if it comes out clean, its down. Let it sit in the tin for 10mins then remove and cut into 9 squares.

Make yourself a cuppa and sample one whilst still warm from the oven to quality assure your batch! ;) Be warned, these won't hang about for long.

There were only 2 left by the time I got round to taking a pic!

My first post!


I've been thinking about blogging for a while now but something happened recently to make me get a move on.

I decided I needed an outlet to talk about my thoughts, opinions, share my ideas and recipes with you and sometimes I suppose to just have a rant.

So lets hope this is the first of many posts to come! Looking forward to blogging.