MOTHERHOOD

Philosopher Kids

Have you guys seen this video from the NYT?  Kelly O’Brien, an independant film maker shares this small film she made about questions her daughter has asked her over the years (‘Can girls be robots? ‘Why do trees just stand there?)  It makes for a divinely lovely mini-doc. As O’Brian says in the article One day the flow of questions will stop, but of course even as adults we’re still searching for the answers.

Aiysha was the first to send it to me and we both waxed lyrical about the absolute truth of it. This may be my favourite thing about being around little people she said  and I totally agree.

Children really are the true philosophers of life.

They see with the eye of truth and speak without the inhibitions of world weary experience.

ln a single breath their questions of why’s can range from the most mundane to the utterly phenomenal and the beauty in it is that for the child each ‘why’ holds exactly the same weight in wonder.

In not just their questions, but often in the answers they come up with themselves to make sense of the world, is the best kind of magical logic. My daughter (then two) told me once that a half moon was a cut moon which somebody, (who Mama?) must have decided to make with their skissors.

Their observations can come so unexpectedly, in the middle of a bath or through a yogurt smeared mouth and crush your heart in sweetness more than a love letter from your beloved.

And sometimes they speak poetry itself. My son, Ismail, at the age of four on what he loved about me:

‘I love so many things of you… I love every word of you’

Granted, I’m a little biased, but I never heard poetry more beautiful!

Image Credit: Paper-cut-art by Zarina Teli

What curiosities do you remember of your own childhood before self editing caused you to lose that wild abandon most children have naturally? No censoring, no hiding, heart as shining on the outside as it is on the inside, no agendas except to be and to learn to be.

Tell us the profound or unexpected  things your child has said that made you laugh or cry or both? We love hearing about the most thought-provoking observations from the little people in your lives! 

“My heart is so small

it’s almost invisible.

How can You place

such big sorrows in it?

“Look,” He answered,

“your eyes are even smaller,

yet they behold the world.”

Rumi

MOTHERHOOD

Would You Find Out The Gender Of Your Baby?

MAMANUSHKA.com || Would You Find Out The Gender of Your Baby? || Gender Reveal || Questions || Choices || Ultrasound || Image by Jennifer Pack

When I was pregnant for the first time, it was assumed by all our friends and family that we would find out whether we were having a boy or girl. It was what everyone else did and, after all, why wouldn’t we want to know? Then all the gifts can be planned and you can choose a name they would say with much excitement.

However, as the day of the all-important anomaly scan approached, I felt increasingly uneasy with finding out anything more than whether the baby inside me was healthy and growing as it should despite my extreme hypermesis and work stress.

We began to let people know that we were thinking of leaving it a surprise till the baby arrives whenever they asked if we were looking forward to finding out the gender. Reactions varied from somewhat understanding to completely perplexed: What? Why? Just find out now – It’s so much easier when you know!

But what exactly would be easier? Buying gender neutral clothes didn’t seem like such a big deal for the first few weeks and our space was too small for a dedicated nursery so I didn’t need to consider paint colours or bedding and my husband was happy to leave it or find out, depending upon what I wanted.

What I couldn’t really explain to all those lovely questioners was that I didn’t feel I could take on the emotional investment of knowing if this baby was going to be a girl or a boy. Right then, it was a baby and only that. I could project only as far as it’s babyhood would let me. But I knew the moment I found out the gender it would cease to be “baby” but become a definitive daughter or son, with an entire life stretched out in my imagination.

If, God forbid, something were to happen with the pregnancy or birth, I would have lost not only a precious and beloved baby but I would also have lost all those expected years with my well-visualised daughter or son – all the particular moments I would have dreamed of while it kicked away in my belly or pressed against my ribs. Baby was enough for me.  Perhaps, I thought, some things remain hidden for a reason.

When, eventually, that baby was born, we were so overwhelmed we forgot completely to check if it was a boy or girl! All the midwives assumed we knew from before but it took us a good ten minutes to realise we had no idea. It was a girl and the moment of that knowledge was magical.

With my second, a boy, it was the same. We waited and met him as our son at his birth, in an entire experience which was utterly transformative.

But… isn’t it amazing how things change? How we alter and adjust? I now find myself halfway through a very treasured third pregnancy and questioning whether is would be easier to find out what this baby is? I look at the bags of tiny clothes I’ve stored away and realise I could jettison half of them if only I knew whether this baby was a boy or girl. I still feel the pull to wait but there are more functional considerations now. Maybe my imagination has become less vivid or I’ve suddenly become more practical or I’ve simply become less patient – whatever it is, the reasons to find out seem somewhat more attractive than they ever have before. I have no idea what we will decide.

So tell me, what did you do? Did you find out whether you were expecting a boy or girl? Did you love knowing before the birth or did you find out and then regret it, wishing you had waited? Was your scan correct or did you have a surprise opposite gender reveal at the birth? Was it as straightforward as not being able to wait or perhaps you really had your heart set on either a son or daughter and needed time to adjust to the fact that the baby might not be the gender you wanted. Are you pregnant right now and considering the same question? There are so many ways this could go, please share everything.

 

Image Credit: Jennifer Pack

FOOD

Love In A Mug

A Tale Of Turmeric

As a Mizan Therapist my friend Asma nurtures wombs with the use of traditional healing techniques, but I like to call her ‘The Mistress of Spices’! Here straight from the heart she shares with us her favourite spice and how you can (easily) bring it and its benefits into your life. Ever since Asma told us about this ‘sunshine drink’ using turmeric, Mama-in-law (who is visiting to help with the new baby) rustles up this warm, restful brew  for me before bedtime and oh I do feel LOVED.  You’ll surely want to give it a go but first enjoy this lovely tale of turmeric as a teacher by Asma K Arif 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A few years ago, I did not have a pestle and mortar but I liked the idea of grinding my own herbs and spices. I never actually did anything with this intention apart from imagine I would one day realise this little day dream of mine. Then a year later, an unfortunate incident occurred when a community member spoke to me about her failing relationship with her husband. As she spoke all I could think of was … turmeric! Funnily enough her husband does look like dried turmeric – long, thin and dull looking with a hard, non-welcoming exterior. This thought stayed with me for days as I reflected on their relationship and their similar temperaments. Luckily, I had by this point been gifted a pestle and mortar, which was happily taking occupancy on my counter-top smiling at me – probably shrieking Lady, please use me! – and so I pulled up my sleeves, got comfortable on the floor, added a piece of dried turmeric to the mortar and got to work on it.

Initially after a few forceful hits nothing happened – literally – no crack, no dent, nothing. I hit it harder and still nothing. This was going to be one tough turmeric to expose. I refocused my intentions and attempted a different approach – one of respect, care and understanding that this turmeric had a lot to give to the one worthy of its respect. And after a few hours (with a lot of breaks in between) the mustard coloured shell was ground into a beautiful, vibrant, fine orangey-yellow powder.

You see, there is a conversation that occurs between a person and the spice being ground. As the two labour to reveal the mysteries the spice holds, a transformation occurs not only in the spice but also in the person. If a person nurtures themselves towards the spice, the unveilings occur; and this is something I learnt especially when grinding turmeric by hand. I have ground many spices, however turmeric time and time again proves to be one of my best teachers.

That first attempt at grinding turmeric down to a powder was SO satisfying. Yet even more satisfying were the lessons I had learnt whilst doing the work of grinding. Lessons about my own temperament, my relationship with stubborn hard exterior people, and most importantly the insight I gained into how my friend could help her husband in their relationship. My advice to her:

Recognise that his inner core wants to give you more and make you happy. Instead of screaming at him, which toughens up his exterior, be gentle yet firm in your manner so that he can receive you and respect what you are asking from him.

(The advice worked – all praise is to God!)

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is hot and dry in temperament. It’s a great stimulant, stomachic, diuretic, salivant, appetizer, blood purifier, anti-oxidant, carminative, bile stimulant, decongestant and regenerator of liver tissue. It’s anti-inflammatory properties can also assist the uterus postpartum. In gist, it does a whole lot of good for a whole lot of ailments. The trick is knowing how to use it. 

One beneficial way to use turmeric is by drinking it as a simple mixture. The idea of this has been lost among generations, however is returning slowly, and for that I am glad to share this recipe as part of the revival. Use it especially if ever you are run down, feeling cold, having a fever, unable to sleep, or wanting a replacement for Ibuprofen/Paracetamol/Tynelol/anti-inflammatory tablets. It is what I call “Love in a mug” or “Golden Sunshine in a mug” – others online are calling it “Golden Milk” or “Turmeric tea”. Whatever the name, it is very nutritional, medicinal, will get your body on the mend, and it’s easy and quick to make.

Just a couple of points before I share this gift with you ~ One, I am unapologetically dedicated to the rule of using freshly ground spices as they have more therapeutic value than packaged spices sitting on shelves for who knows how long; and if you get it from someone who really puts a lot of love and good energy into grinding the spices then you have got a bonus healing product.  However grinding by hand can be an obstacle for some, so one could do it with a coffee grinder and barring that try to source some organic turmeric powder from your local whole-foods store. Two, you do not need to use fancy utensils to make this gift, however do put your love and goodness in it when hovering over it.

Ingredients (for one person):

1 cup of milk (I prefer organic goats milk or homemade almond milk; however, it is your choice what you use).

¼ teaspoon of freshly ground turmeric.

¼ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.

¼ teaspoon of freshly ground cinnamon.

1 teaspoon (or more if you like) of raw, organic, local honey.

What To Do ~
~ Warm up the milk to a nice simmer on a stove (please do not use the microwave).

~ Once simmering add all the spices, give it a good stir to release the beautiful orange-yellow colour of the turmeric. Whilst the colour is coming out: The black pepper will enhance the therapeutic benefit of the turmeric and the cinnamon has its own great therapeutics that work well in this drink. 

~ Once colour has come out (literally a few minutes) add in the honey and let it dissolve. 

~ Pour in a goblet of your choice and drink it up. Feel the love of the golden sunshine!

There are many alternatives out there. Some pour the golden milk through a sieve first to discard of any spices but I do not because it is all full of goodness and if you have ground the spices well you really shouldn’t get clumps. You can also add vanilla paste if you want that “I am having a vanilla latte which is actually healthy but hey you don’t know that” look; or a few saffron strands if you have been feeling low in mood or suffer from depression and need an extra pick me up.

Whenever I am ill, run down or nearing my menstrual cycle (i.e. to calm the hormones/PMT down) I gift myself “Love in a mug” twice or three times a day. It works wonders and I can feel a difference in my physical let alone emotional being.

Try it, have a go, let the healing begin and keep smiling.

Thank you Asma for sharing  this ‘revival’ of the Golden Sunshine Milk with us. Amongst many awesome things Asma is currently a student of Prophetic Medicine and if you’d like you can read more of her writing here.

RELATIONSHIPS

Things Parents Say: I Yearn For A Single Moment More With Them

MAMANUSHKA.com || Things Parents Say || Hina Belitz || My Glimpse Beyond Death The Year Mum & Dad Passed Away || Vintage Portrait || India
For the next post in our ongoing Things Parents Say series, author lawyer, charity activist, friend and all-round superwoman, Hina Belitz shares a deeply moving and poignant reflection on the death of both her parents in the past year, the lessons they left behind and some mysterious experiences which remain unexplained…

 

My Glimpse Beyond Death the Year Mum & Dad Passed Away

Sometimes when I think of mum and dad I feel winded. Life giving breath forced out of me as if I’ve been struck with great force. Other times it’s like a trance. I’m on the commuter train and next moment the world is lost to me. Through a blur I’m seeing ‘death’ – out there like some creature sat upon the fields and trees rushing by. Last year I lost both mum and dad. Nothing will ever be the same again.

We all thought dad would go first with his frailty and that relentless creeping dementia. But it was mum, our strong, feisty powerhouse of a mother who passed first. A mother who loved with a rare passion and who fearlessly moulded the world about her. Losing her was like the loss of sight in one eye. A whole part of my life lost forever, never to be regained.

MAMANUSHKA.com || Things Parents Say || Hina Belitz || My Glimpse Beyond Death The Year Mum & Dad Passed Away || Vintage Portrait || India

Dad had been unwell for years, stolen away a little each year by his debilitating condition. And yet there were times of exceptional lucidity so at odds with his diminished state. When those moments came, they cut through his dementia in miraculous ways which felt like witnessing a new-born sit up and speak. His memory and fierce intellect would return and he’d again become that loving dad who cared more deeply for his three children than all else.

Stranger still, there were times dad developed a visionary quality, seeing things that weren’t there, saying things there was no way he could know. One time, mum phoned. Dad, she says, has been awake all night and keeps shouting, ‘someone’s upsetting Guria,’ (meaning ‘dolly,’ the nickname he’d coined for me since birth.) It was entirely true, but I hadn’t told anyone and no-one knew it was that very night I’d lain awake in tears. Another time, dad had a vision. These were regular occurrences. Dad saw people sitting next to us when there was no one there, and often he’d speak to them. The doctor said they were hallucinations. Tricks of the mind, quite normal for those with dementia. I was unsure. Could it be some inner eye had been opened? An eye with which dad could perceive an unseen world, a world invisible to us.

This vision came during Ramadan. Dad sees a very tall man standing in the doorway of his bedroom. So tall his head, he tells us, is reaching the ceiling of his bedroom. Go away, dad tells this giant visitor. Mum jokes,

“Has an apparition come to meet with you again.”

“No” dad replies, “he’s come to take you away.”

Dad argues with this vision. “Go away. I’m not letting you take her.”

I dismissed dad’s spat with this presence, ignoring the knot as it formed in my stomach. Had he foreseen, I wonder, that mum would soon be leaving this world?

Witnessing a parents’ death is an extreme experience. As they passed, dad after years of suffering, mum after being struck down, I was gifted with momentary insights. I felt with visceral force the extraordinary uniqueness of every one of us. That there will never be another mum or dad or you or me. The choices we make, from the smallest to the biggest, carve and colour our souls making each as different from the next as the patterns on snowflakes. And I was overcome with the certainty that our lives, each breath, every breath is a gift of such immense magnitude. Magnitude, like the size of the universe all about us, we are not given to grasp in our limited minds.

MAMANUSHKA.com || Things Parents Say || Hina Belitz || My Glimpse Beyond Death The Year Mum & Dad Passed Away || Vintage Portrait || India

And now they are gone, the finality of that passing is total. I yearn for a single moment more with them, but the barrier is raised and I am left only with the memory of who they were to me. Our interactions.

One time, when I was eight or thereabouts, I heard dad’s melodic voice singing a prayer about our house as he so often did. It’s early morning. He calls me to walk with him in the park adjacent to our home. The air is crisp and damp and fresh as our footsteps break a path through a light web of gossamer. I see it then. There, shining in the grass nearby. I run to dad.

“I found money, daddy,” I say.

Dad goes down on one knee. That a nice coin he says turning it around in his palm as I’m working out how many sweets I can buy.

“But Guria, that coin belongs to someone else,” he says, thoughtful eyes staring into the distance, “and what if they come looking for it?”

I am momentarily confused.

“What do you think? Shall we put it back?”

I take it from his palm, run back and place it exactly where I found it. To this day I now find myself putting things back, filling gaps when I see that something’s been taken, whether it’s an object, money, love. Always, I think of dad.

MAMANUSHKA.com || Things Parents Say || Hina Belitz || My Glimpse Beyond Death The Year Mum & Dad Passed Away || Vintage Portrait || UK

Dad had the sharpest moral compass and was scrupulously conscious of God in every moment. A staunch, steadfast lover of the Lord who never missed a prayer. As a teacher, a writer and a former academic, he loved nothing more than spending his time expounding the beauty of God’s words and contemplating the knotted mysteries of being. While mum was a constant presence, an active support about me at all times, dad surrounded me like an invisible fluid through which I picked up the shape of righteousness by osmosis. And later when he became ill and his memory failed he’d forget everything, often demanding a meal he’d just moments earlier eaten, but throughout this time, he never forgot to stand before God to perform his five daily prayers.

In the last year, I had considered dad to be diminished. A percentage of the man he used to be. It wasn’t possible to be more frail or thin and one by one, his faculties began to shut down. It was on the afternoon of the 23 October 2016 having returned to the hospital that I noticed dad’s breathing become intermittent. His breath, when it came, was deep, raspy, urgent. It was then, sitting under florescent lights in that sanitised hospital ward, that I became engulfed by a scent so beautiful, that I was compelled to draw myself to the source. It came from dad. I breathed him in, intoxicated. Yaseen, a chapter of the Quran, was playing softly in the background on my phone as I repeatedly whispered the testament of faith into his ear. As if he’d been waiting for me, he passed away within minutes in my arms. At that moment, I was struck with the realisation I’d been wrong. Dad was never ‘less’ even at the depth of his illness. His unique essence, that carved colourful eternal core, was fully present until the moment he passed.

Death comes without warning. They say life goes on. It does and yet in very real ways it doesn’t. A paradigm shift is permanent and it changes us. I cannot now ignore the fact that I too will pass and this has focused my mind. Everything must matter. With all that my extraordinary dad was, it was mum, who passed a few months before dad, that was the most powerful force in my life. When I think of her I hear her reassuring mantra, God is the best planner and recall her chide before she passed, don’t you ever stop doing the right thing, no matter who you may upset or offend. She remains the most remarkable person I have ever known.  My parents shone a light of such beauty into my soul and I know I will carry that light with me always.

MAMANUSHKA.com || Things Parents Say || Hina Belitz || My Glimpse Beyond Death The Year Mum & Dad Passed Away || Vintage Portrait || India


Thank you Hina,  for your beautiful words and sharing your experiences and the wisdom of your parents with us.

Hina’s first novel, Set Me Free, was released last year and is a gripping, can’t-put-down page-turner of a book which tells an emotional story of family, culture, immigration, hope and humanity. Named as an Amazon Best Debut and Lovereading’s Book of the Year, Set Me Free is published by Headline Review and can be ordered here

Follow Hina on twitter @Hina_Belitz or connect with her via email

 

Also Things Parents Say: The One Observation That Changed Everything

RELATIONSHIPS

To Be A Woman

MAMANUSHKA.com || To Be A Woman || International Women's Day Rally || Edmonton || Image By Abdul Malik || Power To The Sisters || Women's Protest Sign

It comes all of a sudden. Without notice. Without warning.

After years of absorbing what a woman should be, could be, ought to be. After decades of agitating to be heard just a bit better, seen just a bit clearer, listened to just a bit longer… it comes.

It is the moment you know that you are a Woman and that to be a Woman is, in itself, extraordinary. You can do what no man can. You can survive better, think faster, love harder and worship deeper. You can know the unknowable, do the the unthinkable, create the impossible. As Rumi said, “Woman is the radiance of God”, she illuminates the world and brings her lustre with her, wherever she goes.

It is the moment which brings the deep and complete understanding that, however you are, you are a Woman and that is enough – no further explanations, justifications or interpretations are necessary.

For every woman, the context around this moment of realisation will be different, personal. For me, my moment coincided with the birth of my second child, not my first, and I will never be certain of the spiritual alchemy which brought about this clarity – only that it gave me an exquisitely empowering before and after. For others, their moment may have been connected to their first experience of financial independence, of speaking out when it was tough to do so, of righting a wrong or finding a tribe.

It will not be the same for you as it was for me and it won’t be the same for my daughter as it was for my mother but the moment will come. It may come early in life or it may come later – but as soon as it arrives, everything begins to change and we see the world anew.

We no longer tolerate being made to feel second-rate “just” for being a woman. We no longer apologise for things that aren’t our fault nor temper strong opinions so as not to disturb fragile egos. We won’t feel less worthy for bodies that take up actual space or voices that make actual noise – raise real questions and make true meaning. We start to embrace the strength of hands that hold and hearts which bleed. Our moment polishes away self-imposed limitations, begins the work of unlearning the harms we’ve internalised and shows us how we sparkle and shine – and oh, how we shine!

 

MAMANUSHKA.com || To Be A Woman || International Women's Day Rally || Edmonton || Image By Abdul Malik || Power To The Sisters || Women's Protest Sign

On this International Women’s Day, share with us your own moment as we salute all women –  luminous, radiating, strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.

 

 

Also Celebrating The Feminine Attributes of God and 7 Essential Tips For Marching With Children

Image Credit: All photographs by Abdul Malik, taken at the International Women’s Day Rally in the city of Edmonton, Canada

MOTHERHOOD, READS

Today A Reader, Tomorrow A Leader

MAMANUSHKA.com || Good Books || World Book Day 2017 || Books Are Weapons Of Mass Instruction || WBD BUTTON || WBD BADGEButton/Badge bought at The British Library

Happy World Book Day to all our fellow ‘Nushkas and Mini-Nushkas!

It’s no secret that we are major bibliophiles, so an international day devoted to celebrating books and honouring the art of reading definitely brings out our most passionate selves. We will use it to reaffirm our commitment to diverse books, passing on our love of the written word to our children and making more time for the literature we collect but which, sadly, is often left unread amidst the whirlwind of life. How will you be spending this day? Dressing up with your kiddos as a beloved storybook character (like they do here in the UK), checking out some #readingquotes on social media or perhaps revisiting a favourite story?

A book can be a friend, a teacher, a challenge, an escape or all of these at once. No matter how you view them, books connect us to ourselves and to others, in ways both knowable and mysterious – so whether you have an entire evening, a bedtime cuddle or just a few spare minutes here or there, keep on reading on. This day is for you.

“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”
Ray Bradbury

 

 

 

 

DESIGN

A Foolproof Guide to Growing an Absolutely Glorious Container Garden

MAMANUSHKA.com || From Plant Killer to Glorious Garden Addict || Easy Plants For Beginners || Urban Garden

Our good friend Fareena Alam, lives in a charming London flat (an apartment to the North Americans amongst us) with her husband and six-year old son. Here she tells us how one random, unplanned packet of seeds turned her penchant for killing plants into a magnificent urban garden that doubles as her ‘happy place’. As a bonus she also created an amazingly comprehensive  guide for the rest of us, featuring beautiful and easy plants for beginners.

 

How I Transformed My Brown Thumbs To Green And You Can Too!

It was a running joke with me that my home is a place plants come to die. I would bring the most vigorous living things home and somehow managed to ruin them all.
I know I’m not alone. So many friends insist they struggle with any sort of gardening. What a shame because having greenery in and around our homes is beneficial in countless ways. For years, I’ve spent oodles of cash indulging in this love, with little to show for it except the bone-dry clumps of stems and roots I used to surreptitiously chuck down the rubbish chute.

So why is it so hard? For myself at least, it comes down to a few simple mistakes.

  1. Not choosing the right plants. I didn’t choose plants which were hardy enough to resist common pests and diseases.
  2. Not watering them. I’m ashamed to admit that I used to put off watering my plants until I’d kill them enough to be able to say to myself There’s no point trying to water them now!
  3. Not knowing the importance of “dead-heading” a plant or when and how to do it., i.e. removing faded flowers and leaves.

All this changed last Spring, when the truly-gratifying world of gardening opened up to me in an unexpected way. My then 5 year old son grabbed a pack of Nasturtium seeds from our local supermarket as we whizzed around for groceries. He insisted on taking them home despite my apprehensions. These will never grow, I thought to myself, but we’ll have fun trying

We went home, popped the seeds into old soil, watered them and waited…but within a few days, we experienced an unexpected family bereavement and left immediately to drive cross-country –  the tiny, buried seeds all but forgotten in our rush to leave.

Imagine our surprise then, when we returned  home a week later to find these cute little seedlings:

MAMANUSHKA.com || From Plant Killer to Glorious Garden Addict || Easy Plants For Beginners || Urban Garden || Nasturtium Seedlings

For the first time in life, I felt like a gardening shero. I could actually grow things!

Armed with my newfound confidence, I jumped headlong into experimenting with more varieties of plants and seeds. After all, if these seeds could grow, maybe others would do the same?

MAMANUSHKA.com || Foolproof Guide to Growing an Absolutely Glorious Container Garden || Easy Plants For Beginners || Urban Garden || Planting With Kids

Within an incredibly short space of time, planting and growing has become a  hobby that gives me untold joy and serenity. It’s an activity my son loves joining me for and my husband says he’s never seen me more relaxed doing anything else.

And the best part? It all happens without a grand garden space, no front lawn – not even a patch of a muddy allotment. Instead all our growing takes place on the little balcony of our second-floor urban apartment.

MAMANUSHKA.com || From Plant Killer to Glorious Garden Addict || Easy Plants For Beginners || Urban Garden

All this is to say, if I can do it, with my sketchy history and location, you can do it too – even if you’re a notorious plant-killer like me, even if you don’t have much space or time, you too can grow things and partake in all the excitement and happiness it brings.  This is the ideal season to begin and when you’re ready, start with the super resilient and hardy plants I’ve picked out below, follow the few easy care instructions I’ve noted and prepare for seasons of abundant green-fingered delight.  I’ve also included a resource list of where best to source seeds and plants, so get going! You won’t be disappointed.

 

Geraniums (upright)

My geraniums (sometimes known as pelargoniums) have seen me through my worst “I can’t be bothered to water the plants” years – yes, years. Months of total neglect would go by and yet, with a little watering and dead-heading, they forgive me and spring back to life with gusto each year.

If there is nothing else that will grow in your hands, geraniums will. No garden should be without them.

MAMANUSHKA.com || From Plant Killer to Glorious Garden Addict || Easy Plants For Beginners || Urban Garden || Geraniums

Tips for Geraniums:

  • Buy Gereniums from your local garden centre, where you’ll find them already flowering. They’re worth the price.
  • Order jumbo plug plants online. These will arrive as large seedlings, offering good value for money but will take a few extra weeks to grow to flowering size.
  • Plant your geraniums in pots that are up to 20 cm in diameter. Bigger pots or putting geraniums in the ground may produce leggy geranium bushes.
  • Make sure the pot and soil have good drainage at the bottom – which essentially means excess water won’t sit around.
  • Give it some liquid fertiliser 1-2 times a month to boost flower production. I usually add some to the watering can.
  • Geraniums adore regular dead-heading – remove leaves and flower stalks as soon as they start to fade by simply using your fingers to snap the base of the stalk against the direction of growth. The more you dead-head, the more your geranium will push out blooms.
  • Give geraniums a good prune (with a clean and sharp pair of scissors or secateurs) when they start to get leggy. They will thank you by pushing out beautiful new shoots within days.
  • Did you know you don’t even need seeds to grow geraniums? If you know someone with a plant, ask them to cut a woody stalk for you. Once home, simply place the cutting in a little vase of water, place on a sunny windowsill and roots should appear within 4-8 weeks. When the roots are big enough, pot them up in some good soil and DONE.
    MAMANUSHKA.com || From Plant Killer to Glorious Garden Addict || Easy Plants For Beginners || Urban Garden || Rooted Geranium Cuttings

 

 

Trailing Geraniums

I once ignored a trailing geranium for the better part of a year. It didn’t have access to rainwater either so it slowly turned brown, dry and brittle save for 3-4 lonesome green leaves. One day, I removed all but the green bits, gave it some fertiliser and began watering it every other day. This is what it grew to become after several weeks:

MAMANUSHKA.com || From Plant Killer to Glorious Garden Addict || Easy Plants For Beginners || Urban Garden || Trailing Geraniums

Trailing geraniums come in a many sumptuous colours, and will benefit from the same care suggested for upright geraniums (above). They’re a must-have in my garden and I prefer them to ivy.

 

Lobelia

MAMANUSHKA.com || From Plant Killer to Glorious Garden Addict || Easy Plants For Beginners || Urban Garden || Lobelia

Lobelia produce delicate little flowers in shades of white, pink, purple and blue but the plants are surprisingly hardy. They’re supposed to flower from Spring until the first frosts in early Winter but in London at least (Hardiness Zone 9a), the ones on my balcony were still green and in bloom amidst the light frost, sleet and snow of January. I highly recommend these gorgeous little plants, in both the small bush and the trailing varieties.

MAMANUSHKA.com || From Plant Killer to Glorious Garden Addict || Easy Plants For Beginners || Urban Garden || Lobelia

Tips for Lobelia:

  • Buy them as jumbo plug plants, if available. The smaller plug plants I bought were relatively cheaper, but had a low survival rate as they’re so delicate at the beginning.
  • Or you could grow from seed on a bright, warm window sill for real value for money from about March onward. Once the last frost has passed, transfer your seedlings outdoor. Alternatively, plant seeds directly outdoors after the last frost in your area.
  • Plant at the base of taller plants for a fuller look
  • Water well on hot and dry days, or if the soil feels dry to the touch
  • Make sure the pot and soil have good drainage at the bottom
  • Give it some liquid fertiliser 1-2 times a month to boost flower production. I usually add some to the watering can.

 

Begonia

MAMANUSHKA.com || From Plant Killer to Glorious Garden Addict || Easy Plants For Beginners || Urban Garden || Begonia

Upright, tuberous begonias like the one above are striking and easy to care for. They come in a variety of colours and are available as multi-packs in most garden centres.

Tips for Upright Begonias:

  • Buy them in multi-packs from a garden centre after the last frost has passed in your area
  • Plant them ideally in attractive terracotta pots with good drainage
  • The flowers can grow large and heavy, so you might need a stake (I use disposable chopsticks) to support the main stem
  • No dead-heading required – flowers fall off when spent, but do snap off the occasional brown leaf and tidy away fallen flowers.
  • Look out for tiny holes in the leaves, which are a sign of very, very hungry caterpillars. Check the underside of leaves where they love to hide. Remove as soon as possible or they will destroy your begonia plant.
  • Give it some liquid fertiliser 1-2 times a month to boost flower production. I usually add some to the watering can.

 

Begonia (Million Kisses Variety)

MAMANUSHKA.com || From Plant Killer to Glorious Garden Addict || Easy Plants For Beginners || Urban Garden || Begonia Million Kisses

The Million Kisses variety of begonia was a real surprise for me this year. I bought a little 9 cm potted plant at my local garden centre for £1, repotted it into a larger pot and it thrived until late November, with hundreds of delicate orange flowers.

Tips for Million Kisses Begonia:

  • Easy care, with no dead-heading required
  • Water well on hot and dry days, or if the soil feels dry to the touch.
  • Enjoys both semi-shade and sunny spots.
  • It will die off in very cold weather but larger plants will leave behind a corm in the soil, which you should save for re-planting in Spring. If there’s no corm, throw the dead plant out in winter and buy more next spring
  • Give it some liquid fertiliser 1-2 times a month to boost flower production. I usually add some to the watering can.

 

Snapdragons (Antirrhinum)

MAMANUSHKA.com || From Plant Killer to Glorious Garden Addict || Easy Plants For Beginners || Urban Garden || Snapdragons || Antirrhinums

To add some height to your garden, you can’t go wrong with snapdragons, which come in the normal (tall) variety, as seen above, and the shorter “dwarf” variety, as seen below.

MAMANUSHKA.com || From Plant Killer to Glorious Garden Addict || Easy Plants For Beginners || Urban Garden || Snapdragons || Antirrhinums

Tips for Snapdragons:

  • Buy small plants from your local garden centre or flower market if you’ve left it a bit late and want a quicker show of blooms
  • Grow from seed, indoors, from February-March, moving the seedlings out after the last frost.
  • Water well on hot and dry days, or if the soil feels dry to the touch.
  • Unlike the other plants I’ve recommended, Snapdragons can fall victim to aphids, which can seriously debilitate. Keep a natural, organic bug spray handy and tackle the problem at the first sight of the little critters.
  • Give it some liquid fertiliser 1-2 times a month to boost flower production. I usually add some to the watering can.

 

Lupin (or Lupine)

MAMANUSHKA.com || From Plant Killer to Glorious Garden Addict || Easy Plants For Beginners || Urban Garden || Lupin || Lupine

These stunning and unusual plants grow to impressive heights, though dwarf varieties are also available. They are exceptionally hardy, which is great for neglectful gardeners. I bought a lupin from Columbia Road Flower Market in November 2016 and mostly left it lying around on my balcony, with just rainwater to quench its thirst. It died out with the cold, as expected but since late January, little leaves have begun to appear as it prepares for a new flowering season. It’s a perennial and clearly takes good care of itself.

Tips for Lupins:

  • Grow in a sunny spot.
  • Give it some liquid fertiliser in late winter, early Spring until it starts flowering, and then you need not fertilise any more
  • Water well on hot and dry days, or if the soil feels dry to the touch.
  • Slugs and snails can destroy lupins overnight so keep these away
  • Remove fading flower spikes quickly, which forces more to bloom

 

Other plants I tried, loved and learned from. I’d recommend giving these a try if you’re looking for a little bit more…

MAMANUSHKA.com || From Plant Killer to Glorious Garden Addict || Easy Plants For Beginners || Urban Garden || Pansies

  • Pansies and Violas: So affordable to buy in multi-packs from supermarkets and garden centres, gorgeous bright colours but they need frequent watering and are prone to white-powdery mildew.

 

MAMANUSHKA.com || From Plant Killer to Glorious Garden Addict || Easy Plants For Beginners || Urban Garden || Petunias

  • Petunias (trailing and non-trailing): Stunning, vigorous growers that freely self-seed, but prone to white-powdery mildew and white aphids. Buy jumbo plug plants or larger plants online or from stores.

 

MAMANUSHKA.com || From Plant Killer to Glorious Garden Addict || Easy Plants For Beginners || Urban Garden || Bleeding Heart

  • Bleeding Heart: A hardy perennial plant that grows easily but has a short flowering season. Totally worth it though, because the flowers are such a delight to look at. It dies off in early summer but be sure to leave the roots in the ground as the plant is a perennial and returns in Spring each year.

 

MAMANUSHKA.com || From Plant Killer to Glorious Garden Addict || Easy Plants For Beginners || Urban Garden || Sweetpeas

  • Sweatpeas: Spectacular blooms that smell heavenly. Easy to grow from seed but can be prone to white-powdery mildew. Also available as established plants in stores.

 

Extra Tips

Be sure to research how each plant copes in your weather zone. My experience is mostly relevant in South East England but you’ll easily find information for your zone. Here are three examples:

Help is out there. There are tens of thousands of YouTube videos, blogs, radio and TV shows on just about all aspects of gardening. I found them immensely helpful when no one else had the time to answer my questions (I had a great many…).

Get to know your space. I garden on a second floor balcony, which presents a unique set of conditions. In terms of weather, we get less frost than on the ground floor. In terms of pests, slugs and snails don’t reach this high. Don’t be afraid of some trial and error in an effort to learn what will work where you are. You might lose a few plants in the process – I’m told that’s not unusual!

 

Where To Buy

In the UK, I’ve bought plants and seeds from just about everywhere possible… from major online retailers to my local charity shop. Here’s a starter list:

  • Wilkos sell own-brand seeds starting from 25 pence a packet. Excellent value. Comes with a guarantee. Wilkos also sell very affordable gardening supplies, such as pots and troughs.
  • Thomson & Morgan and JParker sell good value plug plants and bulbs in bulk or in smaller quantities.
  • Find your local, independent or family run garden centres, from tiny ones like Growing Concern or enormous ones like Scotsdales.
  • Big box stores such as Home Depot, Homebase, B&Q and even supermarkets where we buy groceries all offer a decent variety, often at greatly reduced prices depending on the season.
  • Flower markets such as the one on Columbia Road, East London are good fun. It’s helpful to see before you buy but it’s also really easy to get carried away. Do your research in advance because market sellers sometimes stretch the truth about a plant’s seasonality in order to make a sale.
  • If you want to buy in bulk (trays of 12 plants, for e.g.), wholesale markets like New Covent Garden Flower Market open at 4 am and the quality/seasonality is reliable.

MAMANUSHKA.com || Foolproof Guide to Growing an Absolutely Glorious Container Garden || Easy Plants For Beginners || Urban Garden || Planting Seeds

 

Finally

I learned very quickly that a love of gardening – no matter the scale, opens up a whole new world. People you’ll meet at garden centres and even online, are a special breed of warm and friendly. Garden with your kids, nephews and nieces – even your parents! – they will treasure this quality time with you, away from screens and in with the digging!

You’ll find countless YouTube videos and online articles offering precise help, guidance and inspiration should you need them. I’d love to hear what you’ve tried – or what you think I should try next – so please share in the comments below. Happy gardening!

 

Thank you Fareena, for such a helpful guide! Fareena Alam is a multi-media journalist. While she’s not gardening, she works with SeekersHub and co-manages Muslim Mamas on facebook.

 

Also Five Easy House Plants That Will Purify Your Air, Look Good & Make You Feel Awesome

Image Credits: All images courtesy of Fareena Alam

 

FAITH, MAKE, MOTHERHOOD

‘Did You Know You Have Two Hearts?’

Teaching Your Child About Their ‘Own True Self’

“Did you know you have two hearts?

Yes! There is the one inside you, that beats and pumps blood around your body.

But then there is your real shining Heart which is your real true self.”

Ever since Aiysha wrote that sweetest of posts introducing Baby Eesa to you, our lovely readers, and acquainting us with the the concept of the ‘Shining Heart’, I’ve been wanting to do a mini halaqa for children based around this totally universal of  topics.

And just a few days ago the perfect opportunity arose! Since schools were out, our Mommy & Me Halaqa group (we met Tuesday mornings at the ISBCC in Boston Mass) decided to replace the regular Halaqa with one for the kids and so, I volunteered to ‘lead’ it. ( A Halaqa is a kind of weekly ‘circle’ of people gathering together to learn),

What I most love about this idea of the ‘Real True Self’ is the Universal Truth at the core of it. Although inspired by the teachings of 12th Century Islamic Scholar Imam Al Ghazali, one doesn’t have to be Muslim to recognise the ultimate truth in this concept.  In islamic jargon this is described as the ‘fitra’ the knowledge of  inner good that all souls were created with and anyone, of any or even of no faith – any one with a heart will recognise it.

Can you believe that writing my thoughts out loud on the Word Wide Web doesn’t intimidate me but accepting responsibility for holding the attention of a bunch of kids was making my heart race?! Still this group of mothers and their kids are pretty awesome, the last project we attempted was a shadow puppet show depicting the story of the Hijra. 

The lovely people over at Fons Vitae from whom we first heard about this concept made it easy ~ I  based the ‘lesson plan’ on this winsome video and we were good to go.

Our kid crowd ended up being a good balance of 3-6 year olds with a couple of 8 year olds too.

Do note –  although I was presenting to Muslim children in a mosque setting this can absolutely be used as a presentation/ lesson/ work /activity for ALL children – of any faiths and of no faiths too. I really do think it’s  ideal  for any global classroom. In fact had I thought of it earlier I might have volunteered to be the class parent for my 6 year old’s ‘Valentines Day party’ at school and presented this as an alternate valentine activity about the ‘heart’

Here is what I said and did  if you’d like to see and the beautiful art work the children created as an activity afterwards;

Sit in a circle on the floor at same level as children

Who can tell me where their heart is?

Everybody get up…  ask one child to volunteer by coming up to the front and demonstrating to the rest

Star jumps / running on the spot/ get your wiggles out/ star jumps/ running on the spot / get your wiggles out.

Ask children to stop and sit down and put their hands on their hearts  

Feel your heart… can you hear it thumping? That is your PHYSICAL heart  –

It needs good food and exercise to be strong and healthy

What kind of foods do you think a healthy heart needs?

Now ~ did you know you have TWO hearts? YES! This PHYSICAL heart that beats and pumps blood around your body

AND there is your real shining heart which is your real true self. That is your SPIRITUAL heart.

This heart needs food too but a different kind – this heart needs LIGHT And like a flower it always turns towards the light and like the Moon it always reflects  light.

This is your real shining heart – it gets dirt on it when you do things that are beneath your dignity like

BEING SELFISH

BEING MEAN

HURTING SOMEONE DELIBERATELY

LYING

STEALING

You can polish your special invisible heart when it gets dirty and keep it the way it truly is full of light. What are the kind of things we can do to polish our hearts?

SHARING

BEING KIND

LOVING

TELLING THE TRUTH

GIVING CHARITY

If you polish your heart with kindness and good actions that make it shine – It will shine right out of you like sunbeams on your face and sparkles in your eyes and you will always look and feel lovely. I can see that all of you must have beautiful shining hearts because I see such sunshine faces right in front of me!

One way of keeping your heart shining is by following the Sunnah. Who knows what the Sunnah is?

(‘Sunnah’ is the tradition of or the ‘way of’ the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), his example and the way he would conduct his life ~ The practising Muslim is encouraged to follow all the sunnahs)

Can you give me some examples of the Sunnah?

Smiling

Helping people

Sharing

Giving charity

Let’s read a story and see if we can spot some important Sunnah practices in it.

(Choose any book you like, it doesn’t have to be an ‘Islamic book’ per se. In our house any book with a message of goodness, kindness and truth is an ‘Islamic book with an Islamic message’ I chose this one which is an absolute favourite of my kid’s at home about a Zoo Keeper whose best friends come to visit him while he is sick. The main Sunnahs depicted in this book are those of kindness to animals and of visiting the sick (both of which are practices the Prophet exemplified and highlighted as virtues)

Of course this particular book was being read to muslim children hence the emphasis on the Sunnah but were it being read to a general audience one could just say : “lets read this story and see if we can spot some shining hearts in it” or something to that effect.

Here is how one artist chose to represent their shining heart …

Image Credit : Flowering Heart Painting By Zarina Teli

(I felt it important to introduce an element of the visual too) I happen to own this painting but for this part one could present other examples by artists depicting the heart or the state of the heart. Some examples are here & here.

What do you think about it?

How does it make you feel?

Why do you think the artist chose flowers ?

Would you like to make some art representing your shining heart?

Would you like to make a drawing of one  thing that you will do to make your heart shine today?

 

‘Fill your Heart with Love, Kindness and Mercy’ 

Imam’Ali 

MAKE, MOTHERHOOD

Kiss & Tell

Totally Edible & Truly Moisturising  Lip (And Body) Scrub You Can Make Right Now!

Being a new mama … well a mama to a new baby anyway, always means lots of lovely visits from friends and well wishers. When a friend recently called to say she would like to come over that night, my MIL (who travelled all the way from Kashmir, India to stay with us for a while) started worrying about what she should prepare for the guest. She was ready to start cooking elaborate Kashmiri dishes when I told her  Relax, My friend said she will  bring dinner.

What? Your guest will bring the food with her? This was a new concept to Mama-in-law, but when I explained that in this culture where families don’t often live with other members of the extended family and women already have so much to juggle with new-borns, other children and often no external help, it made sense to her that this was a normal way for friends to ‘help out’.

That evening Mama-in-law was not only introduced to lasagna for the first time (she LOVED it) but also to the norms of American ‘Mom-culture’.

So the next time this happened , she wasn’t surprised when another friend revealed a deliciously warm just baked cake from the depths of her bag and all we had to do was make some Kehwa to enjoy it with. This time though there was a little something extra along with the cake.  My lovely friend Aminah  had casually ‘thrown together’ the sweetest ‘care package’.  A box with, amongst other things, some decadent chocolates (which I may or may not have hid from hubby and polished off during post mid night nursing baby sessions) a beautiful beaded bracelet and one pretty little jar with the words ‘after shower body scrub’  written on the lid.

I made this for you, enjoy she said.

I used it all over post shower like Aminah had suggested and it was great.  But post shower time is pretty rare these days so recently I started using this as a lip scrub and OMG you guys it’s the best because it totally works. Aminah if you are reading this you need to rename and re-market this thing.

Not only did it do a lovely job of sloughing off all those rough parts, it left behind a film of moisture on my lips with no need for any extra lip balm. The best part is the fact that once scrubbed there is no need to wash it off, you can just lick it off your lips! (Or let your Halal Valentine kiss it off!)

If you enjoy trying home made beauty remedies add this to your arsenal :

 

Ingredients

 

One part almond oil

One part olive oil

2 parts brown sugar

(Oil:Oil should be  1:1  &  Sugar:Oil  should be  2:1)

One teaspoon nutmeg

Half teaspoon cinnamon

 

Method

Mix all together and put inside a cute jar with a lid. 

Give as the sweetest gift ever or keep for yourself !

Oh and keep out of reach of children (in case they eat it all up!).

 

FAITH, RELATIONSHIPS

Be Mine (Halal) Valentine

MAMANUSHKA.com || Be Mine (Halal) Valentine || Muslim Valentine || Arabic Valentine || Illustration by Good On Purpose

 

What do you mean… Valentine’s Day is coming up?

 

It is mid-January, well over 10 years ago and my husband of four months is looking at me with a type of perplexed surprise. I have just mentioned that in several short weeks it will be Valentine’s Day and how much I love Valentines.

 

Isn’t it just a completely vacuous, commercial holiday?

 

Rationally, I can see his point of view. Many traditional Muslim households don’t (openly) celebrate Valentine’s Day. And yes, I suppose it has become, like so many other holidays – I’m looking at you Christmas, Easter and Mother’s Day – a marketers dream. A way to validate “love” if you feel you have it, or make you feel inadequate if you feel you do not, and  either way there’s something you can buy to show it off or make yourself feel better.

But for me? I grew up in a middle-class Canadian suburb and in my social circle, school and even my home, Valentines was a thing. My father brought home the most beautiful flowers, the kids in my class sent candygrams and as my friends moved from giving cards to everyone in class to slipping just one into the locker down the hall, the idea of Valentines grew ever more charming and precious..

As time progressed, I had my share of Valentines requests, cards and presents. I was genuinely flattered but when they started to come my way: But one year, my Mama learned of them and that evening she sat me down.

One day, she said,  you will have a Valentine. And your Valentine will give you cards and flowers and presents and will be the most amazing Valentine. Better than any you could imagine right now – better than any of those things in your bag. And it will be blessed and meaningful and so sweet because, InshAllah, it will also be halal.

In my heart, I knew what she meant: That the bounds of romantic love are sacred in our tradition – to be honoured and cherished in their proper context. From a young age, our parents had made an effort to teach us that this kind of love was a phenomenal, beautiful experience to be deeply treasured. That love itself was a cornerstone of our faith – a reflection of the perfect Divine Love from which we were created.  And that our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was the ultimate romantic and his relationship with Hazret Khadija a model for the type of love which excites, soothes, illuminates and uplifts… yes, I knew what my Mama meant.

So, with all that in mind, I held onto to the idea of my Halal Valentine. Whoever he is, I would pray each February, make him the best Valentine ever.

And yet, here I was… with my actual Halal Valentine and he was questioning why we should even celebrate the day! A sinking feeling began to grow within me as I realised I might never have any sort of Valentine’s now, halal or not. And the words tumbled out fast, hurried and dramatic:

All my life I’ve waited to have a Halal Valentines. I have returned presents, rejected flowers, turned down dinner invites. I have waited to be able to say yes to dinner with candles, to cheesy cards, sugary candy hearts with random love words printed on them. I have waited for a Valentine’s where I could say yes to obnoxious stuffed animals, boxes of chocolates and long-stemmed roses. I don’t care if it’s a commercial holiday, I don’t care if it’s corny or cheesy – this is the Valentine’s I waited for!

Silence.

At the time I didn’t know what he was thinking. We didn’t discuss it much further and I vaguely remember him saying something like okay and we moved on.

But when that February 14th rolled around, a gorgeous bouquet of flowers arrived for me accompanied by a box filled with every cliche Valentines goody possible: candy hearts, cinnamon hearts, chocolates, a stuffed bear, jewellery and, of course, a card with a pun on the front. For the evening, reservations had been made and, after praying maghrib with him, I stepped out with my Halal Valentine and it was, it really was, the best ever.

 

“And among His Signs is that He created spouses for you from amongst yourselves for you to live with in tranquility: And He has ordained love and kindness between you. Verily in this are signs for those who reflect.”
Qur’an 30:21

 

 

Also, this lovely article on marriage, gifts, the Giver and being gifted by Yasmin Mogahed

And ~ Is your heart shining?

Image Credit: ‘Hub’, the Arabic word for love.  Illustration by Aiysha Malik