MOTHERHOOD

When Sleep Overs Won’t Do

It’s Friday and the Kids are so excited about having a sleep under today. Do you know what a Sleep-Under is? I didn’t either until my friend suggested it for our annual kid’s-get-together-that’s-not-really- a-Halloween-replacement-thing (but really it kind of is) .

A ‘Sleep-Under’ is a genius idea. Here’s what happens:

Kids come in their pajamas, watch movies, eat popcorn, drink hot chocolate (with halal marshmallows of course) maybe play some board games and then…. go home! Simples. Oh and don’t forget your ‘stuffey anamal’!

I know sleepovers can be fraught with anxiety for many parents and children too, so this can be a sweet middle way. Would you do a sleep-under? 

We hope you have a blessed and joyful Friday.  Jummah Mubarak!

 

Also How to have fifty-two eids a year 

 

Picture Credit : ‘Dino in Pajamas’ Art by mininushka Ismail age 7

 

DESIGN

Smallest Bit Of Sparkle

Tiny Gold Earrings

I was recently flipping through photographer Mihaela Noroc’s new book ‘The Atlas of Beauty’ when this photo caught me unawares –  

The caption read ;

Among the most graceful women I encountered, this Tibetan mother of two in a rural village looked like this the moment she opened the door to me; she had been cleaning her house, and yet was wearing her jewellery. I found that Tibetan women display this kind of style in every moment of their lives.

This stunning lady reminded me of my grandmothers and aunts in Kashmir who even in their plainest of home clothes would always have on the smallest bit of sparkle. Oftentimes  in the form of gold earrings or a Ladakhi* pearl necklace much like the one shown in the photo. My favourite and most coveted piece of jewellery on these women of my childhood was a pomegranate necklace! Not really made of pomegranate seeds but each tiny red crystal-like bead looking exactly like pomegranate seeds on a string.

Wedding rings although exchanged at some point during ceremonies were never a huge cultural must have. In fact I have never seen my grandmothers, aunts and even my mum wear a specific ‘wedding ring’. However, my Mother still wears the same six gold bangles on her wrists, the same ones I’ve seen ever since I’ve needed to hold her hand to cross a road!

Before the kids were born I was huge on statement earrings. Like a funky pair of shoes – earrings were my way of effortlessly transform any outfit. So the thought of wearing the same pair on a daily basis seemed pointless.

Until now. Now, with a baby and morning drop off routines for two other kids, it sounds positively appealing. Seeing this photo and it’s caption brought back some kind of nostalgia. It made me crave a bit of that style and make it my own. So I went looking in my cupboard for just the right pair of earrings for my new understated everyday glamours look!

I wanted something tiny but more than just studs, and when I saw the backs of these ones I was sold.

The back ‘clicks’ into place so there is no chance of snagging on a sweater. I remember when my Mother in Law gave me these – on the birth of my daughter, not for me but for her (yes the baby). Even though she knew that her grand-baby may not have her ears pierced for years – the gifting of her first tiny gold earrings was symbolic. A future gift, never losing its value to be cherished  and use later in life (or to be ‘borrowed’ by her mother!)

It’s surprising what a difference a little sparkle makes. The gold is so warming and just seeing them  when I catch my reflection in the mirror makes me feel a bit more put together.

Do you wear jewellery everyday?

 

Also ~  ‘Pherans’ a Kashmiri Style Inspo

 

*(Ladakh is a region of Indian Occupied Kashmir that shares one of its borders with Tibet)

Top Image Credit Photograph by Mihaela Noroc from her book ‘The Atlas Of Beauty’ (Sichuan Province, China)

 

FOOD

Best Apple Cake

From Tree To Table in 60 Minutes

MAMANUSHKA.com || Best Apple Cake Recipe || No Mixer || Quick || Easy || Delicious

We are up in Scotland this week, spending part of our half-term holidays visiting family. When we arrived, the children’s Dadima (my mother-in-law) excitedly told her grandchildren about how the apple tree in the back yard was filled with tasty apples, some of which she had ‘saved’ for them to pick themselves. The kids were so excited and ran out to pick and munch their apples almost immediately.

Now, this apple tree, planted a few short years ago, is not like the towering orchard trees of my Canadian youth, nor is it a regal English specimen. In fact, the most gracious way I can think to describe this tree would be as a sapling which is doing its best. It stands in the corner of the garden, beside a concrete shed, staked and supported. At times, it looks as though it may snap under the weight of the very fruit it bears.

MAMANUSHKA.com || Best Apple Cake Recipe || No Mixer || Quick || Easy || Delicious || Apple Tree

But oh, what lovely fruit it is! Perfectly red skinned apples with a tangy crunch and the most gorgeously tinged pink insides – almost too lovely to put into a cake. But my children had other plans for them. After eating their fill, they insisted we should make our apple cake with these beauties. Our most delicious, best apple cake! To share! I think they felt that the sharing aspect would tip the scales in their favour and… it did.  Because this is a cake made for sharing. It comes together easily with ingredients you probably already have in your cupboard and is very forgiving of changes and substitutions and little hands putting in a pinch more of this or a tablespoon more of that. You don’t even need a mixer and did I mention it’s delicious?

MAMANUSHKA.com || Best Apple Cake Recipe || No Mixer || Quick || Easy || Delicious || Apple Tree

But the other thing I always remember about this cake is that it was a recipe shared with me and one that I am continually grateful for. First found on a late-night internet search well over seven years ago, it was posted on a personal blog and attributed to the author’s mum. It was a keeper from the first try – so easy and tasty, the kind of old fashioned cake you could have on the table for unexpected guests or bake for neighbours in no time at all.

Not much for printing things out, I would look up the bookmarked recipe every time I needed it. That is, until one day when I went to pull it up only to find that the entire blog had been wiped away. I couldn’t understand it. Where had it gone?! It had even disappeared from the internet archives.  I looked up the author’s name and finally came across a note saying that she would be removing her blog. I felt so despondent. The best apple cake that ever was and now out of my reach forever. In a last ditch attempt to recover this beloved recipe I searched for a contact form or email and wrote the blog author a desperate note about her mother’s apple cake and if there was anyway she would be willing to send me the recipe. And, then, a few days later, to my complete surprise, came a response with a PDF copy of the very blog post I always referenced. Yes, the lovely blog author had sent me the recipe along with a gracious note about appreciating my love for the best apple cake. The best kind of sharing – with nothing held back.

MAMANUSHKA.com || Best Apple Cake Recipe || No Mixer || Quick || Easy || Delicious || Apple Picking

So it is with great pleasure, and in the spirit of which it was given to me, that I pass this recipe on. I’ve made a few modifications over the years but it’s major components remain the same and obviously, it’s not necessary to pick the apples off the tree yourself, that part’s just a bonus. The true joy is in the making – and the eating!

Best Apple Cake
(shared and adapted from Jen Leheny)

2 to 3 Apples, peeled and chopped Use absolutely any kind of apples you have or wish to use.
1 cup (200g) Granulated Sugar We used unrefined cane sugar, but any kind is fine. You may want cut the sugar down to 3/4cups (150g) if using sweeter apples, like Royal Gala etc.
1/2 cup (113g) Butter, melted
1 Large Egg
1 1/2 cups (192g) Flour Almost any kind of flour will work. This time I used half wholemeal spelt and half plain all-purpose flour. The spelt gave a delicious nuttiness to the cake.
1 teaspoon Baking Soda (bicarbonate of soda)
1/2 teaspoon Ground Allspice optional
1 teaspoon – 1 1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
Pinch of Salt
2 tablespoons Sour Cream OR Yoghurt OR Buttermilk Choose one (not all three!), essentially whatever you have on hand

MAMANUSHKA.com || Best Apple Cake Recipe || No Mixer || Quick || Easy || Delicious || Ingredients

 

Butter and flour any dish or tin you wish to bake this cake in. I’ve baked it in 8 inch square pyrex dishes, cast iron pans, in oval casseroles or, as in this case, a 23cm springform tin- the only thing to remember is that it won’t do well as a loaf cake, so don’t use the loaf tin.

Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C)

Wash, peel and chop the apples and add them to a large mixing bowl.

MAMANUSHKA.com || Best Apple Cake Recipe || No Mixer || Quick || Easy || Delicious || Chopped Apples

 

Add the sugar to the same mixing bowl and stir together with the chopped apples.

MAMANUSHKA.com || Best Apple Cake Recipe || No Mixer || Quick || Easy || Delicious || Chopped Apples

 

Gently melt the butter and crack the egg into it. Whisk together quickly to combine.

MAMANUSHKA.com || Best Apple Cake Recipe || No Mixer || Quick || Easy || Delicious || Butter Egg

 

Add the melted butter and egg mixture into the bowl with sugar and apples and mix well.

MAMANUSHKA.com || Best Apple Cake Recipe || No Mixer || Quick || Easy || Delicious || Apple Mixture

 

Place the flour, baking soda and spices in a sieve and sift over the apple mixture. If you don’t have a sieve, then simply whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl before adding them to the apples.

MAMANUSHKA.com || Best Apple Cake Recipe || No Mixer || Quick || Easy || Delicious || Sifting

 

Stir just enough to mix together.

MAMANUSHKA.com || Best Apple Cake Recipe || No Mixer || Quick || Easy || Delicious || Stirring

 

Add the sour cream OR yoghurt OR buttermilk and gently mix through the batter. It won’t matter if you can still see some white streaks as long as most of it is combined together. Do not overmix.

MAMANUSHKA.com || Best Apple Cake Recipe || No Mixer || Quick || Easy || Delicious || Stirring

 

Spoon into prepared tin and bake for 45 – 60 minute or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean or when it springs back when lightly pressed.

MAMANUSHKA.com || Best Apple Cake Recipe || No Mixer || Quick || Easy || Delicious || Ready To Bake

MAMANUSHKA.com || Best Apple Cake Recipe || No Mixer || Quick || Easy || Delicious || Baked

 

Dust with icing sugar when cool, cut and share!  Although to be honest, you don’t need to wait for it to cool completely, just enough that it doesn’t crumble apart when cut.

MAMANUSHKA.com || Best Apple Cake Recipe || No Mixer || Quick || Easy || Delicious || Decorated

 

 

Also Homemade Bread In An Hour (we do seem to love things that are done in an hour!)

MOTHERHOOD, RELATIONSHIPS

One, Two, Three Times A Mother

I sit in the local cafe: my flat white just arrived and my 7-week old nursing peacefully as I try to peruse the morning papers. The kids are back at school and for the first time I have two children to rally, motivate and drop off every morning. With my eldest in primary and my second starting kindergarten, I get through the morning bustle and am taking this moment to exhale without my usual entourage.

I look up and my gaze meets that of an old colleague I haven’t seen in some time. She smiles as she saunters over and I see her take in the two little feet poking out from under the bottom of my scarf as she exclaims:

Aiysha! Did you have a baby? A new baby?

Yes,  I did!

Your second?

No, my third.

Oh goodness. Isn’t that something, congratulations! How is it? You look really well.

I am well, thank you – third time’s a charm!

A few more pleasantries and she turns back to her table as I to turn back to my reading but I can’t seem to focus as the exchange replays itself in my mind. My choice of words niggling at me.

Third time’s a charm?  Why do I keep using this expression? Whenever someone asks me how it’s going or what it’s like to add another baby to the mix or anything baby related, I come out with third time’s a charm. So cliché and also somewhat meaningless – as if there’s a magical number at which new parenthood suddenly makes sense and everything clicks together without much effort or anxiety.

Could anything be further from the truth?

It’s sometimes said that the birth of a child is also the birth of a mother, but we tend to limit this experience to that all important and golden first born – as though once the label of “mother” is bestowed upon us, it remains as it came and stays exactly the same.

But I am not the same. Not the same person and not the same mother I was two, five or even seven years ago. I can see now that every new child we’ve welcomed into our family has made me a “new” mother. Each one changing the alchemy of our home and transforming us into an updated (and often improved) version of what previously existed.

And beyond the change in basic logistics and other practicalities, comes this cosmic realisation that each experience of my ever metamorphosing motherhood has brought me exactly what I needed, even when I didn’t know what I was lacking.  It gave me what was necessary to, in spite of myself, become better, stronger, happier and more grateful.

Seven years ago, my eldest child arrived after a particularly brutal period at work, where my toxic office environment had me feeling crushed and depleted, my confidence shot and my feelings of inadequacy slowly seeping into everything else. After a lifetime of believing I would be an awesome mother, I suddenly wasn’t so sure. But I needn’t have worried, as my daughter came into this world a cool cat .

She was content and easy to please and came with me everywhere: coffee shops, concerts, spiritual gatherings or meetings, it didn’t matter the time of day or night, she was happy just to be together and observe the world. As I witnessed her grow and thrive, I felt myself do the same, so that by the time my second was to be born I thought I had this motherhood thing down. I was self-assured, upbeat and, if I’m entirely honest, a bit smug. I couldn’t relate to mothers who struggled with their babies, surely they must be doing something wrong.

Until, that is, I became that mother.  My son arrived joyous and exuberant but I didn’t recognise this kind of baby. He seemed to need so much of me all the time. He wasn’t happy with simply being toted along. Sitting still in a coffee shop? Forget it. Attempt to attend a meeting? Ultimate cryfest. Endeavor to play with my eldest? Time to clusterfeed.

At once, all the mums I’d seen looking stressed and rushed made a lot more sense. And as our early years progressed, on many days, I looked like that too. When people remarked that I should “control” my child or friends couldn’t understand why I declined play-date invitations which would keep us indoors, I felt a sinking feeling in my heart  for all the times I had ever thought the same of another parent. How horrible to have been so insensitive and not even known it – my judgey-judge face finally took a backseat.  So, motherhood second time around gifted me with a deep sense of much needed empathy and camaraderie… but also exhaustion. Pure exhaustion.

I was exhausted when we learned we were expecting again (our third!). I was exhausted thinking about the pregnancy and beyond. I was exhausted considering about how it would all work. How we would find the emotional resources to be good parents, the physical resources to provide well and the support we would need to make it through the newborn days. We were totally happy with the news but just plain overwhelmed with everything else.

I didn’t know what to do so I prayed fervently that the exactly right kind of help would come in exactly the way it would be most helpful and that, most importantly, I would be able to accept it when it did. Fast forward a few months and, by the grace of God, that is precisely what happened.

Without even realising it, throughout the years of parenting and friending and learning and growing, we managed to create a village of sorts. The type it takes to raise a child and  one that sprung into action when needed to fill in the gaps and relieve many anxieties. When help was offered, I graciously took it – no longer held back by an absurd need to feel like we had to do it all by ourselves. And though it’s only been a brief couple of months, this time, the experience of motherhood is underscored by the joy of being and belonging.

Our tradition teaches us that every moment is in constant motion, nothing is static or unmoving – the earth itself is continually turning. Why we expect ourselves to stay the same or our experiences to remain unchanged is a mystery. Whether you are a mother of one child or of six, every time, you are born anew and every time should be honoured thus.

As for me, whether it’s third time a charm, seven years a journey or simply the act of life being lived and lessons being learnt, one thing is clear: nothing about this messy, beautiful, exhausting, ego-crushing, heart-expanding experience ever seems to gets old.

 

 

Also Four Best Gifts to Give New Parents & Their Newborns

FOOD, RELATIONSHIPS

This is not Naan-Bread

This is not Naan Bread. This is straight up sisterhood. The sisterhood of the travelling flat bread. A story of a life lesson. A lesson rolled out in a circle of dough.

One I learnt when I was just ten years old and has totally shaped the way I think about ‘giving’. Giving. Giving never depletes you. Giving will never leave you empty handed. Giving will always give you back more. 

It was December ‘93 Mama was expecting her fourth child. We lived in a town near the northern city of Newcastle England and Mama  was taking us to a playdate – way before anybody ever heard of the Americanism- ‘playdate’. She had made a new ‘mom-friend’ and  we, my two younger sisters and I, were to go with her to her new friend’s house – where we would play with Aunty’s daughters while the mom’s did whatever mom’s do. Awesome.

Aunty Ahm. We all got big blue duppata’ed hugs. Her full name was Amtul. A smile that formed apple cheeks and a nose stud that twinkled as if in time with every smile. I might just be imagining that nose stud, some childhood memories can be so mixed up. She reminded me very much of a much loved relative in Kashmir and that made me feel as if I knew her already.

Somewhere between the many visits and play-dates, one day Mama came home with naan bread. Naan bread she had made with Aunty Ahm. I used to ask people all the time for recipes she told me later  And every time they would be reluctant to share – oh it’s just a bit of this and a bit of that.  Apparently not wanting to actually “divulge” anything helpful. But not Aunty Ahm –

Likhna kya? Meraay ghar aajo mai app key samney bannadu gi

‘Oh you don’t need to write it down – come over to my house and I will make them in front of you’

Mama never forgot that. She extolled to me the virtues of a generous hand. See? she said, when she would tell me the story, no pretence – just pure generosity. People think that by sharing some knowledge or a skill that they will lose out – somebody else will gain. They forget that their Rizik is written with Allah and in sharing one only increases their provisions in barakah (blessings).

I later came to know that it was a group of women – first generation migrants, brought together by their husband’s professions. They missed their families, culture and climate but most of all, Aunty Ahm told me ‘we missed our food’. Tired of the somewhat dry pitta breads found in the local stores, somebody had come up with the idea of making naan-bread at home. The recipe was passed on and on in this way and when my mother and Aunty Ahm became friends the recipe passed to Mama.

Aunty Ahm eventually left England and went back to Karachi, where she never did get to make that naan bread again, probably because there was no deficiency of naan in Karachi. But since that first time Mama learnt, she has been the one to share and teach so many others, I’ve lost count. Over the years she has been the one to make batches of them for friends who were expecting. Their children now teenagers and young adults, but the mothers still remember the generosity of time and effort represented by those 30 naan breads that got them through the first weeks of a newborn.

And so recently when Aiysha welcomed her baby, and I was on my annual summer visit to my parents house, Mama insisted that I must take her some naan bread. I figured it was about time I learnt how to make it too. (Yes until now, like so much of  my Mama’s cooking, I just ate, never bothering to ask how it’s made!)

This is not naan bread. This is how Mama freezes her love and keeps it in my freezer at University. Circles of love that I break in un-even halves and pop in the toaster for breakfast, slathered in butter and a drizzle of honey. Mama’s love that I share with my best-friend over midnight gup-shup and cups of hot tea. ‘Don’t forget your mum’s naan bread’ she texts me on my weekend visits home. Years later when we meet up and reminisce about those days she still remembers. ‘Ah man! Your Mum’s naan bread!’

So roll up your sleeves and go buy that yeast already.

 

Ingredients 

Mama made 30 naan at one time but I’m going to share the amounts to make approximately 12, there that sounds more doable right?

900g plain flour

4 teaspoons yeast*

300 ml milk warmed**

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons veg oil

250ml Natural Yogurt

Sesame seeds

 

Method

Take a large bowl and pour in all the flour. No need to sift.

Add all the yeast to the flour. * If you use dried active yeast you will  need to activate the yeast first by dissolving it into the warm milk.

Next add the yogurt, and start rubbing through with your fingers.

Mixture should be crumbly. Make a well in the middle.

* Pour the milk, in increments, into the well and start mixing into a more doughy texture. The actual amount of milk is an approximation – you basically need the milk to knead…

… so it looks like this –

Shape into a round mound and pour the oil over the top, only covering the surface. Cover the container with cling film or anything really and leave it to rise by placing the whole bowl in a warm place and leaving it for a couple of hours. Go work out or have a nap. I think nap.

When you come back you will see the dough has risen satisfactorily and what’s even more satisfying is punching the living daylights out of  kneading it.

Keep at it till the dough is super smooth like this

Roll the dough to form one long baguette shape and cut it in half to form two. then using a knife cut slices from the baguettes.

Heat up a gridle/ frying pan and set your oven on to grill/broil mode and then pretend you’re making one of those cool cooking videos and toss some flour on to the work surface like a pro.

Take one slice of the baguette and roll into a flat bread shape, brush pan with oil and put the rolled naan onto hot pan.

It should only take a few seconds for the top to start bubbling and underside to look like this

Lift and put under broiler /grill for a few more seconds until the top has turned a honey golden brown. Brushing top surface with butter/oil optional.

Tear a piece straight away for that incredible fresh soft warm bread aroma or freeze and eat later for the easiest accompaniment to anything. From frozen just break one in half and pop both halves  in the toaster. Absolutely delicious dipped into hummus, yogurt, soup,  Nutella(!),  this. If you haven’t left chunks of naan-bread in a plate of daal or curry to be eaten in all its soaked up glory you haven’t lived, and go ahead and make this your pizza base, Naan bread pizza is a real thing.

I can’t wait to share this post with my best friend Qurat and show her I finally learnt to make it and now she can too. Please let me know if you try this and don’t forget to spread the love!

 

RELATIONSHIPS

The Poem Game

I don’t know which one of the sisters first introduced the others to the poem game… but it was a keeper.

It’s one of those real old school  writing games and seriously so much fun. The hilarity and giggles that ensue are of the snort causing variety. In honour of National Poetry day I’d love to share our ‘poem game’ with you guys and you should totally play.

Number of players:  Three  or more,  

What you need: a piece of paper and something to write with for each player.

Rules: Each person writes a word, (any random word) on the top of the paper, folds it, so the word can not be seen, and passes it to the person on the left.

Next each person writes a question, (any random question on the next line) on the paper they were handed, folds it and again and passes it again to the person on their left.

Now each person can unfold the paper and read the word and question (both of which will have been written by someone other than themselves)

Each person has FIVE minutes to come up with a POEM (eek!) that has the word AND answers the question.

GO!

It’s simples and don’t worry if you are not a ‘writing’ person, trust me it’s even better if you are not!

We haven’t played this together for years now but recently I came across one of the poems I had scribbled down and then found some photos my sister had sent  us of poem game papers she had squirreled away … Poem Game memories are obviously treasured around here!

WORD – embroidery,

QUESTION – how can a person be always happy?

People are unhappy creatures

With many faces, many features

Always wanting more and more

Closing all their open doors

The reason people are so sad

(the answer’s simple you’ll be glad )

Is that they do nothing all day

They’re lazy beings that I’ll say

To cure this illness you must do

Something useful, something too

That is productive -reading, say

Or sewing, cooking or embroidery

So to heal your horrid days

You must change your lazy ways

 

Quite Roald Dhal– esqe wouldn’t you say? Channelling the Umpa Loompa’s poem game here.

Here’s another one : 

WORD – joy,

QUESTION – how does the world go round?  

Another one by our youngest sister – her poems were always so earnest!

The world is like a spinning top

Round and round it does not stop

By Allahs grace the earth spins spins round

How? The answer can’t be found

It glows in space just like a jewel

Like thread that is turning from a spool

We on earth should be so glad

And feel grateful never sad

Live in joy as we’ve been graced

With such a perfect perfect place

Awww! Im reading these again after all these years as I type them out and this one is actually so sweet! I think she was only fourteen at the time!

Here’s one I remember writing –  

WORD: porridge,

QUESTION: what is your star ‘signature’? (instead of ‘sign’! Sooo cute!)

Goldilocks wanted Porridge

Snow White’s fate was in an apple

Cinderella picked her pumpkin

Rapunzel let down her hair

The stars in the skies wrote their stories

And the moon signed their fairy tales

My star signature is no story

For I am the Beauty who has the Beast

and my star signature is a nightmare.

OOOH those dark twisted fairy tales. Hahaha.

And here is one I kept all these years from when I played the poem game with my best friend … she is still just s soppy as ever! 

WORD – Beautiful

QUESTION – Why are you crying?

My beautiful friend

came to visit me for a day

We laughed, we cried,

We joked,we reminisce

And then she returned home

Taking my heart with her

Oh how i love her

She is like a rose , sweet, divine and perfect

Return soon

My beautiful friend

Do you have Poem GAME? (See what I did there?) Even if you’re not a poetry geek in fact especially if you are not – you must try this little game, you might surprise yourself!  I’m definitely going to make my girlfriends do this next time we get together, and can you imagine doing this with your kids? It would be too cute!  

 

Top Image and Poem by me, channelling my inner Willam Carlos Williams !

 

FAITH

Eid Mubarak!

I took this photo of the Kaaba about three years ago. We were on Umrah. It’s my favourite image from that time and I wanted to share it with you all today.

Eid Mubarak and a huge congratulations and welcome back for all those returning pilgrims who have completed Hajj. We hope everyone is having a beautiful blessed Eid. Our prayers go out to those who are displaced this Eid ~ may your homes and hearts be filled with peace where ever you may be.

For my Kids this Eid is all about Prophet Ibhrahim and Prophet Ismail, and my son whose namesake is the latter was three years old when we took him on Umrah with us. He was familiar with the story but when he saw the Kaaba in real life it really was an unforgettable moment for us all.

Have you seen the Kaaba? What did it feel like the first time?

 

FAITH, MOTHERHOOD

Between An Eclipse And An Eid

And The Small Things In Between

Were you able to watch Monday’s Solar Eclipse? We had a cloudy overcast day here in our part of the UK, so we missed witnessing this magnificent event.

Still, I couldn’t help but feel it in my bones. This meeting of the Sun and Moon. Celestial bodies as old as Time. Unchanged since creation. Male and Female. Ying and Yang. Day and Night. The Ultimate symbol of duality. I LOVE this verse of the Quran, and was reminded of it :

Coincidentally, the eclipse also heralded the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah, the last month in the Islamic calendar.  

The last ten nights of Ramadan, the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah – both times for the worshipper to ring in extra rewards and increase the currency of all good deeds. Except, being  in the midst of packing for our flight back to Boston, I seem to have more earthly matters on my mind.

How has it been six weeks already since I posted these tips on flying with children?

The kids have Eid to look forward to when we get back, a very special Seventh birthday pretty much straight after, and of course back to school too! All three events within days of each other. I say the kids have these things to look forward to – because in all honestly – just thinking about the organization entailed for all of this is making me want to crawl back into bed while I still have my sisters around to babysit the children!

The pressure is always on, to conjure up a perfect Eid, make the best birthday memories, turn out the smartest kids at school, but when all this comes to overpower me, I will think of the Eclipse and the Sun and the Moon and the Balance. And I will think of my balance and I will be grateful and I will (in the words of one of my cool mama friends) not sweat the small stuff.

We’re really thankful for the opportunity to spend the summer with my parents and sisters.  I’m going to take a few days off from the blog in anticipation of travelling back, and all that pre-school, pre-eid prep. Hopefully all the while retaining my balance. We will see you all again soon with Aiysha rejoining us as she emerges from the vortex that is the first couple of months of new-born babyness. (By the way I went to see her a couple of weeks ago, and it was so lovely).

In the meanwhile, don’t forget to check out this awesome lesson plan for celebrating Eid-Ul-Adha with your child’s class.

And this Mama’s Du’a for all the babes off to school… 

Also “On promising my children the Moon”

Image Credit; Paper Cut Mixed Media by Zarina Teli

RELATIONSHIPS

Girl’s Week Out

A Faraway Treehouse reTreat

So my sisters and I had been wanting to go on vacation together for a while now. We should have probably done this while we were still all single (I actually can’t believe we never got round to it!) but finally this year is the year the Teli sisters holidayed (vacationed) together!

It was a vacation within a vacation and we happily handed over all the planning to one sister.  I remember receiving a text message about a ‘tree-house holiday’ while I was still submerged in the last few weeks before school was out for the summer in Boston Mass – not even opening the link until almost a month later – the night before we were to set off! 

I honestly didn’t care where we were going – I just cared that I didn’t have to organize it!

No husbands. No parents. But bringing the kids with us was a no brainer. They rarely get to see their Khalas (Maternal Aunts) all together, so we thought a dose of concentrated Khalas and nephews and nieces time would be perfect.  In fact we just got back a few days ago and I’d love to tell you about it.

On Monday afternoon our party -(minus one sister who was to meet us at the destination), piled into the car and drove two hours north to a small village in West Norfolk (England)

We grew up in the Lincolnshire Wolds so the setting wasn’t going to be too far from familiar for the adults but we were to stay in a tree-house, which certainly was a novelty for both adults and children.  A tree-house, a winding river, a campfire, and a nearby sea saltish English town… the marrow of childhood summer right there.

Anyway here are some photos from our stay in West Lexham – Four sisters and Four kiddos (three of mine and one of my sister’s –  my one and only galumptious little niece). 

The smell of wood, the sound of rustling leaves was the most nostalgic calming combination ever ! The bathroom was surprisingly luxurious – with unique tiled walls around he shower and for some reason the warmest part of he tree-house, so although there was no sauna – it always smelt like one – that hot clean wood smell.

These chairs were straight from the cottage of the Three Bears!

Look at this log stone oven and hob! Tried and failed miserably to cook breakfast on it the first day – cooked on a regular gas hob in the outdoor kitchen for the rest of the holiday!

Cooking outdoors really was so so lovely though. The tree-house is set on private acres and walking from the tree-house to the outdoor kitchen was a fun back and forth for the children “Mama, Zareen khali (the designated cooking Khala)  says she forgot the potatoes” and off they would be sent on a potato errand.

My favorite meal of the trip was this banana pancake with salted caramel ice cream for breakfast! The pancake hot and  crispy on the outside and just the right ‘gooeyness’ on the inside.

It was lovely to have part of this little river bend all to ourselves. 

These two explorers had the best time stirring its murky depths with a wide variety of sticks. The thrill of finding the slimiest algae and squelching in the squishiest mud was un-paralled.  I tried not to be over cautious while they played getting as close to the edge as they could- but we made sure an adult was nearby.

Zero internet connectivity in the treehouse, and a weak wireless connection outside if one stood in a certain place … which was brilliant to be honest!

We decided to take everything at the children’s pace, there was NO rushing around to be anywhere at any certain time. Post breakfast water pistol fights and bubbles, one afternoon of playing board games with the Khalas (board-games are not my jam) Pre-dinner games of tag, evenings spent roasting marshmallows in the dying embers of an outdoor fire…

This lot’s laughter could be heard quite a while away – the trees so densely leafy around he tree-house that one could hear them but not see them sitting in the sunshine  on the pretty deck outside.

We realized this funny thing that each sister had done! Each one of us had bought something to the table so to speak that was so ‘Her’. One evening the Arty One bust out paints, paint brushes and a little painting project for everyone!

The Foodie had us covered for all our cravings from full English breakfast to Condensed milk drizzled on crumpets (true story). Also don’t know how she did it but before leaving she planned the food shopping with my Six year old and Three year old in tow  (along with her own 8 month old) and somehow stayed sane enough to accommodate the kids excited choices for camping food and shop for JUST the exact amount of food we ended up needing for five days and four nights.

The ‘Thoughtful One‘ had bought cake and candles and wrapped up gifts for the children much to their utter delight , because when you’re that age candles and cake are everything.

Here’s one merry little painter … the other one was having a huge meltdown because his egg had touched some water.

Here’s my ahem ‘masterpiece’ if you’d like to see!

Which one is your favorite?

And then there is me. What did I bring? I literally brought bling with me. I was the Blinging One! I had packed a glamours outfit for each sister – Kashmiri Tilla Glam and had instructed that no one forget their makeup! We then spent part of an evening dressing up and I took Beautiful Photos of everyone!( I probably enjoyed that the most out of all of us) Kids were not left out, they had face paints, (packed by the Thoughful One)

There was lots of this…

‘We’re going on a bear hunt … “ If you know that book then you’ll KNOW it just had to be sung here with great gusto.

And lots of this.

And of course lots of evenings after all the littles were put to bed, spent reading our summer reads, eating chocolate (and crumpets drizzled with condensed milk!), drinking tea and reminiscing of the sometimes funny and sometimes sad stories that only siblings can share, you know how it is.

At the end of our own childhood road trips, sitting in the back of the car, when the Teli sisters’ height’s were still aligned in age order order: Big. Middle. Small. (Baby Teli hadn’t been born yet) Papa would ask in universal Dad Speak jollyness ‘Did Girls Enjoyyyy???‘

And from the back seat the answer would come.  Whether a weak ‘yeees’ or roaring ‘YEEEEEAAAs’ (we would have never dreamed of saying ‘No’). The tone and lilt of that yeees sung in unison or omitted by a sulky sister said it all.

You can bet the ‘Foodie’ (who was also our designated ‘Driver’), took great pleasure in re-enacting this and the kids had no idea why we burst out in fits of laughter afterwards!

Love you sisters, I am so thankful we were able to go.

Have you gone away as a group? Best friends? Sisters? Mums and Moms? Tell us your favorite stories and destinations in the comments.

 

Also; When Aiysha traveled to Fez with her sister  and stumbled upon this amazing Drink.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOTHERHOOD, READS

‘The Light Passing Prophets’

Every once in a while I am asked by someone, a friend, a fellow mama, a teacher, a blog reader – to recommend a book of prophet stories for young children. Where do you get your narrations from they will ask. There was no one book I could name and say here it is … because every time I narrated a prophet’s story for my kids it was an amalgamation of details from stories I had read in adult books and details from stories I remember my Mama telling us when we were little.

Until now. Recently (on Aiysha’s recommendation) we read a book of prophet stories narrated so well and full of new insight that on the last word my six year old said bitter-sweetly ‘I wish there were 52,000 more pages so we could read more’.

His wish is not far from reality, as the book is based on Amina Adil’s FOUR volume compilation;

‘Lore Of Light : The Stories Of The Prophets From Adam to Muhammad Drawn From Traditional Ottoman Sources.’

In this book ‘My Little Lore Of Light’, the same stories are shortened and simplified but not changed. However even this shortening and simplification yields stories with much more nuanced detail than I had ever come across before. From sweet morsels like the story of Nuh’s pudding, to magnificent ones like the origin of Prophet Musa’s staff, the stories are told in such beautiful detail that make all the prophets seem…well… REAL. 

Did you know what happened after Nuh’s ark came to land on Mount Judi? Allah asked Hazrat Nuh and the settlers with him to make clay pots, which they did as commanded – thousands of pots piled high on top of each other to be used later. Then Allah asked Nuh (as) to remove a pot from the bottom, and they all came crashing down. This was in order to show Nuh (as) what it is like to destroy your own creation. After this Prophet Nuh  ‘…felt great sorrow and asked Allah to forgive him for praying for that terrible flood.’

Did you know that the same staff owned by Musa once belonged to prophet Adam? It was made from a tree of paradise and given to Musa by the Prophet Shu’ayb.

Did you know that prophet Musa asked to see Allah’s Face?  Allah agreed to first reveal Himself to a mountain instead, and when the first Ray of Allah’s Light hit the mountain it shattered and crumbled into dust.

Did you know that Prophet Yahya was a serious little boy always thinking of the greatness of Allah and his own imperfections? He was prone to bouts of weeping, so much did he cry that his cheeks were permanently marked by tears.

My Little Lore of Light also gives us the amazing stories of the lesser known prophets (all of whom are mentioned in the Quran). Prophets such as Seth, Idris, Hood, Yusha, Armiya and Uzair to name a few.

It really brought into perspective for us the chronology of the prophets, and we were surprised to learn of certain prophets who were contemporaries of one another, such as Prophet Ibrahim and Prophet Lut.

Still, one of the most beautiful aspects of the book is this visual thread that links all the prophets to each other – it’s so soul satisfying and utterly beautiful the way it starts with time before time, when only Allah existed. The first thing He created from His own light was the light of the Prophet Muhammad (saw),  and the book goes on to talk about the creation of the world and Hazrat Adam, and how Allah gave to him a portion of the light of the Prophet Muhammad. Therein each chapter begins with“And then the light passed to…” and the name of the next Prophet

(It is not annotated or referenced like an academic book although I think the compilation it is based on is)

This concept evidently resonated with my Six year old because he decided he wanted to make his own ‘Prophets Book’. Proudly titled ‘The Light Passing Prophets’

The premise being that we ‘revise’ (ie he gets to hear me re-tell) a story and he writes the name and draws a few visual reminders from each prophet’s story. (Of course we already talked about not drawing the figure of face of the prophets themselves.) 

This turned out to be a lovely relaxing activity. I wish I had more of my son’s drawing of the prophet stories  to share with you, but I am writing this post in the U.K and we didn’t pack them with us when we left

Suited to children aged six and over, I did feel that sometimes the stories held less of a pull for my three year old who was also listening, as we would mainly read them at bedtime. The description of destruction, plagues and famines, pretty good fodder to hold a six year old’s attention, was sometimes a little ‘scary’ for his little sister.

This is a short read for an adult wishing to acquaint themselves with the stories and order of the prophets, I haven’t yet had a chance to look at the Four Volume tome it is based on, but am already excited to read more and take the children on the journey with me.

One of the the best ways to nurture faith in young children is to plant true love for the Prophets  in their  hearts. I really hope those of you who ask about Prophet’s stories may find this helpful in someway.

If you have any other resources, please do share in the comments.

Here are some other posts among the archives where we have talked about this favorite topic of ours (basically different ways of narrating stories of the prophets to our children!)

‘Mum why are there no Female Prophets?’ 

A Surprising Sunnah Story

Sharing a Seerah Story through Shadow Puppets

A Colorful & Interactive Hijra story