Making the most of Ramadan

As the next few weeks progress, the special month of Ramadan is something we all want to make the most of. I’ve not been the best in the past in doing this – usually I often struggle to do more than my daily salah and a few pages of the Quran, along wish full-time work and my usual chores at home. I think we were lucky this time around to start Ramadan on a long weekend, which has given us time to get used to the long hours and make the most of the time, as well as get enough sleep!

One of the things I wanted to explore this month is how to make the most of the month and also make it easier for ourselves. I’ve put some goals below, as well as ideas on new things to try. I’d love to see what your goals are for this month too, so please comment below and let me know!

Food ideas

  • My sister posted a long list of 200+ food ideas here – so have a look and see if there’s something new to try!
  • Looking to eat out? There’s a few food bloggers who have posted places in London which are iftar-friendly, sehri-friendly and offer prayer spaces – you can see a list here and here.
  • Make it fun! My sisters and I always send iftar pictures before/while we eat to show what we eat – it gives all of us ideas and also makes the eating side of it more enjoyable.  It’s always fun for someone like me, as it’s usually just me and my husband for dinner, so it feels like the whole family is there!

Spiritual readiness

  • Reading the Quran – we all know it can be difficult to read the whole Quran in 30 days (I certainly struggle to). I’ve seen a lot of ideas on how to break this down to make it easier for ourselves – one of the ones I really liked was reading 4 pages of the Quran after each salah.
  • Set goals for yourself, and keep them realistic. Learn an ayah a week, or look at the English translation of a verse to truly understand what it means. Look at the proper Arabic pronunciation of the words so you can read them properly
  • Read the English translation of the Quran . I’m lucky in that I’m a pretty fast reader (in English!) and this would be a good time to learn from the Holy Book, take lessons from them and to reflect.
  • Do something different – go to an Islamic talk or lecture, meet with prayer circles, host a gathering to share knowledge – it can feel pretty amazing.
  • Do what you can. A lot of people (myself too) feel guilty that we don’t make enough time to pray, whether it’s doing all 20 rakats of the Taraweehs in the evening, reading the whole Quran, or just doing simple dhikr. We are all human, and it is our intentions which count the most.

Energy

  • Eating well really makes a difference with having energy – look for slow-releasing food for sehri and nutritious food for iftar. Since I’ve been married, my husband and I have cut down on fried food (*sob* samosas!) hugely, and have noticed an equally huge difference – less bloating, our complexions feel clearer and it’s less havoc on our stomachs. We make a point of always having fruit – something like watermelon which is perfect for the heat, and is full of water.
  • Try to get enough sleep – easily said if you have work, housework, children (or all three!) but the good thing about the long day is that you can sneak a nap in somewhere!
  • Exercise – one of the things I want to carry on doing during Ramadan is exercising. Usually I don’t bother, and feel unfit by the end of the month (although those long evening prayers do help the legs!), but my aim this time around is to do some light exercise – walks before dinner, light exercise on the treadmill, or just simple stretches – it can be done!

Chasing away boredom

  • As much as we all try to do as much as possible to pray, read the Quran and go to Islamic talks, sometimes we need a break. So go for a walk. Look for things you wouldn’t normally have time for – art exhibitions, events in London, or just an afternoon with kids in the park for a battery re-charge.
  • If you’re anything like me, you use your free time to blog! Try your hand at a hobby, whether it’s blogging like me, or something like photography, drawing, cooking for iftar or just reading a good book.
  • One of the things a lot of my friends and sisters who have children are doing are Ramadan-related activies for their children to make it more fun and understandable. I love all of the ideas out there – whether it’s Ramadan calenders, getting children to help them with food preps, Ramadan-themed books and games, or just simply taking them somewhere like the mosque to learn something new.

The one thing I would remind everyone is to take it easy in the month where possible, don’t get too caught up on things like social media (guilty!), getting ready for Eid (also guilty!) or letting yourself get too lazy (although we’re all entitled to have some relaxing me-time!)

I would welcome any more tips any of you have, whatever they are – what will you being doing that is different this Ramadan?

Ramadan Mubarak…!

Wishing you all a blessed month of Ramadan, full of good deeds, delicious food and a IMG_20170325_190102417memorable month of fasting, prayers and charity.

I’m still debating whether I should take part in the yearly Ramadan Journal challenge held by the wonderful Neelu who initially started a lot of bloggers doing this. I’ve taken part in previous years, but am still in two minds about whether to do this, mainly because I want to make sure I can spend enough time on this, and also because I have been a little lax with my blogging lately. I’ll make my mind up soon and decide, but in the meantimer my elder sister will be taking part in the challenge so please do follow her progress!

I’m hoping to do something different this Ramadan for my blog – post some inspirational content or a series of Ramadan-related photos and art – let me know if you have any ideas!

Ramadan Mubarak and may all of your duas be granted x

He Said, She Said – A Battle of Perspectives

Eclipse-chasing young couple Kit and Laura are the ideal young couple in love, about to watch the awaited eclipse in Cornwall in 1999, with a future of excitement and fresh opportunities to look forward to after university. But while they are about to view the eclipse, Laura stumbles across a a brutal attack, which she later becomes confused about – was it rape, or did she get it all wrong? As events unfold, we see how this affects the lives of all the people involved, and how things aren’t always what they seem.

Fast-forward to 2015, where the couple have changed their name, are hiding in a non-descript house in the back-ends of London, and all traces of their identity and existence have been scrubbed clean. What has happened to make Laura and Kit go into hiding? What has made the now-pregnant and married Laura so afraid for her husband, who is still held by his love for eclipse?

The crux of this novel, which made it so interesting to read, the layering of relationships and the psychological aspects of the story, which is what really makes it a thriller. The motif of eclipses, which appears throughout the book is a clever backdrop which works surprisingly well – mirroring the shadowing of truth, reality and the reliability of a character’s narrative. What we are left with is a very tense, fascinating story which keeps us guessing while we try to figure out what has happened.

Split between the Then and Now type narrative (which isn’t something I’m always a fan of, but it works here) the story reveals secrets in each time period – as we discover what happened in 1999, we also discover another layer to the truth in 2015 which gives a whole new depth to the story. The thing which makes this story beautiful to read is the haunting descriptions and way the story drags you into an emotional rollercoaster, so that the twists in the story really are unpredictable.

I liked this book enough that I’m looking to pick up more books by this author, although there are, admittedly parts which made me question the credibility of certain things (such as the seemingly-irrational fear the couple have which make them go into hiding). However a lot of the ambiguity in this novel (such as who is the ‘He’ and ‘She’ which is in the title? What are all the characters hiding from each other?) which works in its favour, and makes this something engaging enough to get lost in.

He Said She Said is available to buy on Amazon and was sent to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Floral Vibes at Bourne & Hollingsworth

I recently met up with a very old friend for brunch, after a very long time (ten years!) and celebrated at the beautiful restaurant Bourne & Hollingsworth. They don’t have a halal menu unfortunately, but there’s plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, and I really enjoyed my order at this restaurant.

One of the things I loved about this B&H was the floral vibe it had going on – it really reminded me of Rudyard Kiplings stories which I used to read when I was younger, which gave a really lovely atmosphere. I also loved the fact that the company’s business cards are basically a sketch of the restaurant, such a cute idea!

There’s also outdoor seating too, it was a little chilly for us so we opted for the indoors, but it’s opposite a park and feels very peaceful and quiet to sit outside too.

So let’s get to the food, I ordered a poached eggs hollandaise, while my friend ordered the savoury courgette pancake. I LOVED my meal, it was light, fluffy and the sauce was amazing, while my friend’s pancakes were pretty tasty and full of flavour.

And of course, we couldn’t leave without dessert – we both opted for chocolatey brownies in hot sauce, which finished off the meal nicely.

The restaurant gets pretty busy (which we found when we had to book to reserve a table!) but the atmosphere is quite chilled out, and I love that there’s small details everywhere in the decor to create the look of the restaurant – a piano for the front desk, a vintage bathtub in the bathrooms, tiles walls in the private dining area – there’s something appealing for your eyes most places you look.

I really enjoyed having brunch at this restaurant, and would love to come back again. I can imagine that it’s perfect for a light meal, and somewhere to sit and feel like you’ve been transported to another era.

EVALUATION:
HALAL : NO
VEGETARIAN & VEGAN OPTIONS AVAILABLE: YES
PRICE : £7 UPWARDS FOR BRUNCH, £15-18 FOR LUNCH
RATING OUT OF 10: 7
LOCATION: 42 Northampton Rd, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 0HU

Bergen & Street Art

Happy Monday-ing (and thank goodness it’s over!) To start the week I thought I’d post some street art – always puts a smile on my face, and makes me keep an eye out for more in the rest of the week!

One of the things I always keep an eye out for (aside from bookshops and libraries!) when I’m in another country is street art, because it’s such a beautiful universal thing which you don’t need to know the language for. Below is some street art which my husband and I found while we were in Bergen, Norway last year, which caught my eye because of some of the messages in the pictures – I think my favourite is the one with a panda and it’s mobile phone though!

Red Lipstick

They said I was too young to wear red lipstick, and to stick to my dolls and lipglosses, so I did not wear red lipstick.

They said red lipstick was for married women, and young girls should stay in soft pinks, so I did not wear red lipstick.

They said married women didn’t have time for makeup and should focus on their homes, so I did not wear red lipstick.

They said red lipstick was for a bride and I should not try to outstage her, so I did not wear red lipstick.

They said that red lipsticks were for young women, and I should wear more mature colours, so I did not wear red lipstick.

They said that red lipstick would look better on my daughter, so I did not wear red lipstick.

They said that I was too old for lipstick, and I should act my age.
I laughed at them and wore my lipsticks, pillar-box reds, rich scarlets, deep crimsons, blazing rubies, vibrant burgundies.

I bring life to my face with creamy sticks of red, embracing my feminine wiles, my brazen girlhood, and I will not be ashamed.

– Harlequin, 2017.

I wrote this poem with much deliberation, after reading a comment on my social media that someone made, which I thought was interesting. – the girl stated she had been told not to wear brightly coloured lipsticks because only married women should wear this. It brought to mind a few memories I have of being a teenager, and being told not to wear red lipstick by an Aunt who was a family friend, because red lipstick is for married women and not single young girls. I thought it was interesting that a specific colour had been relegated to relationship status, as if it would almost be vulgar to wear a bright colour, and even bring attention to myself. I’m familiar with this concept, the idea that you should not bring attention to yourself, not wear something inappropriate, as well as the many connotations which come with things like red lipstick.

Red lipstick, apparently, means that you are an attention-seeker. Loud. Inappropriate. Not religious. Not a ‘nice girl’. I like to think that these attitudes have changed a little over time – I’ve seen many girls see red lipstick as a staple in their makeup bag, and less something which is saved for their wedding day.

Nevertheless, I’ll admit, it did take me a few years to wear red lipstick – I think I was in my early twenties when I braved it, and then wondered why it had taken me so long. Even my husband, who is wonderfully open-minded and has never told me what to wear or what not wear, told me that if I lived in Pakistan I would probably have thought twice about wearing it. Coming from a fairly traditional, culturally-infused upbringing, my husband’s interaction with red lipsticks was limited to being something associated with married women, worn by women for their husbands, and rarely worn outside the house. Pink lips are so much more acceptable, softer, feminine and less sexual.

My own point of view is that while  I understand the intended view behind it – a woman’s image and her beauty is meant to be protected, and drawing attention to it can bring issues – it’s unfair to simplify things as if a women’s ‘honour’ and image is all that she is, and that she is ruled by them. I guess a lot of this stems from the whole South Asian culture of a woman’s image, the idea of honour, and how this can get mixed up with traditional values which now feel outdated to us.

I recently read a story told by a blogger that I admire, who told a story about when she visited Pakistan – she was told off by her mother for smiling at a man in a supermarket, and told that she should at strange men. She may consider it to be  friendly, but they may construe it to mean something else.
I could certainly understand her resentment – and what I dislike is that the onus seems to be on the women to limit herself, and hide herself. Whatever happened to the male gaze? Why not break apart the idea that the responsibility lies with the women and how she must take care in how she looks, who she looks at, and how her actions are responsible for her situation?

So I guess when it comes to red lipsticks, I resent the fact that there is a lingering mentality that to wear red lipstick is to be brazen, overly-confident and ‘modern’ – and it’s even worse to me especially, that a lot of the comments I have received, and other girls get, are from older women in our society. I believe there is so much more to women that shouldn’t be reduced to how much make-up they wear, that  being confident isn’t a negative thing, and that perhaps things like red lipstick shouldn’t be treated like a dirty thing.

Below, a picture of all the red lipstick I own.

redlipsticks

One of Us Is Lying – A re-take on The Breakfast Club

Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did *was* wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct? That’s the way we saw each other at 7:00 this morning. We were brainwashed.
– The Breakfast Club (1985)

One of us is lying is truly a tribute to The Breakfast Club, except with dashes of contemporary thriller dramas (it’s being marketed as The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, and it’s not wrong there). Just like the characters in The Breakfast Club, five characters who fit a high-school stereotype each are thrown together in a detention class, albeit with a darker twist to this version.
Just look at the blurb – it says it all really:

Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident.

And just like the film itself, each character is not who they seem – the beautiful bimbo is actually n sympathetic, intelligent teenager, the jock doesn’t really have it all, and so it continues. In the middle of it all is the murder mystery which the characters are all thrown into – with narration from each character’s perspectives, there’s plenty of subtle clues, but it’s not easy at all to guess the culprit in this whodunnit.

I’ll admit, the premise had me interested from the start, but what really kept me reading was how well-developed the characters are – there’s lots of drama, hidden secrets and emotional topics which are dealt with wonderfully with the author. I felt like this was a modern-day Breakfast Club, but with added facets of LGBT, drugs and peer pressure which is very relevant in today’s high-schools and society. I also liked how smart this story is – as a premise it sounds a little clichéd, but it works because the characters are pretty fleshed-out, their relationships with each other feel genuine, and there’s the added effect that  as we get to know each character, there’s always a doubt about them. While we analyse them, get to know and like them, we are always still wondering who the murderer in this story is.

I can’t say that the ending of this novel came with a total bang (as an avid reader of murder mysteries, I did guess the culprit!) but it’s a great story, especially for a debut novel. What stays with me in this story surprisingly wasn’t the murder plot, but the incredibly sweet image of the characters supporting each other as they grow up in this story.

One of us is Lying will be released on 1st June 2017 and was sent to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Iris by Rebecca Louise Law

I recently saw this beautiful art piece a few days ago – The Iris by artist by Rebecca Louise Law, and thought it was a really pretty, dreamy take on the idea of being among flowers. I’m a big fan of art installations which involve real flowers, and thought this was pretty amazing – one thousand fresh flowers hanging from copper wires in a formation so that you can walk through them and enter a dreamy flower land.

The purpose of the exhibition is to observe the irises as they dry and become preserved – and bringing to mind the idea of past, present and future as the flowers change over a short time. When I visited the exhibition (which was just a few days ago), the flowers were still colourful and the vines were a little green, but I could already see that they were getting dried and the texture and look of them were different. I would have loved to seen the flowers when they were first hung up in February to see more of the colours and smells, especially as it would have looked more fresh and greener, but they are still very beautiful.

IMG_20170406_163204424

I really liked how the flowers were set up and hanging so that there was a lovely dreamy, whimsical feel to them. It was actually quite difficult for me to take pictures of them because it’s hard to depict the way they are hung and the look of them – for some reason it doesn’t look like there’s many flowers, but I found that it feels like there’s a lot when I was walking through the vines, and there’s a feeling of being almost submerged in nature.

The exhibition is still up, and will be open until 7th May, so if’ you’re around the area, its worth popping in to have a look. There’s lots of space to walk around, and even cushions to sit on or even lie down on and take in the feel of the art installation. I hope I see more flowery art this summer, especially now that spring has arrived in full force, and will certainly post more if I do.