What social media is really about

I am on social media a lot.

Recently I admitted to myself that I am addicted to it. That I spend way too much time on it. That it is taking over my life and turning me into an automaton. Yes my eldest has yelled at me numerous times to put my phone down. And yes, I’ve written before about how allowing kids screen time is madness, and yet here I am, admitting that I am addicted to social media. Hypocritical much?

Possibly…

I told myself that I actually do “work” on there (I am the editor/creator of the IG The Modest Bride) and that it’s a way to pass the time. But I think what really pushed me to realise its true nature (Instagram in particular) is consciously admitting that ALL social media is the most pernicious form of advertising. And IT’S KILLING MY SOUL.It’s emptying my bank account. It’s making me anxious and making me feel like somehow my life is inadequate because I don’t have all the eco-conscious, organic, ethical, MINIMALIST THINGS in my life.

Oh the irony.

Or because my children don’t wear perfectly matching and boho, minimalist, stylish clothing and I can’t take Insta-worthy pictures of them in beautiful, natural settings like at a beach or a forest or some hipster cafe BECAUSE I CAN’T GET OUT OF THE HOUSE WITH THREE KIDS.

I scroll through my feed and see one beautiful image after another of perfect children in hip (and expensive) clothes in shades of dusty pinks, autumnal hues of brown and linen greys playing in beautiful rooms of pastel shades with THAT DAMN CANOPY (it’s so pretty though…) and vintage style bed with the same grey bed sheets and the same soft toys and wooden accents and fiddle leaf fig trees with kilim rugs and string lighting and cute wall art of strange and slightly creepy circus figures? Because all kids dream happily about the circus right?

And when I hit the image I can conveniently see where all these beautiful products are from and I find myself on a slippery slope from there… I go onto this company’s IG page, click on their website and before I know it my virtual cart is full of beautiful children’s dresses, soft toys, wooden toy cameras, ethically made children’s shoes and organic flower bath stuff, so that their rooms and their clothes and my house and my life can look like a beautiful Instagram feed from some perfectly put together Instagram Mother.

And whilst this isn’t a conscious thought, it is an underlying subconscious impression that imprints itself on our minds as we scroll through our feeds day in, day out.

What is also disturbing is that everyone’s lives are starting to look the same. Instagram is promoting an aesthetically beautiful (not denying this!) monoculture. Go through any number of Instagram Mother pages and you’ll find that they all look identical. They’ve all perfected the flat-lay with the ultimate prop- their baby- dressed perfectly in cute rompers and vintage style bonnets (which my two year old flat out refuses to wear when I tried to get her on board so she could look IG WORTHY) with some cute toys surrounding them (I just did this myself today lol), and throw in some flowers too, and those new dummy chains that company sent for free so you can add them onto your list of sponsors to advertise and market by sharing every detail of you and your children’s lives for the rest of the world to consume. Oh and under this perfect image of your house and free stuff you’ve been given, have a caption that shares in intimate detail your struggles so that you can ensure that people don’t think that picture is an accurate depiction of your life and so that you are #keepingitreal. There is such a thing as oversharing, and I feel like in the name of ‘normalising’ things, everyone is just sharing too much. It’s one thing to share experiences with the intention of bringing awareness to an issue, and it’s another to simply overshare details that really should be kept private. In the social media world, privacy is the enemy, sharing is the name of the game.

So what is social media really all about?

Instagram is a genius form of marketing which businesses use to push their products in a manner that is incredibly dangerous. We see their products in the lives of “normal” people, who can pick up a camera and create such beautiful images of themselves and their children so much so that people will buy the exact same things so that their lives can look like that too.

Also, I feel that it is totally putting a halt to originality and creativity. Because of Instagram and Pinterest, we see hundreds of images a day and they all look the same, and we copy and emulate those images. When it comes time to do something different, we can’t, because we’ve been so influenced by the imagery put out there and we literally can’t envision something new and unique.

Friends that I have spoken to recently have also aired the same concerns and have admitted that it makes them feel inadequate, and that it results in overspending. They have deleted their accounts and their IG apps from their phones.

I have also been using it less and less, only uploading what is necessary and not scrolling through my feed. For a time I didn’t login at all, and it felt so… calm. I felt peace. No longer did I have a niggling need to check it. I didn’t feel anxious. I called my friends and caught up with them. I cleaned my house. I did some reading. I spent proper time with my children. It cleared my mind of all those images cluttering my psyche and I was able to just have time to reflect and ponder and have gratitude for everything I did have.

So if you’re on IG or Facebook, I suggest taking a break and seeing how that goes for you. Trust me, you’re not missing anything, in fact you will gain so much from it and realise that you do not need it at all.

Here are two incredible analyses of social media and their effects:

  1. Quit Social Media.
  2. Technology is diminishing us.

f07b0289026cb54e78acbcad1dfd0f3d

 

 

Best on the Net

Good morning everyone! Can you believe that we are in December? That 2016 is almost at a close and that we will be welcoming 2017 soon? 2017 sounds so… fantastical. Like an author 50 years ago would have set his/her future dystopian text in 2017 or something…

Also, and perhaps more importantly, it is currently the month of Rabi ul-Awwal, the month that our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (saw) was born. So in today’s Best on the Net, I’ve included a few links on how to honour the Prophet Muhammad (saw) this month, how to share in the blessings of the month, and how to involve your children as well.

  1. Eight books to teach your kids about the Prophet Muhammad (saw)
  2. And here’s another beautiful book written/illustrated by Demi that my children love…
  3. I’m personally reading through this particular work by Tariq Ramadan this month.
  4. A comprehensive guide to the permissibility of Mawlid.
  5. A beautiful Salawat recitation by Al-Firdaus Ensemble to listen to with the children.
  6. We are also obsessed with these two versions of Tala’Al Badru Alayna- Yusuf Islam and the Canadian Children’s Choir.
  7. And lastly, a beautiful overview of the Prophet’s noble character, which you can use to share with your children as well.

Children are incredibly receptive to listening to stories about the Prophet Muhammad (saw). Sharing stories, and also sharing how the Prophet (saw) lived, discussing his noble character, how he was kind, generous, thoughtful, helpful and truthful, makes him real and present for children. And here is one last link, that gives some tips on how to make the Prophet (saw) come alive for your children. 

img_3965

Best on the Net

It’s been a big week in the world, with much to ponder on. Here are a few inspiring, positive and thought-provoking links to make this week that much better…

  1. A beautiful new children’s book compiles tales from Syrian refugees.
  2. Carla Zampatti designed a uniform for Westpac and included a style for hijabis.
  3. Check out this Kickstarter for a company designing activewear for women who wear hijab. 
  4. Finland is taking their awesome schools further by abandoning subjects for ‘events’ and ‘phenomena’ in an interdisciplinary format.
  5. Speaking of teaching, here’s a video that explores how there is no scientific proof that homework improves performance in elementary school. BAN HOMEWORK I say!
  6. The biggest supermoon is set to hit our world tonight, but it’s cloudy and raining here in Sydney 🙁
  7. Did you read about the new screen time recommendations by doctors? About time they got onto this.
  8. Suzanne Barakat is an incredible ambassador for her religion, and this latest talk she delivered at TED is at once utterly heart-breaking but also motivating. She asks, what resources do you have and how can you use it for good?
  9. And lastly, I really want this dress.

‘Modest Fashion’ is an oxymoron…

‘Modest Fashion’ has become a catch phrase that is used to refer to a broad spectrum of clothing, generally in the milieu that is considered to be ‘covered up’. It may or may not include a head covering.

In the past five years, with social media platforms accelerating as popular bases for self-promotion, ‘modest fashion’ has experienced a huge (and this is an understatement) growth. With the aid of ‘modest fashion bloggers’ and ‘modest fashion businesses’ that have cropped up, the industry is now worth over $300 billion dollars, and is set to grow. Mainstream fashion houses such as Mango, DKNY and even Dolce & Gabbana have tapped into the niche by producing collections specifically for the modest market.

Modest fashion bloggers have been a huge part of this growth in the industry. They have amassed (altogether) millions of followers across their social media, from Instagram, to Facebook to Youtube. More specifically, ‘hijab bloggers’ are increasingly sponsored by and affiliated with mainstream fashion houses, such as Ascia Farraj’s collaborations with Net-a-Porter and Dior, to name just a few. Recently, Covergirl included beauty blogger Nura Afia as part of their #LashEquality campaign- because every woman deserves to have “bold, sexy lashes” ok? Even women who aim to live modestly, which is the EXACT opposite of being ‘sexy’. Even H&M got in on the action by including a ‘hijab model’ in their campaign to promote their ‘Close the Loop’ recycling initiative.

screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-10-17-32-am
“Bold, sexy lashes for all”= EQUALITY FOR ALL WOMEN

All these examples point to greater representation of women who wear the headscarf (or hijab) in mainstream media. I remember 7 years ago or so when I first put on the headscarf and was browsing the internet for inspiration or even a ‘hijab tutorial’, the only bloggers active were Hana Tajima and Dina Torkia. There were practically no companies catering specifically for women who chose to dress modestly, let alone for the customer who wore hijab. I bought my clothes and scarves from Sportsgirl, Witchery and other mainstream stores, enthusiastically buying any maxi dress that I could get my hands on with cropped jackets on top, or wearing short tunic dresses as tops with loose pants underneath. There were no straight-legged, peg-legged looser pant options back then. It was only skinny jeans.

Given the momentous change in the industry now, I think it would definitely be easier for a girl to make the decision to wear the hijab, or just dress more modestly, given that there are so many examples of how it is done, a plethora of companies catering to the modest consumer to purchase from, and also a general sense of empowerment given the increasing representation of modest fashion and bloggers in the mainstream media.

I’m going to throw a spanner in the works here though and discuss a few problems with all this. Sure, all of this increasing representation is great, but I feel that it comes at a cost. A cost of our core values and principles.

You see, dressing modestly isn’t just one, isolated value. It is and should be, part and parcel of a much greater ethos of humility that is central to the religion Islam, and to other religions might I add.

And what we are seeing in the modest fashion blogger is in fact quite the opposite of ‘modesty’. And no, I’m not talking about how they dress because I’m not here to nitpick at what people choose to wear. I believe that people are fluid in how they choose to dress, and that it transforms over time.

What I am calling out though are the bloggers whose Instagram pages are an endless stream of pictures…of themselves. Whether you choose to admit it or not, the “selfie” is at its core, a narcissistic undertaking. And we now have ‘modest fashion bloggers’ whose social media pages are full of photos of themselves in various outfits, close-ups of their faces… and not much else.

And this is what the public want. Do some research on how to “increase your followers on Instagram” and the type of post that receives the most traffic is one with someone’s face. It has become incredibly easy for somebody to take photos of themselves in a #modestfashion #ootd and amass hundreds of thousands of followers within months. Especially if you are “pretty” and “slim”.

Yes. This standard of beauty also applies to the modest fashion blogger.

The problem with this is that it essentially promotes and supports a culture of the self, of promoting a shallow version of oneself based on what you look like.

So sure, modest/hijab bloggers are much more visible these days, but how different are they from the average fashion blogger? What sets them apart?

What is more dangerous here also is that being swept up in the current of fashion blogging for the sake of mainstream acceptance promotes a culture whose values run counter to many of our religious principles.

We are just as susceptible of seeking acceptance by a culture that thrives on the objectification of women by creating a consumer culture and standard of ideal beauty by manufacturing beauty products and clothing en masse and literally brainwashing ALL women into thinking that they NEED these things to be presentable to the world.

If you have a Muslim hijab blogger affiliating themselves with these major corporations, then is it not creating an association between all the values that we should strive to espouse, and the values of these corporations?

Furthermore, it’s not just the polar opposites of humility and narcissism that is married in modest fashion blogging, there are other weightier values put at risk and being compromised here. Values that we compromise that have a much greater impact on the world.

When H&M used a hijab model in their campaign, the Muslim community (women mainly of course) celebrated this as a step forward in the mainstream “accepting”us and applauded H&M’s boldness. But who took a step back and looked at the company itself? H&M is well known for its unethical manufacturing practices. They represent all that is wrong with the fast fashion industry. In fact, their factories were involved in the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh. So whilst it may seem like a win for Muslim women to be ‘accepted’ and ‘represented’ by a company like H&M, the flip side to this is that we have just aligned ourselves with a company who epitomises values that run completely counter to our religion as a whole.

Islam has a strong social justice dimension. It heavily emphasises the importance of respecting human dignity, of treating workers fairly, but also of respecting the environment. It is evident that the cost of fast-fashion is not just on the workers who are forced to work in oppressive conditions, but also on the environment. This article for example outlines the climate costs of fast fashion amongst other issues such as worker’s rights.

When a Muslim modest fashion blogger affiliates themselves with companies such as H&M, Zara, and other major designers/brands, they are essentially promoting the company’s ethos and influencing their ‘followers’ to purchase from these companies. This is the point of ‘affiliations’. That a company would seek an ‘influencer’ (i.e. blogger) who they believe will market their products, but more so, the ‘lifestyle’ that they promote.

A cynical side of me also thinks (ahem, knows) that these companies are simply tapping into an avenue of profit. Do you think they really care for more representation of Muslim women?

What’s more is that when we think of ‘modest fashion’ what do we mean really? I can tell you that most of the clothes that I buy and own do not come from a ‘modest fashion brand’. The few clothes that I have bought from companies such as these have only disappointed me in their lack of consistent sizing and general low quality of their garments, for example in their use of synthetic fabrics such as polyester.

Essentially, it comes down to marketing. That when a company like Mango create a ‘Ramadan collection’ and it has items such as this…

mango-ramadan-collection-1

and then you go onto their site, check out their maxi dresses and find an item like this…

71055611_23-99999999_01

the question has to arise… isn’t it just all marketing?  Isn’t it all JUST CLOTHING that we NEED to cover ourselves?

witchery-spring-summer-2016-collection-pictures
“Modest Fashion” right? Or just clothing? Or just “fashion”? Image via Witchery (a mainstream company). 

I’m not here to be all cynical and whing-y. My intention in writing this is to call out some serious problems with the ‘modest fashion’ world that needs to be called out. We can’t be blind to these real issues, and we should be brave enough, courageous enough, creative enough and principled enough to challenge the ‘mainstream’, rather than do anything it takes, and compromise on values that form the essence of our beliefs, to simply be ‘accepted’, or ‘represented’.

And there are some brilliant examples of how people in the industry have done it right. Hana Tajima for example continues to assert her unique aesthetic and creative and artistic talents, and eventually teamed up with Uniqlo to create a collection specifically for Muslim women. It was available not just in the Malaysian Uniqlo stores, but also the US and Australia.

Ruh Collective is also changing the modest fashion marketplace, with its focus on ethical manufacture, transparency in their pricing and even (shock horror), moving beyond promoting the self and focusing on the garments themselves. Their campaign images do not show the faces of the models. They use their creative and artistic abilities to do something different. I’m not saying that I necessarily agree that a woman, in hijab, shouldn’t be photographed with their faces, but I applaud Ruh Collective’s efforts to appeal to a broader market by not portraying their models in hijab.

Also, it really shouldn’t be about ‘fashion’ at all for the one who chooses to dress modestly. The ethos of ‘fashion’ runs completely counter to what it means to dress modestly. Or live modestly. ‘Fashion’ is defined as “a popular or the latest style of clothing, hair, decoration, or behaviour.” The culture of fashion is linked to pop culture, by its very definition it requires acceptance by a mainstream, but also, it demands fast production methods of clothing so that one can keep up with ‘trends.’

Adorning oneself in the realm of ‘modesty’ is the polar opposite of this. It is quite literally about covering up your nakedness with good quality clothing that will last for years so that you don’t have to keep purchasing. Because constantly buying clothing is a sign of extravagance.

Dressing yourself modestly is about respecting and valuing the clothing that you possess, but not being attached to the item itself. The Prophet (pbuh) used to value his few clothes and even give them names. But when he (pbuh) saw someone in need, he easily gave the clothing to them.

Dressing well is also about ambassadorship… Because the reality is that how we choose to dress says a lot about who we are, and what we represent. Dressing beautifully is a good thing because we are naturally drawn to that which is beautiful. And we should strive to be beautiful ambassadors of our religion.

All of this runs counter to the aim and purpose of major clothing companies, who want you to follow trends and keep purchasing to keep up with ‘fashion’.

So, all in all, ‘modest fashion’ is actually an oxymoron. Two polar opposite words married into one phrase made popular simply for the sake of acceptance by the mainstream, or used by companies for profit.

Let’s be brave and do something different. Something that stays true to the source of why we prioritise modesty in the first place… Let’s go beyond ‘fashion’ and looking ‘trendy’ for the sake of acceptance by a culture that runs completely counter to our core values. Let’s take back what it means to dress ‘modestly’ in the context of our religion and be courageous enough to assert this.

Let’s talk about what we feed our children

Today I want to talk about what we feed our children. I know that it is an incredibly heated topic, one that can really make people (parents, I mean) defensive and emotional. I know that 99% of the time, the defences used will be something along the lines of…

“I just CANNOT get him/her to eat anything else.”

“There is NO WAY that we can get him/her to eat the veggies.”

“I’m too tired, and it’s so much easier to give him/her what he/she wants.”

I know, because I’ve used these lines myself.

But let’s be real with ourselves here. We are facing an epidemic on a scale never seen before. Our children are becoming increasingly obese. In Australia alone, “the number of overweight children in Australia has doubled in recent years, with a quarter of children considered overweight or obese.” (From betterhealth.vic.gov.au). And in adults the statistics are even more shocking. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics“in 2011-12, 62.8% of Australians aged 18 years and over were overweight or obese.”

Considering such ominous stats and facing the reality of being surrounded by an unwholesome food environment and culture, we decided to speak to someone who knows much more about how important it is to eat well, who is an expert in her field. We asked Iman Salam, who has three grown children of her own, from Afiya Live Well to answer a few questions about the importance of eating nutritious food and instilling good eating habits in our children.

What impact does eating ‘bad food’ (e.g. highly processed, high in sugar, soft drinks etc.) have on children’s physical, mental and spiritual well-being?

Junk food has a highly addictive nature for children. Although it can look appealing and of course taste great, children simply do not realise the ill effects it has on their health, as well as on their growing bodies. The physical complications are many; obesity,  diabetes, chronic illness,  low self esteem, and even depression.

As for mental and spiritual well-being eating a diet heavy in unhealthy foods including low nutrient dense foods can be a cause of behavioural and emotional problems, including anxiety, depression and stress.

What are some of the problematic eating habits amongst families that you have seen?

First of all not eating as a family. I’ve heard of families grabbing food and everyone eating in their own corner, on their phone, or in front of the tv. This not only causes a breakdown in family relations but eating in front of an electronic device creates an unhealthy relationship with food as well as a habit of mindless eating.

Second, the emphasis put on finishing your plate, food as reward, etc creates a long-lasting negative relationship with food. Often times being forced to clean our plates as children develops into emotional eating, overeating, and eating disorders. A healthy way to start each meal is to remember to praise God, make the intention to get the most benefit out of the meal and start with a small serving. Just as important is listening to your body and knowing when to stop before you get full. *Editor’s addition: Children have an innate ability to know when they are full, and will often assert when they have eaten enough. It is usually the adults who push them to eat more, thus breaking this natural instinct to stop eating when full. 

How can parents instil positive eating habits in their children?

Children learn from seeing so therefore setting an example is the best way to teach our children. We have to remember that our food is a blessing and it starts long before it gets to our dining table.  Teaching children the value of food and where it comes from is important. It helps to reconnect the child to mother earth and have a deeper appreciation for nature as well as the food that is put into their bodies. Being involved in a local CSA or visiting your local farm is a beautiful thing to do as a family. It’s also extremely rewarding for the soul. Don’t be afraid to get your kids to help in the kitchen, give them small tasks that they can do to help prepare dinner. This will give them a sense of ownership and pride and make them more likely to eat what they’ve helped in preparing.

tumblr_n3o4rm4xqe1qkkcx6o1_1280
Image via Marche + Atelier

What types of food should children not be eating? 

SUGAR!!!!! (artificial).  You would be surprised to learn that it’s in everything, even toothpaste. Be aware of the different names for sugar. I know what you’re thinking, “it’s hard to avoid.” If you focus on what is in your control, your own home, then when kids are at their grandparent’s house or at a birthday party, you won’t feel so bad that they are most probably going to eat sugar.  Cut back on the amount of meat and milk as tons of hormones are injected into these animals and this is causing life-long damage on their growing bodies.

Which foods have the best nutritional value for children?

It’s important to keep in mind that children need a diet containing a variety of foods. Protein, Carbohydrates, and good fats are all essential for their growing bodies. When choosing animal protein look for grass fed, free range, organic meats. And keep in mind that protein can come from other foods as well, beans, legumes, and dark leafy veggies. Aim to have one night a week meat free.

Aim for five servings of fruits and veggies each day, but keep in mind that portion size will differ depending on your child and their activity level. If your child isn’t a fan of veggies sneak them into a smoothie. Get creative with veggies, you’ll often be surprised with what your child will love. *Editor’s addition: Don’t hold back from offering them new vegetables. The worst that could happen is that they don’t eat it, the best is that they try it, and like it. 

Some good sources of carbs include whole wheat pasta and breads, barley, acorn squash and green peas. Healthy fats include avocado, ghee, and salmon (look for non-farmed options, which you can ask the shop owners about).

Don’t get too stressed with picky eaters, do your best and aim for at least one healthy meal a day.

How important is it to eat organic foods?

Eating organic foods is important in this day and age. Yet, no doubt, it can get expensive. Decide what you can and cannot afford for your family’s needs and work accordingly within those boundaries. Being educated on the ill-effects  of consuming non-organic meat is important. If that means cutting back on meat, then do what you think is best for your family. As Muslims we are held accountable for the food we eat and that includes the care of animals. When it comes to whether something is deemed “halal”, we often forget that it includes more than just the way the animal is slaughtered but how it was raised and the conditions it was in before being slaughtered. *Editor’s note: It is important to consider and understand that if an animal has been raised and slaughtered in a stressful environment, it will affect its body, and therefore its meat. If we then eat this meat from a stressed and anxious animal, it does affect our own spiritual, mental and physical well-being. Eating does have a spiritual dimension, and we cannot disregard this. 

When it comes to things like fruits and veggies, there are some that have more pesticides sprayed on them than others. These are the worst contaminated fruits and vegetables:

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes (Imported)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes

If you can stay clear of these and focus on organic, great! Otherwise a great tip that helps reduce the dirty film is a solution of vinegar and water (3 parts water to 1 part vinegar is most effective).

Can you give us some ideas for a healthy (and easy to put together) lunchbox?

  • My kids love hummus! I mean, who doesn’t 🙂 Hummus wraps with cucumber and bell pepper.
  • Tuna sandwiches on whole wheat bread. I like to use Avocado (insert heart eyes) mash, instead of mayo.
  • Whole wheat pasta with pumpkin.
  • Lentil soup.
  • Quinoa with chopped tomato,cucumber, and added black beans.
  • Sweet potato and black bean burrito bowl.

Iman Salam is an American currently residing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  Her desire for a better lifestyle and health led her to study integrative nutrition. She holds a Diploma in Preventative Health & Nutrition,  Executive Master’s in Preventative Health and Nutrition, and is a certified Personal Trainer. Currently, she works as a Nutrition Consultant and is studying to be a Practitioner in Prophetic medicine.  Her goal is to revive the sunnah of well-being by encouraging the beneficial practices of prophetic medicine. Iman is the producer and host on DOPStv YouTube show “Afiya Live Well”, a program that promotes the Prophetic diet, nutrition, and overall well-being of the body

Featured image via Hideaki Hamada.

An (un)birthday party

It was my youngest daughter’s second birthday earlier this month and usually birthdays around here are small affairs where only the family gather for dinner and a cake, and presents.

This year I decided to do a little something different and throw a “birthday party” for Z mainly because she is about to become middle child in a few weeks, and I wanted to do something special to make her feel well, special.

As I planned the birthday I realised that I wanted it to be more about enjoying the company of our nearest and dearest, and for it to be an enjoyable day for the children.

Also, I really didn’t want to do the ‘typical’ birthday things.

For example, I didn’t want presents.

Exhibit A:

img_6144

My lovely friends and family still did gift the girls presents, which I wasn’t going to be annoying about. And I say ‘girls’ because they were gifts that both the girls could enjoy and use. We gift things to people because we love them, and this is a beautiful trait. My logic behind requesting no gifts was because I didn’t want the girls to expect present after present, which they would begin to not appreciate. I also didn’t want this day to be about an exchange of gifts, I wanted it to be a day to enjoy each other’s company…

I also did not want party bags. You know the ones filled with junk food, lollies and cheap plastic toys. Instead I decided to organise some arts and crafts so that the kids could:

  1. Be entertained, rather than go crazy with all the toys that we had (which happened anyway.)
  2. They’d have something to take home in lieu of party bags.
  3. It would get their creative juices flowing (but I think it was the adults who got more creativity out of this than the kids lol).

I also really did not want to do the whole ‘dessert table’/’grazing table’ that is trending at parties these days. I didn’t want the big floral backdrop to take photos with. I just wanted to bring out the sweets when the time came, and have a moment to bring out the cake, candles lit and everyone singing ‘happy birthday’ like we did in the good old ’90s.

My reasons for not doing a dessert table/grazing table:

  1. I didn’t want my children’s eyes to become accustomed to a table overflowing with lolly jars, cakes, towers of sweets and so on. I felt that this would simply promote greediness and extravagance from a young age.
  2. My aim for this party was to keep it simple and a table with a backdrop seems over the top and unnecessary for a two year old.
  3. I didn’t want a backdrop to take photos with, because it’s actually kind of weird to have people lining up to take photos in front of it. I didn’t want the children to see and engage in this form of ‘selfie’ (ahem, narcissistic behaviour). If we were taking photos, it would simply be a natural part of the day.
  4. What the hell is with the ‘grazing table’ anyway? Are we field animals that simply ‘graze’ lazily on food? Again, it’s just too extravagant and sends the wrong message to our children about what is acceptable eating behaviour.

I still wanted it to be beautiful, because it is a way of honouring our guests. So I bought some flowers (stock) from the local farmer’s market, and we trimmed down some foliage hanging over my back fence and hung it around. I also couldn’t resist buying these plates from Lark Store because they are just gorgeous.

The day before, my eldest daughter J, and I had some fun making some desserts. We made blueberry and cream and strawberry and cream popsicles, and butter cookies dipped in chocolate decorated with some sprinkles.

Here are the recipes we used:

Blueberry and Cream Popsicles (just replace the blueberries with strawberries)

Butter Cookies (we simply melted some chocolate, dipped the cookies in it once they were cooked and cooled, then sprinkled them with some pink sprinkles).

As for the crafts, we made wands and pipe cleaner crowns. For the wands, I cut out some star shapes the day before and got the kids to collect some sticks from the park with their father. The children simply painted the stars with glitter paint, attached ribbons to the sticks then stuck the stars on.

For the pipe cleaner crowns, we used this tutorial, and got creative with some fake wire flowers and ribbon.

All in all, it was a lovely day, reconnecting with friends and family and having the children to reconnect with each other as well. When I asked my eldest what she loved most about her day, she said, “playing with my friends, making the wands and eating the popsicles…” In that order lol.

Here are  a few more pics from the day…

img_3663img_3664img_3670img_3683img_3684img_3687img_3690img_3695img_3703img_3713img_3719img_3735img_3746img_3754

img_3770img_3807img_3814img_3834img_3838img_3840img_3855

Pictures by my sister Subhi Bora.

Best on the Net

I hope you all had a lovely weekend and are ready for the new week! Here are some lovely, positive and uplifting stories to make the start of the week that much easier…

  1. 30 Captivating Historical photographs that need to be seen.
  2. What a teen girl’s magazine cover looks like when a graphic designer gets her hands on it.
  3. And here is one girl’s magazine that is trying to do it differently.
  4. A loving father photographs his autistic son’s unique habits.
  5. An enchantingly-rare all white reindeer is spotted on the side on the road in Sweden.
  6. One school is replacing detention with meditation and it is brilliant.
  7. Rahaf Khatib on the cover of “Women’s Running” magazine is how getting featured in mainstream media should be done.
  8. The essentials of Maternity Wear, and a few more of my favourite maternity wear/post-maternity wear-able brands herehere, and here.
  9. Like, I really want this blush shirt dress that looks perfect for pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  10. Oh and if you’re in Sydney, the “Raising Positive Children” workshop run by the Al-Ghazzali Centre is on this weekend. It is definitely one not to be missed. Register for it here. I’ll see you there!

Featured image via Nouba.

Wondrous Earth

A photo series that will spotlight the wondrous beauty of this Earth, a moment to reflect on the Beauty endowed on this Earth by Our Creator…

How can one travel through this earth and not be moved by the beauty that we are surrounded by? A magnificent sunset that we witness whilst engaging in something as ordinary as driving home from work is surely enough for the heart to be moved to ponder on, to be in awe of the One who willed for such divine ethereality to embellish our world.

Today’s image taken by our editor, Saltanat.

Best on the Net

It’s been a busy week for me and mine… Eid came and went last week, it was my mum’s, brother-in-law’s and his wife’s birthday (all on the same day!), hospital appointments, surprise birthday brunches, classes at the Al-Ghazzali Centre and heading to my local Farmer’s Market for the first time in months.

How was your week? How do you spend Eid with your family and friends?

For the week ahead, here are our favourite reads from around the web:

  1. Peg + Cat aired a special Eid ul-Adha episode and it looks awesome. Yay DIVERSITY!
  2. And on that note, here is a great infographic on the lack of diversity in children’s books.
  3. So here is a link with children’s books that feature kids of colour being themselves. Because that’s enough.
  4. And another link with a list of 5 books that help you raise a globally minded child.
  5. Speaking of diversity in print and publication, how brilliant was it to see Susan Carland featured in the Sunday Life magazine?
  6. A poignant reflection on how mentoring can help mobilise children to positive action, to give them opportunities for more holistic learning opportunities beyond books and the classroom.

Featured image taken by Saltanat (Editor of TML).

The Giving Tree

Eid Mubarak everyone! This is that time that we’re celebrating Eid ul-Adha, which centres on the story of Ibrahim (peace be upon him) and his sacrifice of a sheep in place of his son, Ismail, as Allah commanded.

My teacher and Imam spoke about the significance and the lesson in this particular Eid just days ago, and I wanted to share it with my children somehow. Essentially, this Eid is about the sacrifices that we make in the way of Allah. And whilst it is obligatory upon us to give Sadaqa (charity) during this celebration, mainly either meat or the value of slaughtering an animal to give to the poor, it is also a reminder of the nature of giving and sacrifice in general.

We must give of ourselves to benefit others. Whether it be our time, our wealth, our aid or our skills, we must ask ourselves, what is our Ismail? What is it that we are sacrificing, giving to others, in the way of Allah? And in what manner are we doing this? Do we hesitate? Do we overthink the matter? Do we give $20 to the person in need when we have $100 in our wallet, or do we give it all? Neither Ibrahim nor Ismail (peace be upon them both) hesitated, or flinched, in carrying out the command of Allah. They did so with certitude of Love for Allah.

I really wanted to pass this lesson onto my eldest daughter (my little one is not two years old yet), so I decided to create a ‘Giving Tree’ for her. The concept of the tree is that we write down things that we think we should be giving to others, and hang it on the tree to remain in our house during the Eid period as a reminder.

J (my eldest) has been struggling with sharing lately, especially with her little sister, who obviously wants everything that her older sister has. So when putting the tree together we spoke about how it was important to share, to give what we love to others, like to her younger sister. And whilst we may be left with what may seem to be nothing, this act of giving and sacrificing will please Allah, so ultimately, we are in reality given the greatest gift in return, the love of Allah.

As for how we put it together, I foraged some blossoms from a park in my suburb, trimmed the ends and arranged them in a garden pot with some florist’s foam. The “Eid Mubarak” sign is the one we used last Eid, from Nayma.Co. I used some glitter tape to stick the sign to the wall. We used gift tags to write down what we wanted to ‘give’ to  hang on the branches.

This particular character of sacrifice that Eid ul-Adha centres around has made me think about what it is that I sacrifice in the way of Allah. For one, I know that I don’t give enough time to nurture my relationship with Allah, nor do I give enough time to the people around me, such as friends and family, to help them if need be, and to simply be there for them. So my own personal aim is to consciously strive to give more time to these.

What is that you would like to sacrifice, to give to others?

img_2814img_2831img_2850img_2856img_2842img_2851img_2860

*Please do not use images without the permission of The Modest Life.