A birthday present idea for your MIL

It was my mother-in-law’s birthday recently so I put this gift basket of self-care items together for her. It was easy to put together, the process was enjoyable and the end result, quite lovely.

The photos aren’t styled the best as I had to capture this quickly because three kids + had to head to the birthday dinner + trying to get ready + real life isn’t perfectly styled, BUT! it captures the process well enough.

So here goes…

What you need:

Medium/Large sized basket

Various gifts that the MIL will love. I chose self-care items that she could easily use, a baking book (because she loves baking), some beautiful V&A gardening gloves and a calendar/organiser for next year.

Two sheets of cellophane

Newspaper

Ribbon

Faux flower

How to put it together: 

  1. Gather the contents to fill a medium-large sized basket. If you’re going to do this, go big or go home 😀 I got every single item from one store so that I didn’t have to run around curating them from various shops because let’s be real, ain’t nobody got time for that.

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2. Grab basket. I got mine from Target.

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3. Fill the bottom of the basket with newspaper.

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4. Place cellophane in the basket. It was biodegradable folks, don’t shoot me for using plastic. Sometimes the plastic is necessary.

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5. Arrange items in the basket with the biggest items at the back and work your way forward with the smallest items at the front. Throw in a faux flower for extra prettiness.

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6. Place a second cellophane sheet over the top and secure to the basket by tying a ribbon around the front, like so. And voila! You have a beautiful gift basket, with hand-picked items especially for the MIL. It’s bound to earn you brownie points 🙂

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On love…

There is much to say about the consequences of the individualistic, self-centric world that we live in today.

One consequence is the impact it has had on relationships and people’s views of what a relationship should look like.

More specifically, people seem to have a keen idea about what a relationship should offer them, not what they can offer in a relationship.

What many seem to frame their relationship around is what it can do for them, how their partner will make them feel, what their partner should do for them.

I don’t think this only applies to a marriage-relationship though. I see that most relationships, friendships, even filial relationships are based on need, rather than sincere concern for one another.

Where people will only give you a call when they need something from you. Or when they will only reach out to you when they want to call you to something that they are organising, and need your support for.

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And these days, it’s barely a phone call. Mostly it is a text message. Or a Facebook message. Or WhatsApp. Or Telegram. Or… God knows what other form of social media we flood our phones with to ‘stay connected’. Forget actually visiting each other, or just dropping in to each other’s homes, unannounced, without fanfare or giving people the heads up.

When we were kids, our pantry was always stocked with sweets and biscuits for the guest who unexpectedly dropped by, or my mum would always make extra for dinner because it would either be eaten as leftovers the next day, or in the that case somebody dropped by close to dinner time.

We would often drop by friend’s homes as well. If they lived close enough, we’d take the opportunity of a soft, summer evening and walk to their home to share a cold drink and eat some fruit. The parents would chat whilst the children ran amok in bedrooms with toys and played games outside, being eaten by mosquitos and trying to catch our breath in the hot air of summer.

But beyond just the visiting and dropping in, I think we’ve also lost the skill of knowing how to go above and beyond to help others in need. We are so busy and caught up with our own lives, that we wouldn’t even know if somebody was in need, unless they shared it on their social media. When a family member falls ill, a mother has just given birth, when someone has injured themselves, when they have lost their job and have a family to support, or even simpler, if their car broke down, if their children fell sick, how do we as a community rally to support them?

Let’s bring this back to individual relationships, such as a husband and wife. Do we enter such a relationship with expectations as to what the other person can do for us? Give to us? Do we enter the relationship with visions for what it will look like for us, rather than ask ourselves what we will be bringing to the relationship… Do we ask ourselves how we will support our partners in their times of need, or just generally? Do we take the time to figure out their needs, their unique quirks of nature and do our best to aid them, to support them, to be patient with them, but even more than this, to intentionally set out to do our best to enrich their lives? To put aside our own ego when say, we’re arguing, and just let them have it out? Do we do our best to SEE the other person, to see what they are experiencing, to pick up on the fine detail of their emotions day to day, and how it wavers? Do we take the time to devise ways, gentle ways, soft-hearted, fun and caring ways to aid them? To uplift them?

Don’t try to constantly seek your rights, your wants, your needs from others.

Love is doing for the other person what THEY love.

This is Love…

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An Open Letter to All My Concerned Aunties

I am so excited today to bring to you all our first contributor post. This is a stunningly honest and  poetically written piece addressed to all the aunties who are “concerned” about your marital status.

Written by Sevgi Yildiz.

Recently, my sister four years my junior got married and at 28 in a community of 19 and married, I found myself subjected to the oh’s and aww’s of every single one of my mother’s friends or ‘Aunties’ as they are known to me. They expressed such concern for my singledom, from serving advice to offering their sons and the sons of others looking for a ‘good girl’ like me. But all offerings came with warning. ‘Don’t be too picky- you’re older now.’ ‘If you just lost a few kilos, who could resist you!’, ‘He’d never let you dress like that, he’s very jealous.’ And my very favourites ‘Don’t be so ‘talkative’, he’s a quiet boy’ and ‘He earns good money so you won’t have to work anymore!’ Yay me!

I smile and nod graciously and tell them I’m fine, only to their disbelief and silent ‘yeah right’s’. But with my being so expressive and having opinions and all, much to the dismay of all my potential suitors, I decided to write an open letter to all my worrying Aunties from myself and on behalf of all my sisters subjected to the same rhetoric. This is not directed at my beautiful aunties who take my hand and make a little prayer from the kindness of their hearts so that I may find my soulmate, no. This is to the whispering, the side-glancing, the judgemental aunties. The ‘change yourself or perish alone’ aunties…

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I’m tired. Of all the sighing aunties who say ’28 and single, oh my!’ And the thoughtless girls asking me ‘Not him? No? but why!?’ I’m sick of being looked at like I’ve lost a limb or lost my mind when I tell them I’m happy and just fine.

Aunty, is he really that wondrous, this boy you speak of? ‘He owns a house!’ ‘He owns a car!’ ‘He was chosen at birth!’ Oh what a charmer! He prays to a god and gives his alms, doesn’t gamble oh and how well he treats his mother! That’s great, I get it, he’s unlike any other… He’s nothing like ‘N’ who promised me the world. Nothing like ‘D’ who ‘cherished’ my every word. Nothing like ‘M’ who took my heart and soul and nothing like the rest of them who leave women weak and cold.

I’m tired. Of being told I’m fussy or too picky because I refuse to be whelmed, neither over nor under, by the simpletons I am presented. I’m tired of being called weird or odd because I don’t fit their mould. You see, I am the brights in a sea of fashioned nudes. I am the bookworm who’s heard it all before you’ve said a word. I am the know-it-all who knows it all before you have a clue. Do you dare try pulling the wool over my eyes, to try and block my soul? By God there is more life there than you could ever hold.

I refuse to be taken or kept, by neither man nor woman. I refuse to shy away from being unapologetically human. I refuse to pretend I need him, this boy, this man, this son of yours. Is he art? Is he music? Is he the whisper of my soul? Is his the voice I’ve heard, over and over, in the stillness of my core? Telling me ‘I’m here, always have been, it’s just not time for me to be your all.’

I get it. I’m older now. My body ain’t as tight. The twinkle in my eye ain’t as bright. The crows are landing on the sides of my eyes, a little more love hugging my thighs. My hands a little tougher now, my voice a little deeper. A girl like me could never compete or be considered a keeper.

Aunty, you want me to find a husband, but are you not the one who deemed me bygone? Put me in your pickle jar and placed me on a shelf, now a little too bitter, a little too tart, a little too sharp to be your precious boy’s wife?

Aunty, is it not you who fed your boy like a prince and washed his feet like a king? Telling him he’s the best looking boy whilst keeping him under your wing? Did you not laugh it off as he broke toys at three and played rough at four; chanted ‘boys will be boys!’ as he flashed the girls at school his pee-pee and threw tantrums on the floor?

Now he breaks hearts like he did toys. Expects to be showered with praise for every anniversary he happens to remember. Expects reward for existing and all the cheating he’s resisting and a pat on the back for not committing whatever heinous act he is thinking and foregoing all the horrible things he didn’t end up saying.

Oh Aunty, don’t cry for me in my lonesome state for I am more than enough for me. I’ve learnt to heal my wounds and guard my heart without a Mr. I’ve learnt to earn my keep, work for my bread and build my little empire. I’ve learnt to sleep humble and sound with a smile and peace of mind.

Cry for the betrothed yet lonely, the oh so phoney, the cheated on, the beat, the voiceless but so sweet. Cry for the aged and never loved, never travelled, never romanced, never hugged. Cry for the tired, the withered, the weathered, the unappreciated wife, the with-child and retired from passion and from life.

He knows not my roar, my power, my strength, my hunger or the passion for life I’ve drawn. I was crafted upon the Lord’s example; I am no bite, no tester, no sample. I am the mouthful of words he could never conjure, the strength he could never muster, the earth that grounds me, whole, complete and wonderfully full of wonder.

If he is to be my half, then let him be full. Let him place his glass beside mine and we can sing and dine and share our breath and our time. We can dance in the aether, sing in the rain, and when our time is up, we can go at it again.

So Aunty when you see me head high and happy, think not I am too fussy or too picky. Cry not for my state at 28 or for my sisters at 39. We refuse to settle for your son’s car, his house, his ride, his unillustrated mind. Don’t judge me for not accepting his expenses at the expense of all of mine.

Oh Aunty, perhaps in me you see the woman you could never be. Look in the mirror and ask yourself when the last time was you were happy? With all your hopes and dreams placed in the pocket of a man at 19, perhaps unkind, unloving, narcissistic and perhaps blind? Perhaps I choose every day to be happy, hopes and dreams not left behind. I live. Day by day, I live. I create, I play, I grow. And with every day passed, I need him less and less, less than you’ll ever know.

I’m sorry I haven’t joined your club of married bliss, I’m doing all I can. I’m sorry you think this bothers me and that it’s a reflection of who I am. Don’t get me wrong, I truly hope one day I do; I’d love to find my man. But he won’t come until I’m whole as I know I wouldn’t accept or have him broken and only when I’m absolute will our ‘I love you’s and I do’s’ be spoken.

Please don’t sell me short, dear Aunty, with offerings of half-baked men. Their weak will and half-cast minds aren’t worth my life well spent. I’ve learnt that some meat is best served well-done and when he is good and ready, I’ll sharpen my knives and feast as he will upon me, a relationship soulful, a relationship carved in God’s name, a relationship true and healthy.

But thank you for your concern, I’ll take it and keep smiling. I just wish for just one second, you’d see what your focus on my life is hiding. How about you do you and I do me and we wish each other well. Let’s celebrate my wins, my career, my successes and the crazy in my whims. I’m more than just my surname. More than that ring. Look me in my eyes, read between my lines, tell me now if I really need that bling. Don’t cry for me, don’t sigh for me, don’t pitch your easy buy for me. I won’t rummage through your clearance sale bin so keep it far away from me. I’ll travel the earth far and wide to find my treasure; well-polished, well-kept, slightly rugged and most importantly, free.

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*click images for sources.

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The Big Fat Muslim Wedding

A custom made wedding dress that costs over $5000. A variety of cars ranging from vintage, sports, luxury, a Hummer, oh and throw in a motorcycle or two. Flowers covering the reception hall. A candy buffet groaning under the weight of cupcakes, strawberry towers, cakes and custom monogrammed biscuits. Wedding reception entertainment including, but not limited to: a magician, whirling dervishes, a cultural dance group, elaborate meal presentations that require the guests in the room to stand up and SAME DAY edits played on large screens in the reception hall showing the bride and groom in various loving embraces…

No, I’m not describing an extravagant celebrity wedding.

I’m talking about the Big Fat Muslim Wedding that is currently trending.

Being a blogger in the seemingly frivolous wedding industry, I make it my job to keep up-to-date with current trends in bridal fashion, hipster weddings in museums and of course, Muslim weddings. Most of them don’t feel like a genuine celebration of two people committing their love and friendship to one another. They generally feel disorganized, chaotic, and to be honest, awkward. Awkward because they usually show a compromise in values- such as the extravagance in dress, décor and the presence of mixed dancing, music and so on.

I think the problem lies in intentions. The majority of the time the intention is blatantly to “impress the community” or to pull off a better wedding than a relative or family friend. As a result, many a bride and her parents/in-laws get caught up in the planning of a wedding, resulting in tears and disagreements. Such irreconcilable differences between the two families have resulted in many broken off engagements. And in an environment where it is getting harder and harder for young people to get married due to the rising costs of living, or the high amount of the mahr demanded by families of the bride (or the bride herself), amongst a plethora of other issues, pushing to have an extravagant wedding is just (forgive me for the pun) the icing on the cake.

Most importantly we come from a religion that espouses moderation in all things. The lessons from our Prophet (pbuh) often center on humility. How is it then that when it comes to the (apparently) Most Important Day of Our Lives, all such considerations are thrown out the window and exchanged for pomp and exhibitionism?

The most beautiful walima I’ve been to was an intimate affair, with the couple’s nearest and dearest, in a space that was important to them. The evening was spent in valued company, where guests could speak to the person next to them without shouting, the food made you come back for seconds, speeches heartfelt and most importantly, the bride and groom’s sheer joy palpable from their faces, reminding everyone that when Allah swt places love in the hearts of two people, it truly is a cause for (modest) celebration.

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My husband, my best friend

“If everybody just cared about and supported others then everyone would be happy. Nobody would go without because we’d all be looking out for each other. At the moment, most people just look out for themselves and look at us… we’re all lonely, desperate, sad…Take marriage for example…If each (husband and wife) were looking out for each other’s needs and requirements there’d be no reason left for selfishness of self preservation as each persons rights are being cared for and protected by the other .” Quoted from Imam Afroz Ali

My husband is my best friend.

Even after 5 and a half years of marriage, I still can’t wait for him to get home. And no it’s not just because the kids have pushed me to breaking point and I need him to come home and take them from me…

When he does stroll through the door and I see that broad smile and sheer joy on his face when our (almost) three year old goes running to greet him, it lifts the heaviness and anxiety of the day from my heart just enough to stretch my face into a smile, too.

When he comes home, he always, without fail, envelopes me in a hug, and that hug says it all.

You’ve had a tough day with two demanding children under the age of three.

I’m sorry I couldn’t be around to help.

I’m here now.

It’s not all about the kids I promise.

It’s the fact that he can make me laugh hysterically even when I don’t feel remotely in the mood for jokes. Jokes that probably would not be as funny to someone else. But that’s ok. We get it. And when we’re at some sort of function, utterly bored out of our brains, he will mutter jokes and hilarious observations under his breath to me and have me giggling away…

It’s when I’ve been home all day with the kids and the whole house has been turned upside down and I couldn’t seem to make any progress with the cleaning despite being at it all day because I have an almost three year old who leaves a trail of toys everywhere she goes, and I wake up the next morning and it’s all been taken care of. It actually makes me cry. For real.

It’s being surrounded by people, catching each other’s eyes and knowing exactly what the other is thinking.

After I tell him about an article I read about the additives, chemicals that I can’t pronounce, artificial flavourings, GM ingredients, harsh extraction methods, misleading packaging in EVERYTHING that we eat, or the horrible stories of murder, rape, war, hate and hate and hate and my heart feels so heavy with the state of this world that I feel like crawling into a hole and waiting it all out… He reminds me of the good and beauty that still exists in this world or that ultimately, the justice and love and mercy of Allah (swt) is inevitable.

When I’m at my lowest point of utter desperation and exhaustion, only he has the right words to uplift me. To reassure me. To push me to try harder, to expect more from myself.

Throughout our marriage we’ve faced challenges together and between each other. We’ve gone through the inevitable troughs of boredom, miscommunication, conflicting ideals, two children (which means two difficult pregnancies, labour and post natal depression), financial difficulties, and a complete overhaul of the direction we were taking in our lives. But I know that these challenges have made us only understand each other better so that the love we have for each other is truer, more nuanced and certainly, deeper.

He’s the one who cares for me. He’s the one who looks out for me. I know he’s always thinking about me, and our daughters…

I don’t feel like I’m going without.

I’m happy from the very crevices of my soul.

Because I have my best friend.

My husband.