Diversity and inclusion are wonderful when they work in your favour. In the last week, Muslims like myself have been the beneficiaries of the world’s love and understanding. At airports around the United States people with open, liberal minds …
How to step outside the rat race and live a life less ordinary in just a few steps.
Just over a decade ago myself and my husband made some big changes in our lives, we left safe, comfortable jobs, he was in sales, I worked in retail, running a deli. We retrained in completely different areas and began new careers at the same time as beginning home education.
Life beforehand had been a mad rush every weekday to get out the door on time, Sul rushed to be able to drop our eldest off at school each day before his long commute across London to work, not returning until well after our children, then aged 7 and 2 had fallen asleep. Family life was strained and we struggled to make ends meet, we hadn’t had a holiday together for years.
The change came shortly after September 2001. We made some major life differences in our lives after the tragic events of 9/11. Like a lot of people, we began to value our loved ones, time together and to reassess.
It ended up with us changing our lives for the better. Sul used his illustration and art background to begin building websites, doing graphic design, print layouts and video introductions. Every evening after work he’d work into the night to get good enough to secure a paying client big enough to quit the day job.
I trained as a professional Birth Partner/Doula and became an apprentice, I worked with numerous families across London and was privileged to help many mothers birth their babies, an absolutely amazing job. Constantly learning and training, every year I added new skills to my repertoire. Exhausting and ridiculous hours took their toll, though. I missed anniversaries, Birthdays and celebrations to attend mothers. I finally hung up my Doula bag for good in January 2014.
Our children are now nearly all grown up, they’ve each gone into an industry they enjoy. Home education and the freedom of working freelance has given us time to nurture their individual talents and for their confidence to grow.
Together we’ve enjoyed a holiday almost every year, sometimes more, trips up and down the country to museums and historical places of interest. Summer holidays that go on over 3 months and long winter evenings together.
It’s been wonderful and I’d like to share with you all how we’ve managed it, answering common questions along the way and letting you into our secrets, tips and tricks from:
- Mistakes we made in business and how to avoid them
- How to successfully time manage to ensure you make the most of every day.
- How to de-register your child from UK school and where to begin with Home Education.
All this and more will be answered in detail in the following posts throughout January 2017.
Change is good 🙂
Ramadan is literally around the corner, for those thats dont know its the month of fasting, Muslims wake before dawn and have a meal ad then don’t eat or drink until sundown. Naturally during the long hours of fasting our minds turn to what we ll eat at that evening meal called Iftar. usually we break the fast on water and dates, dates are perfect for this as they are very high in easily digested sugar. Then we pray maghrib the prayer after sunset before having our meal. If we’re feeling famished we ll eat before praying but its not a great idea as you can imagine after a day without your instinct is to be a bit greedy thus making the bowing of islamic prayer a little uncomfortable afterwards !
Here are my favourite all time Ramadan recipes from around the Muslim world.
I usually cook this in the slow cooker so the delicious smell fills the house for hours before we breakfast.
- 500g cubed lamb
- 1 onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 stick celery chopped
- 1 medium carrot chopped
- 1 red pepper cubed
- 1 can cooked chickpeas
- 1 green chilli
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds roasted and ground
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground tumeric
I literally throw everything in the pot and cover with hot water and set to cook on low for 6-8 hours. I dont bother frying anything first but you can if you like, I sometimes add a can of chopped tomatoes and a handful of broken vermicelli but my lot prefer it meaty and simple , serve with fresh lemon squeezed over the top and a drizzle of olive oil and fresh bread. Often as kids we’d eat this for the morning meal as well Ramadan became harira month.
We like soups heres a great chicken noodle soup recipe, filling and refreshing.
We love a hearty lasagne with a big green salad, I use beef but you can use turkey mince or even a vegetarian option.
My mixed heritage means feel I’m getting back to my celtic roots whenever I cook an irish stew, I use my trusty slow cooker, it gets a lot of use in Ramadan because I dislike cooking while I am fasting.
- 500g cubed beef or lamb
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 leek chopped
- 2 or 3 carrots in chunks
- 1/2 diced swede
- 2 waxy potatoes in chunks
- a handful of dried pearl barley
- a couple of bay leaves
- dried herbs of your choice, I like parsley and rosemary, but whatever you’ve got is good, avoid coriander though it just doesnt work.
- a knob of butter
- 1 pint hot stock.
I brown off the meat for this dish and then remove it from the pan and sweat the vegetables to soften them before adding it add to the slow cooker covering with hot stock and leave to cook for 6 hours or so, towards the end you can add some dumplings simply put 150g plain flour in a bowl rub in 50g of cold hard butter, add a handful of herbs, chives or sage work nicely, bund together with a little milk and form into golf ball size and drop into the pot, they will swell, we like ours BIG, you can make them smaller and you can leave out the herbs.
We use halal turkey rashers and halal beef salami and stock. Anything that has pulses and rice will help with hydration the following day which is something to think about when we are fasting 19+ hour days.
Cowboy Style Baked Beans
Again with my trusty slow cooker ! I use red kidney bean but any are good,I start this with DRIED beans I boil them for 10-15 mins and skip off any scum, them I rinse them and throw them in the pot with a chopped onion, crushed clove of garlic, dried fennel, a few new potatoes and a BIG spoon of malt syrup or molasses, a tea spoon of chilli powder, you can add BBQ seasoning too if you like and a table spoon of tomato puree.A bit of chopped sausage or turkey rashers add flavour but are not essential.
If you don’t have a slow-cooker or crockpot you can do the recipes on the hob or in a covered pot in the oven. Cook slowly for a long time on a low heat because the beans are dry and to infuse the favours to their full potential. Ideally you want to leave it to cook overnight for at least 10 hours. It’s long but well worth the wait.
If you have any recipes you recommend please add and share 🙂
Ramadan is just a few short weeks away, for those who don’t know, Ramadan is the 9th Islamic month which Muslims spend fasting from dawn – dusk each day, its a time to cleanse ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually. Learn more about Ramadan here. We spend the days fasting and the nights in prayer with extra prayers being held every night at the mosques. We look forward to Ramadan in the same way Christians count down to Christmas, and we morn the end of it. Obviously there are practical difficulties to fasting for long hours everyday, the main one is difficulty concentrating, hunger is easy to ignore however thirst is a constant nag. So successful planning is vital.
As the parent of teens who will be fasting the whole month and a pre teen who will be doing every other day or every third day inshaallah, I am very concerned about making sure they get the most out of the month while eating nutritious foods and getting enough water. This year well be fasting from 3 am – after 9pm thats an 18 hour fast here in London.
Heres my list of top tips.
- In the weeks before Ramadan fast every Monday and Thursday( these are the sunnah days to fast, sunnah means the Prophet saws did this and we try as much as possible to follow his example).
- Detox your life, cut out coffee and chocolate and other addictions as much as possible in the fortnight before to minimise withdrawal, the first few days of the fast we sometimes suffer headaches even migraines as our bodies adjust to life without the morning coffee !
- Don’t eat empty calories, the traditional Ramadan food is greasy and stodgy with little nutritional content and puts a strain on your digestive system so eat cleanly with a few treats, frozen yoghurt, frozen water melon, stuffed dates make good substitute for the usual baklava and parathas and dare i say, avoid white rice and samosas, they lead to hunger and constipation.
- *Plan, Plan plan, make a weekly or even monthly plan of tasks to be completed everyday, its very easy to fall into a doze waiting for the end of the day which is not what Ramadan is about. I write out the plan on a white board in the kitchen, everyone spends some time reading Quran and doing chores.
- Get up early, we begin the fast at 3 am which means we have the most energy in the hours afterwards, so sleeping until midday or 1pm isn’t a very good idea, instead have a short nap between sunrise and 8 am and then nap again after midday. For children fasting, be reasonable and don’t expect them to keep up with the adults.
- Cook early in the day or stick food in the slow cooker, theres nothing worse than being stuck in a hot kitchen for the last hour of the fast.
- DONT go shopping in the hours before the end of the fast (Iftar) we made this mistake a few years ago and spent £70 on various delicious juices and smoothies which didn’t last more than a few days !!!!
- Give food as gifts to neighbours, friends and family, this year the fast ends so late that we wont be planning many iftar gatherings, as we want to get the mosque for night prayers as often as possible.
- Get outside in the fresh air, we go for moonlit walks and star gaze a lot during Ramadan, its a great adventure for the kids.
- Up your game, whatever you did last Ramadan, up it, so last year you read Quran everyday, this year read it and teach it, learn a new surah or hadith every week, set realistic targets.
keeping the little ones busy, one of the hardest jobs in Ramadan is looking after young children who will not understand that mummy and daddy haven’t had coffee today, are sleep deprived and don’t want to chase you round the park in the hot sun all morning ! Help each other out, give your sister a break for a few hours and babysit , maybe she’ll return the favour.
Prepare lots of ramadan themed crafts and games, stock up on islamic cartoons and arrange lots of play dates, invest in a paddling pool and sunscreen, they ‘ll keep each other busy while you can cool off in the shade.
These children understand Ramadan though they don’t have to fast yet they often want to so let them fast a few days, but keep an eye of them, fasting is taxing to a growing body be sure to give them plenty of fruit and vegetables also a good multi vitamin to keep their strength up. Distract them during the day with games and water games, a few cheap new toys are always a good idea. A few hours of TV or Xbox can help them get through the day.
When it becomes fard for a child to fast i.e: when they hit puberty, they MUST fast everyday, so be sure that they get a nap in after school, feed them well at suhur (morning meal) and make sure they drink enough water, my teenagers will often not feel hungry at 3am, so I prepare fruit smoothies and keep them in the fridge (no one wants to hear you using the blender at 2.30 am!) add protein powders like Maca and Spirulina to boost the nutritional content. This year Ramadan is mostly during school holiday, we home educate so its not an issue though some children will have to sit exams next year while fasting.