Thursday, 21 August 2014

My Creative Better Half...

I have mentioned about my good friend Vanessa's wedding previously. 

Vanessa is a special friend in many ways, and I always thank Allah (S.W.T) for bringing this friend into my life. 

She's a Christian and I, a Muslim, and we always have exchanges of how our religions shape our lives. And keeping in mind that I am Vanessa's first close Muslim friend, I have made sure that my sharings with her about everything in our everyday lives are meaningful and informative.

We met as colleagues, she came in two years later as my junior, and our relationship bloomed very quickly as we became each others' office confidantes.

She is also one of the few friends who calls my Brother by the 'home name' I address him as - so I believe that well explains her relationship with my family too. Alhamdhulilah.

And oh yes, she is the first friend AZ met after a few days he arrived in Singapore too.

For this and many other reasons, AZ has always referred to Vanessa as his 'little sister' in Singapore.

Thinking back, it is also heartwarming to recall that Vanessa and I were still colleagues who sat right next to each other (and shared about almost everything we could think of) when she met her husband, Kenny. Of course, he naturally became our friend too.

Vanessa and Kenny just got married in Ramadan this year. When preparing for her wedding, she passed AZ a file of her wedding invitation for some conversion. Quite casually, he worked on some alternative designs for them both, and they liked it too.

After several rounds of creative works and designs, these are the final versions of the invite and guest posters with the same theme. 

Their wedding invite.

This one was for their church wedding.

This one was for their wedding dinner.

The posters were printed on a bigger paper size, of course, and looked really pretty. AZ and I have wanted to contribute something special for Vanessa's wedding and we were really happy that Allah (S.W.T) gave us an opportunity through this. Alhamdhulilah.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Our Humble Eid Celebrations

And so here I am - finally, with the post on our Eid celebrations. I had sat down just before Maghrib prayers to start writing on all my catch-up posts on my Ramadan Journal, and it is almost an hour after Isyak, and I am now starting on my last post for the day, In-Shaa-Allah.

Thanks to the soul who knows me better than I do - AZ - who knew I was going to take this long to complete all my posts - and never allowed me to stay up writing on my blog during the weeknights as he stayed up to study for his exams. Whenever I said I would take only a couple of minutes to complete all the six to eight posts I must have published today - he would talk sense into me.

Alhamdhulilah, glad I found time to share on our Ramadan and Eid moments this year. Never before in other years have we remembered others' hardships more than this year - both AZ and I kept reminding each other to make duas for the suffering brothers and sisters around the world first, before we asked for ourselves and our families.

We pray that Allah (S.W.T) has accepted all our prayers and deeds in Ramadan this year and previous years. Ameen.

As we celebrated Eid this year, we constantly told ourselves that we should avoid food wastage and kept everythiing simple and humble. Mum and I decided we would not make the usual briyani and went for something simpler - ghee rice. Equally tasty, and she supplemented the spread with her other signature dishes (actually with Mum, everything she does is her signature dish, Alhamdhulilah).

This photo was taken by my friend Vanessa, who came over with her husband, Kenny for their 'newly-married couple's lunch treat' by us.

For the first time this year, we used paper plates instead of the ceramic plates that we always use. It really saved so much preparatory and washing up time, considering that fact that I could not be on leave the next day (had to get to office to complete a project that had to be sent for print the next day).

The sister from Zameel Abaya, one of our customers, is selling these pretty plates. I thought they looked so pretty and bought a pack each of each design. A lot of our guests were intrigued by them, even some brothers. I believe she stocked these up after Eid. Do check them out here if you would like to buy them. And they are pretty affordable too.

The lovely four designs of paper plates. Some even came in dessert plates.

And what is Eid without kueh tarts (pineapple tarts), keuh makmur (yummy biscuits with crushed roasted peanut fillings), and the likes.... and of course, Mum's 'Murukku' right? Alhmadhulilah.
The cookie jars and 'Murukku' containers in various shapes and sizes  you will see in every Muslim house here.

Ramadan Journal - Traditions

Whenever I read the prompt - 'tradition' - on some blogger-sisters' Ramadan Journal prompts in earlier years, one of the things that comes to mind is usually getting henna done on the eve of Eid.

But thinking of it, it has been a few years since I have moved away from that 'tradition'. The reason is simply because I always have much undone work on the eve and am usually very happy to steal some hours of sleep before I wake just a few hours after Mum to start work in the kitchen.

And the other reason is also because everyone else is also too tired to draw henna designs on my hands (as they too wish for some hours of sleep before dawn cracks). On years where I can afford some time to myself by 11-ish into the evening, Mum would get them done on my hands and toes. Alhamdhulilah. Yes. If I am getting henna done, I get them done on my fingers, palms and toes.

In recent years and last year too, AZ did them for me. Alhamdhulilah. This year, I didn't want henna done, as I was really very exhausted from the day before's housework.

Putting up curtains, last minute dust-wiping and washing of two bathrooms - these were exhausting enough to have me wishing only for some hours of sleep.

The other thing that is a yearly do on the eve of Eid is baking. Ever since I learnt the proper way of baking a decent cake, I have been baking two cakes on the eve of Eid.

I usually bake them very early in the morning because for some reason, my cakes are always tastier the next day, Alhamdhulilah.

This year too, I stayed up after Fajr prayers and made two cakes - a marble and an orange cake. It was while baking that I decided to also pack some for the sisters in the Sunday Iqra class. It was also heartwarming that we had become better friends through our Whatsapp group chat. 

And we had even all decided to wear black abayas with a coloured scarf - of the seven rainbow colours - to class that Sunday in celebration of Eid as we welcomed Syawal. Masha-Allah. And the colour I chose was green, I wore it with the Zariya Abaya from our new Eid stocks.

While shopping for ziplock bags and other items to serve food for guests several days before, AZ and I came across these pretty and affordable party bags. And they came with very cute stickers as seals too. I bought just one pack, knowing they would come in handy anytime. As I was rushing to pack the cakes for the sisters that morning, these bags were very helpful. 

The bags added so much colour to the Eid gifts.
Alhamdhulilah, Ustazah also surprised us with Rainbow Nutella cakes as Eid gifts that day.

Ramadan Journal - My Baking Intention

Thank you, Ya Rabb, for giving me the strength and ability to be able to fulfill the niyah that I made before Ramadan.

Chocolate chip cookies that turned out the way I hoped they would, Alhamdhulilah. Mum did her part with another bottles of suji cookies too (didn't get to snap a picture though). But they were lovely nevertheless. Alhamdhulilah.

Ramadan Journal - Pretty, Green Packets

The one thing that we all looked forward to as Muslim children celebrating Eid - or in fact, something that all little ones celebrating most festivities look forward to - festive money from relations.

One of our office colleagues distributed these green packets - courtesy of DBS Bank - just before I was about to go on leave for Eid. Not just Muslim colleagues, but colleagues from all other races and religions took a few packets. I especially liked the illustration of the little girl.

And it sure looks like to be functional for multi-races, with the shades of yellow and red on the green background.

Ramadan Journal - A Gift

My parents and I - and recently, two of our cousin sisters - make a day trip across the Causeway to purchase some Eid cookies and tarts every year. We usually buy several bottles in a few varieties to give to our neighbours and colleagues. This trip is usually worth the while - keeping in mind the exchange rate and that fact that we purchase many bottles packed in a few boxes, at one go.

This time, we came back with this gift. I think I will not go into too much details of how this came into my hands. I just love this. Masha-Allah.

AZ placed it on our bookshelf, that comes with a glass window (as seen here). Every morning, it is so tranquil to see this beautiful view the moment we open our eyes. SubhanAllah.

I pray Allah (S.W.T) invites us to spend our next Ramadan in HIS House to perform Umrah, and in later months, Hajj. Ameen. Ameen. Ameen.

Please keep my family and me in your duas too.

Ramadan Journal - Ajwa Dates and My Intention Letter

Before we got married, I was totally unaware of Ajwa dates. When AZ and I went for our first Ramadan fair together here, he bought two kilos of them. After he paid, I was so surprised at the price. That's when he explained on the special attributes of these gems that our Prophet (S.A.W) liked to have.

The Messenger (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) said, “Whoever has seven Ajwa dates every morning he will not be harmed on that day by poison or magic.” [Saheeh al-Bukhaaree (5445) (5768) (5769) (5779)].  

The Messenger (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) said, “Ajwa dates are from paradise.” [Tirmidhee (2068)

Referring to eating seven Ajwa dates, the Messenger (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) said, “Hewill not be harmed by anything until he reaches the evening.” [Saheeh Muslim (2047)].

There is a whole list of the benefits of the Ajwa dates here and here, Masha-Allah.

AZ and I always remind ourselves to buy Ajwa dates for Iftar for the the family. Oh yes, this was also part of my intention letter for the 30 days in Ramadan, inspired by Ustazah Su'aidah during the Quran workshop.

This time, we ended up going up the Ramadan cum Eid fair here only towards the last five days - which was a really good thing as we did not do any impulse shopping and spend too much money on things we didn't really need but were just pretty. Alhamdhulilah.

So, I bought a few boxes at a mall near one of our office branches.

Talking about dates, I also saw this brand at the same dates section in the mall and needless to say, was just happy at what I saw (Al-Barakah.:)). So I bought a few packs as well.

Photo courtesy of Sister R.

Ramadan Journal - Quran Workshop

My Sundays in Ramadan this year have been so blessed, Alhmadhulilah. 
I thank Allah (S.W.T) for the opportunity to strengthen my iman (faith) through a two-hour Quran intensive workshop, followed by Iqra mentorship for another hour-and-a-half.
Ustazah Su'aidah Salim always shared more than the course materials - on stories of our Sahabas, islamic history, of Hereafter, and so much more. I always wished the lessons never ended, for the sake of Allah.

Will share more on her sharing as I sit down to review her notes on Tafsir very soon, In-Shaa-Allah.

While the Quran workshop is over, our Iqra classes will resume with six other sisters - all of whom have become good friends - in September. Looking forward, In-Shaa-Allah.

A shot I took on the fourth class of the Quran workshop session. Our Iqra class is cosier - just seven of us and Ustazah.
As I am writing this, I am suddenly overwhelmed by so much sadness... that my Sundays in the past five weeks have been about preparing for Iftar. We were still in Ramadan a week ago, and at this hour (it will be Maghrib in a few minutes...), AZ and I, and everyone at home were talking about how fast Ramadan was going to come to an end in a few minutes.

AZ constantly reminded me to lay the Iftar table quickly and sit down and make duas... before the precious month slipped away. I pray that Allah (S.W.T) gives us all the opportunity to experience another Ramadan with HIS mercy and blessings. Ameen.