July 29, 2011

Yummy little bites

Go ahead and get a cold glass of milk!

A'salaamu alaikum ya'll. Decided to try for a lighter and yummier post. My stepdaughters found this recipe in the Discovery Girls magazine and wanted to give it a go. I had to tweak it a little but the end results was sooo scrumptious! Really it reminds me of a reese's crisp bar. Totally worth the tiny effort it takes to make. :-D

First take:

4 tbsp butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar

Cream these together. Actually it doesn't so much cream as kinda blend together. Next add:

1/2 cup peanut butter

Mix thoroughly and then mix in:

1 cup Rice Krispies/crisp rice cereal

Mix it gently so you don't squish all the little puffy bits. Roll into small balls then dip them in:

1 container chocolate frosting, heated til melted

Now 1 container was waaaay too much but then again, this recipe should really be doubled. I didn't want too much temptation so I made the smaller batch. Anyway you will have leftover frosting; make a cake or something!

Of course these can be decorated with a contrasting frosting drizzled on top or any other variations but we are pretty simple around here.

This is also a great thing to do with the kids or let them do alone (the older ones). However I have a kitchen control issue and I did it myself. I know, that's no fun, and I'm trying to lighten up. :-)

Alright, pop them in the fridge to harden faster and enjoy! Warning, these are pretty darn addictive so be ready to want to eat faaaar more than you, in good conscience, should. Yum Yum!

Of course, I could have spent my kitchen time more wisely by making, say, homemade garlicky tomato sauce but then my hands wouldn't smell like peanut butter!!! ;-)


July 23, 2011

Once upon a time...

A'salaamu alaikum ya'll. My life has been full of ups and own, triumphs and trials. Some times one seems to prevail over the other but for me, I've always been able to see the brighter side of things. Or, as my friend and I call it, the "pretty bird" syndrome. I know I've blogged about this before but it was 2 years ago so a little refresher.

Due to my health issues, my memory ain't what it used to be. I've also had some cognitive changes. One of them is just a complete and utter inability to stay angry or upset about something. Now I've always been a positive person anyway but this goes beyond that. It's as if I were talking about something very in-depth, look up to the sky and cry, "Look at that pretty bird!" and then forget what I was talking about.

Yeah, I call it pretty bird syndrome (PBS). So to reiterate, no birds are involved, just my forgetfulness. :-)

I just wanted to call that to ya'lls attention. So you see, I can have a very personal or heartwrenching post and then in the next breath, sing the praise of a new fabric softener. (Still loving the Bounce dryer bar, btw. LOL). So I'm not really manic-depressive just pretty birdin'. :-D

Alright so onto today's topic. )Yeah, still trying to catch up for my dismal performance blogging this summer.) For some reason, I was thinking about my first solo living experience. Well that's not quiet true. I first well and truly lived alone when I was 19 and pregnant (that should be a tv show lol). I was on bedrest from 2 months onward and lived alone in my mother's old trailer. Hmmm nice times. :-/ I wasn't even supposed to stand up long enough to cook or clean, can you imagine??

I went on to have 2 more babies after that. Eh, what can I say, I live on the wild side.

What I was thinking about though was my first real apartment. For me, by me. This happened after my divorce from the boys' dad. As we lived where we worked and I no longer worked there (I was on disability for my end stage renal disease) I was the lucky girl who got to move.

We had already decided to divorce (it was at my behest... loooooong story) and the boys' dad was actually moving to another apartment on the campus. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I was not allowed to move to the new place.

So there I sat in an empty apartment for a few days waiting for the first of the month when my new place would be ready for occupancy. I actually slept in the floor of a closet. No joke. He came and washed the carpets and the only dry place I could sit or lie down was the closet.

Looking back now I am horrified anyone could treat the mother of their children that way. I wouldn't even put my dog in a closet! Ahhh well the past is past and I pretty birded it away.

So after my few days in the closet of shame I was able to move. Oh what a gem this little apartment was. Please appreciate the sarcasm dripping from every word I just wrote. It was $350 a month which even then was by far the cheapest thing I had found.

Well let me rephrase. It was the cheapest place I could find that did not include having a single room with one lone hanging lightbulb and about 13 men living in one room on the other side. Not joking here. Oh or one that wasn't located in our local "street entrepreneur" part of town. Oh my. THAT was an interesting place.

So what did my $350 get me? Actually I got 2 bedrooms because the apartment I was in was built into a hill so the back rooms (the kitchen and a "den") had no windows. A room cannot be labeled a bedroom without windows.

Anyway I got a huge kitchen, the back windowless dungeon bedroom, a living room and a front bedroom with a sliding window.

Oh and I got 6.5 foot ceilings. Yeah no joke. When me, in all my 5foot2inch glory walked in, I thought, how cozy. When a 6'4" friend did the same, he said, "Oh my god, I'm gonna hit my head!!!!"

As I was the one who initiated the divorce I didn't feel it was fair to take everything. Even though we had both worked (actually I worked more than him because I had worked while he was in college) and a lot of things came from my family, I took only what I felt was mine.

My worldly possessions included the cooking utensils I had began to accumulate as I learned to enjoy making a meal, my personal effects, a computer, and a love seat. I did decide to take that because I needed somewhere to sit and somewhere to sleep. Yep, I slept on a loveseat for a while but hey, it was an improvement over the closet! ;-)

Oh and I brought my clothes. What a pitiful assortment I had! As I had lost so much weight really nothing fit. I remember going to a yard sale and buying a blue plaid pair of shorts for $.50 and found a white tshirt for a few bucks. I think my sister had given me a pair of cut-off blue jean shorts and I had  a t-shirt my dad sent me from Georgia.

Honestly that was about it. All of my other clothes no longer fit after I had lost 30 lbs. Easiest diet ever; just too sick to eat. lol

So there I was; sicker than I had ever been in my life, 26 years old,  practically penniless and alone. In many ways I was happier than I had ever been in my life. The boys' father was... difficult at times. He was very controlling and made my life hard in general. Please don't get me wrong, he is a great dad but as a husband, let's just say he had a ways to go.

I finally had the freedom to just be me. I could make decisions, decorate my home, go to the store when I wanted. Little things, really, but they meant a lot to me. I did have my sons; please don't think I've forgotten them. They were with me almost everyday or at least every other day. Now I have a lot of guilt for not being a 100% full-time mama for them but you have to understand my situation.

I was soooo sick. I was vomiting multiple times a day, had horrendous headaches that wouldn't go away and all the stress from the dysfunctional relationship with the father. At the age of 26 I was faced with possible death and definite surgeries, dialysis, and hopefully one day a transplant.

While at the time I think I was in denial, it really was a lot to bear. I had no support either. I wasn't religious so there was no church family. My mother had a boyfriend and a job, lived in another city, my sister was married, 2 kids, working, and my best friend and her husband were also friends with my ex. All of our other friends were from the place we had both worked and they sided with him.

Alhamdulillah for it all. During a time when I could have drowned in depression or alcohol, I did neither. I just lived the best I could. I learned to take time for me. I painted my toenails and remembered how to be feminine again. I read books and cross-stitched. I started writing poetry again that didn't have to rhyme. LOL

And I tried to give my failing body a little rest.

I remember my appetite being so poor from my illness that (along with my lack of $$$) I would buy one sweet tea with lemon every few days or so from Captain D's. They had awesome sweet tea! And every 2 or 3 days I could buy one container of veggie lo-mein for about $4 and eat that for a couple of days. I lived simply and oh so frugally.

I had about $900 a month in disability if that. After paying $350 rent, $350 car pymt, utilities, food, supplies... can you see how I ran out of money before I ran out of month? lol It wasn't hard. I tried to work briefly but my health was so bad I couldn't even last 2 weeks.

Please understand I am not saying any of this because I pity myself. I'm saying it as a way to remind myself to be grateful for my blessings, to be content and happy in this life Allah swt has given me. And, I guess, to remind myself that alhamdulillah I can survive. :-)

I think this is one of those posts that is just gonna peter out. I have no grandeloquent ending, no moral, just a reminder that life will go on despite illnesses and sadnesses and that, inside ourselves, we have the strength to be.

Ma salaama ya'll

July 22, 2011

Ramadhan retrospective

A'salaamu alaikum ya'll. Ya Ramadhan, ya Ramdhan.... how I love thee! No seriously. For me, as a new convert back in '06, it was a magical time. I was able to see Muslims everyday. Can you imagine? :-) Now that I have a family full of Muslims it isn't quite to fairy-tale. lol

The Annoor Masjid in Knoxville is the best! OK so when I was there sometimes we would complain about the lack of facilities for women or the infernal heat but let's face it, these issues affect most communities.

What we did have in abundance, if not space and super-cooled air, was sisterhood. I loved those Ramadhan nights! Honestly my first 2 years were months I will never forget. After that, having a small child and being busy looking after her honestly took a lot away from my ibadah. You might have read my posts about it. Sorry too lazy to link just go to the search bar or look under "i blog about".

Anyway it was just so peaceful and exciting. I would go to the masjid and break my fast. Now on a few nights it was sooo crowded and maybe food got low so Sr. Lisa and I might sneak out and grab a quick bite at a fast-food place. However on the nights when the crowd was manageable or non-existant.... ahhhhhhhhhhh the peace!

I remember sitting there, hearing Hafiz Noman reciting Qur'an. To this day he remains one of my favorite reciters. Masha'Allah he just had his Khatm; he has now learned all 7 types of recitation and is able to instruct others in all the methods. He is truly a boon for our smallish community.

His voice is so beautiful, even without understanding Arabic, sometimes my eyes would fill with tears. And the dua' he always performs on the last night is absolutely amazing. These memories will stay with me for a loooooong time.

Those first Ramadhans were in the fall and the weather, ahhhh the weather. It too was beautiful, crisp nights and cool days. Perfect for someone new to fasting. The first year I didn't pray taraweeh; I honestly couldn't keep my mind focused enough but I honestly feel it was almost as essential, those relationships I forged during that time. Sisterhood sustains us.

So oftentimes, I would slip outside and gaze up at the stars. Often I would be thinking of Abu Aaminah, as we were newly married AND newly apart awaiting his arrivial in the US. I had no way of knowing it would take another year but alhamdulillah He gave me the sabr to endure.

Aaminah was my prize. :-)

Even my third Ramadhan, after Aaminah, was beautiful but in a different way. Subhanallah everytime she heard Qur'an she would sit soooo still and just listen. She was only a baby maybe 3 months old and she listened for Allah's words like no other thing. It was amazing to me and she inspired me.

The next Ramadhan she was mobile and the masjid was off limits. We had a tiny little area for sisters so we sat shoulder to shoulder, back to back. Miskeena little Aaminah couldn't even walk and the food was too spicy so that was the year I prayed taraweeh in my home. You can read, as I said above, about this on my blog. Plus laugh at the verrrry high standards I tried to set for myself that year. Yeah, I changed them.

Praying in my home brought a new dimension. :-)

Go on to the next year. Aaminahw as bigger, we attempted the masjid ocassionally. Not so much ibadah unfortunatley but I was a single mom and worked at the masjid and was responsible for signing up iftar sponsors, buying all the non-food supplies, etc. etc. It was a hectic Ramadhan but I felt in many ways I was probably more productive and did more good fi sabilillah.

Last year I was here, married. Talk about culture shock. lol I went from quiet little iftars with friends or Aaminah and I to being responsible for cooking for a family of 6, shopping for Eid clothes, cleaning, and being uber sick. It was hard. I felt like I did absolutely NO ibadah last year. I guess I should re-read last Ramadhan to see what really happened as my memory is soo spotty.

Are ya'll still here? Good, I know I'm rambling a bit. Anyway we tried to go to the masjid a few times but the fitnah, sisters! People literally FIGHTING over food, complaining it wasn't "insert your ethnic group here" enough. It was so disheartening.

Aaminah was too young to be able to stay beside me while I prayed. Our masjid has huge marble, hard marble, staircases that are unprotected. :-( I pray in the women's balcony which had it's own stairs. So last year, no so much.

This year... well we'll see. Insha'Allah khair... Aaminah is older, maybe old enough to go to babysitting but I am afraid of the poor supervision, afraid she'll get scared or will go to find me. You know, the fears of a mama who stays home with her baby all the time.

Since this last incident at the masjid involving FOOD of all things! I am pretty sure I don't wanna go for iftar. I would rather cook myself and see if we can make it in time for taraweeh. This could be the year, sisters, this could be the year. :-)

Let's all make du'a that Allah swt blesses us and helps us to make the most of this coming time. Amin!

A heartfelt thanks :-)

Don't ask, you KNOW these are halal!!!! lol

A'salaamu alaikum ya'll. Really I just gotta give a big ole southern-accented "Jazakum Allahu khairan" to all of my sweet sisters who have commented and made du'a for me. Really it's times like THIS that being part of our virutal ummah is soooo amazing masha'Allah.

While your support doesn't make my problems go away your loving words and remembering me to Allah have helped tremendously.

It just gives me perspective, ya know?

Wallah it's times like these, when sisters I have never met, care enough to lend their support that I know our ummah still has so much beauty and true Islamic character in it.

Thanks and I love you all fi sabilillah!!!!!

July 21, 2011

Heartfelt post

A'salaamu alaikum ya'll. This is a truly personal post, the likes of which I rarely put on blogger. However it's been weighing on me for a long time and I just feel like putting some of it out there.

I've been going through a very difficult time lately. If it were just one area of my life, no sweat. Two things going wrong, I can cope. Three things?? Dude, no worries.

It's not that easy this time. :-( Besides the fact that I am sick ( and getting sicker) I just have a lot of things that need to change.

Often when we go through trials in our life our iman suffers. Up one day, down another, fluctuating as we try to cope and move past or change our situation. I am no different; I have my good days and my less-than-good ones. :-)

Alhamdulillah I at least keep my sense of humor. It helps.

Well guess this isn't so heartfelt as much as it is just to let ya'll know why I'm being a crappy, sporadic blogger lately. You know I am very good at rolling with the punches and keeping an even keel, giving better than I get... are there anymore horrible cliches I can throw out there? lol

Of course part of it is the stress of my stepchildren plus some issues with A that just need to be straightned out. Alhamdulillah he was very receptive when I spoke to him about my concerns which is important in itself. Also my health worsening has just added to it all. I don't really get stressed over it but as I feel physically worse it makes keeping up with all I need to do even harder. I also have some inner issues that I have to decide how to handle.

Wallah it just feels like a lot to deal with at one time and my patience and stamina are running low.

So for now, I'm taking it one day at a time, doing the best I can and managing to neither run away nor hang recalcitrant kiddies by their toes. :-)

Please make dua for me sisters that I get my spiritual and personal house in order and ask Allah to give me patience and MORE patience, amin.

July 19, 2011

Annoyed with blogger

A'salaamu alaikum ya'll. It's been realllly quiet here in blog-land lately. I guess a lot of vacations, etc. BTW, I hate the word "vacay". Nothing personal, it just annoys me. Sounds like a lazy "vacate". :-)

So I tried unsuccessful for a loooong time (longer than I want to admit!) to upload a video of Aaminah with her step-sibling and Alex. Unfortunately either blogger wasn't cooperating or maybe my connection was slow for some reason.

Anyway they didn't get loaded after trying for a couple of days, then I just got annoyed and said, "Whatev!"

So here instead, for your viewing pleasure, are some pics of little Miss Aaminah and her brother. I am sure there might be some others thrown in; really it's just a grab-bag of photos today.

Enjoy and I promise I'll get out of this literary slump and write something almost worth reading. :-)

The look of pure joy from having 4 older siblings to play with you!

I couldn't get ALL of them to look cute at once; I figured Aaminah has the most lee-way to look bad in a pic! lol

Alex sportin' Yousef's jacket. A few sizes too small!

Being gooby at Wal-Mart. :-)

I went to an Indian restaurant with Sr.Lisa and Aliyah. It was AWESOME. She loved it masha'Allah!

The end result. She even picked food up with her naan!

OK so I feel like I've at least posted something. :-) Ma salaama ya'll...

July 12, 2011

When will the summer end?

A'salaamu alaikum. For the first month of summer we had guests here. For a full month, we had people here. It was so great, I loved seeing my son and my best friend but now that excitements over. What to do?

Really it's a quandary. Because of some issues in our family dynamics, I generally only take Aaminah and Zainab (the middle of A's children) with me. Sometimes I take Hafsa but often I do not. Now that it's summer and the kids are home all day it's really put a damper on our local travels.  I like to take Aaminah places, to experience things, to just do stuff, get out of the apartment, be active. Now it's almost impossible because I cannot take all 4 kids anywhere with me.

Although A does work where we live he does actually work. :-) So he can't just come home and stay for 3 hours while I take Aaminah somewhere. My stepchildren have the opportunity to go places with their mother and Aaminah should have the same time with hers.

This is one of the problems with a blended family. I don't want my daughter to suffer from lack of my attention or not get to participate in things because of her step-siblings.

I really don't know a way around this. I'm not complaining for complaints sake, just hoping by writing down my frustrations I can find a way around it. I guess I was so used to being a single parent with my boys (since Zack was 5 and Alex was 2) it's hard for me to structure what I want to do around other people's schedules.

Not so much my husband. During the school year it's easy-breezy. The older ones are in school and I am home with Aaminah. We run our errands and do little fun or special things. I'm just feeling this summer I guess. :-(

I know a lot of you will say, Oh just take all the kids. I cannot. Yousef has behavior issues and absolutely will not listen to nor will he respect me. I no longer take him anywhere with me, period. So once again, back to square one. I do have some sympathy for him, because he is always sad if I take the girls somewhere fun and not him but he has to own his actions and change his behavior.

I also wanted to start preschool with Aaminah this summer as she turned 3 in June. Now it's July and we still haven't started. I have to have quiet for her to concentrate and well... let's just say, quiet isn't in our family's vocabulary. :-(

Wow, this is a pretty whiney post. I think I'll stop it here before I annoy myself! Please make du'a that Allah swt makes it easy for me, amin.

July 7, 2011

A lofty goal

A'salaamu alaikum ya'll. As you know (or should!) Ramadhan is fast approaching. This is the time for us to get our behinds in gear, so to speak, so we can make the most of this blessed month.

I was inspired by Sr. Tuttie on her blog Halilify. She's made a nifty Ramadhan Battle Plan; I downloaded it for free on her website. Now, I'll be honest, I'm not saying I'm going to fill it in (a little new-agey for me lol) but I did read through it and got some inspiration.

It started me thinking about how in life in general if we don't make plans we are just spinning our wheels. Imagine, if Allah did not decree salaat 5 times a day, how many times would we actually turn to our Creator in prayer? The answer is probably dismal.

I realized I have made NO progress in memorization since I had Aaminah. Three years, ya'll. Before that, it wasn't as if I was on the fast-track to becoming a hafiza. Here's my dirty little secret:

I know 4 surat. Fatiha, Ikhlas, Kauthar, and Asr. Yep that;s it. Subhanallah. Oh yeah, I have a myriad of reasons/excuses. Busy mom, sick, no time, I don't understand Arabic, I've had a stroke/I'm memory impaired. However, it boils down to this: I haven't tried.

That's it. Allah says in the Qur'an:

"Indeed we have made the Qur'an easy to understand and remember, then is there any that will remember?" (59:32)

This is a direct admonition from Allah. He is telling us, I have made this easy for you but will you even try? Most of us don't, let's be honest. We are content to lean on our excuses and recite the same surat every salaat. Don't even get me started on understanding the Qur'an; let's take baby steps, ok?

Sooooo with this in mind, I've decided to get serious about learning more Qur'an. Now I have to decide, do I want to concentrate on memorizing or also learning to read the Qur'an?

I think for now I'll work on memorization as my primary goal. I say this because the Prophet Muhammad saws and many of the sahaba were illiterate. They memorized the Qur'an but they did not read it nor did they write it. Allah does not say, I'll make learning Arabic a breeze so I've decided to just focus on what He did promise.

That I, too, can learn. :-) That's a promise I'm gonna rely on for sure.

So I asked my husband for advice on how to structure my learning. It goes against my personality to learn bits and pieces here and there; I want something that makes sense. So of course we discuss the juz or chapters/divisions of the Qur'an. I want to say, I'll learn Juz 30 but I don't wanna set myself up to fail.

I've decided to start at the end and work my way back. As we know, typically the shortest surat are at the end of the Qur'an; there is a sweetness in completing and conquering and I want to taste that. So I am going to start with An-Nas.

I would love to have some of you guys join me. Insha'Allah you are all past what I've managed but I am positive we all have more to learn. If we start now, hit our stride during Ramadhan, by that time it will be second nature and insha'Allah we'll keep it up.

I think the biggest disappointment of Ramadhan is when we make positive changes but they only last the month and then peter out. For example, who is EVER late for maghrib during Ramadhan? Ha! Nobody! We are all jostling for a drink, a date (the yummy halal kind!), some fruit to break our fast. So alhamdulillah after last year my family and I have kept to that. We pray maghrib on time.

ON TIME. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. And alhamdulillah we are better for it and insha'allah earning the pleasure of Allah.

So my goal, to restate: becoming serious about learning more Qur'an. I will NOT give myself a time limit or a specific goal other than to work on it everday.

Every.Day.Period.  No excuses, no "I'm tired" cause I'm sure if something really fun came up I'd find a way to do that.

Please made dua that Allah swt guides me and helps me in my goal. Please join me if you like and post updates here on my blog or on your own. I want us to inspire each other, sisters!!!

Oh and my house guest is gone. Of course I miss my friend but now it's back to business as usual. ma salaama!