Sunday, October 31, 2010

Book Launch at JW Marriot Hotel KL

Life is always full of surprises!

I cannot agree more! After many changes, insha Allah my book will be launched in November at a Charity Hi Tea Gala Function! Of course its not the highlight of the event but nevertheless, it will be part of a very prestigeous and elegant setting. And insha Allah some people there may be interested enough to want to know just why being covered up is beautiful!

I want to thank many of my sisters have who bought tickets for this charity event and look forward to being with them on this happy occasion.

I Feel so Very Blessed!

Sister Jamilah Samian and Zabrina Abu Bakar
2 Inspiring Writers in our midst!

Alhamdulillah! I really feel blessed to have met 2 very well known Muslimah writers! Sister Jamilah Samian is no stranger to parents of young children. She has a wealth of knowledge on how to understand and raise our children in a caring, productive and spiritual manner. And I enjoy listening to her talks as she shared insights and advice on how to bring the best out of our children.

I met sister Zabrina Abu Bakar on several occasions. She too,is also an active volunteer in ngo activities. She may not remember me as we didn't have much time to talk but I looked forward to meeting her again.

Sisters Writing Support Group

I told sister Jamila how nice it would be if sisters can meet to discuss ideas and support and motivate each other to produce more meaningful and quality books. Being relatively new I would certainly value some tips from our seasoned writers.

Please, Everybody - Start Writing!

In fact I encourage everyone to write. It is very addictive and satisfying. We try to share our thoughts, ideas and knowledge through a string of words..... sometimes the flow of words end in an interesting and unexpected twist. I occasionally surprise myself that I could suddenly think of a powerful phrase or idea. Subhan Allah! The Almighty sends help and inspiration when we sometimes hit a writer's block!

The Beauty of Covering Up -hot off the press!

Yes! the long awaited moment... my book is published! Alhamdulillah! After so many changes, drafts, redrafts, fighting for time and juggling between all my various duties and activities - we made it!

I have to thank my design team as they really tried their best to come up with a concept that reflects my personality and expectations. I did try to be less demanding (I don't like to make people suffer) but they were really pushing the limits and telling me not to settle for less!

Sister Yasmin Gan had, a few years ago when I shared my aspiration to publish my own book on Islamic garments said she would like to produce my book for me. That spurred me on as an experienced publisher would consider my materials suitable for publishing.

When I openly expressed my desire to publish my book, there were several suggestions. Some friends asked me to let someone else publish it and the company would take care of everything. Yes, from artwork, layout, concept and even the financing! Sounds too good to be true?

I was realy quite interested but I wanted to be part of the process of concept and design. I needed someone with a sharp eye and mind to tell me how to improve my book. I needed support and motivation, someone to guide me and challenge me improve myself.

So I didn't really have the choice but to self publish. And I don't regret it as I now have the freedom to share my books with more people and also determine where to market my books. I want to share and I want it to be affordable. Being self published means I can adjust the pricing to suit the situation. I can even give a discount at a book signing event if its held in a private location. I do not need to pay the publisher any royalties. The best is I can insha Allah sell my books to many parts of the country and the world!

If I were writing a book that has little colour and illustrations perhaps would be more feasible to seek the help of a friendly publisher. If the book is full of illustrations, we need a dedicated creative team to make the best of it and publishers may not be keen to invest on that. We can't have everything.

I am of course on the look out anyway, I want to know my options. That's because as I am already dreaming of my next book!

Alhamdulillah! I love my book! I hope you do too.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tinkling of a bell

I wasn't sure I did hear a tinkle.... yes! Its the same sound again. I looked out the open glass door and saw a young white and yellow cat with a collar. I called it softly. Miss Cat looked at me and decided its safer to move on.

Joys and Pains of having a Pet

I lost my brown 'Burmese' cat a few months ago, before I moved house. One day we found her lying at by the side of the road, body still warm. We rushed her to the vet but we were too late.

Loving Constant Companion
Source of Joy

She was a most affectionate and cute cat, an excellent companion for my mother and they had an unusual bond. She probably gave my mother more joy than some people she knew.

Miss Stitch
Once, Miss Stitch went missing for 3 whole days and we thought we had lost her.

Sir Grey and Black Stripes
to the rescue!

She had an ardent admirer, Sir Grey and Black Stripes. He talked a lot though we didn't understand a word he said. He used to cry at our backyard, looking for Stitch when she went missing. On the 3rd day, we noticed him facing the glass door of our neighbour. After crying incessantly for some time, my son noticed the glass door opening slowly and Stitch bounded out of their house. Sir Grey stopped wailing and then we suddenly realised that he was calling for her!

Catnapped by Neighbour

She jumped over the half wall and was home again! Well, true how unpredictable some people (and cats) are, she rewarded him by swiping his face with her claws. Wonder what was that all about? Son said probably to tell him "What took you so long!!!".

Happy and Sad Memories

Actually the old home held a lot of sad as well as happy memories for all of us. Lost my mother as well and a physical move in a way helped me to accept reality and gave me the momentum to move on with my life.

Not everyone is blessed with good parents. Sure there were disagreements and differences in opinions and vision. However parents are a source of support, a point of reference and a refuge when you find the world is against us. Anyway,at least most of the time during our childhood.

Doing it Alone - a lonely journey

The only difficult time was during my journey to Islam, where I had to do it alone and it upset her a lot to think she was losing me in the process.I consider it my ignorance and lack of experience. Sometimes we did not mean to hurt someone but did it anyway. The most important thing is to make peace and seek forgiveness. From man and from Allah SWT.

Allah SWT Forgives those who Repent Sincerely

Allah SWT constantly forgives us when we repent. Be quick and sincere with saying "Astaghfirullah" and make solat taubat. He forgives when we ask fervently, not just expect to be forgiven without any effort whatsoever. Its best to also make up for it by doing some good deeds and say something good if we wronged someone.

Muslims are Big Hearted and Forgiving

Islam encourages us to be just and be big hearted, forgive and do not be angry. Sometimes we do very mean and stupid things when anger blinds us.

Not Easy to Deal with other People sometimes

There are matters that Allah SWT will leave to us to settle between mankind. So we need to apologise and seek forgiveness from people we have hurt or offended or had done injustice to. If we do not, it may affect our standing on Day of Judgement and the 'victim' may not forgive us and ask for justice from Allah Almighty.

Saying Sorry is indeed very hard to do

Saying Sorry is truly difficult sometimes, especially when its not entirely our fault! Is it the ego, the fear of being rejected, the embarrassment, the fear of others finding our our weaknesses or the fear of the repercussion? Maybe a mixture of all these.

Purification of our Soul

We sometimes have the right intention but cannot find the right moment. Actually there is no perfect moment and if the matter is really serious, just do it and move on. This act of repentance and confronting our own weaknesses insya Allah helps us in more ways that we realise.

Repentance Helps Us a Great Deal

It can help us to be stronger,to correct ourselves, to be braver and to remember it doesn't really matter that much if people think we had been real mean, selfish, or silly, or vain to have committed such mistakes. That's the truth about us so do not live a lie!

No One is Perfect
Everybody makes mistakes

Everybody make mistakes. Do not live in denial. We will be the biggest losers. The niyyah (intention) is to please Allah SWT and to purify our own souls.This humbling experience will remind us of our frailities in this world and our smallness in the universe.

We can be Winners

To be able to apologise unburdens our souls. To have courage and determination seeking the pleasure of Allah SWT makes us winners. And it needs strength to be humble. Pride and Arrogance are weaknesses so we need to keep away from people and activities that make us forget our true position in this lifetime - we are the beloved servants of Allah SWT!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Counting my blessings

Alhamdulillah my son is not interested in branded goods and fancy gadgets. Many designer goods are indeed of good design and quality but a little above our average budget, even if its tax free. The sole distributor may end up making more profit after the sales tax is abolished. Anyway, that's why we are in business!

Not Fussy so long clothes are comfortable

He wears anything given to him, from designer clothes, hand me downs, from bargain bins to Rm5 ones from a charity sale. Sure, he enjoys upgrading his computer and laptop, who doesn't? But I do not have to keep on buying him expensive designer shirts and bags, shoes and accessories like some parents I know. I buy them for myself as I work hard so if the price is right, I may think about it.... We only generally indulge in activities like good company, buying books and eating well. Not exactly healthy to eat out though we like it too, but I do try to cook wholesome meals whenever I have time.

Sacrificing our own Needs

Today I'm expecting delivery of some furniture and do hope they will fit well into his room. Fell in love with some rustic wooden items in a shop. Actually I should be using the cash to purchase the bookcases I need.

Son is really quite an independent person. He seldom ever requests for extravagant personal items and makes do with whatever is available. In fact I'm really thankful he is not like some pretentious kid who wants exactly what his peers have. Alhamdulillah (all praise to Allah) he is not a follower.

Acknowledging and Appreciating our Children

So, for all his good deeds and patience, I want to thank him and surprise him by upgrading his room - long overdue as he is already 21.

Make Duaa for your Family all the time

Im not asking for an A student or a perfect son. I make duaa (supplications) to Allah SWT to give me a son who is soleh (pious). We have to keep asking if we need Allah's help. "Ya Allah, please keep our faith (iman) strong and let us live as a Muslims and die as Muslims".Ameen.

Happy ChildhoodTeaTime Memories

Waiting for the cake timer to ring. The buttercakes are almost done now. I generally know when its almost ready - buttery and vanilla fragrance is wafting right into the living room. Mmmmm.... feels so good because it brings back the memories of childhood. Mom would be baking and we would be eagerly anticipating a delicious tea spread. It wasn't everyday that we would get to have pancakes, waffles and cupcakes. Sometimes its just some hot Milo and cream crackers or some butter cookies.

Mom's Cooking is Best!

Children always think mom's cooking is the best ever! Do you agree with that? I do, as none of us can ever cook as well as she did. If you have a favourite dish, do not take it for granted that you will eventually learn how to do it someday. And its a great way to introduce mom to the younger generation who may find it hard to imagine grandma.

Honour our Parents and the Elderly

Honour our parents and the elderly while they are still with us. Do not have regrets that you couldn't find time to be with them. They made time for us for many many years, from birth to adulthood. What do you mean when you say you do not have time to visit or attend to their needs? We usually find time to have coffee and maybe even take a short holiday with friends. Make time for people you love and who will always love you in return.

A Squirrel Visitor

Squirrels in the Apartment

Its fun to see little squirrels sprinting all over the garden but when a naughty and curious one decided to keep visiting, he has outworn his welcome.

There is this little hyper one that had been visiting for the past few days - getting braver now. Even went as far as the kitchen which is at the back of the apartment.

Once it got so scared when he saw us that he ran everywhere and jumped onto my father's bed when he was resting. It was all over his bed and he slept through it all! A good thing too - dad has heart problem so it could be too shocking for him to have a squirrel jumping next to him.

My son said we ought to get a mouse trap and see if we could catch it. He would love to experience having a little brown squirrel pet for at least a few hours. Poor squirrel, I don't think it would like it at all!.

They love the wild but they are getting unnatural now. Or is it perhaps they do not have enough food now that the trees are cut down indiscriminately? Man is often to blame for the woes of the little creatures that live around us.

Squirrels sometimes even eat birds' eggs. They probably eat fruits and nuts though I have seen a squirrel eating cat biscuits.

Story of a Friendly Kitten and a Squirrel

Its true! Once I saw a squirrel eating right next to my yellow tabby - side by side! Well, she didn't get her name Friendly Kitten for nothing. Even from a tender age, she was always kind and caring to others. She would also entertain us and love us unconditionally. Never haughty or naughty, like other cats we had.

When she grew up we called her Girl. She seldom spoke and used to be silent, looking into our eyes quietly, deep in thought. She sometimes used her paw to scoop up her biscuits. Its quite surreal - so humanlike! And she would massage us with her paws, as if to show her affection. Girl disappeared for a few months - we thought we lost her for good.

Strange Scratching Sound at Night

One night I heard a weird and sinister sound at my upstair bedroom window. It was really quite creepy but I just had to find out what was making that sound. I whipped open the curtain and I saw Girl! Seated upright, and using her 2 front paws to scratch the window pane. I let her in and discovered she was big and round. Girl was going to be a mother and she came home to deliver! Humanlike, don't you think?

Maybe the people whom she adopted decided to throw her out as they couldn't deal with the possibility of a bunch of messy kittens in their home. Anyway, Welcome Home, Girl!

Recipes : Cream Puffs and Italian Creme Potatoes

Been thinking of making delightful cream puffs for a few weeks already. Sometimes we need to have the right mood before we embark on a baking session. A friend ordered a chocolate cake with whipped cream topping, heavily sprinkled with pistachios. I had to buy a whole box of cream and there were times when I had to throw it all away because I did not have time to make anything with it.

Certain baking ingredients are very costly now. And cream cannot keep well so I decided to be a little hardworking. My friend Latifah simply loves cream puffs. Hope she liked the ones I made.

Choux Pastry for Cream Puffs

Bring to boil 150 ml water.
Add 2 oz butter
Once its melted, remove pan from heat and immediately
Add in 2.5 oz sifted plain flour

Stir very quickly with wooden spoon to combine mixture to a
smooth paste . Cool it slightly for around 2 minutes.

Place the dough into cake mixer and turn mixer on briefly to cool the dough.
Beat 2 eggs and gently pour in the egg mixture little by little, with the machine running at slow speed. Increase speed a little after each addition of eggs.
Do not use large eggs as mixture should not be too soft runny.
Do not overbeat if using machine. The paste should have a nice shine, not dull and dry.

Now place batter in a piping bag with a very large star nozzle so you can pipe out the pastry. To save time, you can make little mounds or short straight lines for eclairs.

Place puffs well apart on dampened baking sheets, lightly greased sheets or line with silicone sheets.

Bake at high temperature of around 200 deg C or 400 deg F for 45 to 50 mins. Do not underbake or pastry will deflate and be damp in the center. After its nicely light golden brown and firm, remove and split the puffs halfway horizontally with a sharp knife to release the steam.

Whip some fresh cream or make some delicious custard to fill the puffs.
Dip the tops in melted plain chocolate if desired.

Yesterday I visited a friend and had a delicious meal there. She generously taught me how to make some Italian Potatoes. Maybe you can make them for your family - really quick, easy and delicious too! I made them this morning as I happened to have extra cream. Here it goes :

Italian Creme Potatoes

Peel and boil 3 large potatoes. Cut them in 2 if you are in a hurry.
Meanwhile slice a large onion, 3 pips garlic and fry in some olive oil.
Add a few pinches of sea salt and pepper to taste.
Now add the boiled and drained potatoes to the fried onions and garlic.
Mix it up gently with wooden spoon and add around half a cup of cream.
Sprinkle mozzarella cheese and mix lightly.
Bake in the oven to brown it if desired.

I did not do that as I was in a hurry to go out. It was nice and moist. Had it for brunch with onion and tomato salad, baked beans and fried nuggets with veggie filling on the side. That's my version of a quick brunch, though fried nuggets are not too healthy.

You can also add a little minced meat when you brown the onions.
For a change, sprinkle finely chopped parsley or scallions.
Serve with bread and salad for a quick meal.

Thank you Doctor C Noraini for sharing!

Remembering Ramadhan

Missing Ramadhan already! Came and went just like that...!!! Been a frantic month, trying to work, fulfil spiritual obligations, social obligations and fervently seeking Allah SWT's rewards, guidance and blessings!

Also a big change in our routine - sleeping hours sharply reduced and turned topsy turvy - all for a good cause. And the feeling of unity, compassion and heightened spirituality. How beautiful is Ramadhan!

Resolutions - not made to be broken
Promise of a Muslim to Oneself.

As usual made a little resolution to improve myself a little more this year. Actually we can make resolutions anytime of year but Ramadhan is like a major milestone. I will know how much I managed to achieved by checking myself. Where do I stand by next Ramadhan? If we treat our resolutions carelessly, it actually means we do not treat our own thoughts and intentions with respect and sincerity. It may be difficult to fulfil some resolutions but they must never be taken lightly. Or else why bother to try to be 'r e s o l u t e'?

Keep a Journal, Make a Plan
Try Mind Mapping

Write your own journal to chart your own course and check your progress. You can also do mind mapping - it will bring out the creativity in you!

Its more organised and keeps us on track. Actually we should best begin before Ramadhan, plan and try to fulfil some resolutions for Remadhan, follow up in Shawal and carry on until the next Ramadhan. May Allah SWT give us the opportunity to benefit from another Ramadhan, the most blessed month.

Salams Friends - Good to back again!

Major Changes in My Life

Time just whizzed past at an astonishing speed! Between June and October I managed to sell my home, relocated myself to a more convenient place, bought myself a car, completed my book that took ages to write and unpacking almost done! Just too many books to sort out - so hard to throw them out! They are some of my best companions.

I love some of my old clothes too. I still wear my favorites though some are really rather old! Still look good and really comfortable. Go for quality. I trim my wardrobe often as space is limited.

Sharing Preloved Clothes and Possessions

I like to share my clothes. People share their clothes with me too. Why hang on to clothes which we seldom use? We may still love them and treasure some extra sentimental pieces but what good will that do? It only takes up precious space and deprive others of enjoying them. I do keep some special pieces but if we enjoy buying new clothes all year round, its time for them to find a new home.

Preloved clothes are as good as any new ones. After a few washes, new ones too will be considered preloved. So share them with your friends and they in turn can share them with others.

There is no shame or embarassment in accepting preloved clothes. Feel complimented that your friend has chosen you to share her clothes. I tell them to pass them on if the clothes are not their size or taste. Do not be sensitive if they do not wear them. Do you like to be pressured to wear clothes that you feel do not suit you? The only problem is some friends greedily accept your clothes, never wear them and never gave them to others. They hoard their clothes and continue to hoard yours too! Solution - never share anything else with them anymore until they learn how to share!

Be Gracious and Humble

For the recepient, be polite and accept the clothes graciously. Do not feel offended or too proud to accept a kind offer. I like it when people give me their nice clothes. I love them for it. And its also an opportunity to be humble.

Some people feel they are too good to wear preloved clothes. You won't be offered any if the owner does not like you. I for one would not want someone I dislike to wear my clothes. I'd rather send them to a charity box by the roadside.

Give Only the Good Stuff

Remember, do not give away clothes that need mending; fix the buttons, wash, press and pack them neatly if you have the time. Do not give your friends or even strangers worn out, ugly and outdated clothes. Only the good stuff.

Respect Others

Do not think its alright to treat your dear friend with disrespect and expect her to be happy to accept our 'awful discards'. She may well decide to discard you in return for your unkind and insulting treatment.