Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Feature-Ramadhan and scheduled posts

Asalamu alaikum,

The month of Ramadhan is coming up shortly, and InshAllah I will be cutting down a lot on the amount of time I spend on the internet, and by the end of the month I will be in the habit of using it much less. I think that will be a pretty good thing too, as I probably spend far too much time on random useless web surfing.

So I have decided to schedule some blog posts for the month, and not have any "live" posts. This will be the last live post this month. I will still come online once in a while to check how every one is doing and to publish any comments, so comment away!

I have already preparing. Thoroughly cleaning the house, started freezing things like kebabs, samose and other quick things. Basically things I can just pop in the frying pan and heat up for suhoor(pre-fasting meal) and fry up for iftar(fast breaking meal). Tried to think of some new stuff to learn to break up our routine, like tonight I learned how to make ras gulla(cheese based sweet in sugar syrup). I have been looking up different recipes and taking notes, to rotate with our regular favorites.

I have also started learning some new surah to add to what I already know, as I have a goal to meet during the month. I have already memorized surah Al-Lahab, and am working on surah An-Nasr.

InshAllah you will have a blessed month, I'll be back afterwards, live posting, and with a smaller internet habit! :-)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wednesday mini tutorial-Measuring a kameez

Asalamu alaikum,

Today's mini tutorial will be how to measure a kameez to get your own fitting. I find it useful to keep a small notebook with my own measurements written down to refer to any time I am sewing my own clothes, so that I don't have to take measurements each time. I also keep track of any measurements for people I regularly sew for-my sisters in law, my son, my niece and nephews, etc. You can use any ready made or tailored kameez that fits you properly. Flip the kameez inside out and lay it out on a flat surface.

Step 1 Length-Measure from the top of the shoulder seam to the damman(bottom of the shirt). Add two inches to your measurement, for the hem and shoulder seam allowance.

Step 2 Width-Measure at the widest point of your shirt. This will generally be the damman as many shirts are a couple of inches wider at this point than the hips, but not always, it depends on your body shape and kameez style. Take the measurement of the widest point and add 2 inches(for seam allowance or the folding over of the chauk/sides of the bottom of the shirt).

Step 3 Hips-Sometimes the hips will be slightly less wide than the damman. If it is not and you just want a straight chauk, then it just mark down the same width as the damman.

Step 4 Center back-This is the narrowest part of the kameez, about 6-8 inches under the bust line. Find the narrowest lines of stitching and mark down the number.

Step 5 Bust line-At the bottom of the curve of the arm holes measure the width, between the two lines of stitching. Add two inches for seam allowance.

Step 6 Side seams-You need to find out the length of distance between the bust line, center of back and hips. Basically how long the side seams should be. Between the bust line and the center back should be 6-8(or more) inches. If you have a larger bust then the distance will be more than if you have a smaller bust. Between the center back and the hips will also be around 6-8 inches, taller people, or people with longer torsos will need a longer measurement. You don't want the seam to be too short or it will not cover your waist, at the side openings your belly may peek out. I tend to go with a bit longer side seam and make the hips a bit loose to make sure that doesn't happen.

Step 7 The shoulders-Measure from the seam on one shoulder straight to the seam on the opposite shoulder. Generally this will be around 14". Add an inch to the measurement for the seam allowances.

Step 8 Sleeve length-Measure from the hem of the sleeve to the seam at the shoulders. Add 2 inches to the measurement for the hem and the shoulder seam allowance.

Step 9 Sleeve opening- On the bottom of the sleeve measure from the fold down to the seam line. The sleeve pictured above has a sort of bell shape that is wide at the opening then narrows a bit at the forearm, then widens again. An average straight sleeve would be 5-6 inches.

Step 10 Sleeve width-Find the widest point of the sleeve, just at the base of the curved part, and measure the width from the fold to the seam line.

Step 11 Arm Scythe/top of sleeve- Measure diagonally from the top to the sleeve where the fold is, to the bottom where the seam is. Add one inch for seam allowance.

Step 12-Neck hole depth-Measure from the top of the shoulder seam, to the bottom of the neck opening.

Step 13 Neck hole width. measure from one side of the neck opening to the other.

Measurements needed-
Width(widest point)
Center back
Distance between Bust/center back and Center back/hips
Shoulder width
Sleeve length
Sleeve opening width
Width of sleeve
Arm scythe/top of sleeve
Neck hole depth
Neck hole width

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rain...sort of

Asalamu Alaikum,

Just hours after my my last post(with rain related haiku!), the sky got dark...

And then it rained(it was a bit wetter than this but it dried a bit before I took the picture)....

And then 15 minutes later it was as if nothing had happened...

The birds were hanging out, the sky lightened up and all was normal again.

Three Haiku of Frustration

Asalamu alaikum,

~~Almost August~~
Sky is always grey.
Not a drop comes, such dry days.
Now, where is the rain?

~~Waiting on Rain~~
Patiently we wait.
Maybe not so patiently.
Last night sirf five drops.

~~Section Officer(Visa)~~
I don't believe that,
You have no email access.
You give only stress.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Asalam Alaikum,

Sorry for the long absence, I have just been having an off week. Family drama and the general atmosphere of the city have just gotten to me.

The situation in Karachi has been getting crazy, and it is nerve racking when Tariq has to go outside. For the past couple of days there have been 12-15 people killed each day. It is just nuts, all we can do is pray it will get better soon.

We did go to visit one of my SIL's the other day, and so that was fun. On the ride there we past some sort of rally near a rotary, they were complaining about something that included Amreekans, but Tariq refused to translate. On the way home we had to go by a different route because it was dark and the way we had come was a bit too remote to be driving around in the night.

I have also been trying to get ready for Ramadhan, getting the house in order, starting to work on memorizing some new surahs to get a jump on what I want to work on during the month. InshAllah I'll be posting more regularly, for a bit anyways.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Our SubhanAllah moment for today.

Asalamu alaikum,

For the past two days Saad has been asking for balloons. He loves to bounce them around in the air and will spend hours playing with them. We decided to go to Makro(kind of like a Wal-mart) last night and so I promised him we would get some while we were at the store.

He asked me at least twenty times about the silly balloons, and I kept promising him he would get them when we went to the store. He had been fairly fussy all day, I think he is just so bored of being alone.

So we went to the Makro, and wandered around for a while. We picked out some stuff, had some tea and snacks in the cafe, and then decided to leave. We made one final detour through the toy aisle, and only remembered the balloons when we walked by the little party decorations section.

We looked at the balloons, but Tariq said it was way too expensive for such a tiny little pack. He said we could pick up a bigger package from the store near the house(and it would cost less too). MashAllah, Saad, my little sweet heart, did not fuss that he couldn't have his balloons right then.

So we left the Makro, and headed home, but it was really too late to stop for the balloons. When we got home I felt so bad that we hadn't got the balloons. Saad was a little upset, so to distract him I remembered that we had picked up a bottle of "Ice Cream syrup"(kind of like Rooh afza juice but green), and it came with a little free surprise.

Trying to get him to forget his balloons until tomorrow, I made a bid deal of asking him what could be inside? It worked. He was so excited by the little plastic egg, that he forgot the balloons. We pulled it out of its plastic wrapper and bent close together to open it.

What was inside? A bright red balloon! SubhanAllah! Saad was so overjoyed to see that balloon, and Tariq and I couldn't stop smiling.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

It all looks so easy in the TV

Asalamu alaikum,

The past couple of days I have begun to get a bit worried that maybe our little fascination with survival shows on the Discovery channel might be getting a little out of hand.

Tariq, Saad and I have been going up on the roof during our late afternoon load shedding time to get some outside time because it is just too hot to sit inside without fans. Usually I sit and do a bit of knitting, or writing, and the boys fly kites. Sometimes I'll bring some juice and a snack and we'll have a little picnic.

Our little roof play time has now become an exercise in survival techniques. Most specifically how to make fire. At first it was just Saad, he would take some little sticks from an old kite, and try to twirl them between his palms on top of an old board. Then Tariq got involved. Then I had to have a go.

After I got a blister on one hand, I gave up and went back to my knitting. Tariq has even tried a technique that he saw on Dual Survival, which involved a mobile phone battery and a bit of steel wool. He has a plan that he will learn how to make a fire, practice now, and then have it all down when we get to the US and want to go camping.

Almost a week of trying and still no fire, maybe I should google it?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Feature-Heat and Load shedding survival tips

Asalamu alaikum,

The heat of summer is in full force now, and the load shedding is getting worse every day. InshAllah, soon the rain will start and it will help cool off the city a bit. :-)

So here are a couple of quick tips for heat/load shedding survival!

These are one of your best friends when the lights go out. I love these woven fans, we usually have plain ones for our own daily use and some pretty colored ones on hand for guests. Also they are very cheap-15-25 rupees, so when the kids break them, they are easy to replace.

Emergency lights! Plug it in and turn on, then they automatically turn on when the lights go. Much safer than a candle, and on a full charge some get up to 8 hours of continuous use. We have hooks placed in certain rooms of the house, so you can just pop the light on the hook in the wall and not have to worry that it will fall off a table or something like that.
Water coolers. We empty our 5 gallon bottles of water into the cooler, and drop in a bowl of ice. We don't bother with ice cubes, they would never last! Instead we keep 4-5 bowls of bottled water in the freezer and then just dump a new bowl into the cooler. It does have to be cleaned out fairly often, so that is one of Tariq's chores.

A generator. Worth more than it's weight in gold. The normally run on petrol/gasoline, but here in Karachi they can be fitted with a converter to run off of CNG, like the cars. This one is strong enough to run all the lights and fans, the TV, and the pumps to fill the water tanks, but not the AC, the refrigerator, or oddly the iron. So if you have a function to go to, better to press your clothes early, as the lights will almost surely go out while you are getting ready!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wednesday mini Tutorial-Contrasting reverse neck facing

Asalamu alaikum,

Today's tutorial is another simple way to embellish a plain kameez, with a reversed neck facing. Normally when making the facing for the neck you would use a piece of the same cloth and fold it inwards so that it is hidden. In this tutorial we are going to use a piece of contrasting fabric(in my case from the shalwar), and fold the facing from the inside out to create a contrasting band of color around the neck.
Step One
Most often my neck hole openings are six inches across by six inches deep, so the interfacing should be two inches wider than your opening, and one inch deeper(in this case 8"x7", the picture above is actually about 9" because my selection widens a bit at the bottom). Fold the interfacing in half and draw out the shape of your neck.

Step Two
Cut along the inner and outer lines and discard the extra.

Step Three
Place the fusible interfacing on a piece of contrasting fabric and iron in place.

Step Four
Trim the outer edges to half an inch.

Step Five
Place your neck facing on the wrong side of the kameez, and sew one line around the inner side of the interfacing.

Step Six
Cut the inner piece of both the kameez and the neck facing, just outside the line of stitching(leave a bit less than a quarter inch of fabric).

Step Seven
Fold the neck facing out to the right side of the kameez, and sew one line of stitches on the very edge of the neck line.

Step Eight
Carefully fold the extra fabric around the edges of the facing under and sew a ling of stitches along the very edge of the facing.

Here is how it will look after you finish the sewing.

Full view of the contrast, reverse neck facing. After completing this you would just continue with the kameez as normal.

Monday, July 11, 2011

TV- what we watch

Asalamu alaikum,

We are a bit obsessed with the Discovery Channel. It's in Hindi over here so Tariq understands pretty much everything, and it helps me understanding spoken Urdu/Hindi, a bit too. Our current favorite is "Dual Survival", with Cody and Dave. I was watching some clips of the English version on the website, and it seems like they are much more polite when speaking Hindi. ;-)

There is also a couple other shows we watch frequently-

"Man vs. Wild", none of us like this one too much, Bear Grylls is a bit extreme, and Saad says he eats "gunda(dirty) things". But we watch anyway, because there are some interesting things, and the weird fascination of watching him eat raw/living things, eeewww!

"Survivor Man with Les Stroud"-We like this one more than "Man Vs Wild", he normally cooks his food and is a bit more practical. Plus he is totally alone which makes it a bit more interesting with the camera work.

"Whale Wars"-Interesting show. Saad laughs when they throw stuff(some foul smelling acid?) at the whaling boats.

"Swords:Life on the Line"-Also pretty cool, but a couple of the guys are really annoying and you kind of just wish they would stop their complaining already.

Alhamdulillah we have been watching less random programs, and more educational stuff, Saad still likes his cartoons though(he is crazy for Ben 10). We have a nightly routine, we all go up to our room, get comfy and watch our regular shows. About half way through our TV time I usually make a small snack, chai and bread with butter or jam, or a plate of Mangoes or something. Then after "Dual Survivor" Saad is usually asleep, Tariq and I pray fajr then go to sleep. Our sleep schedule is pretty weird, but on the plus side, we don't over sleep and miss fajr,and we like to joke that we are practicing for America, sleeping at 5AM is a nice early bedtime of 8pm in Boston!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Feature-Another ban on double sawari(pillion riding) in Karachi

Asalamu Alaikum,

Two days ago here in Karachi the police imposed an indefinite ban on double sawari or pillion riding(second person behind the driver on a motor cycle). It was announced on all news channels about an hour or two before the ban went into effect, and there have been several reports on different news channels about the difficulties it has caused. Many people seem to be upset that there was such short notice, if they were working and had no access to a TV, how would they know about the ban?

It is an effort by police to curb rising incidences of "target killings" in the city. Mostly it seems a lot like security theater, like making people remove their shoes in an airport. It will probably do very little to stop the killings, and will increase hardships for people who rely on being able to ride pillion. For example a family that has only one motor cycle, and several brothers need to be able to use it. If they can't ride pillion then how can one person drop off another and then go on to his own errands?

The ban does not affect several groups of people-women, children, the elderly, and journalists. So Tariq, Saad and I can travel together, but Tariq and his brother could not. Alhamdulillah we have two motor cycles so they can each take one, and not have any problems. The only time we have had any trouble with the bans is when Tariq's father is in Karachi, as he does not drive at all. MashAllah he does not look elderly/infirm or anything and he and Tariq have been pulled over before because no one believes that he is old enough to be exempt from the bans!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday Feature-Help Help, I am drowning in Mangoes!

Asalamu Alaikum,

I was just reading on Wikipedia about different mango varieties, and it lists Pakistan as having twelve different types of mangoes. Today we had three different types for dessert-Sindhri, Langra, and Chausa. I had never really liked mangoes before moving here, maybe because I had never had a Pakistani mango before?

When the season comes, we buy mangoes daily, by the crate. Some are smaller than my fist, and others as large as Saad's head. Some varieties are better cut into slices, and some we just squeeze in their skin until all the pulp is liquified and then pop the top off and drink it like a juice box. The larger varieties we usually cut up and put in the blender with some milk and make really thick milk shakes.

The one thing that is a bit annoying is that eating so many mangoes can get messy! Saad especially is a master at ruining his clothes(or mine when he grabs my shirt with sticky mango hands) while eating mangoes.

Because of this, when he was little we devised the perfect method to feed babies mango with easy clean up. First I put a layer of newspaper on the floor, then striped Saad and my nephews down to the diapers, put them in the very center of the newspapers along with the plate of mango slices, then stood far away until they were done. One person would grab each baby, dripping with mango, and quickly head to the bathroom to give them a post mango bath, while another person would roll up and throw away the soggy newspapers.

I really wish I had taken pictures of Saad at this point. He was covered in mango from his head to toes, but he was so happy and smiley. He loves mangoes so much, he would eat nothing else all day if we let him.

Any one have any suggestions what to do with so many mangoes? Any recipes for interesting desserts? By the end of the season, we will have eaten so many mangoes that we never want to see another mango again. Until next season, when the cycle starts anew!