Aqeela's home and garden...

A blog about gardening, cooking, reading, crafting, homemaking, days out with nature, mothering and second hand brikabrak. A simple life with simple pleasures... remembering my ordinary days...

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Ideas for Summer Fun...

If you have school age kids then I'm guessing your days have been jiggled around a bit for the past few weeks due to the Summer holidays? Some find it stressful and exhausting and struggle with the difference in lifestyle whilst others settle down with ease and take true joy in having the kids around more. I will admit that there have been times where I've felt quite stressed about school holidays as I find a lack of alone time quite draining, but as D ages I am finding long stretches of time together more enjoyable. As he has always been an only child we have both learnt how to give each other enough time both together and apart for us to find a way that works for us. We haven't really struggled to find things to do yet, some days have been expensive and full whilst others have been simple, homely and without us spending a single penny. Here's a few snippets from our Summer so far, and some ideas for you too I hope...

1/ Travel on Public Transport - a bus, a train, even a traditional black cab. For a few months now Ive had my own car (we shared for years without much of a problem) so me and D have neglected our rides on public transport. We have taken a bus into town and been on loads of trains / tubes during a week in London (The photo shows London's Stratford Station.). I have one more train journey planned for us insha'Allah.

2/ Visit your nearest Botanical Garden - If you live in the UK find it here. Don't be concerned about the lack of a play area, there is still plenty to enjoy, take a scooter if you like. (Here we are at Leicester Botanic Garden.)

3/ Drive into the countryside - We parked on the road side and watched cows for half an hour (in Wistow). There's always plenty to see... if only you pull over on lay by's, leave the car, and explore public footpaths. Your local Council website should be able to help you find some public footpaths in countryside near you, and also try the ordnance survey map of your area (available in libraries).

4/ Visit a farm - D went on his first school trip to West Lodge Rural Centre a few months ago, he enjoyed it immensely and talked about it non-stop! So we took a visit together and it was lovely, we shall definitely be returning!

5/ Explore the garden for creatures and take an identification guide outside with you - You might just be surprised at exactly what you find! (Borrow the guide from the library if you haven't got one at home... and that's another way to spend half a day too!) We found this lot yesterday whilst weeding the driveway but also found three or four species of caterpillar, a cricket, woodlice, another type of snail, an ants nest, slugs, shield bugs, beetles, worms and an earwig.

6/ Visit a city or town - maybe its your local city / town but you dont go often, or maybe somewhere new and furthur afield. Pack your own lunch and enjoy window shopping and a free museum / library / attraction there and all you really need to spend is the price of the petrol / transport. (Last week we spent a week in London, whoop whoop... full blog posts coming soon insha'Allah.)

7/ Clear out toys / book shelves / cuboards / wardrobes etc - This can turn into one or two days worth of work and getting the kids involved is a great way to tackle it all. Keep it fun rather than stressful and im sure they will rediscover old things and realise they are now too grown up for others. Our toy clear out resulted in a big fancy dress / imaginative play session!

8/ Find a crafting project on your Pinterest board and actually do it! - If you are on pinterest then youve probably pinned a million ideas and perhaps never done one?!? Well, me and my boy looked through my 'For the Boy' board and were inspired to paint stones... a great two day project for us.

9/ Go to a museum / Art Gallery - Most are completely free and the exhibitions change, check out what's on at your locals. We went to the V and A Museum of Childhood and also the William Morris Gallery in London but will try to visit one or more of our locals before school starts up again.

10/ Visit an attraction - Try to splash out on one special day at an attraction, you may spend a lot of money but it can be worthwhile and end up as a Summer highlight! Here is D at 360 Play (a soft play / outdoorsy place) but we've also managed a theme park too (Twin Lakes - blogged about before here).

11/ Bake or cook something together - An obvious choice might be easier but how about letting the children choose the recipe and then go and buy the ingredients together? D picked a courgette from the garden for these courgette brownies which are delicious.

This blog post was inspired by McVities BN biscuits which were sent to us. Although not our usual choice, they were absolutely delicious and each one felt like a treat (they are pretty big!). We have enjoyed them this Summer, in Raspberry and Chocolate flavours - they are rather moreish and have accompanied me in the evenings a few too many times!

I shall be sharing more about some of the places above in the next few weeks insha'Allah, we have been busy, busy, busy, alhamdulillah!

This post is an entry for 42 Days of Summer Linky Challenge sponsored by McVitie’s BN. Learn more at

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

This year...

Throughout life we are usually always evolving, learning, changing, and discovering new things aren't we? I was so excited to hit thirty years old back in April as I had made it a psychological new beginning for me, a completely new phase in my life. Ive been married for nine years now (alhamdulillah it was our anniversary last week) and D is five years old and in school, I felt ready for something to change even though I didn't have many complaints about my life as it was just those few months ago. Id job searched since Christmas and been offered a voluntary position at an Age UK secondhand bookshop back in March. Age UK are a charity very much relevant to our local community as we have many elderly or retired people living here. My first job interview this year came just one day later (I was upbeat but shaky, full of nerves but excited too!) and I was offered the position in our local library. I was very fortunate and I know that. So now I am working two days a week surrounded by books and people and life feels different; faster paced and brain aching at times but with a refreshingly positive spin - I feel helpful and valued. I absolutely love that I am contributing toward our local Oadby community. Just today I helped an elderly lady get to grips with Google so that she could plan a holiday, one day a few weeks ago I was able to listen to a sweet but frail woman speak about her recently deceased husband and the huge funeral attended by many who knew him. Fifty something years of marriage and then her other half was gone and she was left alone in a huge country house. These social moments are amazing for my soul and have upped my empathy levels majorly. What's not to love? Gosh I have cried tears of joy and despair frequently this year! People are amazing!

And oh the books! On Mondays I contend with (and am content with) dusty piles from a deceased estate, battered and torn books which have obviously been much enjoyed, brand new books given by generous customers. I sort through boxes and bags, crates and arms full, see the most interesting and amazing books coming in. Clean them, add pricing stickers and shelf them by size or alphabetically, by topic or age. Constant organisation, neatening, tidying. Flicking through old copies to find postcards and receipts tucked between pages, photos and old bookmarks tumble out. Sometimes a donation can reveal the personality of their previous owner; professor, historian, housewife or growing child.

At the library on Saturdays lonely locals come in just for a little bit of contact with the outside world. Elderly customers ask questions about fixing washing machines, finding a gun smith to help with a rabbit problem, or any other question which a non computer user might need an answer to. We welcome the homeless, the recent ex prisoners, unemployed and students. Mothers send their kids to play on the wooden train (just like D still loves to do) and men borrow daily newspapers and sit on a sofa in the window to catch up with current affairs. I love books, I love helping people, I love organisation... I think this kind of job is made for me!

Then there is another new dimension to my life these days. Q has started a new job based in London, so he is working and living down there for three days each week and from home for two days. Weekends are spent on assignments while he completes a Masters in Public Health. I'm enjoying this new lifestyle, my daily schedule has changed; cleaning routines, dinners, evenings, many things actually. Its refreshing, uplifting, its good. My heart grows fonder, my house gets messier then suddenly super clean again before he returns, mine and D's meals are simpler and more laid back. Bits of this and that, picnics on the park or in the garden, brikabrak meals we call them. I get the whole bed to myself, and enjoy housework in the evenings making me much more productive - no more slouching in front of the laptop or TV from seven to eleven.

I also have a friend who has just become Muslim and so as I help her learn and answer her questions, I feel myself learning and growing too. I spend more time in prayer and have focused on teaching my mum how to pray in Arabic, refreshing my own memory on rulings and meanings. 

So all in all I have a lot to be thankful for. I'm feeling revitalised, a little swept off my feet sometimes but productive, balanced, fortunate. All praise is to God of course, without him I could not have achieved any of this. May life continue like this, for all of us and all of you! So with that I shall leave you, I must tidy this messy home of ours and then walk to school to meet my boy and sit on the park with friends whilst he plays with his own class mates. Its still sunny and hot here, stuffy some days though rather than fresh. Theres been lots of typical British Summer days here really!

Heres a few snippets from our Summer days so far... pretty changes in the house, eating straight from the plot in the mornings, appreciating dark cloud and no more watering by hand, smelling the sweet peas every time I enter the garden, krispy kremes and tea, delighting in the flower patch, unusual secondhand finds and entertaining the chickens with a huge home grown cabbage.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Just testing...

Hello! I have come up in the world, moved with the times, joined the modern lifestyle of the masses... I've finally moved from my iPhone 3 with its screen sellitaped together, to an iPhone 5c with its brilliant camera and up to date technology! I sat in Waitrose today with my latte trying to figure it all out. 
This blog post is simply a test post using the Blogger App... Just seeing if this is an easy way to do things... 


Friday, 20 June 2014

Canal side picnic with a snake!

This week has been bright and warm but with lots of humidity around its felt rather stifling at times. Not my cup of tea! After school we have still spent plenty of time outdoors at the local park but this week we headed to Wistow for some layers pellets for my girls and a picnic for me and D. It was such a peaceful way to end our day together and held one particular high point! As we sat eating right on the edge of the canal, feet dangling inches above water, D pointed and asked "Whats that?". I looked across the still water and gliding beautifully along the surface, head held above wetness, was a grass snake! We watched in awe as it continued along the canal edge and disappeared into the tree shadows further down.

Walking past the lock keepers cottage we saw too beautiful pedigree horses looking very posh! Their rider chatted to D as he stroked one of them and then we walked on, past water iris, cow parsley and thistles and stopping under a low bridge. The gentle rippling in the canal now that we were further downstream reflected on the underside of the bridge and I think I could have lay for hours watching the light dance on the brick. But we turned around and walked back from where we had come - the muggy heat beginning to take its toll.

Worn out and contented we followed the canal back towards bridge eighty and then up the sloped bank back to the Church of St Luke beside which our car was waiting, hot as an oven. 

You can see more of our days in Wistow HERE.

Friday, 13 June 2014

In the garden...

Our front garden is like a beautiful painting (ignoring the weeds disgracing the actual drive way which are the worst I've ever left them). There is so much colour brightening it up that it feels like perpetual Summer out there. There's a mixture of Californian Poppies, small reddish pink poppies and large purple ones. From somewhere or other those tall spires of purple toadflax have appeared (not something I planted) but they add extra height and colour so they are a happy accident. Whoop whoop!

Elsewhere in our back garden we have more poppies, one yellow allium, pink roses, red pinks, petunias, nasturtiums, white blossom on the blackberry and strawberry plants, and creamy heads of elderflower and climbing hydrangea. As usual there is just the odd flower here and there and not a huge mass of colour like there is out the front. One year I'll get it right... I must plan better!

Close to the house Ive filled lots of random things with compost - old leather boots, a leather briefcase, old plastic storage tubs, a wooden toy box, and a chipboard shipping container. Anything to not have to spend all those pounds on purpose made planters and pots. You know I love recycling! I used chicken wire, old walking sticks and thick branches to make trellis and obelisks for the sweet peas. I'm really hopping that I didn't leave it too late to plant all of those poppies in the boots, briefcase and that square patch of land which used to be part of our chicken enclosure. There's plenty of strawberries, nasturtiums, petunias, pansies, lavender, cosmos, and other bits and bobs here too. A few more weeks insha'Allah, maybe just in time for Eid, and there might be more colour. I want to buy some Hosta's for the shady spot beside the greenhouse.

The tadpoles, pond snails and sticklebacks are still surviving alhamdulillah. The ponds a little murky so I'm often out there scooping dead leaves from the surface. The wild flower garden is very green right now, roll on late summer! We have a hedgehog box beside it and I know there's at least one hedgehog living next door, I'm hoping it may move over to our side one of these nights! I keep peaking inside the house!

Here's the veg patch; Insha'Allah I'm growing courgettes, pumpkins, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, rocket, cabbage, potatoes, spring onions, radishes, peas, raspberries, blackberries, mint, chives, parsley, spinach, and of course there's the apples and damsons beginning to grow, one of these days maybe we could almost be self sufficient? It took me so long to lay the path around the edge and make the brick raised beds that I left the planting a little late. It looks miles better though alhamdulillah. Little by little... can you believe that just three years ago our garden looked like this...

Ive spent many days watching baby magpies having flying lessons, they were nesting in a tree at the bottom of the garden. They are almost as agile as their parents now, and neither youngster has died, alhamdulilllah!

I shall leave you with my gorgeous flock and a little monster, raaaaaaaa!!!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Dinner with a Red Admiral...

We've eaten dinner at the garden table down by the chicken enclosure a few times just lately, now that its early Summer there have been plenty of warm bright days perfect for that sort of thing. A few times weve had a Red Admiral butterfly flitting around us seemingly enjoying our company! One evening the heron stopped by just as the sky was darkening and the pinkish orange tones were streaking the western sky over the top of our hedge. As usual the crows were only a few roof tops away squawking and diving in frustration but the heron remained dignified and handsome.

Today the butterfly landed on us so many times that we lost count, D even managed to stroke its hairy body and it didn't flinch one bit. It meant dinner time lasted much longer but his fascination and happy smile were worth the later bedtime we ended up with.