Sunday, 6 January 2019

Curveball

I am generally known by my loved ones as someone who is friendly, talkative, easy going and often smiling. However, in recent months I have felt this part of myself slowly fading away. After a very crazy year full of big changes and big adjustments, I am finding myself overwhelmed by the many ways life has taken a turn. I will spare you the unfortunate details and just say: sometimes it is okay to not be okay.

The funny thing about life is that it never goes the way we planned. This is God showing us His infinite power. We can mentally prepare ourselves for what's about to come all we want, but there will always be curveballs along the way. It's not always bad. Life can surprise us in very positive ways too. We must take lessons from all aspects of life; good and bad. The healthiest thing we can do for ourselves is take everything in stride.

Don't be afraid to make changes in order to look after your own mental health. You have the right to cut out toxicity from your daily life if you feel it is hurting you. Whether it's a toxic habit, form of entertainment or even another person. Think outside the box and remind yourself that sometimes it is God's way of helping you. He may be enlightening you and opening your eyes to new and better possibilities. Even though you may feel like something was good for you, He is making you aware that maybe you never needed it in your life in the first place. The only person who can care for you is you. There is no shame in talking about your fears, feelings, and/or worries. Get outside help from a professional (i.e., therapist) if you must. Never let anyone dismiss your concerns, because your thoughts and feelings matter. They are important. Let the past be the past, and move forward. Allow yourself to heal from pain, Never be afraid to add new things to your life, and say goodbye to old things. It won't always be easy. More often than not, it will even be painful. Making drastic changes in life takes a lot of courage. Quoting Mitch Albom, "All endings are also beginnings. We just don't know it at the time." (The Five People You Meet In Heaven).

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Travel Diaries: Madinah, Saudi Arabia; Makkah, Saudi Arabia

Travel Diaries Part 3: We took a flight from Istanbul to Madinah and arrived at their new airport. The Madinah airport is designed to give you the feel of Masjid-e-Nabwi. The ceiling architecture mimicks the umbrellas that are strategically placed through out the mosque. Until one has visited this blessed mosque themselves, it's difficult to describe it's beauty in words. We stayed in Madinah for eight days, which gave us plenty of time to meditate, as well as go out and do a bit of sight seeing. All the staff at our hotel were really kind and welcoming.

Finally, our last stop was Makkah, where we also stayed for eight days. The drive from Madinah to Makkah was about six hours. We saw countless camels along the way! Makkah, Saudia Arabia is where the religious pilgrimages take place (Umrah and Hajj.) After we had completed our tawaf (walking around the Holy Ka'bah seven times) and sahee (walking between Safah and Marwah seven times), we spent the rest of the seven days praying in the mosque, doing a bit more sight seeing and our last bit of shopping during our trip. One day we took a trip out to Ta'if, which is a mountainous region about an hour and a half out of Makkah. At the top of the mountains, we were greeted by some very frisky babboons!

Saudi Arabia is a desert so there were days when it was 40 degrees out there! Other than the dry heat, the trip was overall amazing and unforgettable.


Madinah Umbrellas

Madinah Museum

Madinah Museum

Masjid-e-Nabwi

Camels

Me petting a baby camel!

Madinah Airport

Masjid-e-Nabwi door

Mosque Entrance

A hungry and smelly cat my mom and I used to visit daily after every prayer =)

Ka'abah in Makkah

Baboons in Ta'if

Inside Haram (mosque)

Meeting more cats in Makkah!

Kaba'ah


Thursday, 7 June 2018

Travel Diaries: Cappadocia, Turkey

In part 2 of my "Travel Diaries", I will be chronicling our time in Cappadocia. After spending two nights in Istanbul, we took a domestic flight to Cappadocia, where we stayed for one night, and two days. The city of Cappadocia is known for it's picturesque scenery. Most of the city is built into caves, (including many of the hotels). Although we did not stay in one of those, our hotel was still designed in such a way to give off a "cave vibe." We did, however, have a gorgeous view of the caves from the hotel dining hall terrace.
 
We had tour guides booked for both days of our trip. The one we had on day one was amazing. He was funny, friendly and taught us so much about Cappadocia's history. There was another family with us on our journey as well, who had come from Sydney, Australia. We exchanged contacts so we could keep in touch through e-mail and social media.
 
Cappadocia is world famous for their hot air balloon rides. They launch very early in the mornings, so you could watch the sunrise from up above. We were planning to check them out on day two, but unfortunately they got cancelled, due to extreme wind. The tour guide we had on day two was a bit rough around the edges! Other than that, we enjoyed seeing more of Cappadocia's beauty. Our day ended with a one hour hike through the valleys. I cannot even put into words how beautiful it was. It was unreal, and looked like a painting had come to life. Finally, we said goodbye to Cappadocia and took the last flight back to Istanbul. We stayed in Turkey for another 5 days, before embarking on our journey to Madinah, Saudi Arabia. (Stay tuned for Part 3 of my "Travel Diaries", where I will tell you about Madinah).


Hotel Dining Hall, where we often saw cats hanging out!
                                    

Dining Hall overlooking Hotel Swimming Pool
 
Hotel pool during the day


Hotel Courtyard #1


Hotel Courtyard #2


Turkish culture is known for their teas. Here is one of the first apple teas I was served in Cappadocia. Yummy!

 
Stray dogs overlooking the city

Hike #1

Hike #2

Hike #3

Panoramic view from our hike
                                    
Cave restaurant where we had our last meal


 

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Travel Diaries: Istanbul, Turkey

A few months ago I took a beautiful trip with my parents to Istanbul, Cappadocia, Makkah and Madinah. Our very first stop was Istanbul, where we stayed for about a week. One of the first sounds I heard there, was the sound of the adhan (call for prayer), right from our hotel room. It was one of my favourite things about our trip. How I miss it! We heard it five times a day, right before every prayer. Istanbul is known as the "city of mosques." There are mosques everywhere! There was even a very small and modest one right across the street from our hotel. Another nickname for Istanbul is the "city of cats!" It is overrun by stray cats! There is even a famous kitty that lives inside of the Hagia Sophia museum, who has his own instagram account. =) I spoke with locals asking them who takes care of all these strays (FYI.. there are also stray dogs.). Our tour guide told me that locals and tourists are responsible for them. If you look closely, you can even see that some of the dogs have tags on their ears. These tags indicate that the dogs have been vaccinated, vet checked, and released back onto the streets. (Similar to the North American Trap, Spay/Neuter, and Release program). In my experience, I never once saw anyone be mean to any of these animals. They live peacefully amongst the humans and nobody seems bothered by them. It was really heartwarming to see how kind everyone was to these animals. Amongst the stray animals and mosques, we also saw most of the main tourist spots of Istanbul; The Hagia Sophia, the famous Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, Topkapi Palace and such. The weather was a bit cold, so we had to take our winter clothes with us. Besides the cold, it was a lovely trip Allahumdulillah. We came back with various souvenirs of course, including Turkish Delight! Which as it turns out, is actually from Turkey, not Narnia! ;)

Blue Mosque
 
Inside Blue Mosque

Inside Hagia Sophia, featuring cat! =)

CATS! =)
Continental Breakfast at Our Hotel

Pierre Loti Look Out Point
 
Turkish Delight! My favourite!






Saturday, 10 June 2017

Ramadan Struggles

Muslims are currently in the midst of their fasting month of Ramadan. It is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and is significant for many reasons. One of those reasons being that the Holy Quran was revealed during this month. Muslims spend 29 to 30 days fasting from dawn till dusk. The Islamic calendar doesn't coincide with the Gregorian calendar. The months are based off the sighting of the moon. Therefore, Ramadan doesn't always occur at the same time every year. In recent years, Ramadan has been taking place during the summer months, which calls for much longer fasts.

I've previously wrote about my struggle adjusting to my IBS. I did an entire year of a full "detox" diet. I was eating strictly vegan/vegetarian/grain free meals only. If I had eaten any of my trigger foods, I would be in a lot of pain and discomfort. Despite how painful it was for me to consume meat, dairy or grains, people still liked to pester me and make comments like "just eat a little", "stop making yourself so weak", "you can train your body to be okay with that food."

The truth of the matter was that my diet bothered others more than it bothered me. Sure, it was an adjustment to my lifestyle. I had to pack special homemade meals when I went out to social gatherings (even weddings), and eating out at restaurants was limited. However, I had accepted it for what it was. Lots of people liked looking at me with pity and sadness. Quite frankly, it was others' reactions to my diet that frustrated me more than my actual diet did.

I learned to be creative with my meals and did lots of research on what kinds of delicious recipes to try. I never sacrificed flavour in any of my meals. Actually, now that I have added lots of things back into my diet, I still eat many of the vegan foods I used to during that entire year.

I visited with a dietician shortly before Ramadan 2016 to get some advice on how to make sure I got enough nutrients in my body, despite giving up so much. She gave me some really helpful tips. The biggest things she told me I needed to do was: slowly re-introduce foods back into my body, increase my water intake and take probiotic supplements. Which is exactly what I did, and those three things made a huge difference.

Unfortunately, my body did not settle in time for last Ramadan. My doctor advised me to give my body some time to heal before forcing it to go through 19 hour long fasts. I consulted with a mufti (Islamic scholar) to make sure it was okay for me to skip my fasts last year. He said I was exempt, as long as I made my fasts up in the future when my body allowed me to do so.

Despite getting both medical and Islamic advice on the matter, the critics were back. I had many people chastise me for not fasting. They put me on guilt trips making me feel as though I was committing a huge sin. However, I also had those who supported me. I remember my brother telling me that there are lots of people who wish to fast during Ramadan, but for various reasons are unable to. He also reminded me that fasting is not the only form of ibabah (remembrance of Allah SWT) during this blessed month.

One thing I learned in the last couple of years was that no matter how many people wanted to criticize me or pity me, there was only one person I had to listen to: myself. The only person who knew how painful it was after I ate a trigger food was me. People could easily say "have a little cake" but in the end, it would be me who would suffer. It would be me running in and out of the bathroom all day long with endless cramps. Furthermore, my inability to fast during last Ramadan was something between me and Allah SWT.

By the grace of Allah SWT, my body has settled now. I am able to fast this Ramadan without consequences. Although the fasts are long, as long as I drink enough water and/or lemon water with my meals, everything runs smoothly. I am now aware of what foods my body reacts to the most. I just have to keep my trigger foods limited. My dad always taught me to be grateful for everything, no matter what the circumstances. So Allahumdulillah for the grueling year I did my strict diet. If I hadn't gone through that, I wouldn't have found all these wonderful new recipes to try, taste (and share!) And Allahumdulillah for being able to add some of my favourite foods back into my diet. No matter how difficult it was for me to adjust to my IBS, it was not the worse thing that could have happened to me.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Vegetarian and Vegan recipe ideas.

Although I have a pretty good idea of what kinds of foods I am able to eat, I am still in the process of getting to know my body. I've discovered that I should avoid most grains for now, until my body settles. So I am strictly eating a vegetarian diet now. I have been doing a lot of online research on IBS and found some really informative videos on youtube. I've also been cooking a variety of vegetarian/vegan dishes which I found to work for me. I wanted to share some of the recipes which I have tried and tested so far that can potentially help someone else with digestive issues. Most of the recipes I use are either from http://www.allrecipes.com or from youtube.

Cowboy kale - http://allrecipes.com/recipe/240259/cowboy-kale/

I made some alterations to this recipe. I didn't have any bell peppers at the time, and I used white onions instead. The result was still quite delicious. I completely forgot to serve it with the vinaigrette, but even as is it was flavourful. I cooked kale again last week, but this time I had lightly cooked the kale, and added (raw) cherry tomatoes, avocado pieces, and whole almonds. Also another great way to eat kale.


Cowboy kale served with baked salmon. I wanted to try the fish to see if I could handle it. I later learned that it's best to avoid all meats for now, including seafood. However, if you are able to eat couscous or quinoa, this kale recipe would pair nicely with it!
 
Grilled Mediterranean Vegetable Sandwich - http://allrecipes.com/recipe/22886/grilled-mediterranean-vegetable-sandwich/?internalSource=recipe%20hub&referringId=1084&referringContentType=recipe%20hub

Since my body can't handle the store bought breads, I made homemade (whole wheat) roti and had this Mediterranean mix in a roti roll. I am not a huge fan of eggplant, but in this roll it was really good. The garlic mayo was what topped it off and gave it an excellent flavour.

Fabulous Zucchini Grinders - http://allrecipes.com/recipe/73456/fabulous-zucchini-grinders/

Another vegetable that I don't particularly like. I made this before I realized I couldn't have breads. I served it in casserole form, as opposed to sandwich form. Also, I eliminated the cheese.

Spinach and Ricotta Calzone - http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/dave-lieberman/spinach-and-ricotta-calzone-recipe.html

This was one of the first recipes I tested out on myself. I have my own pizza dough recipe which I used and I made the dough out of whole wheat flour. Although it was extremely delicious, the crust and cheese did not agree with me. I used only mozzarella cheese.


Spinach and cheese calzone made with all purpose flour
 
Spinach and cheese calzone made with whole wheat flour
 
Roasted Brussel Sprouts. with apples, golden raisins and walnuts - http://allrecipes.com/recipe/230659/roasted-brussels-sprouts-with-apples-golden-raisins-and-walnuts/?internalSource=recipe%20hub&referringId=2436&referringContentType=recipe%20hub

I made this recipe as is but I eliminated the brussel sprouts, raisins and wine. It was so simple yet so delicious. the apple slices gave it a really nice sweetness.

Baked Eggs in Avocado - http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Baked-Eggs-Avocado-Recipe-30787252

I find that avocados are a hit or miss for most people; you either love it or you hate it. This is a great breakfast idea which is very filling, if you haven't re-introduced grains back into your diet yet.


I baked these in the toaster oven. I did find them to be very mess to eat. However, delicious nonetheless.


Almond Milk Ideas

So far I've tried sweetened vanilla, unsweetened vanilla and unsweetened original. Personally, I like the unsweetened vanilla but there are many other flavours of (non-dairy milks) out there. Like chocolate almond, coconut/almond blend, coconut milk, cashew milk, and soy milk to name some. It's important to remember almond milk is watered down compared to cow's milk, therefore you would have to make some adjustments to how you use it. However, it is fortified with the same nutrients as cow's milk. I do not like the taste of soy milk, so almond milk is what I found to be right for me.
  • Use it in cereal. My cereal of choice is Shredded Wheat because it's high in fibre.
  • Cook oatmeal with it. Oatmeal made out of almond milk has an acquired taste. It won't be as thick as oatmeal made out of cow's milk and slightly less flavourful. You can add your choice of sweetener or fruits such as apples or bananas to adjust the flavour.
  • Use it in teas. I usually make my tea with 1/2 part water, 1/2 part milk and heat it up with my choice of tea bag. As previously mentioned, almond milk is a lot more watery, so you are required to use 3/4 part milk and 1/4 part water.
  • Latte. My husband and I both wanted to try the almond milk with coffee but it didn't seem to be working. The trick is to do the same thing with it as you did in the tea: use 3/4 part almond milk and 1/4 part coffee. Make a little bit of espresso and in a separate cup, heat up the almond milk and foam it with a frother. If you don't have a frother, your latte will taste great but just won't have the foam on the top.
  • Milkshakes. The great thing about milkshakes is that there's no right or wrong way to make it. You put what you want in a blender, blend and you have your milkshake! My favourite type of milkshake is made with ripe bananas and some cinnamon powder. Since the bananas are already sweet, you don't even need to add sugar. I've also tried it with strawberries but didn't like it very much due to the tartness of the berries.
  • Hot chocolate. I warmed up the milk, and mixed in some cocoa powder and honey for sweetness.
Vanilla tea made with almond milk. I used a vanilla earl grey tea bag and vanilla almond milk for this 

Vanilla almond milk latte
 
As you can see, almond milk is extremely versatile and a great alternative for anyone who may have a sensitivity to dairy. Furthermore, it adds a hint of nutty flavour to your food and/or drinks.
 
When adjusting to a new diet, the most important thing to remember is: be patient with your body! Don't get frustrated when you get flare ups because it most likely will happen. Our bodies are funny and need time to change. As much as we wish they'd change overnight, they won't! Furthermore, we are all designed differently. Some things may work for me, but won't work for someone else. It is important to be observant and see what food works best for you as an individual. Reading so many online forums, I found that most people feel the way I did; frustrated. When doctors keep suggesting "add more fibre to your diet" and nothing seems to be helping, you really feel helpless and like giving up. But there is hope! We are lucky enough to live in a world where there are so many alternatives that there is something out there for everyone. I will continue to post about my journey as much as I can, in hopes of helping out anyone out there who may feel alone, frustrated or helpless.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

My Experience with IBS

I wanted to share my experience with irritable bowel syndrome (ISB) because I just recently discovered digestive problems have become all too common in this day and age. Hopefully the things that helped me out can help someone else out who may be going through a similar problem.

A few months ago I started feeling unwell and began my journey of going through grueling doctors appointments (with specialists) to figure out what was wrong. I will spare you the graphic details, but long story short: I was getting constipated on a daily basis and it was quite painful to say the least. I thought I was doing everything right: eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, eating food high in fibre, working out. All the things you are supposed to do to stay healthy. But nothing seemed to be helping. Some nights I would have to take milk of magnesia right before bed. It would clear up by morning but then the entire cycle would start all over again.

There were days I just wanted to stay home because I was in so much discomfort. My husband dragged me out a couple of times, suggesting that getting some fresh air and seeing other people might help me feel better. We had a family potluck coming up which I was conflicted about. I wanted to go because I wanted to see everyone. However, I knew there would be lots of food there that I couldn't eat. The potluck took place a day before my Birthday. I was going to be turning 30 and although I wanted to celebrate it at first, I lost my mood for it afterwards. I know I am still young, but it was just a reminder to myself that as I was getting older, my body was slowly deteriorating.

The day of the family get together arrived. When it was time to eat, people filled up their plates with all the delicious food at the table. I barely filled my plate and ate very little. The little that I did eat, I had a feeling it would still make me constipated the next day, but I couldn't starve myself. People made comments like, "It's your Birthday, that's all you're eating?!" Or people would be telling me to try some of their dish. I tried explaining why I wasn't taking more food, but they would say not to worry because the food would easily digest. In my head I was thinking: sure in a normal body it would digest, but not in my body. They were not trying to be rude or offensive, they just didn't fully understand the problem/illness. I barely understood it myself, so I couldn't blame them.

Despite people trying to force feed me stuff I couldn't eat at the party, in the end I was glad I went. For my potluck dish, I brought a red velvet cake (which I baked and decorated). Since everyone knew it was my Birthday the next day (because I very shamelessly announced it to everyone), when it was time for dessert, they called out for me to cut my cake. I cut the cake while everyone sang me Happy Birthday. It was a small gesture on their part, but it meant a lot to me and was very special. I had fun and it temporarily distracted me from my pain.

I had a follow up appointment with my doctor the following week and she told me what I have is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS.) It's basically irregularity in the bowels and goes from constipation to diarrhea. For me, it was mostly constipation. She gave me some tips on how to handle the illness and I went the next couple of weeks taking her advice. She suggested to take Metamucil if necessary but also to make sure to drink lots of water through out the day along with it. Another thing she said was to keep a food diary and see if there are patterns of what foods were triggering me to get constipated.

The more I spoke to people about it, the more I realized how common digestive problems have become. I also realized that everyone's bodies are different. There may be some foods that trigger me, but another person with IBS is totally okay with. I made small changes to my diet such as the following:
  • Dairy was one thing that was triggering me so I switched to almond milk. It comes in a variety of flavours such as vanilla, chocolate and coconut (sweetened or unsweetened.)
  • I did not eat any meat for a couple of weeks, and only stuck to fruits and vegetables.
  • Rice, white flour, white breads and pastas were another trigger. Instead of rice, I now have other grains like couscous, and quinoa. (I bought brown rice and brown pasta but haven't tried them yet.)
  • My husband and I visited our local farmer's market and bought all organic fruits and vegetables. Some of the fruits/veggies can be a bit more expensive, but not by much.
  • Making sure I drink at least 6-8 glass of water every day.
  • I drink a glass of Metamucil every morning and every night.
The minor changes I made to my diet seem to be helping (so far). When I began telling some of my family and friends about the diet changes I made, they started feeling bad for me making comments like "Oh my god, how long will you live like that for (with no meat?") IBS is a chronic problem. Some people's bodies settle after a year or two, and they are able to slowly add stuff back in to their diet. I don't pity myself for what I went through. God made me this way and I'm going to stop complaining about it. Sure, there are times when I feel sad I can't eat some of my favourite foods anymore (well I could if I wanted to, but I know I will regret it immediately afterwards). However, there are still also lots of things that I can eat.

In the meantime, I have discovered what to do to control my issue and keep my body healthy. Besides, people have a false notion that vegetarians miss out on all the good food in life. The truth of the matter is, there are plenty of non-meat dishes out there that are very delicious. My experience expanded my horizon to so many new recipes and dishes that I normally wouldn't have tried if I hadn't gotten ill in the first place. It is what it is and I will have to deal with it. I'm not ashamed of it and I don't feel sorry for myself (anymore) so I don't want others to feel sorry for me either.