entitled to be creative

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We have winter vacation. It is time to be home, time to read, to range and rearrange, to realize a few renovation-projects, and time to relax and to retreat.
For me, the holidays we spend home are always an invitation to make things which I cannot do during schooldays.
For me, vacation in general is not about long sleeps and lying around, it is much more a time to be active, to listen to inspiration, to do something around home, in the garden or for myself.

Time spent creatively always fulfills me.
I totally blossom when I can do and make things in my own rhythm and at my “gusto”.
I then feel just as pure life is running through my veins; I feel lively and full of joy and gratitude, alhamdulillah.
After a day spent with at least one creative endeavor, I feel blessed and satisfied.
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Being creative and making things does not necessarily mean to make “arts”. For me, the making of something and being creative can also be the cleaning of a long forgotten corner, redesigning an outworn skirt, capturing photos of everyday beauty, baking a fancy cake with a self-invented frosting out of fridge-leftovers, giving myself a new haircut, painting meaningful quotes in beautiful letters on old cardboard, restoring an old chair, planting flowers, …, and following  the flow of ideas by improving and beautyfying life in every possible way.

Being creative is like pouring out the beauty of our soul. It can be totally an act of worship and is often guided by divine inspiration. Maybe that’s why, beside the fact of having made something out of our time, it is so deeply enriching.

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Along with the vast inspiration that can be found online, but also in our own soul (through the listening to our inner voice and intuition), there are many books that inspire and evoke creativity.
I’ve recently read and liked those:

  • Elisabeth Gilbert “Big Magic: Creative living beyond fear”
  • Sark “Succulent wild Women”
  • Jane Alexander “Spirit of the Home”
  • Amanda Blake Soule, all books
  • Elaine St.James “Living the simple life”
  • Martina Goernemann “Zuhause ist ein Gefühl”
  • John Seymour „The self sufficient life“

“Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?”  asks one of them –
Yes I do, inchaallah.
What about you?

Wishing you a creative and fulfilled February! Peace and light, xoxo

 

Dreaming and Planning Summer and Life

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7 weeks summer vacation, 7 weeks off-school, 7 weeks of opportunities and the chance of making the most of this precious time that comes only once a year, subhanallah.

And now, as so many times before, when put into such a situation of “break”, I ask myself many questions about how to spend the time wisely. I wish to make the best out of it, to benefit as much as possible of this pause.

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I would like to relax; I would like to work on personal projects, stuff and things around the house; I wish to spend time with the children, my husband, family and good friends; maybe travelling a bit, but not too much;  and I’d love to be alone to refill and to refresh my personal batteries and to gain distance, quiet of mind and new inspiration.

And as many times before, also now, it helps me a lot to follow some simple rules on dreaming and planning the near future. This process gives me new energy and fills me with joy and hope. This creative act can even be done with children. It is perfect start into a new phase.

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I thought I’ll share the list of “how to become the designer of your own life” here, I thought it could be inspiring for others. It can be used for all and works in every area of life, bismillah:

1. Know and decide what you want.
2. Dream big.
And allow nobody to steal or to destroy your dreams. Follow your heart. You cannot lose, you can only win.
3. Believe!
Believe in God, in yourself and your capacity, in the good and the possible of everything, even of the “impossible”, with positivity and conviction. Get rid of all your fears.
4. Share the dreams and goals with those you trust and like. Build a dream-team.
5. Visualize your goals and dreams as real as possible (for example with a treasure map of pictures) and encourage yourself with positive affirmations and optimistic thinking.
6. Act and get active, behave as if your dreams did already come true.
Concentrate on doing what you like to do and what you know well. Don’t rest. Declutter your life and work towards your dreams. Don’t see yourself as a victim. Be the change.
7. Hold on, no matter what. Never give up.
Stay courageous. See problems and defeat only as temporary challenges and chances to succeed. Take feedback as a guide to reorientate your plans, never losing sight of your main goals.
8. Be thankful and celebrate.
Pay thankfulness and appreciation to God, the others around and towards yourself.
9. Give back.
All that you give does not make you poorer, in fact it makes you richer manifold.

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Living in Morocco’s Mountains _ social contacts to women

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Over the last ten years, since living in this happy valley, I went through different stages of social integration, alhamdulillah.
The first year here we lived in a small room with my father in law. I found myself, as the only stranger/foreigner, in the middle of Berbers in the midst of a little Berber village.
To live amongst the local people, sharing their simple lifestyle and doing like them, helped me enormously to integrate into society and to learn the language, the habits and the do’s and don’ts.

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I was in contact with the people all the time, but to make friends and to get in deeper contact with the women outside our household was quiet hard. The language was a barrier and with my background, my education and experiences, I felt quite different.
Most of the women had never been out of the valley or to bigger cities, most of them could not read or write. But they seemed fulfilled with their duties and were masters of their craft in the kitchen and with the animals.
During the first months I always thought that, if I would like to fully integrate here, I would have to be like them, to dress like them and to do like them. But I soon understood that this wouldn’t be possible and would not help. I felt that I can learn much of them, but I also felt that I have some things to give, inchaallah. Instead of proving being able to bake soft bread as round as the sun, I did better concentrating on the special things I personally hd to share with them.
Deep respect, real interest and constant exchange became the keys for my growing relationships. Not trying to make the other like me, but to be open, to serve, to share and to learn each one of the other enriched all of us, alhamdulillah.
Our same Islamic faith, the shared belief in Allah and doing prayers together often helped to establish confidence and to keep connected on a higher level, subhanallah.

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I learned how to make couscous, they learned how to bake chocolate cake.
I got to know how to cut hay, they learned how to brush teeth…
A wonderful way of mutual learning began.
And it didn’t took long until some of the young girls of our village asked me if I had an idea how they could work together and earn some money. The idea of a wool felting group grew and together we learned different techniques.
Uniting our different skills enabled us to create wonderful things:
their knowledge of the wool-working-process from the sheep to the soft fiber and my knowing of internet-use for inspiration and ideas;
their experience in dyeing wool and my ability to read, try, learn and teach the felting technique;
their traditional and pure feeling for simple patterns and my feeling for modern design and arts – all of this together gave birth to wonderful moments of getting to know each other, to grow together and to create beautiful things which we could sell to tourists so the girls could make some money. A women’s felting group was born and two years we regularly met and worked together (Here I sometimes wrote about it on this blog).

Then the girls grew older, some married, some left the valley and God had other plans for each one of us. My family and I were then very occupied with the new school and other things and for some years the felting group wasn’t active. Through the école vivante new cross-cultural exchange and my integration into the local society continued in different ways, but the key to real and deep encounters always was and still is by do something meaningful, by sharing, by giving and being open to the other, by respect of the differences between us and by focusing on what unites us and what we have in common.

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Brooke’s beautiful Jewellery

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the simple yet lovely necklaces Brooke made for me

Today I have the honour to introduce you to my dear friend Brooke and her work.
I met Brooke online through this blog about 6 years ago when she was still living in Alaska.
In the meanwhile she moved to Morocco and lives since two years in my neighbourhood, with her Berber husband and their six children. We became friends and if time allows (which is not as often as we’d like to) we sometimes have coffee together, do a little walk or simply meet to have some exchange from expat Muslim woman to woman.
Brooke is a homeschooling mum, a writer, a famous editor for Sister’s Magazine and a maker of beautiful things. Recently she came to offer me one sweet little necklace she created, alhamdulillah. Over the last fifteen years I haven’t worn any jewellery at all, except my simple straight sliver wedding ring. But I immediately felt in love with the boho-style piece she offered me and I wear it since then day and night. I liked it so much and really began to enjoy wearing a necklace that I even asked her to make me a second one – I think I became addicted to her wonderful work, mashaallah, I love to browse her etsy-shop or to visit her and go through all her tiny little beads, pearls and supplies; and I might even begin to wear bracelets and earrings though it still makes me feel like a decorated Christmas tree, but who knows, maybe this changes one day…

Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty – so why not beautifying ourselves sometimes a little more, just for the sake of beauty itself?
‘Id el kebir is coming soon and maybe you want then to offer some beautiful Muslim-made gifts for your beloved ones or offer something to yourself…
So here I invite you to read a little interview I had with Brooke and to have a look at the stunning pieces in her etsy-shop or follow her facebook page for special discounts, like this coupon for 20% off (enter FANDF at checkout).
Itto: Salam aleikoum dear sister, first I would like to know what brought you to jewellery-making?

Brooke: Aleikoum salam sissy, Hmm, I’m really not sure. My earliest memories of jewellery making are making fancy hair clips with flowing ribbons and beads, and selling them in the school yard. Maybe it was all that Camp Fire Girl crafting that looped me in! From then on I was always trying to make something, gathering up beads and findings, making a mess with glue and using a butter knife to set sequins into prongs on my shoes and clothes. In addition to jewellery making, I love embellishing- I mean adding little details to otherwise plain things.

 

Itto: what do you especially love about working on so tiny detailed things with your hands?

Brooke: It’s pretty amazing when you become so familiar with the materials and can do these seemingly complicated things that other people say, “Oh, I could never do that” but of course I think they could. And beautiful things- I love making beautiful things that please the eyes and the soul.

 

Itto: Many of your pieces are very colourful, in one in a different way, so what is your favourite actual colour scheme and style?

Brooke: This is a hard choice. My colour scheme ideas have pretty much exploded the last couple of years. I blame that on the influence of living in very colourful and artistic Morocco. But if I had to choose… ok I love grey striped/blocked with other colours, especially green, orange and pink.
But my favourite for these days I would have to say is blue with orange, especially paler sky blue like Amazonite, but brighter and deeper blues like Turquoise and Lapis Lazuli are also appealing. It’s a contrast that is both vibrant/warming and calming/cool at the same time.

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Style is much harder for me to pin down. I like big chunky pieces because they really showcase the gemstones and beads… but… lighter pieces are easier for daily wear, so I also enjoy making delicate little things that add just a pop of sparkle to people’s adornment.

 

Itto: Oh yes, like the wonderful pieces you made for me, Alhamdulillah!
Brooke, you are also a Muslimah and dress fully covered; nobody in public comes to see the beautiful pieces you wear, so why do you think it is important for Muslim women to beautify themselves anyway?

Brooke: I have had many non-Muslim women make similar comments, such as “Oh, it’s such a shame no one can see your beautiful jewellery.” But the thing is, I don’t wear my jewellery for other people to admire, I wear it for me. I am a beautiful creation and Allah tells us to enjoy his creation and even adornments (with moderation of course), so I do- no guilt!
The things that I make are truly only reconfigurations of Allah’s beautiful creations. In a way they are little praises and definitely inspire me to ponder on His magnificence. Bracelets are my very favourite thing for this reason, they are easiest for the wearer herself to see and enjoy them. Though I have also started making long necklaces for the same reason…

 

Itto: Great, I think the next piece I order from you will be a bracelet, inchallah.
What do you think of the metaphysical properties of gemstones, metals and rocks? Do you believe they can help to heal or better the energy of a person? Like amber for example that is said to be able to help reduce the pain of a teething baby.

Brooke: I am really on the fence about this. I am very drawn to certain rocks, while others will have little or no appeal to me and I have to remember to use them as they may work with certain colour schemes, but otherwise I would never pick them up. There is also a hadith (a saying of the prophet) about a rock that interacted with the Prophet (sas) and another in which a tree wept for the loss of being able to view the Prophet giving his sermons… so this makes me wonder about the unknown with relation to what we have been told are inanimate objects. But, I also need to have a healthy dose of fear of shirk (worshipping others than Allah), so for now I leave off this aspect of metaphysics… but if any of your readers know more about Islamic views of these things, I would love to hear about it.

Itto: thank you Brooke, barak Akllahu feek for these insights, I really appreciate your faith–related thoughts and your careful Muslim attitude, mashaallah! May Allah bless and make successful your work and accept the Ibadat (divine worship) you wish to offer through it.
And thank you for the wonderful idea and recent efforts you’ve made to gather all the Muslim sellers on etsy. I think this is really a great idea and I hope it helps the Muslim-ummah to support each other and I hope it even acts as dawah and shows non-Muslims how incredibly creative, modern and stylish Islamic and Muslim art is.