Sleeping patterns of a noonoo


I wrote something a while back about optimal sleeping habits and research that shows ideal sleep patterns: basically, sleep from about 8pm till midnight, wake up, then sleep again from around 2am till sunrise.

I was amazed at how similar this perfect sleeping pattern is to a schedule that allows for sleeping after esha, waking up for tahajjud, going back to sleep and then waking up for fajr.

Now that there’s a noonoo in my life, it seems he’s got the memo too – he loves to wake up super early to talk to himself and to talk to a sleepy me, intently looking at his hands as he tries to figure out this whole new world.

Do we really need 7 to 8 hours of sleep? Well, that doesn’t seem to be on the cards for me any time soon – so I’ll console myself with the thought of something I once heard – I can’t remember where I heard this or if it’s authentic but … Muslims leaders (the Caliphas maybe?) did not sleep a lot – there were too many important things to be doing so they only took catnaps here and there.

There’s also been research around splitting up sleep into a few 20 minute naps a day. Maybe that’s another option.

On the other hand, Arianna huffington is trying to create a sleep revolution because she fears we are all under-sleeped. She got this wake-up call after collapsing from exhaustion and breaking her cheekbone. I guess corporate types wear their lack of sleep as a badge of honor. But moms of young tots know that every sleeping second counts.


Appreciating Akhals

Other than Kheri Kitchrie, is there anything better than the Wonder Why pizza from Akhals?  The chips, the cheese, the clay oven crust…

I think everyone has an Akhals memory, especially people who were at university in Jo’burg and spent afternoons eating soft squishy chips, leaning against the back of their car.

Indians can’t seem to eat anything without throwing some spice on.  I remember a colleague once imploring me to try some Turkish food, he said that the flavours were not all mixed together like Indian spices, but that you would be able to taste individual ingredients and flavours.

I tried to make something the other day with coconut milk but mostly, I just tasted chilli and the familiar flavour of that generic mix of dhanajeeroo and chilli and arad and gingergarlic that seems to be in every single Indian recipe.  Now I’m left with a cup of coconut milk that I’m not sure what to do with, so I’ve been adding it to my tea and cereal and orange juice, and it’s delicious!

I did end up trying the Turkish “separated flavours” food, but I still prefer the mishmash of Indian spice.

Can our tastebuds be re-trained?  I guess they can, people give up salt and sugar and don’t miss it.  But apparently a baby in utero starts developing a taste for foods, and prefers things that his mother ate while pregnant.  So if you want a healthy baby, try eating broccoli and carrots for 9 months.  I don’t have that much willpower though – I’d rather have an Akhals steak rounder right now.


Green trees, black eagles and sunny sun

“Four years ago the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden had a crisis. Their magnificent Black Eagle male disappeared…But the female eagle took charge. She disappeared for several days, and reappeared with a young male, and the pair have continued breeding ever since.”


A few years ago I was tasked with researching the black eagles who live on a cliff in the Walter Sisulu Botanical gardens (trust me, this was not a random research assignment, but if I told you the reason for my need to look up the eagles, I’d have to kill you…)

I was fascinated by the tale of Emoyeni, the strong female eagle who had tragically lost her long time love (he disappeared inexplicably).  Black eagles mate for life, and Emoyeni spent many days anxiously searching for her lost husband.  The search proving fruitless, she went in search of a new mate (even though they mate for life, they will replace a mate if need be).  Emoyeni brought back a younger guy (named Thulani, the quiet one, because of his shy nature).  The eagles spend most of their day together, then some time on nest refurbishment.  Two eggs are laid each year (but only one survives the deadly duel that ensues after hatching).

On our recent trip to the Botanicals, the Husband and I arrived early enough to be the only ones sitting on a prime bench that had a great view of the eagle’s nests.  We got to see the eagle family swooping around quite a few times (I was surprised to see the baby too).

I don’t know if there’s a point to this post except to share the story of the eagles, who have managed to survive in Johannesburg, even through increased construction in surrounding areas.

Also, remember to get some sunlight every day (not that I have managed).  I don’t know how Hijabis do it, but I seem to be getting zero sunlight Vitamin D.  Sunlight coming through glass or a window does not count apparently. It has to touch your skin directly for the D Vitamin to sink in…the rays you get through a glass shield is somewhat less healthy.  I heard somewhere that some sicknesses that are on the rise are linked to the lack of Vitamin D (as usual, I don’t remember the exact details, but the point remains…you need some Vitamin D to be cool).

…and now, a post on poop

We’ve been using Western toilets for years but my gran’s house used to have a high toilet and a low toilet.  Sweety-khala also used to have a low toilet in her house. I think Raahil may have even preferred that one, but I remember that I always avoided the low toilet.  I could never figure out what to do with my clothes and it was such a delicate mission.

India still has many low toilets, and they’re used often.  I guess it would be easy with a Lungi.  But lots of people in India are also adopting the Western style toilet.

The point is, research has now shown that squatting is the best position for pooping because it relaxes your colon properly and could save you from some fecal related diseases.  Click on this article for more detail.  The Husband tells me that you can get a “squatty stool for the high toilet. It apparently raises your legs a little so it mimics squatting.”  Have a look at this website to see a pic.

So that’s just a little contribution to the spread of poop-wisdom.  Happy pooping!

Salaah as a meditation, sleeping patterns and optimal energy

The new age rage about mindfulness and meditation reminds me that Muslims have been doing for centuries what psychologists are now finding to be healthy and beneficial.

When we pray Salaah, we step outside our busy day and attempt to focus completely on our Creator and on being aware of our faith.  We have to quiet our minds and calm the rush of life. To stop… and pray.

The new-age pundits realise that stopping your day to be calm and mindful for even a teeny, tiny bit of time is a Big-Ask.  So they suggest even putting aside as little as 5 minutes a day to sit quietly, focus on breathing and…be zen, or something.

But Muslims don’t need modern self-help gurus to tell them this.  Salaah is compulsory, it is one of the most important aspects of Islam. And it forces us to, in some ways, meditate (and apart from that, Jamaat then brings even more benefits, like strengthening the community etc).

It’s hard to focus in Salaah. I’ve tried (and I try, and I try).  But we have to keep trying, because that may be part of the test.

I recently watched this TED talk by Jessa Gamble about sleeping patterns and in the middle of the 4 minute talk was a gem of a statement.

She said that what we think or know about our sleep cycle is wrong.  The 7 or 8 hours that we’ve been told that we need is maybe true, but the optimal way of sleeping is this: go to bed around 8pm, sleep till midnight, wake up for about 2 hours (she seemed to imply that in those 2 hours the person would just faff around in bed) and then sleep again from 2am until sunrise.  They tested people in some underground bunker to let their bodies find the natural optimum sleep cycle – and when they reached this type of sleep cycle, their productivity soared and they reported feeling more awake than ever.

This instantly made me think of Esha (finish around 8pm or 9pm, depending on the season, and then you can go to bed), then Tahajjud and some night-time Zikr (between midnight and 2am) and then Fajr (sunrise).  Islam gave us the perfect sleep cycle and I didn’t even know it!

I also heard something recently about why it’s important to sleep between 8pm and sunrise – something to do with chemicals or cells in your body that needs that type of sleep, to fight off disease (okay, that was a vague sentence but I really can’t remember the details, just the gist – which makes the same point – sleep early, wake early).

Islam is good for your body.  For more proof (my own anecdotal proof, but whatever) my cousin Rania (studying biology at the time) told me that if you look at the range of motions that a healthy human being can or should do, Salaah encompasses all of these motions.  It sounded almost like Salaah makes your body go through this range of healthy motion.  So there.  Boom.


And all I can cook is a potato

Supposedly a prized possession, my mom gave me a copy of the Indian Delights as a wedding gift. I think it’s one of my prized possessions. Well, if I’m not even sure, then maybe it isn’t, but I think that it should be.

My first attempt to pluck from its hefty knowledge left me unimpressed. All I wanted was a recipe for pancakes – but found a complicated more-than-4-ingredient fandangle that was too intense for my new-born grocery cupboard. I didn’t even have vanilla essence, so maybe that’s also my fault. But still…shouldn’t this be easier?

Should I have taken more of an interest in learning how to cook and all of the other hoopla of domestic life, before I got married?

Maybe…probably….well we can make the best of what we have now, which is, basically, potatoes.  Potatoes are the best because you can’t really spoil ’em.  Chuck them in a pot of water or oil, add some heat, wait a bit – done.

My relationship with this orange fiend, the great Indian Delights, needs to move from awe and fear to trusty side-kick.  I will persevere!

I also recently came into a lovely copy of my favourite dictionary…red and big and thin-papered, I know for sure that it is one of my prized possessions.  Hmmm, this definitely says something about me, but I hope it bodes well for Husband’s waist-line.  I cannot have him be a starving intellect, living off an occasional potato.

Is it an Indian girl thing, the need to cook from scratch?  Why do so few people in our community buy almost-ready dinners?  The world is trying to make our lives easier but we remain entangled in the need to be good kitchen masters.  Meh, it’s in me too, and I need to climb this cooking-from-scratch mountain, one burn and cut at a time.

On a Halaal make-up quest (aka how many lipsticks are enough?)

How many lipsticks are enough?  The thought appears, unbidden, as I walk out of the prayer room… Oh my shattered nerves…when did I become the type of person who thinks about lipstick?

Well, “the type of person who thinks about lipstick”, what is that anyways? I don’t usually think about girly past-times. But obviously I do have these thoughts, so maybe they’re worth thinking.  (Let me not be a snob!)

Back to the original question I suppose… since it’s crept up on me I might as well try to answer it.  I have 3 lipsticks.  All from the Body Shop because those are the only ones I think may be Halaal (i.e. have no animal products in them).

3 may be excessive…3 may be too little?

Well, I think 3 is okay for now…on my quest to have less stuff, I will desist from thinking about more lipstick.  And hopefully one day choose the perfect one, so that one is just enough.

But then the other issue: Halaal make-up.

I didn’t even think of this as a “thing” until a few years ago, one Ramadaan, when my lips were very very dry and I reached for a lip-ice thingy.  And then I wondered: what if this gets in my mouth?  Is my fast broken? And then I wondered some more: what if this gets in my mouth, ever?  Is it Halaal?

And then I remembered that the Body Shop went vegetarian (or vegan?) and they apparently don’t use animal products.  So I dug out a lip butter and proceeded to plaster my parched lips (after Iftaar though).

And where else do I go other than the Body Shop?  This will require more investigation.  Also, apart from animal products, what do we do about the alcohol that seems to be in everything?

And then I heard about Halaal nail polish because my nieces (always on top of trends) put me on the scent.  But soon after, their mom explained that basically it’s just peel-off nail polish.  Which reminds me of the kind of stuff I used to play with when I was 5 years old.  Which also means that you’d have to peel it all off each time you need to make wudhu?  And this sounds like a big schlep. So no, I guess I won’t be trying that.

And waterproof mascara?  How to make wudhu without make-up remover?  Scratch mascara from the list.

How about eyeliner or Kaajal?  I guess if they wash off, they should be okay.  But I look like a lost panda bear, scrubbing my kohl-rimmed eyes each time I need to make wudhu, trying to make sure that the water permeates to my skin.

Hmmmm, a beauty blogger may know more…I’m off to find out.