Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Recipe of the Month- Corny Soybean Salad

1 1/2 cups/ 375mlfrozen edamame (uncooked soybeans)
1/2 cup/ 125mldry small shell pasta
2 tsbsp/ 30mlolive oil
1/2red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup/ 125mlsweet onion, diced
2 cupscorn kernels (about 4 ears)
2 tbsp/ 30mlwater
2 tbsp/ 30mlfresh lemon juice
2 tbsp/ 30mlfresh basil, chopped
1/4 tsp/ 1.25mlred pepper flakes
1/4 cup/ 60mlparmesan cheese, freshly grated

  1. Cook edamame and pasta according to package directions; drain well, toss with 1tbsp/15ml of oil and set aside.
  2. Heat remaining oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat; add bell pepper and onion and cook about 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in corn, water, edamame and pasta; cook, stirring frequently for 4-5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice, basil and red pepper flakes. Grate Parmesan on top and serve immediately.
Edamame: bright green uncooked soybeans- 1/2 cup/ 125ml is a meal in itself, with 8g protein, 9g complex carb, 4g fibre and 3g fat per 100 calories.

Nutrition facts:

Makes 6 1-cup/250ml servings.
Amount per serving:
  • Calories- 200
  • Total fat- 8.6g
  • Sodium- 95mg
  • Total carb- 23g
  • Fibre- 4.7g
  • Protein- 11.6g
Source: Personal Best, Body Bulletin Canada

Note: I haven't tried it yet!

Monday, August 28, 2006

A Long Bike Adventure!

As part of our training for the MS Bike Tour in Toronto, we biked to and back from our Shariah Program class in Etobicoke. I estimated the distance to be about 35km, Sawitri thinks its a maximum of 25km.
I found the hardest part of the bike trip to be...waking up early! Thank god for Sawitri... she turned my bike into a miracle bike by raising the seat up, and disconnecting the dynamo from the front wheel, and then my bike just.. flew! Except for the load @ the bag (why does my backpack always get heavy??).

I'm going to describe my route in detail. Wish I had taken pictures! But I don't have a camera.

College & Spadina
We started @ 7am, went north on Bathurst from College and Spadina, and it was a good decision, because it led us to a gas station where we filled up our bikes. The weather was simply beautiful, and I was glad I didn't get gloves! Dupont seemed like a quiet major street, so we biked East on Dupont, until it ended.

Dundas W, Keele
We would get confused @ every intersection when a street ended. But Alhamdulillah, our decisions worked out great! Keele breaks up through Weston Rd. We also met our first hill. I heard Sawitri say from the back, 'ready for this?' It was nothing compared to what was to come.

Weston Rd to Eglinton
Something really really funny happened when we crossed St Clair Ave W @ Weston Rd. I'll save it for last. Weston Rd forks @ Black Creek Drive. The road becomes really wide, and you can see the highway sighs. It's a very fast and long downhill, and you have to keep left if you dont want to end up on the highway. We stopped to ask some people @ a bus stop as to where on earth we were headed. They said, 'Eglinton's the next major one'. But... Eglinton seemed like forever. I had to get off my bike and walk uphill. In fact, I had to do this for many hills going up. Sawitri has much greater stamina than me, mashallah.

The long road Eglinton
Now when I look at the map, I find it quite embarassing to complain about the distance we covered! It seems so little, but on a bike, every road seems endless, and dangerous. At 8am, Eglinton was quite peaceful, Alhamdulillah. We biked through the Gladhurst park, and the Scarlett Woods golf course. At Jane, the uphill became quite painful. The inclines were very long. It seemed as if you're going uphill forever, only to look back and laugh at the distance you covered. Sawitri reminded me to switch gears- I had never done that, and it definitely helped... a bit! As a biker, I simply can't stop complaining about hills!
Having ridden the subway for 5 years now, I know all the station names. When we hit Royal York, my eyes lit up. We're close to Islington... Kipling next, Martingrove.. Dixon...Belfied...class! wohoooooo! Which actually was still another 45 minutes! We rested a bit, I was totally exhausted.
We noticed the bike path, and decided to use it. It was okay...

Martingrove North
As we biked through the Stone House and the West Grove Park, an old man on his bike breezed past me. *Groan!* I'm so low on stamina!
Alhamdulillah, it was about 8:45 when we touched the intersection. I had cookies in my pocket that I was feeding off of! Sawitri had forgotten her water bottle, but Alhamdulillah we weren't dehydrated. Dixon was so far! I kept biking and biking and prayed so hard that we shouldn't be late to class. I was quite tired!
We got to class @ Vulcan St... chained up our bikes, and walked into class. None of the brothers were there- which was good, enough time to get back the normal colour of my face! Khadijah's chicken tortillas were amazing... and I dug into my bag for salad and a chicken sandwich. I resolved to put my bike into Khadija's car, and get dropped off @ home.
Close to 11:15am, I decided I'm going to bike back with Sawitri- despite my back!
So, the trip back...

Martingrove South
All car drivers hate cyclists on the road, and they are very ruthless if you get in their way. A row of cars starting honking at us, as we tried (again, I was leading) merge into the left lane from the right lane that led to the 401. What's wrong with these people? I stopped my bike on the side, and let all the cars pass. It's quite dangerous under a bridge, because the cars go very very fast. On most roads, cyclists have less than 1m width of space to ride, and when you're going fast, an inch can save, or take away your life.

Eglinton East
We had decided to take the same route back, but this time on the bike path. The route 22 bike path is simply beautiful. There are plants/trees on either side of you, and the ride is very slightly bumpy, but quite enjoyable. You don't feel the altitude as much- in fact, most of the time, you're flying! At one point, the path ahead of me was curving, but I would have risked skidding if I changed directions with the speed I was going at, and not doing exactly that resulted in me just flying off onto the road! That was scary- luckily roads have shoulders. I brought my bike under control, and steered back onto the bike path at the next major intersection, and decided to control my speed more effectively.
The bike path ended before Jane, I think, and we were back onto the road. Another long uphill, I got off my bike and walked, and caught up with Sawitri @ the top.
As we looked past Jane, the road looked very painful. The hills were simply huge! We decided to change the route!

Keele, Old Weston
Keele is a familiar name, so we were en route on Keele, but something really wierd happened, and we found ourselves at a dead end. We decided to follow the cars left. The road was very steep! My knees were hurting real bad by this time! I got off my biked and asked a man how to get back to a major road. So it was going to be Old Weston to St Clair Ave.

St Claire Ave
Not that this is the first time someone has covered such a long distance, but to me, this was totally wild! Of course, I kept asking myself, 'why on earth am I doing this, when I could have gotten a ride to class? Slept another hour or so. Studied for a bit. Had proper lunch before my next class. Worked on my memorisation, read a book...' Thankfully, Sawitri's company would drown those thoughts away. We were doing this for a friend we loved, and inshallah we're going to train as hard as we can!
St Clair was a very dangerous road, I gauged from the short distance we covered on it (of course, it seemed forever when we were on it!). There's a bus that runs on the street car tracks, and the road seems all broken up. The cars go very fast as well, and because of the bus in the middle, they seem very close to you. As soon as I got on, I wanted to get off it! But.. the worst was next...

Dufferin, yea baby!
I was about to turn south on Landsdowne, but the street was under construction. Sawitri encouraged me to brave the next hill. I barely made it. I believe I stopped.. or maybe not. But I was so gonna turn south on Dufferin. Now Dufferin was the wildest ride ever! The hills aren't very high, but they are very close to each other. It was nothing less than a roller coaster ride, total madness! A slight inch to the left would have surely killed a biker. As I realised the road was getting worse, I brought my bike under some control (by braking continually) until we hit bloor!

Finally a familar route! Alhamdulillah! We breezed past Dufferin Mall. Sawitri asked me if I wanted to do groceries @ No Frills. Seriously, now was not the time! Then turned on College... and stopped over @ Sawitri's to get my tools out of her pocket.
We exchanged a sweaty and (probably) smelly hug! Sawitri was going to do her laundry and nap between wash and dry.. I was just going to go home.

Ah yes.. the funny! When we hit St Clair, going north on Weston, there was a bridge ahead of us. I heard Sawitri say from the back, 'I think that's the 401!'


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Chocolate bar versus Energy bar

Today there are a plethora of energy bars out there- protein bars, snack bars, diet bars with claims that they are made for 'active people', 'women', etc. But are these bars even necessary, and more importantly as healthy as their advertising suggests?
Energy can mean different things to different people, or different things by the same person depending on the use of the word.
So, choose wisely. Here are a few tips:

  1. Read labels. Steer clear of bars that are high in saturated fat, simple sugars, and caffeine or other stimulants.
  2. Read ingredient lists and avoid bars made with hydrogenated oils.
  3. Consider your level of activity and choose energy bars appropriately wit respect to the amount of calories they have.
  4. Consider brands that are made with whole food such as hemp protein, whole grains, sprouts, nuts, seeds (My Vega, ReBar or Larabar).
  5. Be sure to drink water to help with digestion.
  6. Consider pairing them with a piece of fruit or low-fat dairy (milk or yogurt) or fortified soy beverage.

Monday, August 21, 2006


The instant my team mates @ work found out that I've never been to Canada's Wonderland, it automatically became the team event for August. So last Friday... I went to Wonderland for the first time ever!
Here's a before picture:And.. an 'after' (getting soaked in the Cliffhanger) picture:
Jakub was disgusted @ the sight of the fish, and @ the same time, intrigued:
This reminded me of the Crocodile Farm in Thailand that I had visited back in 1999. Back then, they claimed farming 40,000 crocodiles. Now, they're at 60,000. Upon googling why people farm crocodiles, I came across their website- Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm & Zoo

And oh..the Wonderland bonus picture (again, courtesy of Jakub):

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Breathe innnn... breathe ouuuuut...aaaaaaaaaaaah!

Here I'm summarising an article by Mareen Hagan, BScPT, BA PE, Physiotherapist, 1998 IDEA Program Director of the Year, Can-Fit-Pro Director of Education. This article appeared in the July/August issue of Can Fit Pro's official magazine.

A normally sedentary person when confronted with stress, tends to lean forward, draw shoulders up and arms in across the body and drop the head down. This deviation from a neutral or ideal posture results in reduced lung capacity. The more intense the concentration, the more tense the muscles become. The muscles in the arms, neck and chest contract, the muscles that move the thorax and control inhalation and muscular tensenenss dominate and restrict exhalation. The breaths become shorter and shorter, shallower and more frequent. The whole system becomes rigid in this altered posture. We then become fatigued from the decreased circulation of the blood and from the decreased availaibility of oxygen for the blood. As our responsibilites and their assocaited attention to daily problems become more demanding, we develop habits of forgetting to breathe. Have you caught yourself holding your breath or breathing shallow quiet breaths when you are under stress?

The process of breathing involves an exchange of about 4% oxygen for about 4% Carbon dioxide.
Inhalation: 79% oxygen, 20-21% nitrogen, 0.04% carbon dioxide and traces of other gases and water vapour
Exhalation: 79% nitrogen, 16% oxygen, 4% carbon dioxide

Signs and symptoms of improper breathing

  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Depression and negative thoughts
  • Vagueness, mental sluggishness
  • Stomach upsets
  • Indigestion
  • Dizziness
  • visual problems
  • Hearing problems
  • chest pain
  • Back pain
  • Heart palpitatios
  • Chronic illness/disease

Benefits of breathing
Breathing is an essential exercise. Breath is considered the link between body and mind, the conscious and the unconscious mind and the key to the control of our physical and emotional physiology. Oxygen is critical to the production of ATP- which is the most vital component in our energy system. Lowering of ATP production compromises vitality, chances of disease, premature aging, etc.

Anatomy of breath
The average adult inhales and exhales about 16 times per minute. Each time about half a liter of air is drawn in and expelled. It is possible to increase this amount to upto 3.4 litres.

Benefits of effective breathing

  • Improvement in the elimination of toxins
  • Increased quality of blood
  • Improvement in digestion and assimilation of food
  • Imrpoved health of the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, nerve centers and nerves
  • Rejuvenation of the glands, especially the pituitary and the pineal gland which is essential for overall wellbeing
  • Rejuvenation of the skin and reduction in premature aging of the skin
  • Increased blood circulation to the internal organ due to massaging effect produced by the momvent of the diaphragm during deep breathing exercise- heart, liver, stomach, small intestine, pancrease
  • Increased health and vitality of the lungs
  • Decreased stress on the heart, blood pressure and risk for heart disease
  • Normalized brain function reducing anxiety levels
  • ...

Exercises to imrpove breathing

  • Regular physical activity including aerobic exercise, mind-body exercise, etc
  • Breathing exercies- thoracic, paradoxical, abdominal, and diaphragmatic
  • Laughter
  • Short frequent 5-10 minute activity breaks throughout the day
  • Stress management techniques
  • Breathing awareness techniques

4 breathing awareness techniques

  1. Observation breath
  2. Reversal breath- to increase breathing capacity
  3. Relaxed meditative diaphragmatic breathing
  4. Stimulating "yogic" breath

[I have these techniques in detail, leave me a comment/email if you wish to learn more! Trust me, it's very very valuable!]

Specific exercise
Cobra- lie prone (face down) with arms extended, reach behind boy and clasp hands with palsm together, legs extended with toes down on floor. Tighten the gluteals and quadriceps (your hips and thighs) and lengthen the arms, lift through the upper back and squeeze between the sholder blades. take a deep diaphragmatic breath.!

I can't believe I just spent an hour reading over 120 pages on henna designing, glitters, gems, gilding, different types of henna, ingredients, skin reactions, how to extract from henna leaves and make your cones....
For someone who used to get mehndi on her hands once every 2 years, this is pretty spectacular!
but I've found applying henna to be a great dawah tool! I once even got a Mexican girl to donate $20 to a Masjid in exchange for my henna work... hehe!
The art of applying mehndi is growing so fast, that there are 'Henna conferences' all over the West. Google it up if you don't believe me!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Soul on fire

Last night, I thought something really bad was going to happen. I just had that feeling.
Last night, I thought I was going to die.
It was cool in my room, temperature pleasant enough to sleep calmly, yet my heart was asunder. Something is just not right. I was all alone. And I was in bed, facing the wall.

Of course, it must be because of the kitchen window being open. The window opens up to a deserted raised platform between 2 buildings. No one walks there, but someone could. It was open, after all.
I started feeling very restless. And I started reading the shahadah over, and over again. How does one know if their time has come? My eyes started watering. Ya Rab... forgive me, forgive me. Please make this easy for me.
I'm so far from everyone else around me. How will anyone know soon enough? My life flashed before me like an image. Yes, it is time. Why else would all this be happening? Why else would I think of all this, why else would I feel this way?

My new bike!

I hate bike thieves!!! Between me and my brother, we've had 5 bikes stolen! :(
4 days without a bike, and I decided I really need one, mostly because my friend Sawitri and I (if I stay in Canada that long) are training to participate in the MS bike-a-thon.
This Sunday I did about 35km, from my Arabic class to Masjid Toronto. It took me exaclty 2 hours, a major stop @ 7/11 for water and chocolates, walking my bike uphill about 4 times to do it, Alhamdulillah.
As I biked under the sun, I the roads were up and down, just like life. Sometimes you think it's just uphill, and so difficult, until you get to the top, and the downhill ride feels great, like a breeze of cool air. And then you realise its over too soon. Sometimes, it's smooth, and the road ahead of you seems like a long stretch. Many times, life just makes you stop at red lights, even when you don't want to. But as long as you have a destination, a goal to achieve, you'll get to it. And in the end you'll really value those downhill rides a lot.

Here's a picture of my new bike (which I will be getting soon)!

I don't particularly like the handles, but for temporary use, it's a great price. And it comes with fenders... now I can bike in the rain even more! :D However it's about 10 years old!

Monday, August 14, 2006

This Tuesday Evening

Sometimes, you know an event coming up will totally change your life. A surgery, moving to a new country, separation....
And sometimes, you just don't know what to expect, but you fear it might be a change for the worse.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The God above you- Formula for Spiritual Success

If you want to be distressed- look within.
If you want to be defeated - look back.
If you want to be distracted- look around.
If you want to be dismayed- look ahead.
If you want to be delivered- look above!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Israel and 'Moral Equivalence'

The Qana massacre was the occasion for a full-court propaganda campaign by Israel’s amen corner, and one has to say they rose to the occasion like real pros. First, of course, they expressed remorse – then, naturally enough, they blamed it all on… Hezbollah.

How so? Well, you see, the Israelis bombed a building filled with children and old people because rockets fired at Israel "originated immediately next to it." Yet the Red Cross denied there were any Hezbollah in Qana. The Israelis keep up a constant refrain claiming Lebanon uses its own civilian population as "human shields," but the reality is quite different: Lebanese civilians flee when Hezbollah fires a fusillade, because they know the Israelis will soon be bombing the place to perdition. Aside from which, Nasrallah’s folks are a tightly knit group and security is taken seriously: a friend of mine who went into Hezbollah headquarters in southern Beirut was subjected to such a thorough search that by the time they were through with him he was bereft of his dignity as well as any desire to proceed further. Hezbollah doesn’t trust noncombatants, and for that reason keeps well away from them no matter what their religious, ethnic, or political affiliations.

Read the full article here.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Whitewater rafting!

I went white water rafting in the Ottawa River this weekend with CAMP Toronto.

Israeli Checklist

I found this image on Bilal Shirazi's blog: