My Valentine

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It feels like forever since I was last here. Writing seems to be a luxury nowadays – just as how time and travel are. Today, I write because my heart is full and contented.

I think I’m in love.

You see, I sat down on the prayer mat sometime during the new year, crying my hearts out, asking God for a miracle. By miracle I actually mean for Him to soften my heart.

I admit, I may not be the best of Muslimahs around, but I believe in the signs He has shown me. All my life,  I make decisions based on what the universe has shown me. When my heart is directed at something and it becomes easy for me to take action, I know that it’s Him doing his magic – the magic of granting our dua’s.

Allah is fair and just – there’s really no doubt about that. He gives me some things that He takes away from others. He makes sure my family has enough sustenance no matter what the inner voices might say. He gives me the strength to go through the tough times. If anything, He has taught me that nothing good never comes easy for me.

Never.

So while I used to cry myself to sleep comparing others who have it a lot easier than me, I now accept the fact that Allah simply loves me more hence He just tests me more.

Today, I am in love.

 

 

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Where Do I Go Now?

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The past three years has been the best years of my life. I finally found something I’m good at, and alhamdulillah, earning a living from it. I keep setting the bar up high for myself, and as much as I’m at a position way above than I first started, I often feel like I’m further away from where I want to be.

On my own, I feel at ease. I feel happy. I feel contented and grateful. But when I’m with my peers, I start questioning myself. I start doubting myself. I start wanting to give up. It’s as though I’ve been living in a bubble, oblivious to the outside world. Truth is, I’m just tired being my own cheerleader.

Where do we go now?

Eid as a Struggling Single Twenty-Something

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As a child, I used to love celebrating Eid. I dreaded the fasting month of Ramadhan but I looked forward to new clothes, eating scrumptious rendang and ketupat, and of course, for many Asian kids – the collection of green packets filled with dollar dollar bills. Apart from visiting close relatives on the first day of Eid, you get to spend another day in Syawal with your closest friends from school visiting their houses.

It was kinda cool to bring your friends over when you were ten years old, dressed in the traditional baju kurung going around the neighbourhood and coming home at the end of the day with your bag bursting with green packets. You would know which house gave the envelope, and if you get at least $5 from that house, you’re definitely going back there again the year after.

As I grew older, however, the enjoyment of Eid started to fade away. At fifteen, I despised celebrating Eidulfitri. Eidulftri would be torturous for me since I had to appeased my newly divorced parents – I couldn’t spend more than 2 hours at my dad’s place or I’ll never hear the end of my mum’s wrath. My sisters were busy with their own families, making sure they visit the in-laws before making their way to my mum’s. And for some reason, you start not liking your relatives. I remember bursting out at my sister for coming so late int the afternoon and my make up was already ruined from the frustration of waiting around. The first day of Eid as a hormonal teenager was basically me playing the waiting game.

Eid started to change as I entered my twenties. While it was still as boring as when I was a teenager, I began to prepare the house the house willingly. I bought flowers, new cushion covers, and occasionally curtains to slowly make the house into a home. I volunteered help in the kitchen, making sure I picked up my mum’s recipes to her signature Eid dishes and perfecting them. I made cookies and sweet treats to offer to the guests coming over to my place and made sure there were all sorts of drinks available for them.

As much as I wish Eid is better now as I enter my mid-twenties, I realised that an awkward Eid is a common predicament between peers of my age. Perhaps it’s the having to part with copious amounts of money during the festive period – spending for the house and family, green packets for the little ones, awkward conversations with aunts and uncles who seem to nitpick on every aspect of your life. Or maybe it has got to do with spending Eid as a single woman, wondering when you’d be able to prepare for Eid excitedly for your kids and husband. Whatever the reason is, Eid as a struggling single twenty something is just plain boring.

I make do with baking cookies, cakes and occasionally help my mum prepare the traditional dishes we feast on the morning of Eid. House chores like literally scrubbing the floors get my mind off the fact that each Eid is the same as before – lonesome and boring. I try getting away from celebrating Eid by going to work, but I feel bad for my mum. Though to be honest, I’m quite happy working while everyone else celebrates.

One day, I’ll wake up on the morning of Eid excited to head to the mosque, dress my family up and head out for the rounds of visiting. One day, I’ll learn to appreciate the merry-making and spamming of family photos on Facebook and Instagram. One day, I’ll teach my daughter how to prepare the raya dishes and get my son to wash the windows and fix the curtains up. One day, I’ll be on my knees on the morning of Eid, with my head buried in my husband’s hand, asking for forgiveness and perhaps shedding a tear or two.

One day, that happy family portrait of mine will be hung on my wall just in time for Eid.

For now, I’ll be contented with spending the morning of Eid at home, with a cup of coffee and a bowl of lontong, watching reruns of Bujang Lapok on the telly with my three cats.

Eid Mubarak everyone.

 

Thank You

I celebrate the first anniversary of my photography business tomorrow, and while it took me a while to decide which date I want to make it my company’s birthday, I wanted to be sure it’s a date that is significant not just for me but for those who helped built my business. I decided to make 10 April 2014 my company’s birthday because it is the also the day of my first overseas photography trip. It’s the day my beautiful clients Sadiyah and Masri got married in Perth last year.

It was really by chance that I saw Nora Zee’s Facebook status in March 2014 when a friend of mine tagged me in her post saying she was looking for a photographer to accompany her to Perth. I was still unemployed, and I was not sure if I wanted to do photography for real. I was freelancing as a trainer, doing odd jobs and relief teaching here and there. I’m no stranger to working without a stable income since that was what I was doing through out university. But after a year and a half in the teaching force, I must I admit, I was stuck.

As much as I got rid of the idea of a monthly pay check in my head, those around me could not do so. Sadly, my mother took the biggest blow. She could not accept the fact that I was running a business. Or rather, trying to run a business. I can deny this fact as much as I want but I knew she had her insecurities because my father ran businesses before and that took a toll on her marriage – I basically reminded her of my dad.

An apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and I am proud to say I am my mother and father’s daughter. Though my dad has not been in my life for a while now, I thank him for making me who I am today. I learnt through his mistakes so that I would not make the same mistakes as a young entrepreneur. I thank him for that one time in primary school I got into trouble for reselling erasers I bought from the school bookshop to my friends – in my defence, I was being entrepreneurial.

So exactly a year ago, when I headed to Perth with Nora for Sadiyah and Masri’s wedding, I told myself that it was now or never. I am barely 25, single, no student debt or loans to clear and basically have a lot of time on my hands. This past year has not been easy. Yet each time I’m faced with a difficulty or obstacle, Allah shows me to the right direction. Each time I had doubts on myself, He shows me signs as if saying “Girl, you’re on the right track. Don’t bother turning back.”

While He definitely took away some things or people away from my life, He is indeed the most just. I believe on that not just a rainbow would appear after the storm, but a pot of gold awaits at the end of the rainbow.

As I write this in the comfort of my friend’s apartment in Melbourne, I cannot thank Allah enough. I thank Allah for letting me meet wonderful colleagues, partners and clients who believe in me. I thank Him for letting me cross paths with amazing photographers who are willing to share their tips and always giving me feedback when it comes to photos.

I thank Allah for the life He has bestowed upon me.

Honey Apple Salad with Feta Cheese

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Ramadhan is around the corner and I know how difficult it is to soothe your palette after a whole day of fasting. You want everything you see on your instagram feed and you buy every single fried delicacy you see at the Ramadhan bazaar. Truth is, you will end up weighing more after Ramadhan, thanks to the endless food choices available.

Allah Says in the Holy Quran Chapter 7 Surah Aaraaf verse 31:

O children of Adam! Attend to your embellishments at every time of prayer, and eat and drink and be not extravagant; surely He does not love the extravagant.

On another note, be conscious to eat healthy while fasting. We only get to eat during the night but that doesn’t mean stuffing ourselves silly with junk. Here is one of my favorite salad recipes that will refresh your mind the minute it is time to break fast.

Honey Apple Salad with Feta Cheese

250g mixed salad (choose the ones with a mix of greens and reds)
1 gala apple
250g feta cheese
200g cherry tomatoes on the vine
Juice of one lemon
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons honey
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine lemon juice, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper in a mason or jam jar.
2. Cover with lid and shake the jar till everything combines well. Set aside.
3. In a big bowl, pour all the contents of your salad mix.
4. Cut apple into half, then slice them thinly. Add into the big bowl of salads.
5. Pour the salad dressing into the bowl of greens and mix them well.
6. Cut feta cheese into cubes.
7. Plate the salad on a big plate or bowl, and serve as suggested.

With that, enjoy eating more greens and have a blessed Ramadhan ahead!

6 Things to do Before Your Solo Trip

It feels surreal that I’ll be leaving for my trip of a lifetime in three days. As I’ve mentioned many times before, it’s my first trip alone. I probably should have been a bit smarter and booked a trip somewhere nearer, but I reckon it’s now or never. I’m not going to be 23 and single forever, would I?

So many things are happening this week, both at work and at home. I know that I just need my affairs in order and loads of planning before I take my leave on Saturday. Maybe, I will eventually share why I’m feeling a bit heartbroken and dismayed rather than excitement. Like I said, I have so many reasons for me to leave but I won’t. Not for now, at the very least.

So anyways, I thought I’d share the details of my preparation.

1. Preparing your travel itinerary

The first part of traveling solo is preparing a detailed itinerary of your trip. You don’t have to explicitly list what you will be doing on a day to day basis, but it is important you list the addresses of your accommodation and the dates of arrival in the various cities.

I’m the youngest of the family, and I know my family still babies me. When I announced I’ll be doing this trip my mum pestered me to let her know when and where I’ll be throughout the traveling time.

This booklet will be my Quran (I thought I might get into trouble if I were to use the word ‘bible’ – I kid I kid). And my mother’s. I know that she’s probably going to cross out the days in the calendar. I need to remind myself to whatsapp her everyday.

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2. Travel Insurance

I cannot stress this enough – travel insurance is important. Gone are the days I used to travel without any insurance. Well, I was a poor undergraduate (and now I’m a poor graduate) so I had a reason not to insure myself while traveling. Now that I’m earning, insurance is my top priority.

I got myself a policy from Great Eastern. In fact, I took an annual travel insurance policy for only $390. A great deal for someone who travels at least twice a year. If you need to get this, feel free to email me and I’ll hook you up with a friend who is a consultant (doing you a favor Isk!).

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3. A backpack

The last thing you want to do while traveling alone is to deal with a crazy luggage while walking up the stairs or dragging a luggage along a cobbled street. Besides, having a bag on your back lessens the threat of losing your things.

4. Get enough rest

You do not want to start your trip with a flu or a runny nose. Start sleeping early, wake up early and get up to do things during the day. There was once, in 2007 when I visited my sister in Detroit I flew off with a runny nose. It became a full blown flu upon my arrival. Not the prettiest sight for my sister who hadn’t seen me in years.

5. Leave with a clean home

We don’t have a helper at home, and I do most of the cleaning since my mum does the cooking. I’ve been cleaning my room progressively this week, and making an extra effort to keep the house spick and span. The only thing I’ve been procrastinating is laundry. I hate doing laundry.

6. Research

Research, research, research. I’ve been reading every travel blog I can get my hands on. Travelettes, Nomadic Matt and many other travel blogs which advocate solo travel will help you get into the zone.

And now, I think I’m in the zone. Time to finish cleaning and packing.

Capturing September

It’s the end of the September holidays, meaning it’ll be a month till the last day of the school year and thus the year end vacation is in sight. I’ve been blessed with more rizq this month with almost all four weekends in September booked for wedding assignments. I haven’t processed the photos yet, but here’s a sneak peek at what I’ve been up to the first half of this month.

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 Jumaiyah & Mahathir (25 Aug & 1 Sep 2013)

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 Halimah & Firdaus (14 Sep 2013)

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Kakak-Kakak Honours (15 Sep)

One more wedding next week and then Shamsydar Ani Photography will be taking a break till year end! 😉

Of Love and Engagements

Ever since a close friend of mine introduced me to Style Me Pretty, I’ve been obsessed about party decorating and photographing events the way SMP features them. Last week, I was given the opportunity to photograph Sheriza’s wonderful engagement party. In other words, my dreams of taking SMP-like photos came true! Congratulations to you both! Cannot wait for your big day! 🙂

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Sheriza made this cake herself! And she spent an entire day stamping those letters on the flags. A for effort!

 

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Dreams

I’ve always been fascinated with dreams – both the kinds you get when you’re sleeping, and those you aspire of in the future. Back in 2009, I wrote about a dream I had. I still make it a point to remember the dreams I have just because I have nothing better to do find it intriguing to understand what my subconscious mind is actually thinking about.  

So two days ago, my girlfriend texted me saying she dreamt about me and someone (this someone is of course from my recent past). In her words:

We were on a cruise and the ship broke down. While we were both trying to fix the problem, he came along and offered to help so I excused myself and let you guys do the fixing. 

I was about to get angry at her but then I realised it was just a dream:

So the dream is metaphorically telling me to fix the relationSHIP?

We burst out laughing in the end. I found it amusing that she dreamt it, not me. But I have to bite my own tongue because last night I did have a continuation of that bizarre fixing-the-ship dream. Let’s not get into details, shall we?

For now, I am happy being on my own, living my life as and how I want to (well, unless my my mother disapproves). And yes, crepes make me happy.  

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Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning. 

– Gloria Steinem

A Little Update

Life has been hectic, especially when I’m juggling three jobs at once, for no apparent reason. While the students are having their holidays, I go to work settling admin stuff and pretty much prepare myself for a new semester with them next year. On top of that, I’m finishing my last round tuition before I start on a new batch of students. And of course, since its the holidays, it also means wedding season! Not that I have many assignments but last Sunday marks the first wedding assignment I’m tasked to do… alone!

I am finally free from my reigns of being a trainee under my beloved sister from another set of parents, Mai SB. I hope I do her proud. It was tough doing it alone, but nonetheless a good experience. Not to mention that the bride and groom are extremely beautiful and wonderful to work with. Sure, there were a few hiccups and challenges, but it’s all part of the job! 

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I am looking forward to the next wedding next weekend, albeit I’ll be doing videography instead of photography. Mai’s doing the photography. And of course I’m looking forward to it cause it’s one of my Fityan friend’s wedding! 

In times like these, I really thank God for everything He has showered me with. I may have had someone taken away from me, but I’m blessed with many other people and things that I don’t need to worry about my fate. I just need to have a little faith 😉