DIY Minnie Mouse Birthday Party

Daughter turned six last year (yeah, I know, the post is ONE year late in coming. Her 7th birthday is over too!)

India has limited options for ‘themed’ birthday parties and the options available are either too expensive or too unimaginative. So we decided on Minnie Mouse. Her initial choices were Wizard of Oz and Doc McStuffins, but her friends hadn’t heard of either. (I know, right? Cue the eye roll). So we settled on a more relatable theme and here we are.

I created my own invitation card using The ready made ones were tacky, impersonal, not eco friendly and too much trouble (imagine actually going to each invitee personally to give an invitation which would eventually be thrown in the bin!) I simply forwarded the said e-card on whatsapp. I could send it multiple times and even to people who live at a distance.

For the food. I don’t think its NECESSARY to have one big cake. I am not into the whole candle blowing ritual anyway. I figured cupcakes would do just as well. However,  it’s not easy to find cupcake toppers in India. I scoured the net to find ‘bow’ shaped sprinkles or the likes for the Minnie Mouse cupcakes to no avail. Finally my niece asked me to just scrape out the ‘cream’ between Oreo biscuits and cut them diagonally to shape them into ‘bows’. Best advice EVER; considering how I was gonna use the Oreos for the ‘ears’ ANYWAY!




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I did end up spending a ‘Minnie’ fortune on online bought party supplies eventually, namely the polka dotted paper ware. For the rest, I just stuck to good old imagination to bring it all together. The parents who came to drop off their kids seemed more excited to see the table than the kids themselves!

I used my stopper lid storage jars as beakers to store/display the candy and snacks (dark pink ‘HALAL’ gummy candy and strawberry wafer biscuits) . I simply removed the lids and taped cheap polka dot ribbon around it. I placed them on a cake stand for instant chic.

My friend Janina, who helped me with the setting, got my daughter a toy Minnie to go with the theme. She came in early and I incorporated the gift as a decor element. My mom had some cheap plastic plate holders she bought as a souvenir to hold her photo embossed plates from her Malaysia trip. I used them to hold up the pretty paper plates. Though in retrospect, I doubt if I would be spending on decor based plates again. They’re needlessly expensive and are eventually covered totally with the food so lose their relevance too.

As for the backdrop, I simply pinned polka dot wrapping paper on cheap cork boards with tacks and took Minnie mouse print outs, cut them out and glued them on the boards. Easy peasy lemon squeezy! To think I would have spent a proper bomb if I had gone for store bought display options! I did the same for the foreground. I had two IKEA stand frames. I simply inserted some patterned paper that I had with a Minnie cut out pasted on each. Voila!

For the activities, I took black and white prints of bow templates and asked each girl to color/decorate their bow. That took up some sizable amount of quiet time and it was a good starting point for the party as we waited for all the kids to arrive. Next, we played ‘pin the bow on Minnie’s head’ which is just a variant of pin the donkey’s tail, only the donkey we replaced with a black chart paper silhouette of Minnie’s head and the tail was replaced with the said self decorated bows. For the rest we stuck to the regular parry games.


The return gift/party favor was easy to decide on: Minnie Mouse bow hairbands! Those were instant hits!



Ramadan Quiz and Games

Ramadan’s fast approaching Inshallah.

My two very talented teenage nieces are helping at the local community  organizing an Islamic summer camp for kids aged 7 to 12. They have several lessons, games and activities planned. My daughter looks forward to the sessions with her Didi and Api. So one day they invited me to conduct a 45 minute session for ‘Sawm day’- fasting day.

So here are two activities I designed: a Ramadan quiz and a simple game of charades for the do’s and do nots of Ramadan and fasting. I hope you like them.

Ramadan Quiz (open link to download document)

Ramadan Charades: This would probably work better with younger kids, say ages 5 to 7?Or just as fillers.

Just like any other charades, I have put in some cues for things one must do or not do during Ramadan/ fasting. Actually, since most of these apply even to days outside Ramadan, they can be used whenever you would like some easy fun and good habit reinforcement.

Here are the ramadan charades. Simply cut along the lines, fold and place in a bowl. Ask the kids to come forward in groups of two or so and ask them to act out the memes. The rest of the kids guess the action and say whether its a ‘do’ or a ‘do not’.

Not my brand of feminism

I am quite the feminist. Anyone who knows me well enough will tell you that. I like fairness when dealing with gender issues. As a rule I tend to detest sexist notions and stereotypes. Especially the desi types. But I also like to keep it real. Raking up gender politics only for the sake of raking them up sounds puerile to me. So I came across this video on Facebook feed about how Indian women are fed up with all the sexist comments thrown at them, and how one sassy lass keeps her critics in place. I love it when women fight back and claim whats their own, those are my kind of fun stories, but this one I found disturbing.

Here’s why:

#1. In clip one, a desi mom is chastising her daughter for not knowing how to cook. “The way to a man’s heart is through is stomach,” quotes the solemn mom, in a very ‘Bend it like Beckham’ moment. The daughter does an eye roll and makes a lewd comment for shock value.

What I found wrong: As a feminist I think my saner line of thought would be to push the sons into cooking rather than asking the daughters to quit it. Why should women quit learning how to cook? It’s an essential life skill; the way to health, survival and satiation. What’s so sexist about being equipped to deal with day to day life? Men who don’t know how to cook are as much at a disadvantage as a women who don’t know how to drive. So prod the men of the house to pick up the ladle, for God’s sake, but don’t ask the women to throw theirs away! If this trend continues, we will have a generation of couples who can only survive on takeaway and ramen. How is that a good thing?

#2. A drunk man and a relatively sober woman are sitting at a bar. The woman asks for another round of alcohol and the man makes a snide remark about her being irresponsible by drinking so much, despite being a woman. Our lady has a scathing comeback about how she can hold her drink better than the man and we are all supposed to be cheering for girl power.

What I found wrong: Seriously?!! Instead of telling our men to sober up and become responsible, we are asking our women to become just as unapologetically callous in the name of equality? So a woman is only kick-ass in as much as she can compete with the idiocy of her male counterparts?

Sure, it’s wrong to have double standards; it’s wrong to make allowances for male drunkenness and get preachy for the female version. I would have thought the feminist approach to correct this hypocrisy would be to reprimand irresponsible behavior IRRESPECTIVE of gender, not glorify it when women do it, in order to be on equal footing!

#3. A female uses disgusting cuss words in jest. A male reprimands her for her un-lady like behavior. She responds with repeating the same profanities in mock whispers while the male sullenly looks on.

What I found wrong: Where do I begin? I would shut my son up for using filthy language  just as I would shut my daughter up for the same. If cuss words are unbecoming for a lady, they are just as unbecoming for a gentleman. And I intend to raise decent individuals. THAT is equality, in my opinion. Priming up my daughter to talk filth ‘like a man’ might make her equal to the men around her- equal in being disgusting, that is. I think I would rather she rises above such men. Just as I would expect my son to rise above them too.

#4.  A man reprimands a woman for dressing skimpily for a night party, making some inane comment about leaving nothing to imagination. The woman retorts by asking him not to use his brain much.

What I found wrong: OK this one’s complex. You may or may not agree with me on this one. I am not judging you, so bear with me too, please. However, in a country where sexual assault is so brazenly rampant, I do feel it becomes our responsibility to be on our guard. It’s just common sense.

For example, this: My brother once went to get cash from the atm in the wee hours of the night on foot. An elderly local shopkeeper spotted him, was alarmed at his ‘audacity’ and asked him to hop on his bike so he could drop him home safely. While leaving, he told my brother it wasn’t wise for him to be walking alone in the dead of the night with so much cash on him.

Was the man wrong in his intervention? Was he trying to ‘put my brother in place’? Was he trying to impose his world view on him? Was he glorifying potential muggers and making my brother the culprit for enticing a robbery? I think he was just being careful.

Whether we like it or not, we live in an imperfect world. We need to combat the sexual assault culture by all means- by protesting, by demanding better law and order, more accountability, but most importantly,  by asking our men to ‘lower their gaze’. It’s strange how we put in so much emphasis on our women to cover up but almost no effort in training our men to avert their glances. THAT, in my opinion, would be the ‘feminist’ approach- to teach our sons to be gentlemen. We spend enough energy in vilifying women for being sexually enticing. It’s time we spent at least an equal amount on reprimanding our sons for being consumers of such objectification.





Dear Emma Watson


Dear Emma Watson,

I have always loved your work. You clearly stood out as the most talented of the child actors when the Harry Potter movies were released. You were quite the natural, all effortless and with so much flair. Your Hermione was so strong, so brave and so full of grit.  Of course, you were playing the dream role -a feminist heroine penned by a feminist writer, and suddenly girls all over the globe had a new role model. You brought sass back in vogue. You were the heroine who relied on courage and knowledge rather than a pretty face, when it came to solving a problem, or even better, saving the world. As a young woman and then as a mother of a young girl, I was glad we had public figures who were more than just the sum of their body parts.

You carried your confidence and self assertiveness well beyond the Potter years. You advocated for women’s rights and were admired likewise. And then suddenly, you do a half naked cover for a fashion magazine. And then you go and justify it by saying that feminism is all about ‘choice’. Seriously, Emma?

So OK, yes, as an independent woman I need to be able to make my own choices. I am with you on that one. But does that absolve me from all the wrong choices? Even if they’re committed in the name of feminism? If that were the case,  Lindsay Lohan would have been the most ideal role model for all the 90’s teens. With all due respect to her situation at the time, she was not the kind of behavior we wanted our girls to emulate.

As women the world over are fighting against sexual objectification and fighting to be taken seriously, your cover seems tone deaf to the very cause you espouse. To quote you: “Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It’s about freedom, it’s about liberation, it’s about equality. I really don’t know what my tits have to do with it.” 

We do not want to beat you with your own stick, Emma, we really don’t. But then again, we live in a world where women are frequently groped, females are secretly rated by male co workers according to their sex appeal and women face growing social pressure to either sport a certain ‘sexy’ look or be dismissed as hags. Heck, even an accomplished lawyer like Amal Clooney’s worth  only boiled down to how she carried her baby bump. You see the pattern here? If all this is unequivocally sexist, how is your provocative cover not?

You didn’t start these trends. No, you’re better than that, so I wont blame you for something you don’t deserve. But my dear, dear Emma, you are most surely perpetuating the same sexist tradition. Showing off your t*@s does NOT make you a feminist- a term you have publicly identified with for years. I agree with you on that feminism is NOT equal to man hating, but in my books feminism is NOT equal to man titillating either. And let’s face it, a (semi) nude cover DOES intend on titillating outcomes, whether you like to admit it or not.

Please, Emma, there are many young girls who look up to you. Girls who believe they can achieve anything they want to, even without having to flaunt their t*@s. We live in a milieu when it is not unheard of women being asked for sexual favors in return for what they deserve rightfully anyway. Please don’t make it OK for them to think they need to ‘sell’ their talents in more ways than one.

Summer Reading Camp: Day 7: The Gruffalo!

Summer Reading Camp: Day 7: The Gruffalo!


We were on a Julia Donaldson-esque ‘high’. First we were hooked on to the Paper Dolls and now the Gruffalo! I am a big (and I mean BIG) fan of the book! For years I passed by it in book stores but never really picked it up, but when I finally did (thanks to the daughter’s school library), there was no looking back. The book has sold over 13 million (yes, 13 MILLION) copies since its initial release in 1999 and has been adapted into West End and Broadway plays. (Something I would DEFINITELY wanna go watch if I had a chance).

As I said, I was introduced to Donaldson pretty late in the day. The book is targeted towards 3-7 year olds and I am so glad I finally discovered it before my daughter crossed that age. (Phew!)

The book (for the few ignorant ones like me) is fun, imaginative, has cutesy illustrations and is written in lively verse- what’s not to love? Needless to say, instant hit with the girls.

So I read it out to them and then this is what we did: I got a print out of a Gruffalo coloring page and stuck it to the wall. Since the book is rich in descriptions of the Gruffalo’s physical features, I printed out small tabs with different body parts on some and their corresponding adjectives on others. (E.g. The Gruffalo has ‘knobbly/knees’ and ‘turned out/toes’.)


Each kid had to rummage through the pile of paper tabs and first find a body part (in this case- knees) and then rack their memories to find out what goes with it (in this case- knobbly). She then had to fish out the complete phrase and stick the tabs on the Gruffalo on the wall. So we had ‘Orange Eyes’, ‘Terrible Tusks’, ‘Poisonous Wart’ and so on.


Next I asked them to fish out phrases that go with the other animals in the book. For instance, the kid had to look for ‘owl’ and ‘ice-cream’ from the mixed up pile of tabs and stick the complete phrase ‘owl ice cream’ next to the picture of the owl! (And so we had ‘Scrambled/snake, Roasted/fox’, etc.)


Lastly, as an art extension activity, I gave them a step by step tutorial on how to draw a fox, a snake and an owl.


All in all, a fun day! Alhamdulilah!


Summer Reading Camp: Day 6: Julia Donaldson!

Summer Reading Camp: Day 6: Julia Donaldson!

IMG_20160423_185813Day 6

This ought to be one of my favorites- who DOESN’T love Julia Donaldson??? I was introduced to her books kinda late in the day. The Gruffalo was released sometime in the 90’s which means I wasn’t kid enough to read them and well, not grown up enough to bother about kid’s perspectives. But once I read them (to the daughter, of course!), boy was I hooked!

I ordered this book along with the two Gruffalo books, not because it had been recommended but because the cover looked oh-so-pretty! I know, I know, never judge a book by its cover and all that, but then I had read other books by Donaldson and I was sure this couldn’t POSSIBLY be bad!IMG_20160423_180257

So I read the book to them. The ‘audience’ being all girls helped. They absolutely LOVED the narrative! And today I let them off the hook for private reading, instead we sat down together to make paper dolls of our own. No points for guessing how THAT activity went!  My girl also started naming her dolls 🙂 And another kept singing the refrain from the book, “And Ticky and Tacky and Jackie the Backie, and Jim with two noses and Jo with the bow!” Oh, the joys of childhood!


IMG_20160423_171609098We then did this really fun activity adapted from here on (although I made quite a few changes to the basic idea). Here’s what I did: I made a list of words that first graders should be able to spell. I then pulled out my scrabble set and gave them the whole pile of tiles. I told each kid they had to ‘manufacture’ words in their ‘factory’. So if I told them I wanted a ‘kite’, they had to spell ‘kite’ from the pile. Was good fun, Alhamdulillah!

IMG_20160423_180147929IMG_20160423_173300179And that was that! A very satisfying, literary, crafty day in all!



Summer Reading Camp Day 5

Summer Reading Camp Day 5

So Day 5:

I chose to read one of Enid Blyton’s Seven ‘o Clock Tales, you know, just because I loved reading her as a kid myself. Though I have to admit, while the plots are endearingly charming, the language does sound a tad bit dated, especially when you read some of the more recent writers. But my daughter will listen to just about ANYTHING that you read to her, so there!

I followed this up with a sight word bingo game. This game seems to be a popular choice for educators and parents to familiarize kids with sight words. i adapted one I found on the web and used the Dolche list. Ech kid was given a 3×3 grid. I made index cards with sight words on them. Each kid had to first copy out the words on their grids. This is step one in familiarizing the kids to the words (writing the words down). Once they were done with that, I shuffled the cards and asked each kid to pick out one random index card at a time. If they found that word on their grid, they had to strike it out, if not, put it back in the pile. The kid to first get a ‘full house’ (i.e. all words striked out) was the winner.

Summer Reading Camp Day 4

This post was long in coming, but a family vacation came up and things got delayed. However, now that I am Alhamdulillah refreshed, let’s go!


So this is how day four turned out:

Story telling with discussion: I picked another Brothers Grimm tale, ‘The House in the Wood’ from my Miles Kelly collection. The story involved some farm animals and old man with a really, really, long beard. To spruce up the telling a bit, I used my daughter’s toy figurines. I had the necessary animals and used a grandpa doll sans the long beard and asked the kids to imagine the facial hair 😉


Activity 1: The story had some vivid descriptions- the old man, a paradise like room that the heroine finds herself in, etc. I didn’t let the girls peek into the book’s pictures. Instead, after we had discussed all about the tale, I asked each to draw scenes from the story from their understanding of the plot and characters. It was interesting to see how they had visualized the narrative.


Activity 2: I adapted this activity on the silent letter ‘E’ from I used my daughter’s blackboard instead. Each girl got a simple word on the board (like cub), to which she had to add the ‘magical letter E’ with her special colored chalk (each girl was given a different color). She then had to read the new word (in this case, ‘cube’). So we had words like at, pin, bit, spin, etc.


And that was it. We did two activities and our one hour was up. Unfortunately we didn’t get any time for silent reading on this day, but I did ask the girls to take home some books from the ‘library’ to read at home.