Tag Archives: Family Fun

Vacationing in the Caribbean- the Halal Way

By Anisa Tayab

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I always wanted to go away somewhere down south, sit on a warm beach and enjoy a mocktail!  I was always afraid to take a trip because I didn’t know what to expect and if it would be appropriate for my kids to be around people drinking and in swim wear all day.  I just didn’t know how my kids would react to so many “new” experiences around them.

When my boys were 5 and 3, we decided to take the plunge and took a trip to Mexico.  After weeks and weeks of researching we chose a resort that we thought would accommodate our needs the best.  We wanted to have a relaxing time while not comprising our beliefs or having to explain the actions of others to our kids.

Location, Location, Location

Cancun is known to be a party city in Mexico.  The hotel zone is full of hotels, clubs and lots of party goers.  It is a popular destination for spring breakers.  We knew we wanted to stay far away from that environment.  We chose a five star resort in hopes the other guests at the resort would be mature guests and not the party crowd.  This made a huge difference in my opinion.  Once we got there, most of the other guests were mature adults, young families or extended families vacationing together.  We also chose a resort that was away from the hotel zone.  We were not able to walk to another resort on the beach so it was completely private.


I have yet to find a resort that offers Halal options (wouldn’t that be great?!) but most resorts do have a variety of seafood and vegetarian options.  If you mention your dietary concern to your wait staff immediately they may even be able to “cook” something special just for you.  Mention your dietary concerns at check in so there is a note on your file in case you order room service.  From my experiences I found that most staff is more than willing to help you out to make sure your stay is enjoyable.

Since most resorts are all inclusive, you’ll find a lot of people drinking around you.  Your kids will see multi-coloured drinks and want to order them.  Keep in mind, almost everything you see can be made “virgin” which means non-alcoholic.  Some of our favorites are Mud Slides (Banana and Chocolate Milk), Virgin Pina Colada (pineapple and coconut) and Miami Vice (strawberry and pina colada).  Keep in mind the juices are fresh so we would order pineapple juice and mango juice all day.

To avoid any confusion with our order, we always take our own tumblers with us.  Tervis and Contigo make great ones.  The staff will rinse it out between drinks and they will learn that your cup means no alcohol!

Staying Cool

Can’t wear a bathing suit? No problem?  We all know about the burkini but you don’t have to invest in one.  I always wear a bathing Anisa iPhone-04262013 1046suit and cover it up with a rash guard on top and active wear (tights or lounge pants) on the bottom.  This gives me the chance to change my outfit every day.  There are so many rash guards to choose from and they protect you from the UV rays.

I also found by lounging around the kid’s pool you see more modest swim wear since it is all families.  Most moms have the same concerns as each other.  What surprised me was that my kids didn’t even mention anything about the exposure around them because they were too busy playing and having fun.  I think adults tend to pay more attention to those around us than kids do.

The sun in the Caribbean is very hot! I didn’t think I would burn (I’ve never burnt in my life) but not only did I burn but my entire family did.  It’s so important to wear a strong sunscreen and keep re-applying.  There is nothing worse than burning on vacation. Always wear sunscreen and a hat!

Nightly Entertainment

Most resorts offer entertainment at night.  We asked for the show schedule at check in so we could pre-plan our nights.  Most resorts have family friendly shows: Michael Jackson, Circus themed and Fire Acrobats are some of our favorites.

Relax and Enjoy

An upcoming vacation is a great time to teach your kids about different countries, the currency used there and the culture of the country.  We always try to learn the native tongue of the country we are visiting together as a family before our trip.

Don’t forget why you wanted to take a vacation.  Sometimes it’s hard to just relax but it’s important to take a break from our daily routines and enjoy our families and make memories.

 About the Author:

Anisa Tayab is a working mom to 2 boys.  She enjoys taking trips to expose her sons to various cultures and sites.


Spring Break Do’s and Don’ts

By Mariam Mazhar 


March break panic has set in!  Not heading to a sunny beach? Neither am I but I have set up some do’s and don’ts for March break that will not break my bank and will keep the kids busy and happy. If you cannot take days off from work; do not fret. There are many different half and full day camps available depending on your child’s needs and interests. You can choose from sports, arts and crafts, robotics or academic-based camps. But if you are a stay at home mom or you are lucky enough to take some time off here are some good suggestions or you.

Do not wake up early

Your kids have been working hard for past ten weeks (yes it’s been a while since winter holidays ended). They have been occupied with homework assignments,  their music lessons, soccer practices and what not. Let them sleep in and let them rest their tired bodies. Remember a mommy’s body also needs rest so please hide your alarm clocks.

Do not hate the cold

Spring is just around the corner. And even if it doesn’t get warmer over the March break do not hate the last bit of snow, rather enjoy it. Go snow tubing, skiing or skate boarding and end your winter with some wonderful memories. If you find it pricey go tobogganing on the nearby hills.

Do not stay indoors

Your body needs daily dose of exercise. Bundle up your kids and go for a morning walk. Look for early signs of spring, listen to the birds chirping, spot some squirrels under the bush and keep your fingers crossed for some sunshine.

Do not plan something for everyday and every moment

A healthy amount of boredom is okay!  Don’t constantly rush in to alleviate boredom. This will help motivate your child to find new ways to entertain himself.

Do not spend too much

Even if you are not travelling, having kids at home means pizza nights, trips to mall  and march break camps. If you have the luxury of staying home with kids during March break than you can cut that extra amount of spending by cooking with your kids and attending these free fun activities:

Spring Break at Indigo

Indigo|Chapters is holding FREE in-store spring activities across Canada. Daily themes include: Dr. Seuss, Lego, Klutz crafts. (Check chapters.indigo.ca for further details)

Tip: Get there 15 min before start time to get a good spot.

Sugar bush and Maple Syrup Festivals

The trees will soon be tapped and now is the time to layer up and get out seeing how maple syrup is made. Generally a low budget outing.  For more details check out our previous article on the Maple Syrup Festival.

The Home Depot Kids workshops

I don’t know if these are across Canada, so please contact your local store. The kids’ workshops are a great opportunity to build something with your kids. The activities are FREE and usually can be made within an hour.

Toys “R” Us Spring Break events

Toys “R” Us has spring break events. Check online or call before heading the store and some events might not be free or might require to purchase the material or toys.

Public Library

Public libraries will be holding free Spring break events (in Toronto they offer both English and French events). Check your local libraries. Some events might require prior registration.

Public Swim & Skate:

Some community centers offer free swimming and skating (or for a toonie) during March break.

Tip: Go 15 minutes ahead of time to avoid disappointments

Visit your local mall

Another great spot to find free activities is your local mall. Check your local paper or mall websites for daily events including crafts, stage shows, science fun, concerts and more.

Tip: leave your credit cards at home to avoid extra spending

Plan your summer garden

Visit your local nursery or hardware store to buy seeds and required tools. Whether the garden is a large plot in the backyard or a few planting pots off the back deck, give each child an area of responsibility/opportunity. Allow them to plan what they will plant for the growing season.

Movies for cheap

Some cinemas show classics and old children’s movies for toonies. Check cinemas in your city and the screenings available.

Whatever you choose to plan for your kids, make it fun and memorable. After all that’s all that matters.

About the author:

Mariam Mazhar is a teacher by profession, with a passion for kids, cakes and creative writing.


Event report: Halal Food Fest TO 2014

By Rumina Rizvi and Aaisha Zafar Islam

Halal Food Fest Toronto 2014

Halal Food Fest Toronto 2014

“Halal Food Fest TO, #hffto, is the largest halal food festival in North America attended by over 30,000 visitors. This year’s festival tagline is “Eating Well” to celebrate and promote healthy eating. We welcome everyone to join this celebration. With the events planned, the festival is sure to be a feast for your eyes — and of course, your stomachs. The Festival is organized annually to bring the community together.”

– Organizers of Halal Food Fest TO, 2014

We’d seen a blitz of messages preceding the festival and honestly, they had us at halal! Is the festival really a must-visit? MuslimMoms of Canada had a reporting team on ground to cover the largest halal food festival in North America. Read on!

According to Salima Jivraj, the founder and marketing director for Halal FoodFest TO, last year had seen more than 30,000 attendees at the event and the numbers were sure to be larger this year.

“We’ve doubled our venue size from last year and have more things planned for the entire family in seven festival areas,” she told the media as she took them around on the festival’s opening day.

Halal FoodFest TO was held on June 14th and 15th, at the International Centre, Mississauga.

With more than 200 vendors, including 75 + in the sample city alone, the festival was an absolute gastronomic treat!

Some highlights at this year’s FoodFest included the Grill Master Competition as well as demonstrations and informative seminars through-out the two days, on ‘Eating Well’ also the theme for this year.

Notables in the guest list included MP’s Brad Butt, Linda Jeffrey, S Wong, Shaykh Yousuf Badat and Shaykh Omar Subedar as John Tory introduced the speakers at the front stage. However the crowd’s most energetic cheering was reserved for  Nazem Kadri #43 from Toronto Maple Leaf, also the brand ambassador of the Paramount Fine Food.

Take a look through our picture gallery capturing the best of the festival, then read through our reporters’ accounts. Don’t forget to add your own comments on our discussion boards!

Veteran Festival Go-er

Rumina, an ardent foodie was at the event both days. She’d also come to the FoodFest held last year and had a good comparison model on hand already.

Day One

The moment I stepped in, I was astounded at how well organized the whole setup was. Unlike last year, there were no line ups at the registration booth.

With three rows for pre-registered attendees and separate ones for on-site ticket purchase as well as Help Desk tables, everything was streamlined from the very entrance.

After the media walk-though and opening speeches, I went to the Sample City to indulge in treats that vendors and sponsors had. My pick of the lot were Twisters’ yummy fresh cut fries with chilli’s, tornado fries and sausage stick. They had huge line ups and people were anxiously waiting for the hot n fresh tornado fries.

Next I got myself some kachori chat from Premium Sweets and headed for the outdoor Street Festival. I got to meet Chef Aleem Syed, Toronto’s Second Chef on a Wheelchair – Co-Owner and Executive Chef at Black Ox Bistro.

Finally I decided to have a full meal from the Burger Factory – a succulent beef patty filled with mozzarella cheese- grilled to perfection. I topped off everything with the famous funnel cake.

I knew I was done for the day with enough temptations to return for tomorrow!

Day two

The second day I went for another round of food sampling and exploring other stalls selling clothing, books and other items.

Clothings, hijabs, embellishments, jewellery, wall decorations and art works, Islamic charitable organizations and NGOs, it was a well-rounded line up of vendors.

Second day’s highlights included Azhar Usman, the famous stand up comedian to entertain the crowd. He took over the stage for Grill Master held at the Outdoor Street Fest.

The outdoors had vendor trucks from the famous Beaver tails, Yalla Paramount along with a newbie Buster’s Sea Cove. My eyes this time were on the savoury and succulent fall off-the-bone ribs by Karachi Kitchen, right at at the entrance to the outdoor.

It was a complete family event that will be much anticipated for another round, next year.


A First Timer’s Report

Aaisha Zafar Islam went there alone to report on the event, but the festive atmosphere and many, many treats and food temptations got her to call in her family and friends. Come one, come all!

To be fair, I am not a food enthusiast. I like good food, but I lose my appetite when I see too much of it. Despite the dazzling array of food varieties on sale at the second Halal Food Fest TO, I must say I enjoyed the event.

All feedback I had gathered from friends, of last year’s event, had scared me of huge line-ups and an absolute crush at the venue. I thought it wise to go there as a reporter and not as a festival attendee.  My idea went up in barbecue smoke as soon as I stepped into the Festival Area!

Here’s what I liked about the festival:

The variety of food, all halal that could be sampled, bought and eaten.

Daddy’s Halal Ribs were highly recommended by Salima in her media tour. I passed on her words of gastronomic wisdom to my husband and promptly got ribbed on the name. However, he did get me some of these famed ribs and a second round for himself, so that is real endorsement! Unlike me, my husband is a foodie, he loves trying out different cuisines, cholesterol and digestion worries all forgotten!

In a quirky turn of events, our party ended up eating from Daddy’s Ribs and Big Mama’s Burgers!

I also enjoyed the cheese seminars held through the day. Who knew there were such a number and assortment of artisan cheeses, all #madeinCanada, that we could eat as Muslims. I have saved that list for my next grocery trip!

The ‘pit stop’ complete with colouring books, crayons and a Chevy at the festival. The children in our party had actually monopolized this area! The friendly attendant there was given a crash course on where his friends lived by my son. My toddler, on the other hand refused to come out of the SUV. ‘Mine!’ she said, too bad we could not bring that vehicle home to ‘sample!’

Modest clothing, all natural personal care items, halal gummies, teas, Islamic books, one day was simply not enough to take in all the festival offered. Unfortunately my little ones were totally exhausted by the end of our day, and I had to stay at home to recover from the excitement on Sunday.


Did you go to the festival? What did you like the most? Let’s share our halal food finds on the MuslimMoms.ca forums!