Monthly Archives: July 2014

27th July 2014

3 Ideas for Handprint Art

Wilfred turns 6 months in a few days time. It’s a cliche, but the baby days go so quickly and he will be a toddler in the blink of an eye. So to capture this time in his life (complete with squidgey thighs, gorgeous giggles, and splayed frogs legs when he sleeps), I decided to create some handprint artwork today to remember just how little he once was. Of course I couldn’t leave out Stanley, so we wanted to create a few pictures where he could get involved too.

We decided to create animals from their handprints, to make artwork we could frame for their nursery in Dubai. After a bit of research online for inspiration, we settled on camels, elephants, and dinosaurs – and here’s what we created…

photo 1 copy

photo 3 copy

photo-5

Here’s a few pictures of us creating the pictures – although there are no pictures of Wilfred as our concentration was firmly on getting a 6 month old to place his hand in the correct spot without smudging the paint all over the paper (obviously this happened… We luckily had a few gooduns)…

photo 5

photo 3

photo 2

photo 4 copy

photo 4

If you try them out, I’d love to see your artwork!



26th July 2014

Favourite birthday presents

Need to buy a present for a boy and no idea what appeals to their age? Looking for inspiration for your own boy for their birthday? I’ve fallen into both categories in the past few months, so I thought it would be helpful to ask 11 boys, aged between 1 and 10 years, for the three gifts that they loved most at their last birthday. I find the selections quite fascinating – isn’t it amazing how quickly our little boys grow up from babies to nearly-teenagers?

So without further ado, here’s what our boys (and their mummies) chose…

1 - OLIVER + GEORGE

collage twins

Oliver and George chose: Little Tikes Tool Box,  Wooden Push and Pull Along Butterfly, and Veleda Kids Cleaning Trolley

2 - STANLEY

collage Stanley

Stanley chose: Wooden Fruit and Vegetables Set, IKEA Kitchen, and Digger Truck

3 - Leo

collage Leo

Leo chose: Balance Bike, My First Peppa Pig Laptop, and Wooden Kitchen Utencils Set

4 - Isaac

collage Isaac

Isaac chose: ELC Police Costume, Remote Control James Bond Car, and Grow Your Own Butterflies Kit

5 - Reuben

collage Reuben

Reuben chose: Galt Paper Planes Kits, Playmobile Knights Castle, and the Usbourne ‘Look Inside’ series

6 - Ruben

collage Ruben

Ruben chose: LEGO City Boat, Nuts & Bolts Game, and Walt Disney Dinosaur DVD

7 - Matthew

collage Matt

Matt chose: Bike, Big Book of Drawing, Doodling, and Colouring for Boys (plus felt tip pens), and Skylanders Swap Force

8 - Mekhi

collage Mekhi

Mekhi chose: The Beano Album, Chess Set, and Iron Man Figurines

9 - Joe

collage Joe

Joe chose: iPod Touch, Watford Football Strip and Premiership Football Tickets

10 - Thomas

Tom collage

Thomas chose: iPad Mini, Lynx Toiletries, and Subscription to Football Magazine



23rd July 2014

Why I love bringing up my children in Dubai

Ever since we flew back to the UK for summer, I have been asked the same questions. Do you really want to go back? Do you actually like it? How do you cope with the heat? So I thought I’d answer all those questions in a blog post.

I don’t want to turn this into a post comparing bringing up children in the UK to bringing up children in Dubai. I don’t want to slag off the UK as it’s my real home – and the truth is that I don’t know what it’s like bringing up children in the UK, as I’ve never done it. Both of my boys were born in Dubai (in 2012 and 2014), so I can’t compare the two. I do however know exactly why I like being a Mummy in the UAE, so that is what I will tell you about. I hope this post is helpful for those considering a move to the Middle East (or even a holiday) – and interesting to those who are just a bit curious about what it’s like to be an expat mum.

Children rule the world

IMG_3898

The UAE is insanely child-friendly – and I love the way that my children are acknowledged in every shop, café, and restaurant. In fact, they are usually acknowledged before me with big, silly, over-the-top greetings that immediately make them smile. It’s not uncommon for the baby to be snatched away while we enjoy coffee, passed between staff members as they coo and tickle until he dissolves into giggles. Eyes turn to our children whenever we go – it’s like we became famous the minute we popped a baby out.  Who knew it was that easy.

Friends that have moved to the UAE with existing families have told me that it takes a while to get used to just how much attention their children get – but it’s all I’ve ever known and I lap it up. I love the way that Stanley expects to be welcomed so warmly – I can see his eyes search for a staff member and smile in anticipation. I see him wave and smile at passers by, especially at pick-up and drop-off time at nursery, when he thinks every parent is equally happy to see him. That’s got to be such a lovely way to live, always expecting the best in people and knowing you are welcome wherever you go. It must do wonders for a child’s self-esteem.

Now we’re back in the UK over summer, Stanley is saying hello to everyone in shops, ordering his own drinks in cafes, and smiling at random passers by. I don’t think he’s noticed that the greeting isn’t always reciprocated!

The weather

IMG_3899

It might sound barmy to say that I love the weather in Dubai, as everyone knows we have crazily hot weather in the summer – but the truth is that we are lucky enough to be enjoy outdoor life for 8 months of the year. The other 4 are a little toasty admittedly, but Dubai caters for this with air-conditioning literally everywhere you turn and a plethora of indoor activities and play areas to keep us busy. So we aren’t hot, we’re just a bit cabin-fevered from always being stuck indoors.

For those 8 months of the year when we can head outside, our weekends are spent playing on the beach, eating breakfast alfresco as we watch yachts glide past our table, strolling along the marina near to our apartment with scooters and pushchairs, and enjoying picnics in the park.

I love the weekends in Dubai. We don’t tend to plan until Thursday evening, sending off a score of messages to friends to suggest breakfast or beach meet-ups. My husband does his fair share of childcare at the weekend too, allowing me time to meet my friends for lunch or head to a spa for some relaxation. Whist I miss family and friends from the UK so much, it is nice to have our time entirely to ourselves to focus on our family. And when we come back to the UK, those times feel even more special.

Every colour of the rainbow

IMG_3897

A lot has to be said for the multicultural world we are bringing our children up in. Stanley goes to a British nursery, but is one of only a handful of British children on the register, with his classmates hailing from all over the world. A lot of his friends (and my friends too) don’t speak English as a first language – but that means nothing to him, as this is normality.

We go to the mall regularly at the weekend and most of our fellow shoppers are wearing Khaleeji dresses, burkas, headscarves, and saris. Some of these outfits are quite extreme to Western eyes, but Stanley doesn’t even see them, these outfits are as normal as if we were in the UK and shopping amongst a crowd of summer dresses and shorts/T-shirts. We hear the call of prayer four times a day wherever we are – in the mall, in the car, at home. We hear it so much that we don’t even hear it.

At nursery, he learns French and Arabic – and whilst at the age of two, this involves colouring in national flags and singing nursery rhymes, I love the fact these languages will continue as he grows up. I love that his classmates, teachers, and teaching assistants will be from all over the world.

Our safety bubble

IMG_5629

There is very little crime in the UAE and I love this safe little bubble to bring up my children.  I’m a Londoner at heart and can’t completely switch off being street wise, but I have got used to parking the buggy in an aisle in the supermarket and popping off to gather bits up as the baby studies a row of colourful tins. Children play outside in groups, racing up and down on their bikes without adult supervision, just like I used to do in the 1980’s.  We don’t make a habit of leaving the car and front door unlocked – but we have done plenty of times without any worry. A friend recently expressed surprise that I ever locked the car at all, as her’s remains permanently open.

I know that one day we will return to the UK and I will have to teach my children to be a little more street wise – but having very little children in a safe place is very reassuring.

So that’s why I love bringing up my children in the UAE – and if you are considering the move, I’d wholeheartedly encourage you to try it.

So am I actually looking forward to heading back? Well yes actually, I really am.



21st July 2014

Healthy Pizza Muffins

I’m always looking for ways to get vegetables into my two-year old, so handing him a healthy pizza muffin that contains no less than six different hidden veggies is my kind of a good idea. I found  this recipe on a website called Super Healthy Kids, but adapted it to make bigger, fatter muffins. They make amazing lunchbox fillers too – you can freeze them in batches, pulling one out to defrost the night before nursery or school. And if your little people love the flavour of pizza, they will adore the flavour of these too!

This recipe comes in two steps – the veggie filling and the dough itself.

Step 1 – Make the Veggie Filling

IMG_3775

Ingredients:

Jar of your favourite tomato pasta sauce
2 cups of chopped vegetables (carrot, pepper, mushrooms, onion, courgette, and tomato)

Recipe

1. Chop Vegetables
2. Saute over low heat for 3-4 minutes
3. Blend with the pasta sauce

IMG_3598

Step 2 – Make the Dough and Construct Muffins

IMG_3774

Ingredients

2 cups wholewheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup very warm water
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/4 rapid rise yeast

Recipe

  1. Combine 1 cup flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the warm water and oil together and add to the dry ingredients. Mix until well blended for about a minute. Gradually add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Dough should form a ball and will be slightly sticky. Knead on a floured surface, adding additional flour if necessary, until smooth and elastic. This will take about 4 minutes.
  2. Place your dough in a large, lightly greased bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow to rest for 30 minutes in a warm, draft-free place.  The dough should almost double in size.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  4. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured work surface.  Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a ½-inch thick rectangle, about 12 by 10 inches.
  5. Spread 1 cup of Veggie Sauce over the dough, leaving a ½-inch boarder around the edges. Sprinkle with grated cheddar or mozzarella cheese.
  6. Roll the dough gradually into a large, fat sausage.  Slice into 8-12 slices and place each piece into a greased muffin tin.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until muffins are golden brown and cooked through the middle.

IMG_3595

 

IMG_3596

 

IMG_3597

 

IMG_3612

 

IMG_3613

 

IMG_3614

 

IMG_3615

Let me know if you try them!



15th July 2014

Rock star buys for boys

Got a little dude on your hands that would rather rock out on the guitar than head outside for a kick around? Embrace his love of music with my pick of rock star buys for boys…

collage 1

collage 2

1. Led Zeppelin T-Shirt, £4.99, H&M (click here)

2. 3/4 Size Electric Guitar, £91, Squier By Fender at Gear4Music.com (click here)

3. Jeans with braces, £17, H&M (click here)

4. Personalised Rock Star Print, £26, Not on the Highstreet (click here)

5. Big Dreams and Rock Music T-Shirt, £10, Cute Graffiti (click here)

6. Acrylic Name Sign, £14, Not on the Highstreet (click here)

7. Kids Drum Set, £69.99, Toys R Us (click here)

8. Grey Blue Double Tongue Converse, £26.99, Office (click here)

9. LEGO Rock Band Wii Game, £9.93, Amazon.co.uk (click here)

10. Sing-along Microphone, £27.99, Early Learning Centre at Argos (click here)

11. My Daddy Rocks T-Shirt, £9.99, Nappy Head (click here)

12. Earphones, £5.99, Amazon.co.uk (click here)

13. Star Bedroom Rug, £85, Great Little Trading Company (click here)

14. Boys Blue Aviator Sunglasses, £7, River Island (click here)

15. Denim Shorts, £7.99, H&M (click here)

16. Rock Star Keyboard, £40, John Lewis (click here)

17. Rolling Stones T-Shirt, £10, Next (click here)

18. New York Cap, £8, River Island (click here)



12th July 2014

How to dress boys for formal events

I don’t like seeing little boys in suits for formal events. It creeps me out a bit. I like little boys to look like little boys, not little men. They need to be comfortable – after all, they need to be able to skid across the dance floor on their knees to a hit from the 1980’s and play chase with their cousins across a manicured lawn. For our sake too, it makes sense to put them in something a little less formal – when they stuff 20 cakes into their mouths at breakneck speed, followed by a few cocktail sausages dipped in ketchup and egg mayonnaise sandwiches for good measure, it’s nice to be able to leave them to it without worrying about the dry cleaning bill.

So if you’ve got a wedding, christening, anniversary do, or other formal event this summer, here’s a few ideas on how to dress your little boys…

OUFIT 2

1. Trilby Hat, £4.99, H&M (click here)

2. Striped Linen Shirt, from £7, Next (click here)

3. Flat Front Shorts, £12.95, GAP (click here)

4. Striped Sandals, £12.95, GAP (click here)

OUTFIT 1

1. Bow Tie, £8, Mamas and Papas (click here)

2. Striped Shirt, from £40, GANT at John Lewis (click here)

3. Navy Chinos, from £8, Debenhams (click here)

4. Navy TOMS, £23, Office (click here)

OUTFIT 3

1. Navy V Neck Jumper, £49, Ralph Lauren at John Lewis (click here)

2. White Polo Shirt, £3, Mothercare (click here)

3. Beige Chino Shorts, from £7, Next (click here)

4. Slip-on Sneakers, £14.95, GAP (click here)

Are you heading to a formal event this summer? I’d love to see a picture if you try out one of these looks!



9th July 2014

5 reasons why I love TOMS shoes…

Does your little boy wear TOMS shoes? I love this brand – and here are five reasons why…

1. One for One

In 2006, TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie befriended children in a village in Argentina and saw that they didn’t have adequate shoes to protect their feet. Wanting to help, he created TOMS Shoes, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes for a child in need. Since then, TOMS has given more than 10 million pairs of new shoes to children in need. So buying them is charity; what better excuse do we need?!

IMG_0534

2. They look good

So simple, but stylish. They look great with shorts, jeans, or comfies. They come in a range of different colours, with limited edition prints and fabrics (a few of my recent favourites include skull print and denim).

photo 1

3. They are so easy to put on

When you have a toddler, the easier to get shoes on and off the better – so the quick velcro fastening is a real bonus. They’re so easy that my two-year old is nearly able to put them on and off himself (we’re not quite there, but it wont be long).

4. They are robust

My toddler is pretty active as little ones go – and considering he wears his TOMS almost every day, they still look good as new. He’s jumped in puddles, landed in piles of dust at the end of slides, skipped across grass, and played in sandpits – but there’s barely a mark on them.

photo 2

5. They come in adult sizes too

Always a bonus when you can match!

Oh and they are currently on sale at Office.co.uk, so I’ve stocked up on a few pairs in the next size up! Shop here!

IMG_3263

Let me know if you buy a pair – I’d love to see a picture of your little people rocking their TOMS!



6th July 2014

Breakfast Idea: Easy Pancake Muffins

I’m always looking for inspiration for quick, easy and healthy breakfasts. We get a bit stuck in a toast, cereal, and fruit rut (although we do love pancakes at the weekend when we have more time, especially this easy recipe by Jamie Oliver). So when I found a recipe for oven-cooked Pancake Muffins on the blog Family Fresh Meals, I couldn’t wait to try them. They can be cooked  in batches at the weekend, and then handed out first thing in the morning for breakfast throughout the week (or even grabbed on the way out of the door if you have a late riser!).

The beauty of these muffins is that you can fill them with anything. I chose to stick to blueberries and raspberries – but I will be trying sausage, cheese, bacon, and banana soon. They taste just like pancakes, with a heavy, quite sticky consistency (don’t expect a fluffy cake!) but they are far more convenient than standing over the hob cooking batches of pancakes in your pyjamas!

Oh and the ingredients list Batter Mix – I am sure you can also use homemade batter (check my recipe here) but I wanted to stick to the original recipe, so bought ready-made. Let me know if you try it homemade!

IMG_3159

Ingredients:

2 cups batter mix
2/3 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup Maple Syrup
Optional fillings

Recipe

Preheat oven to 350’C.
Whizz the batter mix, milk, eggs, and maple syrup together until smooth.
Pour into muffin cases (right up to the top) and then drop your fillings into the mixture (we went for blueberries and raspberries, both sliced into quarters).
Pop into oven for 20 minutes, checking they are ready with a skewer (it will come out completely clean when they are done).

IMG_3158

IMG_3157

IMG_3155

IMG_3156

IMG_3104

IMG_3154

IMG_3160

IMG_3153

Let me know if you try them!



3rd July 2014

Activity Idea: Batting Bubbles

If you have a little boy as active as mine, you will be looking for ways to wear them out in the garden this summer – and this simple idea is the perfect activity for sunny days.

All you need is a bubble machine (or willing bubble blower with lots of puff!), bubble mixture, and a fly squat. Send the small person outside, arm them with a fly squat, and start the bubbles – the idea is for them to pop as many bubbles as they can. It kept my crazy little person busy for far longer than other activities in the garden, so we will probably be setting it up every sunny day for the rest of summer!

I apologise for the strange appearance of my child in the pictures below. His outfit is composed of half pyjamas and half day clothes. What can I say; it was one of those days when a toddler decides what he’s going to wear and I didn’t have the energy to argue.

IMG_2933

IMG_2934

IMG_2935

IMG_2936

And if you are looking for a good homemade bubble mixture recipe to pour into your bubble machine (or empty bottles for the manual method), here’s a really simple one that we will be trying soon:

  1. Pour half a cup of fairy liquid (or other dish wash) into a bowl.
  2. Add 1.5 cups of water to the bowl.
  3. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar into the bowl
  4. Gently stir your mixture.

Have fun!



2nd July 2014

Best of the summer sales for boys

I’ve managed to pick up a horrible summer cold, which means we are house bound with an ample supply of tissues and lemsip. There’s one thing that cheers me up when I get a bit of time to myself though; browsing the online summer sales. So today, I’ve decided to round-up of the things tempting me from the virtual rails for little boys. And I may have just made a purchase (sssh, don’t tell the husband).

collage

 

1. Slim jeans with braces, £11.99 (reduced from £17.99), H&M (click here)

2. Camouflage shorts, £9 (reduced from £18), Mamas & Papas (click here)

3. Denim shirt, from £9 (original price not specified), Marks & Spencer (click here)

4. Toms Tiny Classics Denim Exclusives, £13 (reduced from £23.99), Office (click here)

5. Atsuyo et Akiko Cat mask pullover, £17 (reduced from £34), Cissy Wears (click here)

6. Jogging bottoms, £6 (reduced from £12-£14), John Lewis (click here)

7. DKNY NY T-shirt, £11 (reduced from £22.50), Alex and Alexa (click here)

8. Vans Old Skool Trainers, £16.99 (reduced from £27), Schuh (click here)

9. Tommy Hilfiger denim shorts, £24.50 (reduced from £49), Alex and Alexa (click here)