Monthly Archives: December 2014

6th December 2014

8 Of The Best Homemade Gifts for Adults

Whether you are on a budget or simply fancy giving something more personal to friends and family this Christmas, these eight brilliant handmade gifts will be very gratefully received. I would personally love to receive any of them, knowing that time and thought had gone into their preparation. I also think they make great gifts for teachers (but maybe not the alcoholic gifts, unless you know them well – and definitely not if you live in Dubai). If you feel confident enough the person likes the odd tipple, the Candy Cane Vodka would make a very fun stocking filler!

I haven’t made any of the gifts myself (although I am very tempted to give a few of them a try), so I have linked to the blogs where there are instructions. Happy making!

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1. Festive Hot Chocolate Kits, complete with cocoa, candy cane pieces, marshmallows, and chocolate dipping sticks. Details here.

2. Chocolate Sea Salt Toffee – even the picture is making my mouth water. Details here.

3. Infused Vodkas – the perfect way to kick start the party this Christmas. Details here.

4. Gingerbread Sugar Scrub, made from totally natural ingredients. Details here.

5. Grown Up Hot Chocolate Kit, with cocoa, marshmallows, and a mini bottle of Baileys. Details here.

6. Infused Olive Oils – the ideal gift for keen cooks, with infusions including Lemon, Chill, Rosemary, and Garlic. Details here.

7. Homemade Coffee Syrups – perfect for coffee fans, with infusions including Warm Spice, Peppermint, and Caramel. Details here.

8. Fingerprint Mug – grandparents, aunties and uncles would love this mug with family fingerprints made into reindeers. Details here



5th December 2014

We visit Ski Dubai’s Frozen Winter Wonderland

 photo copyWe pretty much watch Frozen on a loop at the moment – so when Stanley and I were invited to the opening of the Ski Dubai Frozen Winter Wonderland event at Ski Dubai, I jumped at the chance to take him along.

The event is running at Ski Dubai until the end of February – and the experience starts the moment to step inside the entrance hall, with a series of traditional-style chalets offering Frozen-themed face painting, toys and costumes.

Once inside, kids can play in the snow park (Stanley was too young for this, but the toboggan rides looked like a lot of fun), have snowball fights, lie down and make snow angels, build their own snowman, and have pictures taken (which Ski Dubai will magically add a Frozen-themed background to).

The best bit for us, however, was the Frozen Sing-a-long Session (which happens five times a day).  Enthralled children gathered in the snow in front of a big screen and sung their hearts away to ‘For the First Time In Forever’, ‘Let it Go’, and ‘Shall We Build a Snowman’. And I have to be honest, hearing all those little voices in unison, whilst looking around at the snow and twinkly-lit chalets was a very magical and festive experience.

After the Sing-a-long, the children were invited into the party room to warm up, whilst taking part in Frozen Story Time and Snowflake Craft Sessions. We didn’t stay for the snowflakes as Stanley was getting tired, but I think the story time was just as enjoyable for Stanley as the sing-a-long. He loved it and has been talking about it all day today.

So what did we think? I had grand expectations before we went inside, with visions of bumping into Anna or Elsa, and perhaps even a reindeer (maybe even a talking reindeer, as this is Disney after all). This doesn’t happen – the experience is a lot simpler, but just as enjoyable. Little Frozen fans will really enjoy the whole experience – just make sure you plan your visit to coincide with the sing-a-long. I recommend arriving at the park 30-60 minutes beforehand, so you can enjoy playing the snow, before joining in with the songs and then moving to the warmth for the crafts and stories.

So overall, a really lovely experience, especially around Christmas. Here are the timings:

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And here are the photos I took while inside (bearing in mind I was with a toddler and had very numb hands, so apologies there aren’t more!)

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All of the Frozen activities are added benefits when you purchase a Super Pass that costs Dhs225.  There’s no advanced booking needed.

For more details, click here



3rd December 2014

Homemade Gingerbread Playdoh

photo 1There’s nothing quite like the scent of gingerbread to make you feel festive – and when I saw the recipe for gingerbread playdoh, I couldn’t wait to try it out. Making it literally took 5 minutes and couldn’t have been easier. I love the idea of homemade gifts and this is a really unique idea and affordable gift idea for friends, relatives or stocking fillers (especially if you already have the ingredients in the cupboard).

I didn’t use Cream of Tartar as I couldn’t find it in Dubai and the result was still very soft and elastic. Use it if you have it to hand, but don’t photo copyworry too much if you can’t find it.

Ingredients

1 cup Plain Flour
1/2 cup Salt
2 teaspoons Cream of Tartar (see note above)
1 tablespoon Ground Cinnamon
2 teaspoons Ground Ginger
1 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1/ cup Water

Method

photo 31) Whisk together the dry ingredients

2) Add water and oil

3) Stir over low heat until a thick batter is formed (this took 30-60 seconds for me). Get ready for an amazing scent as the dough warms up!

4) Put the dough onto a board and knead until it becomes smooth.

5) Fill pots and decorate

photo 2I did all this (bar the decorating bit, which took a bit longer) in a matter of minutes and it was a very festive sensory experience with all the scents of the spices and the softness of the dough, so older kids would love to get involved too.

For the jar, I washed out a jam jar, covered the lid with wrapping paper, and tied with wrapping ribbon for a bow.

Enjoy!

 



2nd December 2014

Dubai for Kids – My Top 10 Picks

IMG_6922As it’s National Day in the UAE today, I thought a post about my hood was appropriate.

Since moving to Dubai, one thing that friends and family back in the UK seem surprised about is that the city is great for kids. There is this perception that living in a desert climate and Muslim culture wouldn’t be compatible with family life. Of all the misconceptions that people overseas have about Dubai, this is the one that really winds me up. Because this city is absolutely focused around family life and I think (and hope) that my boys have a very happy life here.

As well as being a mum with two little boys to entertain, I visit and review a lot of places in the city for the various publications I work for, so I like to think I have pretty good insider knowledge of where is good to head. So to celebrate National Day, here are top 10 places in Dubai to hang out with kids…

1 – The Beach at JBR

www.thebeach.ae

Location for taxi driver: JBR at Dubai Marina

Public Transport: JLT Metro Station (and walk over the bridge towards sea).

I’m probably a bit biased about this one, as I can see it from my bedroom window – but this area of Dubai, running in front of JBR complex, just keeps getting better. Not only is there a stretch of soft white sand for kids to play on and splash in the shore, but there are a plethora of kid-friendly restaurants, a splash zone attraction for toddlers, and now an inflatable play area in the sea for older kids (and adventurous adults).

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2 – Kids Connection at WAFI

www.wafi.com

Location for taxi driver: WAFI Mall (and follow signs in mall for Café Court)

Public Transport: Al Jadaf Metro Station

I’m not usually a fan of indoor play areas (although we don’t have much choice in the summer months) but I do love Kids Connection. Not many people seem to know about this quiet play area, where they have recreated an outdoor play area on the inside, complete with countryside murals on the wall and a range of traditional wooden play things, including climbing frames, seesaws and swings.

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3 – The Lost Chambers at Atlantis

www.atlantisthepalm.com

Location for taxi driver: Atlantis, Palm Jumeirah

Public Transport: Monorail from terminal next to One & Only Royal Mirage

We love this day out. Park the car (or catch a cab) to the monorail terminal next to One & Only Royal Mirage, jump on the monorail that runs up the trunk of Palm Jumeirah, and you will arrive at disney-esque hotel Atlantis The Palm. Inside you will find amazing aquarium The Lost Chambers at Atlantis, which will keep even the youngest toddlers entertained. There are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat afterwards – we usually head to Cold Stone Creamery for delicious ice cream concoctions.

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4 – JLT Park

www.jltcommunity.com

Location for taxi driver: JLT Cluster P (behind Armada Tower 2)

Public Transport: JLT Metro Station and walk around the lake

Another hidden gem, this park is one of my favourite green spaces in Dubai. There’s free parking, a great kids play area (a very safe distance from the road), and 55,000 square metres of grass for kicking ball around or laying out a picnic blanket.

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5 – RIPE Market

www.ripeme.com

Location for taxi driver: Zabeel Park, Gate 1

Public Transport: Al Jafiliya Metro Station

This is my favourite thing to do at the weekends at the moment. RIPE Market is on every Friday morning between 9am and 2pm at Zabeel Park. I can’t fully describe how lovely this event is, with foodie, craft and gift stalls along palm-tree lined paths and a petting zoo and pony ride area for kids. We head over shortly after opening for the boys to play, crawl and eat pancakes, my husband to swig strong coffee, and me to sip from a fresh coconut whilst browsing the stalls. If you haven’t been there yet, you must go!

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6 – Marina Promenade

Location for taxi driver: Marina Promenade, opposite JBR Amwaj

Public Transport: JBR 2 Tram Station (you can connect onto tram at JLT Metro Station)

I should probably keep quiet about this one, as we love how peaceful it is on Marina Promenade, which is right underneath where we live. Unlike Marina Walk (the other side of the Marina), it is rarely busy – so there’s lots of room for kids to zoom past the boats and water on their scooters. There’s also numerous family-friendly cafes along the promenade and a kids play area under the bridge.

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7 – Markette Restaurant and Creperie, Dubai Mall

www.thedubaimall.com

Location for taxi driver: Main entrance, Dubai Mall

Public Transport: Dubai Mall Metro Station

There are a gazillion places I could recommend to eat with kids in Dubai, but one that I really enjoy is Markette at Dubai Mall. It is located right opposite Dubai Aquarium, so you can sit and eat crepes while watching sharks swim around – which is guaranteed to impress even the hardest to impress kids. I recommend heading there early to avoid the crowds.

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8 – Kiddies Café

www.kiddiescafe.com

Location for taxi driver: Lake Shore Tower, Cluster Y

Public Transport: JLT Metro Station and walk around the lake

We haven’t been to this café and play area since the weather got cooler, but it was a lifesaver in the summer months – and also when I first had Wilfred and needed to get Stanley out the house. You can have a cup of coffee in front of the big glass windows, whilst watching your children have fun in the giant play area, jungle gym, ball pit, and craft room.

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9 – Reform at The Lakes

www.reformsocialgrill.ae

Location for taxi driver: The Lakes Club, The Lakes

Public Transport: None close by

Another great food spot with an outdoor play area – but this time, you can get gigantic plates of breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner while the little ones play. It’s not the cheapest venue (we usually keep costs down by going for breakfast) but it’s well worth it if you need some time to yourself while the kids are entertained. It has a pork license too – and I can’t recommend the pancakes, crispy bacon, and maple syrup highly enough (my mouth is watering just thinking about it).

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10 – Starbucks, Al Mehemal Street

http://mena.starbucks.com/

Location for taxi driver: Drive to end of Mehemal Street in Jumeirah 2 and you will find it on the corner of 24B street.

Public Transport: None close by

Why would I recommend Starbucks? Well this is probably the best coffee shop for kids in the city – as when you open the door to the garden, a totally secure play area awaits, complete with climbing frame, slides, and swings. So you can sip you latte, while the kids are entertained. Head over on weekdays and you will probably have the garden to yourself.

Starbucks

 



1st December 2014

Easy Salt Dough Tree Decorations

photo 1Last year, I decided to make salt dough decorations with Stanley’s handprints at Christmas – and I absolutely loved the result, so I thought I’d share the recipe and process with you on the blog today.

The process is simple as this:

1) Add half cup of salt, half cup of flour, and a quarter cup of water to a bowl – and mix with hands until a dough forms.

photo 22) Roll the dough into a large rectangle of 1-2cm thickness.

3) Make imprints of your child’s handprints, leaving at least 2cm between each one. Make sure they push down firmly enough to leave an obvious impression.

4) Cut around the imprints with a knife, leaving a border of 1cm around the edge of the handprint. Make sure the edges are as neat and smooth as possible as what they look like now will be the finished result.

photo 35) Poke a hole in the top so you can hang the decorations (this needs to be in the base of the handprint, as you can see from the photos of my decorations).

6) Bake on a tray at 100’C/200F for three hours.

7) Leave to cool and sit for a day to further harden the decorations – and then paint with watercolours, gouache paints, emulsion paints, poster paints or acrylic paints. I used acrylic when I did it last year – and there was no need to seal, as the finish was glossy.

IMG_37868) Tie a ribbon through the hole and hang. You may like to write the child’s name and date on the back too, so you can remember in years to come.

I made several of these decorations last year and gave them out to family members, keeping one for our tree at home. To be honest, I underestimated how much I would appreciate my own effort in future years – as when I unpacked the decorations last night, this little decoration was my favourite thing that I pulled out and hung on the tree. I immediately grabbed Stanley’s hand to measure it photo 4against last year’s handprint and felt a pang of nostalgia as I realised how much he had grown. It is definitely worth the effort – not just for this year’s tree, but for the future too.

This year, I am going to attempt to make reindeers with the boy’s footprints so I can remember how little their feet were when I pull out the decorations.

For these, I need to poke three holes through the toes and create antlers from pipe cleaners to finish them off. I’ve found packs of 25 pipe cleaners on eBay for just £1.75 with free postage, so those are ordered 857d1faaf74372fb2011257b95e7b583and ready for me to get going!

It’s a really cheap and easy activity – and believe me, you will thank yourself for the effort in years to come.