Monthly Archives: March 2015

31st March 2015

Family Update: Beach, Brunch, and Bicycles

Both my parents and my sister have been in Dubai at various points in the last few weeks, so we have been very busy. This weekend was especially nice as their trips overlapped, meaning we were all together for a couple of days. On Friday morning, we started the day at the beach.

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It’s getting hot now and I know our beach mornings will come to an end soon, so we are making the most of them by heading down at least a couple of times a week. We used to always head to Palace Beach in the car; a relatively quiet beach, with great views of Burj al Arab and Palm Jumeriah. But since THE BEACH complex, opposite JBR, has been completed, we head down there. It’s a 5-minute walk from our apartment and has great facilities; toilets, showers, sun lounger and umbrella rental, and an endless choice of places to pick up coffee and pastries so we can have a beach breakfast.

Both my boys adore the beach. Wilfred especially has no fear and crawls boldly into the sea without even flinching when the cold waves lap his tummy. We have to keep a careful eye on them, but I find the whole experience much more relaxing than going to the pool where I am constantly worried about them slipping and falling in. They’ve already started to play with each other too, building and knocking down sandcastles, filling up holes with water, and using the spades to draw on the sand – and I can see this will only get better as they grow up.

After showering off the sand, I headed off to Friday Brunch with my parents and sister at Mina al Salam, The Madinat. This is my very favourite brunch in Dubai.

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For those of you that haven’t been to a brunch in Dubai, these are pretty grand affairs. Everyone gets dressed up and it’s treated like a special occasion. There is food from every cuisine imaginable, as far as the eye can see – and Mina al Salam spreads over three hotel restaurants, so it’s one of the biggest in Dubai. You have four hours to devour everything from sushi, to lobster, to shell fish, to cold meats and salads, to full-on roasts, to whole restaurants dedicated to Chinese, another dedicated to Mexican, stalls outside serving burgers and fish & chips, Arabic cuisine, a whole room dedicated to cheese, and a desert selection that will finish you off. Whether you fancy a glass or bubbles, cocktails, or want to stick to soft drinks, you won’t go thirsty either.

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We had a great table overlooking Burj al Arab – and as The World Cup horse race was the next day, there were obviously a lot of pretty important people in town and helicopters landed on the helipad every five minutes throughout our brunch. I also love the fact that Mina al Salam has a turtle sanctuary, so I spent some time watching these amazing creatures swimming between courses. It was a really lovely afternoon and definitely reaffirmed my love for this city (maybe that had something to do with the kids being at home with their Dad so I got a much-needed break for a few hours). Either way, I really recommend this brunch. I’ve tried a lot across the city and this is still my favourite.

The next day, my parents went down to Abu Dhabi for a beach barbecue (a belated Mother’s Day treat), so we had a quiet day at home – and that meant it was the perfect opportunity to surprise Stanley with his early birthday present – a balance bike.

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The surprise went down well and he spent the first 5 minutes cycling around our apartment with a massive smile on his face – but after a few near misses with a crawling baby (convinced at the age of 14 months that he should also get a go on the balance bike), we decided to head down to the promenade underneath our apartment. He found it very difficult and nearly gave up a few times, but with the help of his Dad, his confidence grew and he was soon pushing along himself. He needs a lot more practice, but I think he’ll get the hang of it soon.

We are off to the UK on Friday, so my next family update will be from home shores. Wish me luck on the flight – my husband is staying at home, so my sister and I will be juggling the two boys for 7.5 hours and the jetlag repercussions will be totally down to me. I already predict I will be relying quite heavily on my friend caffeine next week, so expect many coffee-relalated updates and perhaps some incoherent babbling…



28th March 2015

8 Things I Need To Accept About Being A Mother of Boys

11024129_806138882773382_1536842509_n1. Farts and burps will always be hilarious. I am totally outnumbered in my house with three males around me, so need to accept that when someone in the family releases bodily gases, most of my family members will start rolling around on the floor laughing (or even worse, copy like a echo). Even the dog (a female) seems to be in the farty camp, so I really can’t win.

2. I will spend a lot of time diffusing scraps. According to scientists, the fact that boys are more physical and more prone to scrapping from an early age is down to prenatal testosterone. So when one of my boys snatches a toy from the other boy’s hands and they start rolling around on the floor attached to each other, I am simply getting a taster of what is to come. I simply can’t wait.

3. People will always wonder whether I wanted a girl. This one makes me sad, but I don’t think it can be avoided. Fill your house with happy, healthy boys and people will wonder ‘did she want a girl?” Decide to have another baby and they will think ‘I bet she’s hoping it’s a girl this time!” I need to accept this, knowing in my heart that I always wanted boys and high-fived the sonographer when he confirmed the sex of my children.

4. I will spend all my time watching sport. Of course, not all boys enjoy sport – but the more you add to your family, the higher the chance of spending hours every week stood on the sidelines in every weather imaginable / sat in front of the TV watching various matches at the weekend / driving them around to various sporting events. Life will be a lot more enjoyable if I just accept this is the law of boys and start supporting the same teams as they do.

5. One day, they won’t be my ‘little boys’ anymore. At 5”3, they are going to shoot past me at some point soon – and when it happens, I will have to get used to looking up at them, rather than down at them.

6. My washing machine will never stop turning. With a one-year-old and nearly three-year-old I already have a taste of this. Everything is grubby, dirty, and dusty at the end of the day. And as they get older and take up various sports (no doubt involving mud, if we are back in the UK), this is only going to get worse. I gave up buying white T-shirts a long time ago. And I can only imagine the frustration of little boys in white school shirts – whoever came up with that uniform rule was having some kind of sick joke with mothers of boys.

7. You will live amongst a species obsessed with willies. From the moment they first discover it in the bath as a baby, right through to adulthood, every mother of the male species knows the part they play. Having a sense of humour helps.

8. There will probably come a day that they spend more time with another woman. I don’t want to think about this one too much, as it just feels strange. Give me 20 years and maybe I will have got my head around it. AT LEAST 20 – you hear that boys? I’m not ready to hand you over just yet.



27th March 2015

My Etsy Shopping List

I love browsing the website Etsy for cool buys for my boys. But as the site is filled with thousands of individual stores, run by thousands of individual sellers, sometimes I have to search for a while to find the best buys. So I thought I’d do the hard work for you and list the Etsy items (and stores) on my current wish list. Happy shopping…

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ETSY collage

1 – Canvas Storage Boxes
Store Name: la creature and you
Store Location: Dublin. Ireland
What they sell: A range of stylish canvas storage boxes, in a choice of three different sizes. If you don’t like the gold stars, you can pick from a range of different colours, including pink and blue. I am coveting a set of these to hide the toys and tat on our bookshelf.
Price: from £6.75 each
Ships: Worldwide
Shop: Click here

2 – Printed T-Shirts
Store Name: Feeling Printy
Store Location: USA
What they sell: Lots of different hand printed T-shirts, with slogans including WILD CHILD, Little Bro, and handwritten numbers for celebrating birthdays. The T-Shirts are really nice quality (I have quite a few of them), wash well, and are very affordable too.
Price: from £7.61 each
Ships: Worldwide
Shop: Click here

3 – Tractor Cushions
Store Name: Button Owl Boutique
Store Location: London, UK
What they sell: Beautiful handmade felt cushions in fun shapes, including bumble bees, tractors, rockets, boats, elephants, and lots more. I have fallen in love with these cushions and I’m dreaming of throwing a selection onto the chair in Stanley’s bedroom.
Price: from £20 each
Ships: Worldwide
Shop: Click here

4 – Animal Map of the World
Store Name: Art Pause
Store Location: Coventry, UK
What they sell: A collection of stunning maps and cityscapes with different themes and colours, printed on high-quality coated paper. I love this animal-themed map, which is fun, stylish, and educational. It’s the kind of thing I would have stared at for hours as a child and memorised the animals and countries.
Price: £11.99
Ships: Various countries worldwide, including United Arab Emirates
Shop: Click here

5 – Table Cover Play Den
Store Name: cwtchecoo
Store Location: Swansea, Wales
What they sell: A very cool range of hand-stitched table covers that instantly transform your kitchen table into a den! Personally, I think this is ingenious!
Price: £85
Ships: Worldwide
Shop: Click here

6 – Ice Cream Print
Store Name: Paper Rainbow Prints
Store Location: Sevenoaks, UK
What they sell: Handmade screen prints in various colours and designs. Lots are perfect for a child’s bedroom, including this cool ice cream print.
Price: £20
Ships: Worldwide
Shop: Click here

7 – Cloud Wall Shelf
Store Name: Shop Littles
Store Location: United States
What they sell: Beautiful wooden decor for bedrooms and nurseries. For me, the highlight are the shelving units, with clouds and rainbows to pick from.
Price: £33.59
Ships: Worldwide
Shop: Click here

8 – Printed Leggings
Store Name: Fred & Noah
Store Location: Canewelon, United Kingdom
What they sell: A stylish and very unique collection of printed leggings for boys and girls. I am a big fan of the brand, as is my little chunk Wilfred!
Price: £12 each
Ships: Worldwide
Shop: Click here

9 – Teepee Play Tent
Store Name: Little Me Teepee
Store Location: Cardiff, United Kingdom
What they sell: Beautiful, beautiful play teepees for little people! These are the kind of play tents that add to, rather than distract from, your interior decoration. I really want one of these for my boys!
Price: £79
Ships: Worldwide
Shop: Click here



26th March 2015

10 Things To Consider Before You Travel With Small Children

10843724_1518629858409350_1182248532_n1. Start a countdown to your holiday, by all means. But fully expect the holiday to be mentioned 63 times a day for the remainder of the countdown. And fully expect to regret starting the countdown by the middle of day one.

2. Spend some time creating a pack of activities to keep your little one entertained during the flight. But don’t be disappointed when they spend more time prodding the seat-back TV, pulling the arm-rest up and down, or removing the earphone plug of the unsuspecting passenger next to them on repeat.

3. Always pack a spare change of clothes. For both of you.

4. Feel free to pack a cute little backpack or roll-along for your little one. Just make sure that you have a spare hand to carry / drag it, as the novelty of having their own bag will wear off within five minutes of arriving at the airport.

5. Packing a healthy meal in your hand baggage is a lovely idea. It will ward off the hunger when your small person tucks into all the best bits of your meal and leaves you with a dry bread roll and wilted salad.

6. Pack books, snazzy earphones, and magazines in your bag. You will need them for approximately 32 minutes, before turbulence wakes your child up from their nap.

7. If your child is travelling on your lap for a long-haul flight and you currently enjoy feeling your arms, make the most of that sensation. You will soon be fantasising about it at 40,000 feet.

8. It is well worth heading to the gym before your flight to prepare yourself for carrying your own bags, your children’s bags, and your children of various sizes and weights. You will be expected to do all this down a narrow plane aisle, without hitting anyone on the head with a child’s trailing foot.

9. When you reach your destination, get ready for people to clock the amount of luggage you are travelling with and laugh. A lot.

10. If you are travelling to a different time zone and don’t like coffee, start practicing to like coffee now.



24th March 2015

Who wants to be my virtual colleague? (we can chat, drink coffee, and wear our pyjamas)

0060b060acf811e2b39c22000a1f8adc_7Back when I was in my early twenties, in the days when I was responsible for little more than a leather handbag, I had a boss who was brilliant, but totally eccentric. My colleagues and I would ping emails back and forth along the lines of ‘is this for real?’, ‘why is he cycling through the office, I can’t think over the noise of his squeaky brakes!” and “is it time to go to the pub yet?”

And these little messages kept us sane.

Now I’m a parent, I often miss the camaraderie of colleagues and wish for a similar arrangement at home.

I’d love to be able to ping a message to a colleague when the toddler dunks the TV remote in a pint of water and receive the instant reply: “Yes! I saw it too! Shall we escape to the pub and discuss it over a mug of pinot grigio? SOMEONE needs to take the blame for this!”

I’d like to meet someone in the kitchen after dealing with a 9am toddler tantrum and whisper in hushed tones about what an APPALLING start to the day it had been, as I took out my frustrations on a tea bag. I’d then mouth WISH ME LUCK as I turned to walk out the door.

I’d like to ping an email over at lunchtime when the baby is refusing to nap and I am out of ideas. I’d say: “Meet me in 10 in the cleaning cupboard, I NEED TO VENT!”

I’d like to sit down with a mug of caffeine for a natter with a real life adult in a (Peppa-Pig-fuelled) quiet moment. I would say: “I’ve barely sat down all day and have an appointment with the play-doh in 10 minutes. How’s your day been?” and we would chat for a few minutes, before running off to mould monsters out of multi-coloured dough with renewed energy and patience.

I would like all of these things – those quick messages, those snatched chats in the kitchen, and those rushed coffees in quiet moments – and I’d like it all on tap, every day.

But short of moving my children to a commune, this is never going to happen.

So on the days we don’t make it out the door for some much-needed adult company, we parents make do with virtual support networks, like Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, and blogs just like this, sharing stories, asking for advice, and sometimes even posting pictures of the day potty training went very wrong or the time the dog got involved in finger painting.

And at least we can do it in our pyjamas I guess.

Anyone fancy joining me for a virtual vat of caffeine?



22nd March 2015

Family Update: Help! Summer is coming!

11074604_10155316792095641_543318545_nLiving in the UK for the first 30 years of my life has meant the words ‘spring’ and ‘summer’ instantly fill my heart with glee – but then my mind catches up and I remember that I live in Dubai. This means that within a few weeks from now, our lives will be moving inside again when the weather gets too sweaty – and that’s, well, quite depressing to be honest.

So for the last few weeks, we have been making the most of the great outdoors and the lovely warm temperatures – and I thought you’d enjoy seeing what we have been up to. It also gives the chance to give a shout-out to two places in Dubai that we’ve enjoyed over recent weeks. If you live in Dubai or are visiting soon (or just fancy a nose about what we expats get up to) read on!

1 – A beach and pool day at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray

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We love going to the beach – and every once in a while, it’s nice to do it the posh way with a day at a luxury hotel. We were recently invited by Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, which is located on the crescent of Palm Jumeirah, to enjoy their facilities for the day. Knowing what a beautiful hotel it is (I’ve been treated to a few days in the spa in the last few years), we couldn’t get there fast enough.

The great thing about this hotel is that there is a brilliant kids club called Sinbad’s, with a fun, air-conditioned space inside, play equipment outside, and a fantastic pool area (well, two pool areas) for little ones. If you have a baby or very young toddler, this is the perfect hotel for a day trip, as the baby pool means they can crawl, splash, and play in very shallow water. It’s literally the most relaxed I have ever been around a pool with a baby and toddler in tow!

After we had spent the morning in the kids area, my husband took the boys home and I enjoyed an amazing afternoon relaxing on the beach as my Mother’s Day treat. I think this is the first time I’ve lounged on a beach without kids in tow in nearly three years, so this was a big deal – and I enjoyed every second. I ordered a fresh coconut water and sipped away as I enjoyed the view and a good book. I even napped on the sun-lounger (I cant remember my last weekend nap! It was bliss!)

I really recommend this hotel if you want to treat your family. Prices are Dhs350 for adults and Dhs250 for children, which includes full day access to the kids club. Visit the hotel website here.

2. Pik-Nik at The Westin Dubai, Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina

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We were invited to the launch of the new Saturday Pik-Nik brunch a few weeks ago at The Westin Dubai, Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina, but we sadly couldn’t make it – so yesterday, we finally got to try it. I had read some really good reviews from other mummy bloggers in Dubai, so was excited to take my family (and my Mum who is currently visiting).

The brunch takes place every Saturday (except for hot months June-September) and costs Dhs390 per family of 2 adults and 2 children. As you can see from the pictures above, the brunch is so beautifully presented – I pretty much felt like I had stepped into a Pinterest board. After arriving, we were given a hamper and unpacked it at our picnic rug, finding french bread, rolls, cheese, cold meats, various salads, and some delicious sweet treats. The boys were so excited as I unpacked it!

There is also entertainment for children in the form of balloon modellers, entertainers on stilts, and a great kids area with a circus workshop (children under 4 must be supervised). The brunch starts at 11.30am, which means that families with lunchtime-napping-children can still enjoy a leisurely lunch before heading home. I like that a lot, as I find regular brunches too hard with overtired babies and toddlers.

If I’m honest, it was too hot yesterday, so I feel like there is limited time to enjoy it now with summer in sight (funnily enough, the temperature dropped again today so we would’ve been a lot more comfortable – sod’s law!) I also found the contents of the basket a bit unsuitable for younger children (Stanley really just ate jelly beans and cake) so bear that in mind if you have a toddler that refuses to eat salad, pickles, and cold meats! But if your children are over 4 or 5  and you are lucky enough to get a cooler day, you will have a very lovely time. Going with a big group of friends is a great idea as you can pull together rugs and the kids can all hang out together – there were several groups there yesterday and we discussed what a great idea it was. Just make your booking soon, before the weather hots up any more.

For bookings call: 04 511 7136



19th March 2015

10 Things Not To Say To A Toddler

Stanley1 – You say: Mummy is tired today, shall we  put on a film and have a quiet afternoon?”

Your toddler thinks: Quiet? What’s quiet? Does it involve a set of musical instruments, a cracker whistle, and three full-blown tantrums?

 

2  – You say:“Only 7 sleeps until our holiday!”

Your toddler thinks: Wow! I’ll fetch my bag! And then I’ll stand by the door crying until it’s time to go! I’m as excited as you are, Mummy!

 

3 – You say: ‘Mummy loves these shoes! Why don’t we put them on! They’d look great with your outfit!”

Your toddler thinks: I hate those shoes. If they come near my feet again, I will scream.  And by the way, I’m wearing my slippers to nursery this morning.

 

4 – You say:GET DOWN! THAT’S DANGEROUS!!!!!!”

Your toddler thinks: Brilliant! Dangerous is my new favourite game – and next time, I’m going higher.

 

5 – You say:Look at the weather! I think we’ll just stay inside this afternoon!”

Your toddler thinks: OK Mummy, that sounds good. I’m going to run around the living room at top speed until you decide to take me out anyway – and then I’m going to refuse to wear my raincoat and wellies, just to make it all more fun.

 

6 – You say:  “Look what I bought for your baby brother!”

Your toddler thinks: I need that thing more than anything I have ever needed before. I will not rest until I get that thing. It is the only thing that will ever make me happy. What is it, Mummy?

 
7 – You say: – “Come on, only three more mouthfuls and you can have some pudding”

Your toddler thinks: Give me the cake.

 

8  – You say:Why don’t you show Freddie your new toy?

Your toddler thinks: OK, I will get the toy.  But I will not let go of it for the next 45 minutes. And if he even looks at it, there will be war.

 

9 – You say:Tell Daddy what you learnt at nursery this morning!”

Your toddler thinks: I have no idea what she’s talking about. Is it tea time yet?

 

10 – You say: Can you help me tidy up your toys?

Your toddler thinks: Of course Mummy, but I’m going to make the game more fun by pulling out two new toys for every one I put away. And then I’m going to empty my building blocks all over the living room floor to finish things off before bed.



17th March 2015

Dear Dolce; you’ve got it so wrong

IVF Babies

Dear Dolce,

I am betting that you said that thing about IVF babies being ‘chemical’ and ‘synthetic’ to get noticed.

But even though I know (or hope) it’s just a publicity stunt, it annoyed me. So I thought I’d write you a letter to tell you why you’ve got it so wrong.

For those that haven’t yet read it, your silly, unintelligent comment was this: “You are born and you have a father and a mother. Or at least it should be like this, that’s why I am not convinced by chemical children, synthetic babies, wombs for rent.”

You directed your venom specifically at gay couples and they are rightly outraged – but the truth is, you have upset so many more.

My boys aren’t IVF babies, but they could have been so easily. There are currently estimated to be 5 million IVF babies worldwide (not all still babies now, of course, but you catch my drift).

And do you want to know how they differ to non-IVF babies? The first 3-5 days after conception, when a medical miracle means they begin their life journey in a different place.

Nothing else differs. Nothing. These babies are made of exactly the same stuff. And there is nothing  ‘synthetic’ or ‘chemical’ about a sperm meeting an egg.

After those 3, 4 or 5 days, these miracle babies are reunited with their mothers and they grow in her womb. And the irony is that the only bit they’ve missed out on is the bit where the non-IVF mother has absolutely no idea – NO IDEA – that she has a baby growing inside her yet.  So really, they have missed nothing at all.

And once that positive pregnancy test shows two lines, those babies grow in exactly the same way. They kick, they wriggle, they turn, they jump on her bladder, they cause fiery heartburn, they stretch her skin so that she remarks to her friends ‘I honestly don’t think this bump can grow any bigger!”  – and nine months later, they are ready to enter the world.

In the meantime, their excited parents allow themselves to share scan pictures with friends and family, shop for tiny little sleep-suits in the softest velour, and paint nurseries in shades of powder pink and soft blue. Just like every other parent waiting for their baby to make their entrance.

And when they are born, they scream with shock and anger to have left that warm, quiet sanctuary inside their mother’s womb. And during that moment (the same moment humans have been experiencing for thousands of years), they are placed on their mother’s chest and look up to meet her eyes for the very first time. And there is nothing more natural than that.

And if you think that a father’s love is any less powerful, any less intrinsic, I am sure you are wrong. I can’t vouch for it personally, but I have seen that love; I have watched it happen. And I am absolutely sure that a baby with two fathers is just as blessed from the very beginning.

And you think that absolutely natural, instant, and fierce love is chemical? Really?

You are not a parent, Dolce – but if are ever blessed, I know you would look down at those wrinkled hands, perfect pursed lips, and curls of damp hair and realise you screwed up big time.

Because every baby is the definition of perfection.



15th March 2015

Here’s to the mothers…

Sculpture by Sam Jinks

Of babies and tots
Of children and teens,
Of twenty-somethings
Refusing to leave

Of adult children
With kids of their own,
Now muttering to grandchildren,
Wow haven’t you grown!”

To mothers of angels,
Too sweet for this world,
And mothers of dreams,
That will never unfold.

To mothers waiting,
Stroking their bumps,
And laughing with partners
As it dances and jumps.

To mothers of newborns, 713c46aa301b9778bea2cd8ed41556e3
During a feed,
Blinking with tiredness
As they log on to read

To mothers of toddlers,
Taking a break,
Coffee unfinished,
When little one wakes.

To mothers exhausted
From picking up toys,
Shouting “I CAN’T HEAR MYSELF THINK!
Over the noise.

To mothers that work,
Whatever they do,
Who rush home for cuddles,
That smell of baby shampoo.

To mothers of teens,
Biting their tongue,
When “Don’t be home late!
is met with “LET ME BE YOUNG!” 

To mothers of students,50e11d89170254fab384468bde72e774
Just flown the nest,
Who are missing the noise,
But enjoying the rest.

Today is our day
And a chance for a break,
But tomorrow we’ll be back,
To our shift when they wake.

And we’ll take those cold coffees,
We’ll accept all the noise,
We’ll rush home from work,
And we’ll pick up the toys.

We’ll blink through tiredness,
We’ll keep biting our tongue,
And we’ll remember forever,
A time they were young.



14th March 2015

Why I love Carluccios – and my new favourite branch at THE BEACH

11015833_813498955353201_1373122174672574589_nI’ve always been a bit of a fan of Carluccios. It’s all about simple, Italian dining, with little touches that make all the difference. We’ve dined in several restaurants over Dubai and in the UK with our boys and never been disappointed. The kids love being handed activity packs when they arrive, complete with crayons and a menu to colour in, followed by breadsticks, a glass of juice, a choice of mains, and an ice cream dessert to finish up – and we love that it’s affordable and very family friendly (Wilfred, for example, loves to scream for the fun of it and no one tends to bat an eyelid).

Yesterday, we were invited to try out the newest Carluccios in Dubai at THE BEACH, opposite JBR (which happens to be 10 minutes walk from my apartment, meaning it will probably become our new hangout).

We chose to sit inside so that Wilf’s screaming habit didn’t disturb anyone, but there’s a really lovely, bright and sunny courtyard outside if you prefer a little al fresco dining. We were also lucky enough to dine over a weekend when a face painter and balloon modeler were entertaining little diners – and this apparently happens regularly.

It is definitely my favourite branch in the city – it’s spacious, the staff are very, very lovely, and it’s so quiet as it’s a step back from the beach (those restaurants are always packed, so it’s nice to escape the crowds – and lets face it, I hardly get to enjoy the beach views when I am with the boys anyway).

I don’t want to get too wordy with this post, as I think the pictures will do all the talking – so without further ado, here’s our visit to Carluccios at THE BEACH yesterday. And if you live in Dubai,  it’s definitely worth a family treat. And if you live in UK, enjoy the pictures and head to your nearest Carluccios pronto! Visit www.carluccios.com

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