Monthly Archives: December 2015

30th December 2015

My New Year’s Resolutions, by Wilfred aged nearly 2…

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 19.49.37This year, I promise;

1) To listen to Mummy and Daddy. Especially when they shout loud words in the car and when they are whispering about the new hiding place for the biscuits.

2) To play in my room to give Mummy and Daddy a little break. Especially at 3am.

3) To share with my brother. Unless it’s the iPad, Mummy’s phone, anything edible, my yellow car, my red car, his colouring set, his new magnifying glass, the book he wants to read, my buggy, or Granny’s lap.

4) To stop picking my nose. Unless there is absolutely, definitely something up there.

5) To be happy at nursery drop-off. Unless I’m tired, feel a bit grumpy, there are too many clouds in the sky, I am wearing the wrong colour jumper, another child is playing with my favourite blue car, or I’ve got a speck of breakfast on my shorts.

6) To allow Mummy and Daddy to brush my teeth. For at least 5 seconds.

7) To tidy up all my toys after playing with them. So I’ve got more space to empty my entire toy box onto the floor and get a good look at what I want to play with next.

8) To try not to have tantrums. Unless I’m told I’m not allowed to eat a chocolate biscuit at 5am, can’t wear my swimming goggles to nursery, or can’t attempt to drag a giant watermelon around a supermarket single-handed.

9) To say please and thank you. Unless I momentarily forget what the words are, when I will do cute eyes instead and make a run for it.

10) To sleep a bit later in the morning. Unless it is the weekend, because everyone likes those days the best.

11) To eat my vegetables. Unless they are green, orange, brown, purple, white or yellow.

12) To get dressed without a struggle. Unless it is the morning or in the evening, when I reserve the right to run in the opposite direction screaming.

 



23rd December 2015

Being a Mummy Blogger – the good, the bad, and the ugly

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 08.17.44As I sit here trying to drum up the enthusiasm to start wrapping presents, to the crackle of a log fire and dulcet tones of Michael Buble singing Christmas hits, I let my mind wander. So much has happened for my little family in the last year. I have one child happily settled into school and another who is getting there with nursery. They have grown taller, their vocabulary has widened to the point of holding full conversations, and I genuinely enjoy their company more than ever. And whilst they have their testing moments as small people with minds of their own, I love being their Mummy. We are a good little team.

On the work side, I have taken the jump to working every morning; something that still makes me feel uncomfortable at times, but confusingly also makes me happy. With more time to dedicate to it, my freelancing career is going well. My husband’s career is on the verge of very exciting things. And people read my blog, which is the biggest surprise of all.

I never set out to have a blog that was so followed so widely, but I am not complaining either. I have always loved to write (in fact, often I don’t even know what I’m thinking until I write it down so it’s cathartic too), so to know people are listening is a real pleasure. I like recommending things, I love making people laugh – but what I love most of all is when a reader comments on a post to say they feel exactly the same as me. It’s like I have a big group of friends to constantly affirm that my feelings, decisions, and doubts as a mother are normal – and I hope you all feel the same when you read my posts and scroll through the comments afterwards.

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 08.21.06There have been some real highlights this year on the blogging front. I was nominated for Time Out Kids Parenting Blog of 2015 and came out of the hotel in September clutching a shiny Highly Commended plaque. And just a few months later, I was sent a link to a list of “Top Mummy Bloggers in the Middle East” by respected media authority Media Source and was surprised / flattered / delighted to find myself named in the top spot. Not bad for a girl writing on her sofa in her pyjamas, with her babies snoring away in the next room.

I have worked with some amazing companies too – GAP Kids, The Entertainer, Fairmont Hotels, and Moevenpick, to name just a few. My blog is still in the early days (a mere baby at 18 months old) and I am a writer at heart, not a businesswoman, so I find the ‘advertising’ side of my blog hard. I know I need to toughen up on that front and I am getting better at it – but I still receive requests to ‘please post this on your Facebook page, thanks very much’ on a daily basis (sometimes from pretty huge companies too), as if I am a public information service. This frustrates me given how much time and work I have put into growing my blog, but I still usually bite my tongue.

Being recognised is strange. I took some advice early in 2015 to welcome my readers into my world by allowing myself and my boys to be regularly pictured. This is something that I still find hard, both on a ‘terrified of the spotlight’ and ‘protective mother lioness’ front. I know there are a lot of people out there that don’t agree with sharing photos of children online (perhaps even in our own family, if lack of support or interest is a sign) but I understand that with parenting blogging, it is all or nothing. I invite you into my life and you become part of my online family. You are then more likely to trust what I say – and I trust that you will be kind in return. I am adamant that my social media pages, especially Facebook, will remain a friendly place. Having an online presence doesn’t give you the right to criticise me, my family, or other readers – one strike and you’re out. It’s my blog and my rules.

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 08.22.57My boys are growing up in a world different to the world I did. My blog will be online forever (provided I remember to renew the URL and pay my hosting fees). I hope they will read the words one day, perhaps when they have children of their own, and will see in black and white just how much they were – and still are – loved. Everything I write, even the bits joking about the challenges of being their mother, comes with only the best intentions. If this blog can create a better life for them, spurring me to do more interesting things with them, helping to pay their school fees, taking them to inspiring places, and capturing their childhood forever through words and pictures, I am confident (most of the time, at least) that being a blogger is a good thing.

I love it when people come and say hello to me, telling me they read my blog. I don’t feel like you are strangers; I feel like you are in my gang. I think people who are with me find it stranger than I do when I am approached between mouthfuls of eggs benedict or when I am climbing a jungle gym with my children. I feel like Dubai is a small world and we probably have mutual friends anyway. On the occasions it has happened in the UK, it’s been stranger admittedly, but it always makes me happy. I don’t want to be a ‘celebrity’ (even the word makes me cringe); I want to be a blogger that makes other mums feel a bit more normal – and if they want to come over and say ‘Hi! I read your blog!’ I will always enjoy saying hi back (even when my youngest is lying on his back on full-on tantrum mode, which happened very recently – and we laughed together!)

One thing that has surprised me, however, about blogging is the competitiveness. I have worked in the fashion and beauty world for years – but those cut-throat worlds aren’t a patch on the competitiveness of Mummy blogging! It’s hard not to compare yourself to other bloggers, wondering why you didn’t get opportunities that others did, why you didn’t get invited to an event, or why a brand seemed to leave you out of a campaign completely. I’m not immune to this by any means, but I’m also a big believer that we should encourage each other. Blogs aren’t like magazines or newspapers – we don’t only read and subscribe to one. People that like reading blogs tend to read lots of them. If we encourage each other, we encourage a love of reading blogs in general. We don’t lose a reader if we say ‘hey, this new blog is really good!’ – and kindness, doesn’t cost anything.

I can’t pretend that copycats haven’t frustrated me over the past 12 months, though – right from the blog posts that take “inspiration” a bit too literally (on more than one occasion), to the new blog that cropped up recently copying everything from my blog name, to the design of the blog, to actually copy + pasting my “About Us” section (just changing the word “Dubai” to her home town in the UK!) They say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery and I’ve tried not to stew on it  – after all, if you can’t find the inspiration to be original in the first place, it probably isn’t worth giving up the day job.

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 08.24.31Blogging is exhausting. It’s not the writing (posts tend to take me 10 minutes to write if I am suddenly inspired), but it’s managing the social media accounts, fitting meetings with brands into my working morning, fielding phone calls when I’m trying to get my toddler to eat his vegetables at teatime. It’s been a good year and I am sure all the effort has been worth it, but I am definitely feeling some burnout as the end of the year approaches.

For this reason, I am going to take a break now. I’ll share the odd archive post on Facebook over the next few weeks and will definitely be over on Instagram as I can’t resist a good picture, but I won’t be writing anything new on the blog until January now as I need a break – and most importantly, my boys deserve Christmas with their Mummy fully focused on their happiness.

But as I sit here listening to Buble with my babies sleeping in Christmas pyjamas upstairs, I want to say thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my blog, send me a message, come and say hello, supported me with review opportunities  or sponsorships, mentioned me in a blog post, or simply clicked ‘like’ on my Facebook over the last year. I am so appreciative of everyone single one of you – and I wish you health, happiness and so much love with your little people in 2016.

And with that, it’s time to get started on wrapping those presents…



17th December 2015

5 years as Mrs S – Our Snowy Wedding Day

Tomorrow is our 5 year wedding anniversary – and we will be marking the occasion by spending the day trapped on a flight with a 3 year old and 1 year old. That just about sums up how life has changed in the 5 years since that perfect, snowy day in London – not that we will be complaining about that for a second, as we fly home to spend the next few weeks wearing Christmas jumpers, scoffing chocolates, and wrapping gifts amongst family and friends.

It does give me the perfect excuse to share some photos from our wedding day, which I have never done before on this blog. The photographs are by the insanely talented London-based photographer Rebecca Louise. I fell in love with her reportage style as soon as I stumbled on her website when researching photographers – and she definitely worked for her fee that day, braving blizzards and trudging up hills in snow as high as her ankles.

The snow was beautiful, but it did mean a lot of guests didn’t make it to our wedding day (a handful during the day and almost everyone in the evening). It also meant that our Honeymoon was cancelled as Heathrow grounded every flight, so I did spend a fair amount of time the next day sobbing as our carefully planned pre-Christmas break to New York unravelled. We haven’t  made it to the Big Apple since, but we did end up in Bath for a few days after the wedding (sounds like a poor compromise for New York, but it was beautiful in the snow and we have some very happy memories) and we had our main honeymoon nearly a year later, swapping the location to Thailand (far more accessible from Dubai) when I was happily growing Stanley in my belly and getting ready to be a Mummy.

Before I share the photos, here are a few other details… Our ceremony was in Our Ladye Star of the Sea and reception in the Trafalgar Tavern, both in Greenwich, South East London. Flowers by Rachel Morgan Wedding Flowers. My dress was Suzanne Neville and headdress was bespoke by Rachel Trevor Morgan.

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16th December 2015

When Stanley and Wilfred went to the dentist…

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Back in the summer, we had a terrifying experience with a dentist. It was Stanley’s first ever visit and he was scared. In fact, he was so scared that he was having a full on kicking, screaming tantrum in the waiting room. With the eyes of the room on us, I even went as far as to whisper the words: “If you calm down, I will give you a lollipop when we get home”, totally aware those were possibly the worst words I could ever mutter in a dentist. And not even that worked.

Just as I thought things couldn’t get any worse, our young, newly qualified dentist stuck his head into the waiting room to call Stanley in. He was wearing headgear that even I found quite frankly terrifying – and Stanley agreed, making a dash for the door that I had to save in a near rugby tackle as he attempted escape. Inside the room, things didn’t get much better. There was zero child empathy (our dentist even remarked: “Why won’t be open his mouth?”) and we left our appointment without him ever managing to look at his teeth.

Not only was it a waste of time, but I was worried that the experience had kick-started a life-long fear of the dentist in my 3-year-old. I imagined a future of avoiding dentists, tooth decay, and dentures. It was bleak.

But then I heard about Dr Michael’s Children’s Dental Center and went as far as to click on their website – and when I saw pictures of a place so different from our first traumatic experience with the dentist, I thought ‘why not?’ and decided to book an appointment.

Told on the phone that my 21 month old should come along on the day too (it’s never too early to start visiting the dentist, they explained), I took both the boys along to the Al Wasl clinic on a Saturday afternoon. And when we arrived and walked into the bright waiting room, I wished we’d arrived earlier and had longer to hang around before our appointment.

There were toys, there were books, there were complimentary healthy snacks and juice, there was a fish tank, there was even a garden with bikes they could head outside and ride. And if you are still struggling, there are even iPads available on loan, filled with kiddie appropriate apps and movies. And for the adults, there was coffee. On tap. I know; it’s exciting.

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But just as the boys were settling down to play with some toys, their names were called by Dr Chantal Kengo; a pediatric dentist with over 30 years experience – and her kind, warm nature was world’s apart from the terrifying encounter we’d had just a few months ago.

After she’d greeted both the boys, we were led into Dr Chantal’s room to discover it was equally child-friendly. A row of monkey toys with big teeth sat on a shelf, with giant toothbrushes and mirrors underneath to practice brushing on the monkeys – and boxes of toys lined up in the room to keep waiting siblings happy until their turn.

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Stanley had his turn first, delighted by the fact the chair moved up and down (he was allowed to go up and down at least 5 times, squealing with excitement every time) – and very happily opening his mouth and letting Dr Chantal have a look, before she gave his teeth a good brush and gave me tips on the correct way to do it at home.

Stanley Dentist

Wilfred wasn’t quite so compliant, but Dr Chantal knew exactly what to do. She told me to sit him on my lap facing towards me, before gently lying him down so she could look in his mouth. A few minutes later and we were done. I couldn’t believe how easy it had been.

But it didn’t end there, as Dr Chantal revealed a tray of goodies called her ‘Brave Box’, giving both boys the chance to pick something for their bravery. Stanley chose a long balloon, which she promptly blew up for him – and Wilfred chose a flashing ball, giggling with delight. If that wasn’t enough already, they were both handed a bag as they walked out with the toothbrushes and mirrors that were used during their appointments.

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Before we left, I booked their next appointment for 6 months time, confident that we’d found the best pediatric dentist in Dubai. And next time, we’re arriving earlier to make the most of this fabulously child-friendly place. And I never thought I’d ever look forward to the dentist…

Dr Michael’s Children’s Dental Clinic is located at Villa 1020 Al Wasl Road, Umm Suqeim 1. For more information, visit www.drmichaels.com or call 04 339 7700.

Check The Best Woks Reviewed at Jane’s Kitchen

 

 



14th December 2015

The day I learnt that I can’t always be the good guy

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 22.41.06It all happened a few weeks ago.

Stanley was looking forward to a party at school to mark UAE National Day. We had been to Carrefour to buy T-Shirts that looked like the UAE flag and marked down his name on a chart on the classroom door against the Arabic food we would bring on the day (we chose Hummus, because Waitrose was going to help me out with that one).

The night before, he was bursting with excitement – and as we turned off the light, tucked him up, and said goodnight, we could hear him chatting about the party to his brother as we walked out the room.

But just a few hours later, we saw him again.

Sobbing hysterically, with vomit covering his entire bed.

Every hour throughout the night, we ran to the bathroom. It was horrendous – and if I could’ve taken the pain away from him, I would’ve done so ten-fold. After each round of sickness, he would crumple into our bed and let sleep take him away, before waking an hour later for a repeat performance.

6am came around and the sickness had stopped. He was weak and tired, but as I opened the blinds to the bedroom, his face suddenly lit up in realisation.

“It’s National Day Party!” he chirped, with as much enthusiasm as he could muster.

My heart broke for him.

I sat next to him on the bed and stroked his head, reeling at his temperature.

“I don’t think you’re going to make it to school today,” I said, as I glanced around the room for the thermometer, half expecting to find it floating in a glass of water after middle-of-the-night temperature checks in a sleep-deprived state.

His eyes widened in shock.

“But the party!” he shrieked.

“Sorry baby,” I said, with tears pricking my eyes.

He turned away from me and was still for a moment, before accepting his fate and collapsing into deep, racking sobs. I could tell he was exhausted, his little tummy muscles aching from the night before, his body shivering from the fever. But he so wanted to go to his party, it just didn’t seem fair.

For a split second, I thought about it, desperate to take away his disappointment. Maybe he could still go. No one needed to know how ill he’d been. We’d just get him dressed in his UAE T-Shirt, grab the hummus out of the fridge, and carry on as normal.

But I knew he couldn’t. And I think he knew he couldn’t too.

It was the first time in motherhood that I have had to say no to something I desperately didn’t want to.

And wow, it isn’t easy, is it?

Until now, I have been able to cancel plans without disappointing anyone but myself – but it’s a whole different ball game when your child cottons onto the plans and is fully aware when you reel them back in.

A few weeks later and he is still chatting about the party he missed. Actually, I have a feeling he won’t ever forget it; the party in his mind probably far superior to the one he’d actually have experienced. It will become known as ‘the party that never was’ – until the next time, of course.

It’s taught me a lesson though; I can’t always be the good guy.

But one day, perhaps when he has children of his own sobbing in his arms, he will understand that I always tried to be.

I always tried.

 



13th December 2015

Going out before kids versus going out after kids

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Coffee Shops

Before kids: Oh this café looks nice. I’ll walk to the counter, order my beverages and food, and then find the comfiest table to enjoy aforementioned items. Oh and I’ll definitely avoid the areas already occupied by small, noisy people.

After kids: Does the buggy even fit into this coffee shop? And are there any tables that have a spot to park that buggy alongside our table? No? OK, I’ll wedge it in between the tables and hope no one asks me to move. And then I’ll buy a coffee that will get cold before I get a chance to drink it (or still be too hot to drink when I have to leave). And when I choose my food, I’ll make sure it’s child appropriate as I know I’ll be sharing it – and that’s if I get any at all. And that’s not to mention chasing toddlers, negotiating with small children, and convincing older ones that it isn’t boring and Mummy REALLY NEEDS A COFFEE – oh and glaring at people that push past the wedged-in buggy and wake up the baby, between glaring at the people shooting irritated glances in my direction when one of the small people lets out a squeal.

Cinema

Before kids: Let’s go to the cinema, order popcorn, curl up in the seat, and zone out.

After kids: Let’s book a babysitter. And when she arrives, attempt to leave the house while a small child is attached to our legs / screaming from his bedroom, before bombing in the car to the cinema, running to get tickets, ending up with two rubbish seats right in font of the screen, obsessing over having mobile phone in clear view in case babysitter calls, wondering if we should actually call the babysitter to check all is OK, before finally starting to relax when the film starts. And then falling asleep 5 minutes later.

Plans to eat out

Before kids: What cuisine do you fancy eating? Great, I’ll book it. See you there.

After kids: Where shall we go? Do they have a kids’ menu? Is there a play area? Can we squeeze the buggy in there? Do they have high chairs? Let’s pack a whole bag of snacks in case they don’t like the food. And a week’s worth of entertainment options. What time shall we go? But won’t they be too tired? Maybe we should go a bit earlier? Or later and hope they nap in the buggy? Do you think it’s a good idea? Shall we just eat at home?

Supermarket Trips

Before kids: I need a loaf of bread. I will walk to the shop and buy a loaf of bread. And then I will walk home again holding it.

After kids: Think about loading children into car, amongst cries of ‘BUT MUMMY THE SUPER-PARKET IS BORRINGGG!’, loading them out again, negotiating with children about who gets to sit in buggy and who gets to walk (heavily armed with boxes of smarties to help with the thrashing out process), removing 17 miscellaneous items from the trolley throughout trip, making a spectacular save when child tries to remove apple from bottom of stack, and halting a tantrum in the pet food aisle because he NEEDS a pack of cat litter (and we have no cat). On second thoughts, you decide you can live without bread.

Date Nights

Before kids: Let’s go for out and eat amazing food, drink amazing drinks, whilst chatting about cool things like future holidays, weekend plans, or intriguing office politics. And when we’re finished, we’ll go to a bar as we are just having so much fun being young and carefree.

After kids: Get dressed and do makeup in 1.5 minutes after babysitter arrives and kids are finally asleep. Sit down at table, with mobile phone in clear view in case babysitter calls. Make effort not to mention the kids over dinner. Laugh together about how you absolutely must not do it. Mention kids 4 minutes later and spend rest of dinner scrolling through pictures of the morning’s nursery performance on your phone.  It was always going to happen.



11th December 2015

Top 10 Christmas Events in Dubai over the next fortnight

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Saturday 12th December – Reform Social & Grill Family Winter Fair
Times: 11am-6pm
Location: Reform, The Lakes, Emirates Hills
Kids can get crafty with KenziBox enjoy bouncy castles and a visit from Santa. And grown-ups can enjoy a spot of Christmas shopping and a deal to buy two glasses of Zonin Prosecco and get the rest of the bottle free – all to a fabulously festive soundtrack.
Price: Free to attend
To Book: Just show up

Sunday 13th December – The Ripe Food and Craft Market at Dubai Marina Yacht Club
Times: 5pm-9pm
Ripe will be popping up at Dubai Marina Yacht Club for one night only, for an alfresco shopping event on the promenade. Shop stalls from the city’s best foodies, artisans, and local businesses – and get festive with a Santa’s grotto, carol singers, festive food, and more.
Price: Free to attend
To Book: Just show up

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Thursday 17th December – Le Petit Palais Christmas Party
Times: 3-5pm for 0-4 year olds, 5-7pm for 5-8 year olds
Location: Le Petit Palais, Galeries Lafayette, The Dubai Mall
Parties at Le Petit Palais are always impressive – and this festive party won’t disappoint with Christmas songs and activities, arts and crafts, and a visit from Santa Claus! The venue is holding two parties for different age groups (see times above).
Price: 100 AED for members, 120 AED for non members
To Book: Email info@lepetitpalaisdubai.com or call 04 382 7333 Ext. 2754

Thursday 17th– Saturday 19th December – Dubai Winter Festival
Times: 4pm-10pm on Thursday, 3pm-1pm Friday and Saturday
Running over three days in a new location of Dubai World Trade Centre, you can browse stalls, watch a pantomime, meet Santa Claus, have a snowball fight in the snow zone, enjoy festive music, food and drink, and much, much more.
Price: From 75 AED for adults (or 50 AED bought in advance),
35 AED for Kids 3-11 years (or 25 AED in advance).
To Book: Visit www.dubaiwinterfestival.com or just turn up on the day.

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Thursday 17th to  Sunday 27th December – The Madinat Festive Market
Times: 1pm-midnight on weekends, 3pm-midnight on weekdays
The Madinat Festive Market is back – and this year, there will be the addition of a new fort island, complete with festive food and beverage offerings, a live band, a retail area and kids activities including ice skating, a snow fight one, trampolines, and even bungee jumping. All to a fabulously festive soundtrack to inspire some Christmas spirit!
Price: Free to attend
To Book: Just show up

Saturday 19th to Tuesday 22nd December – Kids Theatre Works! Festive Drama Workshops
Times: 10am to 5pm
Location: DUCTAC, Mall of the Emirates
Keep kids creative and active during the festive season (whilst getting them even more excited about Christmas) by enrolling them in this brilliant Winter Camp at DUCTAC, Mall of the Emirates. This highly respected company has a focus on having fun and boosting confidence.
Price: 950 AED, plus 150 AED admin fee for new students (get a 10% discount on the price with the code ‘Mum of Boys’)
To Book: Call 050 1 58 56 53 or 056 466 3143

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Sunday 20th – Wednesday 23rd December – Santa’s Workshop at Falcons Kids Club, Fairmont The Palm
Times: 2-5pm
Location: Fairmont The Palm, Palm Jumeirah
Take little ones along to the brilliant kids club at Fairmont The Palm to enjoy the Santa’s Workshop. They will partake in Christmas arts and crafts, festive games, face painting, video games and lots more. The workshop is suitable for kids aged 3 and older.
Price: 180 AED per child, per day.
To Book: Call 04 457 3388 

Wednesday 23rd – Saturday 26th December – Santa’s Festive Village at Emirates Golf Club
Times: 3pm to midnight
Location: On the lawn at Emirates Golf Club (near Nakheel Metro Station)
Open for 4 days over the Christmas period, this event promises to entertain families and offer delicious festive food and drink.  If you’ve got bored of tucking into the turkey, this is the place to head.
Price: Free entry
To Book: Just show up

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Thursday 24th  December – Pyjama Party at Mini Monsters
Times: 4-6pm
Location: Mini Monsters, DNATA Building, Sheikh Zayed Road
Dress the kids in their favourite pyjamas and head to Mini Monsters DNATA Building for their Christmas Eve Pyjama Party Party. There will be soft play, cookie decorating, music and movement, story time – and a kid’s meal to make sure tummies are full!
Price: 75 AED per child.
To Book: Email playnparty@minimonsters.ae

Thursday 24th December – Christmas Eve Dinner at Movenpick Jumeirah Beach 
Times: 6.30-11pm
Location: The Talk Restaurant, Movenpick Jumeirah Beach, The Walk, JBR
Expect festive carving stations, traditional buffet, decadent desserts from the UK and Europe, a live jazz singer and saxophonist, and plenty in store for the young ones, including choir singers and a jolly visit from Santa.
Price: 299 AED per person, inclusive of soft drinks. 399 AED per person, inclusive of alcoholic beverages. Kids (6 to 12 years) at  50% discount. Kids (6 and under) dine complimentary.
To Book: Call +971 4 449 8781 or email Hotel.Jumeirahbeach.FB@moevenpick.com

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Our weekend escape to Fairmont Ajman – the most relaxing staycation!

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 14.51.31Despite living in Dubai for the past 5 years, I have never set foot in Ajman. So when my husband suggested we tried somewhere different for a weekend escape, we decided to step outside our comfort zone and try somewhere new.

With Ajman agreed, we moved onto finding a hotel – and being fans of Fairmont resorts in Dubai, we chose to  stay at Fairmont Ajman. Located on the Corniche, the hotel has a stretch of white sand, a kid’s pool, and various family-friendly restaurants – along with spacious grounds and interiors for two little boys to let off steam. It sounded like a winner, so we jumped in the car on a Thursday evening to make our way through Sharjah and onto Ajman.

Big mistake, as the traffic was so congested at rush hour on a Thursday that the usual 1-hour journey from Dubai Marina took nearly 3 hours. Next time (and there will be a next time, I am sure of it), we will leave closer to lunchtime to beat the rush.

Well past our (now snoring) boy’s bedtimes, we arrived at the hotel feeling a bit weary. But as we strolled into the bright lobby and found smiling staff waiting for us to check in, we instantly started to relax – and that set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Honestly, this was without doubt the most relaxing weekend away I have ever had with kids in tow!

The ambience was so warm and unpretentious and I noticed the difference immediately when compared to some of the luxury resorts much closer to home. And with the hotel fairly quiet too, we found the service incredibly personal and flawless throughout. The boys felt like they’d made friends with staff members, even learning their names over the course of the weekend.

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The room

We were staying in one of the family suites, which was very luxurious and spacious. You also have the option of interconnecting rooms (up to 4 in a row) if you have kids or come with a group of friends. Every room has a view of the Arabian Gulf (nothing like opening the curtains and staring out a turquoise vista from bed every morning) – and we found them very toddler and child-friendly, with soft carpets, cupboards hiding entertain systems/mini bar, and a big bath to wash off the salt water at the end of the day. I had asked for a toddler bed and a cot – and these were waiting in our room on arrival.

I’ve never been able to stay in bed drinking coffee in the morning and let the boys roam around before (not even in my own house) – but I did it at Fairmont Ajman! As long as the balcony doors are locked, there was nothing in the room to risk injury (or that could be broken by inquisitive little monsters), which was truly refreshing and very relaxing. It also meant I’d fallen in love with Fairmont Ajman before we’d even left the room!

What we did

The truth is that we did very little apart from eat, drink, swim, play and relax! There is a kids club at the hotel, which I heard good things about, but we didn’t use. We simply ate breakfast, headed to the beach, made a few trips up to the pool, enjoyed a really good Friday brunch (genuinely one of the best brunches I’ve been to in the UAE) and repeated the mornings activities again. We just let the boys do what they wanted and they were very happy throughout.

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On the subject of the Friday brunch, I highly recommend it. I’ve found a lot of the bigger brunches in Dubai have become a bit samey, so it was fun to see unique touches like a moules mariniere station, mexican taco station, and bowls of Um Ali and other traditional desserts to finish. The boys enjoyed it too, with their own kids’ food station and a cookie decorating area to keep them entertained.

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And if that wasn’t enough to fill our tummies for one day, we were back that evening (with the boys in tow) at the delicious Italian restaurant Gioia. The boys were given crayons and paper, along with pizzas and generous portions of pasta. And we enjoyed a glass of wine, delicious dishes, and the chilled, family-friendly vibe that meant we could enjoy our meal without feeling we were disturbing anyone (even when one boy decided he would eat with a napkin on his head…)

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Why choose Fairmont Ajman for a family staycation?

I really did feel like I’d escaped to a different land, with such a refreshingly unpretentious feel (without needing to sacrifice on all the luxury of a 5-star hotel). The rooms were notably child friendly, there were piles of toys on the beach to keep little ones happy, the kid’s pool was shallow enough not to have a heart attack whenever toddlers veered near it, and children are well catered for when it comes to feed them too.

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I arrived home that Saturday afternoon feeling genuinely chilled – a feeling only now I can recognise from heading away for the weekend in the days before children. I think we’ve found our happy place – and I can’t wait to head back.

For more information or to make a booking, visit www.fairmont.com/ajman/

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10th December 2015

A letter to myself after the birth of my first baby…

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Dear me,

Commit every part of his tiny body to memory. His chubby wrists, the bow of his lips that part as he sleeps, the way his tiny toes curl when you strip him off for a bath. Drink every part of him in when he nestles into your arm to feed or falls asleep on your chest. You might see these things all day, every day (and often all night, every night too)- but one day soon, he will sit on your lap and you will realise he doesn’t fit so easily anymore – and you will feel your heart break a little bit.

Leave the house. It might seem an overwhelming task right now, but you will have a toddler in what seems like the blink of an eye and you will wish you had made the most of the time when he was too small to try and escape you. Take him out for dinner, stroll down the high street or through the malls, push his buggy into coffee shops while he is sleeping, While he is portable, take him everywhere. Only time will teach you what a luxury this is.

Never leave the house without baby wipes. This is important.

Take photographs. You can never have too many. You will look back frequently at these precious memories to recall when it all started. This time in your life will soon seem like a hazy dream and you will want to remind yourself just how small he really was. And as he gets older, he will love flicking through these photographs too, fascinated by the person he once was.

Stop feeling guilty for not being able to breastfeed him. He will grow into a healthy, happy, intelligent little boy – and you will realise those tears were a waste of energy. In a few years, you will have another baby and feeding will be easier – and only then you will realise that the cuddles with a bottle are just as precious as the cuddles on the breast. Oh and stop getting up at 3am to attach yourself to an expressing machine. You need your sleep.

The dirty dishes can wait. If he’s asleep in your arms, stay there.

Don’t take comments or criticism to heart. As the years tick by, you will realise that the whole world likes to share an opinion about motherhood – but you will also feel your skin getting thicker and confidence growing as fast as that little person grows in your arms. You will develop a poker face for when people offer advice, before heading home and carrying on just as you were before.

Slow down. A newborn doesn’t need to learn how to swim, to communicate with sign language, or to recognise the opening song of every baby class in the city. There is plenty of time for all that. What you won’t be able to get back are the lazy afternoons watching films together on the sofa, refusing to get out of your pyjamas until five minutes before a friend arrives for coffee. It might feel like you are a mess right now, but believe me; when you think back to this time in your life, those lazy days with a brand new little person will feel like heaven.

And honestly, don’t forget that advice about the baby wipes.

Me x



9th December 2015

When Christmas became magical again…

FullSizeRender-2It was Christmas Eve. I was in my early twenties and had left my friends at the pub and joined my family for Midnight Mass. The air was thick with frankincense and I was struggling to stifle my yawns as the priest delivered his sermon.

I tried to follow his words, but my thoughts turned to the following morning, when my family would be joined by my Uncle for present opening and Christmas lunch. We’d then collapse in front of the TV to watch a festive special of The Vicar of Dibley and Eastenders (or similarly high brow entertainment), before helping ourselves to cold turkey, and eventually heading to bed.

I had always loved Christmas, but for the first time in my life, I realised I wasn’t excited.

We had grown up.

The magic had gone.

As I sat on that cold pew all those years ago, it occurred to me that the excitement of Christmas would return when children joined our family. Whether it would be my own children or nieces and nephews, I probably only had a few years to wait and we would all rediscover that festive spirit.

After all, Christmas is for children.

Not for twenty-somethings, stifling yawns at Midnight Mass.

I was right, of course.

I became a Mummy in 2012 – and the magic returned.

Even when he was a baby on his first Christmas, learning to crawl amongst the piles of screwed up wrapping paper on the living room floor, I took so much pleasure in shopping for the perfect gifts, getting him dressed up as a reindeer, and taking him to meet Santa Claus for the very first time. He didn’t care much for his presents, of course – but I did. I loved helping him unwrap them, setting them up, and watching him enjoy what we’d chosen (even if he was really more excited by the box).

I made salt dough decorations with his handprints, took pictures of him with a backdrop of twinkly lights, and bought him a crimson red stocking of his very own.

Every December that has arrived since has got better and better. Mince pies left out for Santa, trips to decorated grottos, tales of flying snowmen, dancing to Christmas music at bath time, mentions of the ‘naughty’ and ‘nice’ list, and now a countdown to the big day that makes him shriek with excitement every morning.

He has a sibling now too – and seeing them in their reindeer-printed pyjamas every night, reading stories about Jack Frost and Rudolf under the soft glow of fairy lights fills me with the same excitement I felt as a child.

So I was right on that Christmas Eve all those years ago.

I didn’t have long to wait and the magic would be back.

It’s true that Christmas is for children.

But getting the chance to see the excitement and belief in a child’s eyes when they imagine reindeers galloping through a night sky and a man stuffing gifts into two crimson velour stockings is even better.

That is even better.