Sunday, June 21, 2015

How Clean is Your House?

Gerlinde at work.
If you listen very carefully, you can hear me
squeaking with excitement. 
We've talked before about my Monica from Friends tendencies...yes? In case you've forgotten, I'm a neat/clean freak. I don't know how it happened, it definitely crept up on me as I got older. And yes, dear reader, I am old. I digress....

A few years ago I had our sofa professionally cleaned and I was giddy as a goat when the cleaning guys turned up. I think they thought it charming. Or odd. Probably both.

So when the lovely people at 4Work asked me if I'd like them to come and demonstrate their super-powerful Kobold vacuum cleaner to me (50% more powerful than other vacuum cleaners, fact fans), I was all over it like dust on a Swiffer. 

If you haven't heard of Kobold then you must have been living under a (dusty) stone for the last 150 years (that's how long they've been around). Kobold already has a following of influential fans including UK property expert and TV presenter Sarah Beeny who says ‘it’s a joy to use’ and ‘is simply the best vacuum cleaner around.’ Who doesn't love the Beeny?!

Now, I'm not going to lie, there's a tiny element of hesitation when you invite someone into your home in this situation. Desperate as I was to see the product in action, the fact is, there's going to be some shame involved. We have a cleaner and our house is to the naked eye, spotless. But we also have one rotund and very hairy feline. This feline sheds hair like Kim Kardashian sheds clothes. Plus the dust in Dubai seems to find its way through the tiniest cracks and settle in the most bizarre of places. Plus, how often do you get your sofa and mattresses cleaned?

Thankfully the lovely Gerlinde, CEO of 4Work (the distributors for Vorwerk Kobold cleaners) has seen it all before and approached our home with vigour. The Kobold VK150 (even the name sounds effective) is a sleek piece of kit that comes in its own bag, with various attachments. We wasted no time and headed to the bedroom to test it out on our super-king mattress. As expected, it sucked out a pile of dust the size of a small mountain.

From there it was a whirl of activity, with the sofa and lounge rug being cleaned. The rug was the real horror story, with a pile of dust that could dwarf the Burj Khalifa. As I'm British I felt compelled to apologise for the state of the rug -I was simultaneously in cleaning heaven and hell! The thought of being able to do this myself, on a regular basis, without engaging outside help is just fantastic.

I jest about this a little because I'm a clean freak, but there's a very serious side to this too. I know countless people with asthma in Dubai, exacerbated by the heat, the constant AC and the omnipresent dust. This piece of kit is a literal life saver. If you have children, pets, allergies, or just want your home to be clean, you will fall in love with this product immediately. And the lovely people at 4Work will demonstrate the products to you, for free! What's not to love?

The technical stuff: The Kobold System Power Unit and its amazing attachments can:
  • Deep clean carpets, rugs and mattresses 
  • Catch 99.9% of allergy substances with its 3 in 1 integrated HEPA filter
  • Vacuum and mop all hard floor surfaces including ceramic tiles and parquet at the same time
  • Remove pet hair
  • Clean windows without water (no, really!!)
For more info log onto their website and they will do the rest. 

I'd love to chat more but I'm too busy admiring my reflection in my sparkly clean floor! (I lie, my reflection could scare small children today. But the floor is tremendous!)

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Mama's Gone to Blue Marlin

Great food, company and music. What's not to love?
Pre-baby I loved nothing more than kicking back at the beach with friends at the weekend. Not for us the notorious Dubai Brunches: we were too busy getting our tan, our chat and our celebrity gossip on. Fast-forward to the days of Baby Britney and regular weekly beach sessions are a thing of the past.

Fear not: with a bit of negotiation and planning these can be slotted in - and when they come, they bring me joy and a pleasure in abundance, perhaps because they are not as easy to come by as they used to be.

Our latest foray saw us head to Blue Marlin for an afternoon of great music and sunshine. It's the famous Ibiza brand exported to Dubai, and whilst there are some similarities, it's definitely not the same. 

Not that we cared one jot, as we were too busy scoffing the trays of food and ice-buckets of rose. The Saturday Brunch sees a lot of people taking children - personally that's not for me. Not just because it's loud but also, who can really, truly relax with a small one in tow. Best to leave them at home and let Mama get her groove on, I think.

Top Tips: Book a car to take you there and back as taxis are hard to come by. Take an arm load of magazines. Take your best friend. Repeat as often as possible.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Small but Perfectly Formed

The cutest park we know...
Dubai is known for its spectacular parks. Yes, parks! It's not all desert and sand, y'know. My love of  parks here is well-documented. We head to Creek Park whenever we can to re-charge at the weekend. With its vast rolling hills, the lap of the creek waves and even a beach, it really is good for the soul.

Since Baby Britney appeared on the scene, I've been all over another park: Al Wasl. Creek Park it is not, it's really like a giant garden in size. But it's an eight minute walk from our front door (yes, I timed it) and is blissfully quiet. If we head there on a precious day off, we are very often the only people there. It is a tiny piece of heaven on our door step.

BB loves watching the birds, eating flapjacks and apples slices (and feeding them to Mama) and will happily toddle around squeaking whilst Mama cracks out a few pages of her latest book. What's not to love?

Of course since the mercury hit 40 plus in the daytime, we haven't been able to visit our little park, which makes me hugely sad. Still, we have a beautiful garden for paddling pool action and the swimming pool too, so we can't complain.

See you in November, Al Wasl Park!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Working Mums: The SAS Has Nothing on Us

My morning mantra
Fail to plan, plan to fail. That's the mantra of the SAS. I think. Actually it might not be. But it should be. It's certainly the motto of every good PR Person. And this stands you in oh such good stead when you have a baby and most especially when you go back to work. 

I'm not saying you need an excel spreadsheet for getting out of the house in the morning, but as much planning as possible helps everything to run smoothly. Here are some of my top tips.

Get Your Work Outfit Sorted
It is amazing how much quicker you can get ready when your outfit is hanging, ready to wear, on the wardrobe door in front of you. Sure, you can wait and select your clothes in the morning. But having a small bald person clinging to your legs whilst whining to be passed jewellery/be picked up is: a) stressful b) annoying c) distracting and OH how it slows you down.

Once Baby Britney (BB) is in bed each night I head straight to the wardrobe and select an outfit for the next day. And not just the clothes, I also pick out underwear (sorry), jewellery and shoes. This means that you  can slip everything on whilst on complete autopilot. 

Apply the Same Principle to Food/Work Sustenance
Who in their right mind wants to prep food at 7 am with a baby on their hip? Do it all the night before. I even prep the nutri bullet concoction at 10 pm. All contents are in the freezer so ingredients are thrown in the cup, blade attached, ready to be whizzed up just as I walk out of the front door.

Apply the Same Principle to Coffee
Get your morning coffee lined guessed it....the night before.
It is truly amazing how much more smoothly your morning will run if the kettle is already filled, and a tea bag/spoon of coffee is waiting for you. Of course, if you're fancy, get the coffee machine prepped and ready to go. I'm fine with Nescafé and inhale a brew in the manner of a snake with a rabbit.

Divide and Conquer
If you have a partner, get them on board the planning bus. Sure, there will be days when one of you has an early morning/late night, and the other is left to hold the fort alone. But if you're both there in the morning, tag team:

One feeds the Tiny Tyrant, the other puts a full face of make-up on. 

One showers, the other entertains the Tiny Tyrant with animal noises and Molly the Cat Bothering. 

After a year of this you'll have it so locked down you'll feel like Olympic synchronised swimmers, such is the beauty and smoothness of your routine. And the real benefits are: your mornings are calm. Your day begins in a positive way. You are not ready to chew your own face off by the time you arrive at work. 

Disclaimer: I only have one child, she's still small and relatively immobile and she doesn't have to be at school at 7.30. But I'm hoping that these foundations will help us to keep some small grip as she grows. What are your best tips?

The Nutri-Bullet: Just Another Fad?

Totally converted....
Never one to pass up a new health fad, particularly one that promises to be easy and simple, we embraced Nutri-Bullet fever recently.

As a household that already owned not one but TWO blenders, I was naturally sceptical about inviting yet another electrical item into the house. Particularly when said item seemed so similar to the others. But I'm here to tell you: the Nutri-Bullet is amazing! 

The principle is this: you start off with leaves (hello frozen spinach), then add berries/any fruit that takes your fancy (hello frozen fruit) then you add a 'boost'. In my case this is ginger (frozen) plus flaxseeds and wheatgrass powder. Then blend. Because I've loaded up the freezer with frozen fruit, this whole process takes approximately 60 seconds, start to finish. It also takes up a teeny-tiny amount of space on the work surface which is an added bonus, both in terms of space but also likelihood of usage - it's staring me in the face every day, so is top of mind.

I'm not gonna lie, to begin with the resulting concoctions took quite some getting used to - turns out there's a reason why I don't eat kilos of spinach each day - it tastes vile. After I'd dialled down on the spinach and dialled up on the ginger, I actually started enjoying my creations. It's now firmly part of my morning ritual: make bullet, blend bullet, leave house, drink bullet at work with a handful of supplements.

The best part about the process in my opinion is this: whatever else the day holds; endless meetings, unhealthy choices, vino, dodgy snacks...well, at least it started right. 

FYI - this is not a sponsored post, I succumbed to the marketing all on my own! I picked my NB up from MumzWorld, they deliver direct to your door. And half the price of the UK!

Fairmont the Palm: Must Try Harder

The view is fabulous....
I know I've had a glut of hotel posts recently - but what to do, this is Dubai! A large part of our socialising revolves around hotels as a) they are licensed b) they are often on beaches c) they can be fabulous locations for a catch up, a night out, or a weekend away. All of which we are pretty keen on!

Our latest find was the Fairmont on the Palm. We've seen a plethora of hotels open on the Palm, following in the footsteps ofthe world-famous Atlantis. 

We checked in for the day to celebrate our wedding anniversary. The verdict?

The hotel is....well....underwhelming. It's a pain to get to - you have to go all the way up the trunk and u-turn to get back to it. The design is blah. No-one opened my car door on arrival. I KNOW this sounds princess-like but this is a 5 star hotel, on the Palm Jumeirah, in Dubai. Their service should be off the scale. Beach food service was glacial. Lunch was average.

Don't get me wrong, we did have a lovely time, and were giddy as kippers to spend some time together on such an auspicious day.There is something fabulously decadent about taking the day off work for such an event. After all, we live in a country where people pay vast amounts to come on holiday each year, and this is right on our doorstep! We've vowed to do this every year from now on. 

The real selling point for the Fairmont is the beach, and the view, both of which are lovely. But it's a mission to get to and there's far more beautiful beach hotels in Dubai: the One and Only, JBH, The Four Seasons. Sorry Fairmont, must try harder...

Giraffe Bothering Joy at Emirates Park Resort

Watch out for the whiskers!
It's no secret that I'm an animal lover. If you haven't been regaled with tales of the time I was a zoo-keeper for the day, consider yourself lucky. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard that there was a zoo, in Abu Dhabi, where you can not only bother animals, but also get up close and personal with them and STAY THE NIGHT IN THE ZOO! Thanks to Tuesday's Child for the tip....

I'm dubious about zoos in the region - Dubai Zoo is notorious for being cramped, dirty and just plain cruel. Emirates Park Zoo doesn't score too badly on this scale, the animals in the main have space and seem well cared for. It did pain me to see a lone Capybara - they are such sociable animals and love a mate.

But the real fun starts when you check into the resort itself. This is attached to the zoo, and there's a very limited number of 'Executive Suites', which are in fact chalets that look directly onto the giraffe enclosure. 

Manage your expectations: The Burj Al Arab this is not. If you're old enough to remember the UK show "Hi-De-Hi" then you can imagine the scene. But the chalets are spacious (lounge as well as bedroom), with a kitchenette, and best of all, a small terrace to sit and watch the world and the giraffes go by. And watch them we did!

We were fore-armed with carrots aplenty which meant that we were extremely popular with the two giraffes, two zebra and small deer. The squeaks of joy from Baby Britney on first sighting the giraffe beauties, plus her throaty giggle when getting tickled by their whiskers, still fills my heart with joy, weeks on from the visit.

The resort is well set-up for children, providing a comfy cot bed at no extra charge. Once BB had retired for the night we cracked open the vino, lit a small disposable barbecue on the terrace, read books, chewed the fat. A treat!

Given that small people tend to wake up at the crack of dawn, we opened the curtains early the next morning. It was the most magical foggy UAE morning, and the animals moving slowly through the mist was a sight to behold. As everyone else slept, we crept outside, carrots in our collective grasp, and communed with the giraffes one last peaceful time.

Without children, I would have enjoyed this trip. With a small person, it was truly wonderful. I can't recommend this weekend enough. Yallah, before the temperatures rise!

Useful Info:

We booked through and paid around 750 for an executive suite.
Resort information is here:
The drive is about an hour and ten minutes from Dubai.
Don't forget your carrots!

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Finally, Four Seasons Dubai

Just stunning......
I like to keep my finger on the pulse of all things new in Dubai. Given that this is the city that prides itself on the the biggest, the best, with heaps of ambition, it is no mean feat to keep up with all the changes and developments that seem to happen on an hourly basis. Plus, truth be told, I'm a simple girl at heart, and perfectly happy to sit in a  scruffy Satwa bar if the company is good and the newest sparkly bars have to go some way to beat that.

So I have to confess that it's taken me a couple of months to get round to visiting the new Four Seasons hotel on Jumeirah Beach Road. An anniversary provided the perfect opportunity and we rolled up, eager to see exactly what had been created on the site of the old Shoreside Beach Club - the scene of so many fun-filled beach Fridays....

First things first: it's beautiful. It has a strong whiff of Mina Al Salam; Arabesque architecture, twinkly lights, flowers in abundance. Whilst not hugely unique, it's still quite the entrance. 

We headed straight to the rooftop bar, which can be summed up in one word: spectacular. The decor is ultra-modern, but complements the architecture perfectly. A central bar, styled like a pearl, is totally show-stopping. 

The amazing bar....
But the real star of the show is the view. Oh, the view! The entire Jumeirah and Sheikh Zayed skyline lies before you as you sip on your eye-wateringly priced drinks (95dh for a glass of wine. High, even by Dubai's standards.)

We didn't eat, so I can't comment on the food, but the hotel definitely gets the thumbs up. We wandered down to the beach bar for a few more drinks and it really is a stunning location. 

One observation (apart from the outrageous drinks prices) is this: the place is DEAD. As a dodo. Literally two other people in the beach bar. We didn't care as we were too busy catching up and laughing at our own hilarious jokes, but if you're after a place with a buzzing atmosphere, this ain't it.  Perhaps the Four Seasons has a plan for raising its profile and it will soon be full of Dubai's movers and shakers...perhaps not. Either way, it's a great place for an expensive drink. With a view.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cold, Colder, Coldest

Obv, I look JUST like this at home....
Winter in Dubai is a funny old time. Residents reach near hysterical conditions at the sight of rainfall, gird their loins for the drop in temperature and suddenly, convector heaters magically appear in the shops.

A quick stroll to the local supermarket and you will walk past people dressed as if they are on a mission to climb Mount Everest: puffa coats, wooly hats, gloves.

In truth, the mercury rarely drops below 15 degrees, and that's extremely early in the morning. Yet somehow, it feels cold. Really cold. All the time. I've been driven to buying not one, not two, but three pairs of pyjamas, plus bedsocks. (Next Directory, if you're interested. They now deliver to Dubai. Treat!) And I'm still cold! 

Perhaps after 7 years my blood has thinned and I feel the cold in a different way. 

Perhaps it genuinely is colder than it ever has been. 

Either way, I'm honestly not moaning - all too soon it will be fiercely hot again and this will seem like a distant, chilly memory. Until then, pass the jumper, please!

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Ho ho!
It's happened, hasn't it. 

I've neglected my blog terribly. And when I do write, I appear to have turned into a *whispers* mummy blogger. I can only apologise. In my defence I was so deluged with questions about what it's like having a baby that I felt compelled to tell you. 

Plus, in my experience, very few people tell you the truth about what it's REALLY like when you have a child. And I wanted to do that. Be truthful. Be honest. In the hope that women will feel less like a failure if they don't breeze through pregnancy and a new born (who ARE these women that do?!). Because it's perfectly normal to reel from the shock of it all. However prepared you think you are.

Anyway, there's SO much happening here in Dubai right now. We won the Expo2020, it's been non-stop events season: food festivals, the Emirates Literature Festival (where last year I met Richard and Judy!) concerts galore (hello Lionel, hello Justin! hello Gary Barlow!) and the city is full of verve, vigour and palpable energy. Love it.

We survived another Summer, which meant heat as hot as hell and humidity to make your eyebrows swell. It meant Ramadan, which is a favourite time of year chez Britney. It meant lazy afternoons and evenings in the pool and boxed sets on the sofa in the cool AC.

Now the Winter is firmly here and I'm sure it's the coldest I've encountered in 7 years. I've bitten the bullet and purchased several pairs of pyjamas and....bed socks. Yes, it is rock and roll here chez Britney, let me tell you.

So there you go. I promise, in future: less baby, more life. Which to be fair is not a bad motto for life, as well as blogging.