Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Keeping Up Appearances When Pregnant - in 45 Degrees

Great inspiration, even when not up the duff.
I strode into pregnancy determined to keep a grip on all things beauty and fashion related. 

"I am not letting myself go!" I exclaimed loudly to anyone who would listen (mainly Molly the Cat). 

I attempted to take inspiration from this gorgeous blogger in Dubai, who puts a non pregnant woman to shame, and this previosly pregnant blogger in San Francisco. Her wardrobe is to die for.

There were times when I looked less than be fair after after emergency surgery and two weeks on bed rest, my looks were not my number one priority - but my vanity did win out, and I tried to keep some semblance of normality on things.

Here are my top three beauty tips for surviving pregnancy in the Dubai summer:

The girls at Feel Pink are regular visitors to our villa. I dialled them up every few weeks when pregnant and they dutifully arrived, laden with kit. 

This means no faffing about in the car travelling to the mall or a salon in 45 degree heat, no trying not to smudge your nails on the way out, a simple call and they're at your sofa. A classic mani/pedi is a snip at 150 dirhams,  done and dusted in 45 minutes, and they do a fantastic job. Extra points for their giddiness about impending baby Britney, which reached fever pitch. And now they get to see the lady herself every time they visit - it's really very sweet.

The only small issue is manoeuvring an eye-rolling husband out of the lounge when they arrive. Not as easy as it sounds if he is mid-way through watching a spaghetti western (don't ask!).

There is only so much you can do when it's 45 degrees and 90% humidity, but I wasn't about to take hair Vietnam lying down. I discovered this stuff a few years ago when working on a beauty project. In this region women are all over hair oil - thick Middle Eastern hair needs taming. Women religiously apply this overnight and wash out in the morning.

But it is, as you can imagine, messy. So the clever boffins at P&G came up with this as an alternative. It looks just like a normal conditioner, feels just like a normal conditioner, but it isn't. You're supposed to take handful of it and leave it in over night - I just use it after washing and rinse it straight out. 

I don't look quite like Cat Deeley after using it, but it does tame my hideously huge humid helmet to manageable sleek (ish) proportions.

If your waistline (and backside) is going to expand, it might as well look bronzed, in my opinion. Hence a weekly spray tan became as essential as breathing - which has always been my stance when it comes to tanning, more so when lumbering around like a whale in a bikini.

Getting to and from the salon without sweating it off became more challenging as summer progressed, so I did an at home job. L'Oreal is my favourite - minimal smell and air dries really quickly. Obviously I go for medium/dark not light- what's the point otherwise?

The Dubai Boom: It's Back!

What will this skyline look like in ten years time?
Dubai is booming again. Ever since we won Expo2020 there's been a whiff of hysteria in the air. Part of my love affair with Dubai comes from the ambition, the positivity, the drive to make things happen and get things done, so this excitement is great to see, hear and feel.

It manifests itself in a number of different ways. The most obvious, before Ramadan, was the traffic. We'd returned to the 2008 glory days of being stuck for hours in the evenings after work. Getting into the office became an incredible journey each morning, and has resulted in me flinging myself from a moving vehicle at the nearest metro station and walking over the bridge to Emaar Square, rather than sit in stationary traffic for 45 minutes.

The other is the building sites. They're popping up everywhere again. With a remit of 200 extra hotels by 2020, there's no time to waste. But it's not just hotels. Apartments, villas, offices, you name it, it's appearing, in what feels like record time.

On a conference call yesterday we looked out of the window. Aside from being able to see the sea (joy!) we also overlook the new Citywalk development. You know, the lovely lunch place a stone's throw from Downtown. Well, they're also building a whole residential area too. We counted 39 cranes. 39! 

There's also a huge office tower coming up right next to the window. We're so nonchalant about these monoliths appearing almost overnight that they don't really register any more. But when you walk through the Metro station, and see crowds of tourists gazing into these building sites in awe, I'm reminded. They are pretty special, it's true.


Handsome no doubt. As many sociopaths are...
I was a teeny tiny bit obsessed with the Oscar Pistorius trial. It gripped me in a way not seen since Madeleine McCann went missing (guilty!).

I don't know what it was about the whole story. I'm not at all interested in athletics, could barely have picked OP out in a line up before the hideous tragedy occurred. 

think it's this: something about his self serving emotional outpourings, the controlling texts, the reluctance to ever admit being in the reminds me of twenties.

It's a sad fact of life that almost every woman I know of a certain age (ahem) has experienced life with a sociopath. And alarm bells the size of South Africa have been ringing ever since I started watching the trial and listening to the evidence.

I've blogged about this before: what makes successful, intelligent women succumb to men like this? It's a tough one to answer. We never really reached a conclusion. If I could travel back in time I'd have some sage advice for my twenty-something self. Whether I'd take it or not is another matter, of course.

On the 11th September, Oscar Pistorius will hear his conclusion. The verdict will be announced. I watch with interest. 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Screamerama Drama

Even this photo makes me tense....
We've all been there: a small baby starts crying somewhere...maybe the mall, maybe a restaurant, maybe (worst of all) a PLANE. And I freely admit, I have been the person that glared. 

It's loud, isn't it, when a baby cries? And annoying, yes? Goes right through you, doesn't it?

Well let me tell you (all parents will know this already) when it's your own baby IT IS TEN TIMES WORSE. 

Apparently your own crying baby makes women secrete a stress hormone, which is why men can remain calm in the face of a mewling infant, but women start sweating and have to comfort them. Pronto.

Added to this, if it's your own baby you are likely to be stuck in a confined space with them when the screaming is in full flow (taxis and elevators are the worst) and then it seems even louder.

AND factor in the stress of (what feels like) the whole world staring at you and judging you, and it is fair to say that I dread screamerama with every fibre of my being.

It's amazing what can set her off; I've learned at some cost never to sneeze or cough loudly in her presence. My poor Dad removed his glasses which for some reason terrified her - he never did that again after the hysterics took an hour to abate.

Now when I see or hear a baby crying I'm torn between wanting to hug the mother and relief that it isn't mine. Their crying barely even registers on my radar now.

Oh, how I regret the glaring of my childless days now.

Monday, 7 July 2014

The Holy Month

It's Ramadan again. My absolute favourite time of the year. Such a special time to be living in the Muslim country and every day I'm thankful for the experience.

As we head into the second week I thought I'd summarise some of my previous posts on the Holy Month.

I hope you enjoy them..

Re-connecting with old friends

Food and friends

Taxi Drivers


Opening Hearts

Patience and Prayer


Palm Trees and Dates

The Fountain of Youth?

If celebs are involved, I want in.
As you know, I'm not one for letting the ravages of time take hold of me. Even in the dark early days of Baby Britney's arrival I often applied a full face of make up, even if I was staying in the house. With no visitors. It made me feel so much better about myself/life in general.

I'm pretty much a marketing man's dream, and although I have dialled down some of my health and beauty obsessions over the years, I'm always eager to try new things...especially if these things promise youth, energy and vitality....

Last year I tried the Collagen Gold product, with limited success.

This year has seen more trials in the Britney House - in the form of Celergen . Billed as "the one and only Swiss Anti-aging Marine Oral Cell Therapy Supplement in the world,' the good people at Celergen asked me to try their product for two months, and report back on how it went. I hadn't heard of the product before, but a quick look online revealed it as "The Anti-Ageing Secret of the Rich and Famous". I was instantly hooked. Shallow, moi?

On closer inspection it has amazing results in clinical trials.(At 28 days, 71% of users showed a significant decrease in the number of deep wrinkles.) Hell, even doctors take it!

By the point of closer inspection I'd already been taking the product for a few days. Hey, I have a new baby, I'm back at work, I need all the help I can get! I didn't want research to slow my anti-ageing down!

How does it work? Here's the lowdown of Celergen's three main ingredients:
  •  BioDNA Marine Cellular Complex has great antioxidant properties that protect our bodies against cell oxidative aggression, and its clinically proven to boost energy and stamina. It helps alleviate pain, improves quality of sleep, enhances memory and sharpens mental focus.
  • Peptide E Collagen works its magic on the skin and joints and cartilages.  It is made up of all-natural collagen and elastin peptides in the same proportions as that of our skin that  improves skin rehydration (moisture balance) and elasticity. The good thing about Peptide E Collagen is that it’s easily absorbed and it actually rebuilds the outer skin layers from the inside out – this is the ingredient proven to reduce lines and wrinkles.
  • Hydro MN Peptide is a mix of hydrolyzed proteins (mainly Collagen) and polysaccharides (35-40% chondroitin sulfate – cartilage-friendly components) that regenerates cartilage and improves skin structure. It provides UV protection and prevents unhealthy body fat accumulation by reducing appetite and promoting satiety.
Sounds good, yes? And I'm sure you don't need to be a mind-reader to know that the words that jumped out at me from the above were....WRINKLES and SLEEP. The holy grail of every mother....

So let's cut to the chase as I know you're wondering. Did it work? Do I look 19 again? Have I slept like a log ever since taking them?

Well, let's be fair. With a 9 month old baby there is only so much a supplement can do, however marvellous it is. 

But here's the good bit: I have been feeling strangely stronger in the mornings. Even on the days when I've only had 5 hours sleep, once I'm up, I do feel more resilient. 

My face definitely looks better too: I had a bizarre rash on my forehad ever since giving birth (delighful) and that's completely gone. This morning everything looked smoother, and (whispers) glowing. And that was a night with 6 hours sleep.

I'm still forgetful (words don't come as easily as they used to) and my joints/back still ache. But that's probably down to aforementioned small baby and the fact that I've recently starting running again after an 18 month hiatus.

So overall, I'd recommend it. The one stumbling block? The price. To be fair, $350 per month will not be flinched at by many Dubai residents and is significantly cheaper than going under the knife. For mere mortals, you might find it a little pricey. You can order online and they'll deliver it to you, wherever you are, for free.

Disclaimer: This product was given to me for free for the purposes of reviewing, however all opinions were independently formed by little old me.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Baby Essentials - Number 3 - The Swaddle Me Wrap

Easy peasy and genius!
If you'd been tucked up in a cosy, warm, very tight bed for 8 months or more, you might protest at being dragged kicking and screaming from it without warning. This is what happens to babies when they're born. And it's even more of a shock to them if they're born prematurely, like Baby Britney (BB).

They also have a very strong 'startle' reflex which means that their little arms twitch without warning, giving them a huge shock. If this happens as they are drfting off to snoozeville it wakes them up and you can forget any type of sleep.

So to make them feel cozy and snuggly, and to stop them startling like crazed ferrets, you swaddle them. Now there are all sorts of rules about the how and why to do this - their little hips can get stuck apparently. Personally I feel that unless The Hulk is swaddling your baby, you are on pretty safe grounds.

We did this from day one, using swaddling blankets. It was the only thing that soothed BB, but there was one major problem - she could fight her way out of any blanket, and did so frequently.

Then we discovered the Swaddle Me pod. It is basically a teeny tiny baby straightjacket - it allows you to wrap the tiny tyrant up AND velcro them up. Get out of THAT Houdini!!

The one caveat is that they have to be a minimum weight - 3.2 kilos- which meant that the tiddler BB couldn't go in it for a few months. Once she could, it was a DREAM. 

They're here in Dubai at Babyshop, or order them online from Amazon. Honestly, it will change your life.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Hair Today....Gone Tomorrow

If I do end up needing a wig, I'm getting a Dolly...
It's a truth universally acknowledged that when you move to Dubai, something happens to your hair: namely, you lose it. 

A combination of heat, humidity and harsh water means that your precious locks head down the plug hole at a staggering rate. Online forums are full of Dubai newcomers lamenting their lost locks and asking for advice, and there's a whole range of businesses devoted to restoring them. The good news is that although it's horrible whilst it lasts (around six months)  things usually even out - your hair grows back and stops falling at such an alarming rate.

If you've had a baby, you may be familiar with what I'm about to say: brace yourself, as your hair is going to fall out like never before. 

It wasn't really an issue when I was pregnant, but at 9 months post-partum and jesus wept. I'm amazed there is a single hair left on my head judging by the amount that comes out when brushing, washing, blow drying. I'm sure I could have stuffed at least two (l-shaped) sofas with it by now.

The hairdresser commented on it last month as she tried to wrestle the baby fluff I've been left with into my highlight foils. Such was the extent of said fluff that I had to go back a second time as it just wouldn't comply.

The full damage was revealed to me last week when in a store fitting-room. Of course I did the obligatory examination of my backside in the oh-so flattering mirror (never a good idea) but then my eyes were drawn upwards. I'd swept my hair up so  could get a good look at the top I was trying on, so the underside of my scalp was revealed in all its glory. In all its patchy, BALD glory. Ok, I'm not quite at the wig/hair transplant stage, but there is no denying the fact that I have lots of noticeable hair loss. 

I left the mall with a lighter wallet and heavier heart.

Is there no justice?! Is there no part of a woman's anatomy and looks that isn't ravaged by pregnancy?! (Well, if you have a c-section certain bits remain perfect...thank god.)

Did you lose your hair after having a baby? When did it slow down? Mine is now serious enough that I'm going to get my bloods checked for thyroid! I will of course update you.....

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Packing your Hospital bag

When you're pregnant, you have very little control over things, especially your body. Which is a grim reality to face and made ten times worse if you're a control freak (are you looking at me?!).

There are a couple of things you can obsess over to take your mind off this:

1) Making a list of things you need for a baby. (Note: you do not need 99% of stuff on this list. Separate posts on this.)
2) Making a list of things you need in the mythical 'hospital bag'.

A series of premature labour scares meant I was on standby from 24 weeks, so the bag was of the utmost importance to me.

Obviously I consulted with UK friends and did some online research. I concluded that in the UK, you take everything but the kitchen sink into hospital with you. 

Things are a little different here: you'll give birth in a private hospital, in your own room, with an en-suite. This massively impacts what you need to take: they will provide towels, slippers, even nappies. I chose my a la carte meals for the next day each morning, DH ordered room service whenever he fancied a snack. My hospital made The Portland look like a slum. 

Don't believe me? The list they gave me is above. That's it. Item number two was of huge interest to me. 

Say what you like about birth being natural, focussing on the baby and not your appearance: I had my nails and hair done two days before my section - sue me! I'm so glad I did. It wasn't just about looking good in the post-birth photos (I don't actually look that great, just very, very happy) it was more clinging onto some semblance of me...the old me, the me that I knew and loved.

So take in what's important to you. If that's a make-up bag and Twiglets, crack on I say.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Baby Essentials - Number 2 - The White Noise App

Your life pre-baby may involve peace, quiet, and music. Ah, music. 

Babies, however, are not much interested in music. What they like are monotonous sounds...the vacuum cleaner, the washing machine, the hairdryer. As it isn't massively practical to carry any of these things round with you, I heartily recommend you invest in a white noise app. 

This amazing thing CHANGED OUR LIFE. It was 69p from the App Store - I am not exaggerating when I say I would have spent thousands on it. It has a good selection of sounds to choose from - we compromised on the 'Conch Shell' - a lovely sound of breaking waves, as I couldn't stand the hairdryer - it also has a timer that you can switch on for the first hour of baby going down in their cot. Once they are asleep it switches off. 

And get this: it then 'listens' to your baby. If they rouse, IT SWITCHES BACK ON.

There are no words to describe the genius of this. 

We only discovered this when Baby Britney (BB) was about 6 weeks old. I so wish we'd known sooner. It has helped to crack the non-napping in the daytime and she is so used to the routine of it after bath time that her eyes literally close as soon as it is switched on. 

Of course, this idea is not new - my mum's friend said she had a cassette tape of white noise that she used to play to her boys - but at least now we have the amazing technology to make it so much easier and portable.

I now watch the ipad like a hawk - our worst nightmare would be if the battery died!