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

Tradition

Opening Hearts

Patience and Prayer

Charity

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 issues....joy! 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!


Monday, 28 April 2014

Good Morning Dubai!

The view from our terrace at 7 am. Beautiful, non?
When I first arrived in Dubai I gleefully blogged about my daily routine. I was so giddy to be here, waking up to blue sky and sunshine every day. Many people told me that this novelty would wear off, that I would take it for granted. 

I'd just like to set this record straight: after six years in the UAE, this joy has not abated. If anything, I'm even more grateful and thankful for my life here than I was back then.

So how has my routine changed? 

Well, some things are different: In the morning there's a beautiful peachy-headed baby to snuggle before getting dressed. There's a garden and a terrace to sit on with the morning coffee. There's palm trees wafting and birds singing and butterflies fluttering by (a by-product of the garden). There's a smiley, friendly little Indian man at our front gate sweeping the street with a palm tree leaf (I just love this).

And some things are the same: the wall of warmth and sunshine that envelops me as I walk out onto the street. The taxi that I hail, the numerous 'Hello's' to the army of people cleaning, polishing and generally making sure that our lives run like clockwork. 

It's always a beautiful start to the day and I am eternally grateful to the Universe for these blessings. 

We have about 3 weeks before the mercury climbs to 40 degrees at 8 am - remind me of this positivity then, yes?!


Things I Missed When Up the Duff

If you enjoy it, you probably can't do it...sigh.
My pregnancy was classed as very high-risk. Not because of my age,although I was practically dead by Middle Eastern child-bearing standards, but due to a few health issues. 

Anyway, as a result, I missed some of the usual things that up the duff ladies miss, plus some that they don't: 


  • Booze
  • A night without getting up to wee every 30 seconds
  • Running
  • Walking or standing for longer than 20 mins (doctor's orders: I COULD physically walk for longer,but paid the price afterwards)
  • Exercise of any sort (even pregnancy yoga was banned)
  • Swimming (see above)
  • Plane travel
  • Lying on my front when sunbathing
  • Lying on my front when attempting to sleep
  • My Whistles skinny jeans (although was still in them at 20 weeks, mofos!)
  • The spa (for the first 12 weeks)
  • My sanity (to be fair whether this was in place before is up for debate)
It's not forever, although it feels like it. Repeat: it's not forever.



Sunday, 27 April 2014

Baby Essentials - Number 1 - The Bouncy Chair - Baby Bjorn

Handsome man not included - thankfully I have my own!
So many people have asked me what my 'must-have' items for a baby are. Truthfully, we didn't over indulge too much on frippery...ultimately what a tiny baby needs is somewhere to sleep, food (whether formula or bosom) and nappies. Oh and snuggles. Soooooooo many snuggles!

BUT there are undoubtedly some things that made our lives much, much easier. So I'll share them with you.

The first: a bouncy chair. Now there are hundreds of these on the market, and 99.9% of them are utterly hideous. I have never filled my house with neon/primary coloured plastic before, and I fail to see why I should now that I have a child.

So the only choice for us was a Baby Bjorn. These are beautiful, carefully designed chairs that also LOOK GOOD. Call me shallow, call me old-fashioned, but this was music to my ears.

On the practical front,it also folds completely flat, so you can store it out of the way. 
Putting away the Baby Bjorn has actually became a ritual in the evenings. After bath and bedtime, the chair is put away, signifying the end of all things baby and the start of grown-up chat and wine time. Bliss.

Baby Britney was so small that she couldn't actualy sit in it for the first few months (they need to be a certain weight so that they don't crumple up in it/slide off, bless) but the average newborn will be fine from day one.

Theya re brutally expensive in Dubai - double the price of Amazon in the UK, but they are worth every single dirham.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Parenting: Men and Women

He clearly hasn't spent the day with a screaming baby...
Before I had a baby I (obv) thought about how it would change my life. 

Of course I knew about sleep deprivation (or thought I did, ha), and priorities changing, but what I hadn't considered is how different the experience is for men and women. My favourite Dubai blogger sums it up here  when she says:

"While DH, wallowing in the congratulations of his colleagues, put on his suit and skipped off to his adult world of coffees, meetings and the gym at lunchtime, I sat at home and felt robbed: robbed of my career, robbed of my figure, robbed of my sleep, and robbed of my sanity."

Because this is precisely what happens. Men, in the main, carry on as before. They get up, get dressed (usually after a full night's sleep,as feeding falls to women) and go to work. 

They do not see their salary disappear along with their sanity. They do not spend all day with a fractious, grizzling, clingy tiny tyrant. 

They make plans to see their friends and casually tell you as they head out of the front door. 

By the time they get home from work very likely the baby is asleep or passed out, exhausted from screaming, whilst you are slumped on the sofa in your pyjamas wondering where the day went.

Women on the other hand, have a huge adjustment:

One minute you're a sassy, stylish, slim girl about town. You are up and at 'em every morning sporting the latest Chanel lipstick and Michael Kors handbag. You go to the office where you are paid for your experience, opinion and skills. You talk and people listen. You interact with staff and clients. You laugh casually during lunches, people bring you coffee in meetings.

Next minute you're fat, bloated, in agonising pain. You can't lift your hands above your head to wash your hair. You have a small screaming baby attached to you 22 hours a day. 

You look in the mirror and literally do not recognise the haggard sweaty mess before you. 

You don't leave the house for weeks as you can't walk or drive and it's 45 degrees outside anyway. 

Your biggest brain challenge is how many scoops of formula go into each bottle/how many minutes since the last feed/minutes to the next feed.

People say to you "Oh, you can't possibly go back to work" as it is assumed that your career no longer matters and you are the primary care giver. (Note: No-one EVER says this to a man).

In order to leave the house and have a social life you plan weeks in advance and when you do get out of the door in the one pair of jeans that now fits you, you feel like Bella Emberg and weep in the taxi on the way home.

Now, I was one of the lucky ones. As I was formula feeding I got a couple of nights off every week IF DH wasn't working the weekend. Those 4 nights a month were beacons of joy and sanity. One time I slept for 13 hours without moving an inch and woke up in the same position I'd collapsed in - unheard of for me. DH  wondered if I'd died and had to come and check on me. 

So ladies: brace yourselves. You do start to claw back your personality and identity, but it takes time. 

For me it was around the 18 week mark when I started to plan for going back to work. I cleared out my wardrobe, binned all the maternity clothes, laundered and ironed my work 'uniform' and was reminded of a different world, a grown up world.  

And then comes the guilt......but that's a whole separate story!