Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Storing Nuts for Winter

Me, about to head to Choithrams.
You snooze, you lose!
My Facebook chums will be familiar with my annual search for seasonal items...iced mince pies, hot cross buns...CREME EGGS.

Last month's plaintive cry for help in sourcing Creme Eggs meant I gleaned a huge amount of intel about where exactly the fondanty little critters were hiding in this fair city. What with my enthusiastic (some might say Holy Grail searching dedication) to finding them, and my lovely visitors and friends supplying care packages, my fridge now literally overfloweth with these treats.

Last count: 19 Creme Eggs. Make that 18, I just scoffed one.

Happy Days!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bills, Bills, Bills

I prefer the bills these gals warble about..
NO, not some whimsical post about the back catalogue of Destiny's Child (although, to be fair, I could write a few tomes about my mis-spent youth and dancefloor bogling to these fine ladies), more an exasperated mini-rant about bills of the 'drain your bank account' kind.

There's a definite load of assumptions made about living in Dubai, the tax-free salary, the savings we must all be making. That's a separate post. But I'd be very interested to know what people cough up in the UK on monthly basis for utilities. You know, electricity, water, the kinda stuff you'd struggle to live without these days. Because my tax-free salary is disappearing into my meters!

From memory my Manchester bills never crossed the 150 GBP mark per month, absolute max. I had a large two bedroomed apartment, and Manchester is COLD most of the year round, you hear me. I wasn't skimping on the (electric heaters). 

Dubai is HOT for most of the year which means the reverse is needed - from May until November our air con is on pretty much 24 hours a day. To be honest, I can't sleep without it now, and it's only April. This means our monthly bills average the $600 mark. That's about 400 quid. Call me old-fashioned, but that's a lot of money, no? 

And it can be even more when you hit the 'think you might die if you're outside for more than 5 minutes without a white wine spritzer/gallon of water' death-months of July and August. Oh for the days of apartment living when my monthly bills were so small they were less than a bag of groceries from Spinney's.

Tell me, UK chums, am I way out of touch with the price of fish back home? 

Dubai chums, how does this compare to your monthly outgoings - and any tips to reduce them? I'd love to hear from you...

Monday, April 15, 2013

6...Is the Magic Number

A Golden Age....
I'm an only child. I didn't grow up in a house full of rambunctious brothers and sisters. I don't have any children. So it's safe to say I'm not massively familiar with the ways of children, young and old. So what an eye opening pleasure to was to have my niece and nephew to stay with us for a week this month. 

Of course we threw ourselves into general visitor related tourist fun: as my favourite blogger says: 

"Having visitors of any sort staying means you do more interesting things, too, doesn’t it – when someone’s paid £400 to fly here, they rarely want bad TV on the sofa every night, do they?"

I learned a lot about children - well 6 and 11 year old children anyway. They're both gorgeous, well mannered and entertaining kids. They eat a lot. They use untold amounts of toilet rolls (How? Why?). They LOVE the swimming pool. 

And I also learnt that basically, I am a 6 year old girl inside a 30 something (ahem) woman's body. What do I mean? Well we just have SO much in common. I hereby present the evidence:

She adores Molly The Cat (MTC). Hours of fun stroking MTC, chatting to MTC, having her photo taken with MTC, throwing toys for MTC. Enough said.

She has an eye for fashion. Take the girl to a shoe shop and she was snaffling up pink Ugg ankle boots faster than a rat up a palm tree. Whilst never owning a pink pair (if only they did adult sizes!) I am rather partial to wriggling my toes into my fur lined Uggs when the Dubai mercury plummets to 20 degrees.

Bikinis are very important to her. As a woman who owns upward of 20 such items, we had numerous chats about the merits of various styles and colours.

She's a big fan of the otters and beavers at Dubai Aquarium. As both these critters make it into my top ten favourite animals, you can only imagine the fun we had gazing through the glass at them. And taking photos. And oohing and ahhing. You get the picture.

The Build a Bear workshop was a highlight of her holiday. I've wanted to get into this place since the day it opened, but with no ankle biters, did not feel appropriate to barge in. Words cannot express the joy at finally getting in there! And making a bear! (It's called Kelly, natch.)

She's a beach bunny. Hours of endless fun were spent paddling, collecting shells, laying out and examining shells, basking in the sunshine and generally prancing about in bikinis. Whilst I confess this involves slightly more movement that my typical day at the beach, it was a joy nonetheless.

Make up your own mind, but I ended the week feeling that we were practically the same person. I think this says much more about me than her. Hurry back to Dubai little one, we miss you.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Garden Joy!

Best money we ever spent. Note: the sea is not in our back garden.
Just the sofa.
Before we moved to the villa, I have to confess, my interest in anything garden related was minimal. Back in Manchester my balcony gardening resulted in a number of (non-intended) deaths, resulting in the purchase of some beautiful and expensive artificial plants. They looked just like the real thing, required no watering or upkeep and could survive the hideous Manchester weather.

I did try a few plants on various Dubai balconies, but despite my dear dad being a landscape gardener by trade, I lacked any real skills or enthusiasm.

Fast forward to villa living and it's a whole different ball game.

We're blessed with a front and back garden, the latter of which has proved a revelation. I have to admit, when we were pricing up the villa, I wasn't sure at all about the extra work/water/dirhams (monthly bills of 500 GBP, anyone?!) involved in keeping a garden, but oh! How we love it now.

I've never been a morning person, so after dragging myself out of bed for work on my hands and knees each morning it's a beautiful treat to stagger to the back terrace with a coffee and Molly the Cat to contemplate the world before the melee of corporate life. There's a 99.9% chance of blue sky, sunshine, and sometimes little fluffy clouds. At this time of year there's a cool breeze, the birds are singing, butterflies waft past (no, really) and the whole thing feels a bit like a Disney movie. It's an absolute treat.

Fast forward 14 hours and it's still a treat. Darkness has fallen, the stars have come out, there's the same cool breeze, mingling with the call to prayer from the mosque next door.  Our huge garden lounger comes into its own, and there's something so soothing about lounging on it, glass of Sauv Blanc, or fizz (depending on severity of the day) either reading a book, chinwagging with DH, or sometimes (the treat!!!) catching up on UK TV on the ipad.

In a month the sweltering Dubai heat will rule the garden out of bounds until October, but just for now, we're eking each and every minute from it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Eggs, Buns and Easter

You KNOW by now that I love living in Dubai not least because all of the nationalities and religions seem to co-exist here in peace.

We celebrate Diwali, Eid, Ramadan, Christmas in equal measure, and last weekend saw Easter roll into town. My frinds with kids giddily set up Easter egg hunts in their gardens, took the ankle biters to meet the Easter Bunny (no, really) and I even got given Easter Sunday off work (the owner of my company is Christian.)

As I spent this precious extra day off reclining on the garden sofa (sorry!) in the sunshine I too a moment to reflect on the bliss of this cultural melting pot. We are blessed. 

Then I reached for Cadbury's Creme Egg. These suckers cost more than gold here in Dubai (5 GBP a box) but boy oh boy they are worth it. I ate two, just to check their import quality. They passed.

Happy Easter everyone. (A few weeks late, I'm behind on the blog, sorry!)

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Why Get Married?

If you know me well, you'll know I've never been a big white wedding kind of girl, and have actively run from the prospect of marriage like Kim Kardashian from all things tasteful and decent.

Which may have explained some of the reactions we got to our surprise (for everyone but us) wedding. I've gathered some of the best/worst (depending on your viewpoint) here for your reading ease:

Was it a complete surprise/spur of the moment?
No, we secretly got engaged last year and thoughtfully considered how to actually become man and wife.

Did Elvis marry you?
No. God, no! Just because we got married in Vegas, it still meant something and was significant to us. We got married here. A beautiful little chapel, with a real chaplain, in a real and serious ceremony. Their slogan/tagline/motto is: Simple, Elegant, legendary. Which sums up their approach, and I'd like to think...ours.

Did you get married so you could live together legally.
Please. I have heard of people doing this in Dubai and fair play to them. But no, no and no.

Did you get married because you were pregnant?
Again. NO. Again, plenty of people do this, and good luck to them, but not us. Added to which, if I was knocked up I wouldn't go to the time, trouble and expense of flying to Vegas, one of the most debauched and liqour loving places in the world, to get married.

Vegas without booze has got to be like a coffee without caffeine: boring and NO FUN. And let's be clear, our Vegas trip was a melee of champagne for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

So why DID we get married? Aside from the obvious L-word (I know, I know, stop dry heaving and bear with me), there was a permanence, peacefulness and sense of certainty: this is the one and only person I've ever imagined growing old with. And for us, that mattered.

I hope that clears up some of the discussions, rumours and general chit chat. You're welcome!

Still makes my heart sing....

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

The Big, the Fabulous 4 - OHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

A very dear friend of mine turns 40 this week. We met when we were in our twenties, hard at the PR coal face, regularly clocking in 12-14 hour days (hang on, why hasn't that changed?!) dreaming up crazy PR stunts...we were the very epitome of work hard, play hard. In our agency gang the dreaded communal carpark 'walk of shame' was a regular occurrence - it was no surprise to see someone turn up sheepishly at their desks in yesterday's or last night's clothes.

Our regular Friday night happy hour in the bar under our office (think Ally McBeal but less annoying) also meant that it was no surprise to find yourself on a dancefloor, at 3am, still dressed in your work suit. 

They were heady, heady days.

As lives and jobs changed, our friendship didn't. We might not have been crying in  the work toilets or throwing up in the carpark together (mainly stress, sometimes hangovers) but we were always joined together spiritually.

It seems inconceivable that said friend is turning 40 - aside from looking fabulous and easily ten years younger than her birth certificate, it also seems like just 5 minutes ago that we were muntering our way around the Miami Winter Music Conference, throwing ourselves onto dance floors, gatecrashing pool parties and dj booths with abandon.

And yet that was ten years ago. 

I still have a few years (honest!) before I reach the same milestone, but it has made me a little reflective nonetheless. I'd like to think that with the advent of fabulous skincare (most of which I've been taking advantage of since my teens - thanks mum!) and some good genes, the ageing process shouldn't be too horrendous. But there's no escaping that inside, I still feel like the footloose and fancy free crazy twenty-something I once was. 

The beauty of living in Dubai, is that you can indulge that on quite a regular basis. It feels like a young person's city and is abuzz with social misbehaving every night of the week, should you wish to partake (we do!).

So there seems only real way to avoid any 40th birthday malaise: make sure you celebrate it in my fair city! You're welcome any time, Birthday Bird xxx

Munters til we die!

It's a Cat's Life

I am often asked by you, dear readers, and members of the public (ok, I exaggerate): How is Molly the Cat?

Since we adopted the hairy, world-famous bundle of love from the Rydges Plaza Hotel pub, it's safe to say she's settled into luxury villa life in Satwa pretty well. 

When she's not snoozing, she's toe-washing. When she's not toe-washing she's eating. When she's not eating she's snoozing...you get the picture.

We've become firm friends: where I go, she goes (unless she's sleeping in a cupboard like the dead). She's a little (ok, slightly rotund) black shadow at my side, which has led to a few unfortunate incidents where she's almost been stepped on - and let's not speak of the time she ricocheted off my leg onto the side of the fridge in a mad scamper to the biscuit bowl, yeah?!

Despite her life of complete luxury and pampering she still exhibits some street-cat tendencies. Mainly when alley cats stray into our garden. Then she becomes a hissing, spitting, Jeremy Kyle version of the princess we know and love. She's still Molly from the block!

When I noticed an index finger sized bald spot on her neck I was bereft. What kind of bad mother am I that I didn't notice that her collar had been rubbing her so badly? The offending collar was swiftly removed and she's been butt-naked for the last few weeks whilst the spot heals. 

Note to social services: She doesn't seem to hold a grudge and has been her usual sweet self as of late. I do have a lot of love in my heart for that funny lump of fur.
Sometimes it all gets too much for a girl. Close the curtains please!


Every time I look at the UK weather my entire body constricts. Enough already - and I don't even live there! How are you coping, UK chums? It's even snowed in little old Jersey - first time in 20 years! 

If it helps you at al, you'll be glad to know that it's still FAR too cold in Dubai to even THINK about getting into the pool. Or the sea for that mater. I popped a toe into our pool yesterday and recoiled in horror. 

My 'no sea/pool from December - April' rule remains firmly in place. I know you feel sorry for me.

Chance of me getting in here this month: minimal.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Girl Crush

I do have binoculars. But I never use them for spying on my neighbours.
Not since I moved from an apartment anyway!

There's something great about stumbling across  blog you've never read before. My favourites still include this fabulous lady  who frankly, sometimes seems to read my mind with her subject matter. 

At the weekend I stumbled across a new blog, and I have to confess: I have a girl crush. She's a married American with two children whose honesty and sense of humour really resonate with me. I spent an enjoyable weekend going through her blog - it wasa bit like reading a good book, THAT"S how involved I got.

Hell, I even sent her a message saying what a huge fan I was - how sad am I?!

if she ever reads this (god knows why she would): you are perfectly safe. Even my slight stalker tendencies cannot cross an ocean. Honest! And thanks for the great reading material :)