Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Life Lately: Breakfast, bars and cooler climates

Finally the temperatures are falling and when I say falling I mean we dipped below 40 last week and the humidity has not been so intense. Well at least there is some progress. The mornings are blissful and walking the dog at 6am is becoming less of a hassle as the air lightens and a cool breeze washes through the marina. It's nice not to feel drained after just 20 minutes outside and I am sure this infamous Dubai winter weather everyone keeps telling me about is going to be beautiful. 

In other news I talked on the radio. Yeh that's right, little old me got sucked into doing a radio interview for work and although I was insanely nervous, I did it. Without making a fool of myself or stuttering so that's a rather big achievement in my book. It was at one of the large English speaking stations here and sitting in a little soundproof studio, wearing headphones and talking into a huge microphone, was rather interesting. And I took my first farm trip! 

Obviously it involved a very early start and I was up at 5am, cruising through Dubai and into Sharjah, the next emirate, as the sun rose. I haven't been on a farm since I was a child and it was quite interesting to talk to our farm guys there about what and how they are growing stuff and how they are combatting the climate which brings with it many limitations in terms of growing. Seeing all this wonderful green stuff sprouting from the ground got me excited about the coming months. 

I had never been inside a radio studio and it was less claustrophobic than I thought it might be. The presenters were lovely and made me feel completely at ease and after just a minute of chatting away, I almost forget where I was or why I was sitting there with big radio headphones on. Well that's something to tick off the bucket list if life isn't it. 

Now we are fulling into the swing of things, we have started to explore Dubai a little more and the fact that we're making friends has helped with that too since we have exploring companions who actually act more like tour guides since they know this city a lot better than us. In the last couple of weeks we have tried out some new eateries and frequented some of the bars on our doorstep here in the marina, all of which have been rather nice. 

I took my first trip to The Palm a few weekends ago for a little evening of alfresco socialising and it was lovely. We will will obviously have to go back and explore during the day and take advantage of some of the beautiful hotel beaches you can pay to use for the day, but if your on the look out for a relaxes venue for a drink with friends, Beach House Cabana next to Shoreline Apartments is just the thing. With beautiful decor inside and a huge terrace area outside, it has a super relaxed vibe and rather reasonably priced beverages. And a new favourite is Cargo, in Pier 7 in Dubai Marina, which just so happens to be a few minutes walk from our apartment building....convenient! And being in the heart of the Marina means the huge terrace offers fantastic views. 

We have been pretty much on health overload this past week, with nutritious dinners and some early morning gym sessions, which meant a little blowout at the weekend with a delicious breakfast at 25 55 cafe in Dubai Marina Yacht Club; possibly the best breakfast I have ever eaten! The Eggs Benedict Florentine is amazing, creamy and packed full of flavour and they have pork sausages....something which any expat in Dubai will know is a big deal breaker. You would never guess pork was stuff a big deal but once you have tried the delights of a chicken sausage you will know what I mean. 

I also experience my first sandstorm which was rather exciting...for a few minutes. Sheikh Zayed Road suddenly disappeared behind a thick cloud of sand and darkness fell as it washed over the city. It is funny how quickly it appeared; with blue sky and sunshine one minute and dark, sand clouds hovering above us the next. I am pretty sure the pooch was not too impressed when we had to venture out for a walk. 

Monday, 29 September 2014

Beauty: Bahama Mama Bronzer

I talked before about bronzers and my struggles with them and their incessant need to include shimmer. You may think, why does it matter anyway, but for a girl living in a sunshine infused city, a bronzer is a very important part of life. Ok maybe not life but certainly my make up bag. 

And for anyone else who is in the market for a shimmer free, brown hued bronzer, theBalm Bahama Mama is going to be your new best friend. Touted as a caribbean getaway contained in a compact, I would have to agree. 

After a few weeks of using this bronzer, I think I love it even more than the Benefit Hoola or the NYX Bronzer for many reasons. It's matte, it's shimmer free and has a dense pigment without being heavy. It's soft brown shade glides effortlessly across my cheekbones and gives that just-off-the-beach glow I always strive for. And it is paraben free. 

I ordered this little compact from feelunique and had a friend bring it out to Dubai for me and at just £13.50 which makes it a winner in my eyes. I had never used any of theBalm's products before, but I am certainly tempted now. I might have to see how feelunique's international delivery holds up in the UAE. 

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Dubai Marine Show

We live in the Marina with all it's glitz, glamour and convenience on our doorstep. Every morning we see the big shiny boats, floating on the water and it is like a dream is being dangled right in front of your face at every opportunity. I say dream because the boyfriend worked a lot on boats in his younger years and he would love to buy his own boat. Living in Dubai, where wealth and glamour and commodities like super cars and super yachts are all around you, it is difficult to dampen that dream. 

So when the lovely guys at Dubai Marina Yacht Club invited us down for a afternoon of all things boats, we decided why not live the dream for a day. The Dubai Marine Show is the first of it's kind and is geared towards boat owners, or future boat owners who want to get to grips with this boat malarky a little better. There were a ton of experts there, ready to answer the most simple or serious boat related questions and lots of information about water based activities to the make the most from your purchase.

For those wanting to seriously get to grips with this stuff, there was a series of workshops held throughout the afternoon about fishing and boats them selves and planning trips. Since we were there more to indulge our desire than to actually learn about what to do with our non-existent boat, we skipped the workshops.

I spent more time gazing at the sparkling white super yachts out front in the marina, glistening away like diamonds in the sunshine. If ever there was a moment for me to get sucked into the world of boats, it would be now. The guys at the Dubai Marina Yacht Club are a pretty knowledgable bunch so if ever the time comes to make a hefty purchase, we know where to go for advice. We hopped on board for a little marina tour, because even though we have seen it all before, there is nothing like cruising down the marina and taking in the stunning architecture, on a Saturday afternoon. 

sunday sound #39

Friday, 26 September 2014

Review: Keif, Oud Metha, Dubai

I am a self confessed foodie with very little willpower when it comes to edible stuff. Working for an organic food company means I am adapting my food choices and have entered a whole new exciting world of superfoods, organic veggies and gluten free products and I now know what things like goji berries, maca powder and spirulina are. 

That doesn't mean I am now on some constant health kick; actually being introduced to a whole new world of healthy products has been fantastic because 90% of my week is filled with freshness so when I have those weekend feast moments, there is less guilt than before. Last night was definitely one of those said weekend feast moments as we headed into the depths of Bur Dubai, Oud Metha to be precise, to find something more traditional to salivate over.

Keif in Oud Metha is not the most glamorous restaurant in the city, but as I say, you should never judge a book by it's cover and the food that we consumed, will extinguish any issues with appearance after just one bite. Offering traditional Middle Eastern dishes, the menu is a huge offering that took a us a good 5 minutes to get to grips with. 

Keif has a super relaxed environment, comfy and cosy booth areas and tables to seat huge groups of friends. Men sat in small groups, smoking shisha and playing card games or watching football on the million different tv screens in that place. But don't let that put you off, since the volume was turned right down, we didnt even notice. Keif is the sort of place you wear your shorts and sandals not stilettos and that's just my cup of tea. 

Back to the food. We ordered several appetizers and mains and the food just comes when it comes which I love, since you can just pick and mix a bit like tapas or a meze. We had Hummus, Fatoush, Tabouleh and Falafel, traditional Middle Eastern flatbread, Chicken Shawerma and Mix Grill Platters, all washed down with the most amazing, fresh lime and mint juice I have ever set my eyes on. 

The quality of food is phenomenal; the hummus is probably one of my favourite things ever and I could have eaten that from the pot with a spoon, no bread required. The falafel had tonnes of flavour, was perfectly cooked and the sesame seeds on top add an extra crunch and nuttiness. The Fatoush and Tabouleh were so fresh and packed with great flavour which perfectly accompanied the meat overload that was about to come. The Chicken Shawerma came with fries and flatbread and a delicious garlic yoghurt dip and traditional pickles and the Mix Grill Platter with beef, chicken and koufta, piled on top of flatbread and fries was a delicious mix of perfectly cooked meat. 

I think one thing I like most about the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures are the food; the small plates of delicious offerings, designed to share. Although sometimes when food is that delicious, it's difficult to share, but it's clear, food and friends and eating are firmly part of the culture. 

If your in the mood for a traditional Middle Eastern food experience and aren't shy about leaving behind the glitz and glamour of Dubai, Keif, next to the Jordanian Social Club, is definitely a must visit. Especially since the bill for four people barely hit 350 dirhams, just £55. 

Monday, 22 September 2014

why I keep blogging

I'm not going to lie, blogging isn't easy. It is my hobby and my passion and I do it because I love to write, but that doesn't always mean it is easy. Sometimes, and I think us non-professional bloggers might feel this more than most, it feels like blogging is hassle. 

I have a full time job, house chores, a family and friends all of which I want to devote time to and sometimes, the blog has to come second of third or fourth down the list of priorities. But those days when I neglect the blog are the days when every day life becomes a bit too much and actually I need the blog more than ever, as my escape.

It is a little bit of a vicious cycle. 

Many people say why do you do it? That's a very good question since it draws no revenue and takes up a lot of time. But my answer is always because I love to write. Even if no one else reads what I write, just the simple act of sitting at my laptop and writing about stuff I have done, stuff I am passionate about or issues close to my heart is fulfilling. Some people read, some people do sports, some people bake. I blog. And when I get a comment and you realise that someone, somewhere is reading your words, a sense of excitement shivers over me. And aside from the comments, a whole host of amazing opportunities have come from with this blog.

I read an interesting post recently over on Media Marmalade: How to Juggle a Daily Blog & Full Time Career. Many of the things she discusses are always on my mind. I would never give up my job to blog full time but I want to dedicate a decent amount of time to developing my blog and growing my content and sometimes I feel lost about how to do this. Juggling a full time job and blogging daily just isn't that easy. 

If you ever feel overwhelmed by blogging, it is time to take a step back and re-group, plan, prioritise and make some to-do lists. She says it better than me, so go check out this post and this post. Sometimes reading the words of another blogger and realising your not the only one who struggles is the push you need to get back on the blogging horse. 

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Everyone needs a job: Moving to Dubai with Expatsblog.om

I wrote before on the blog about how I found work as a new expat in Dubai, but this feature for Expatsblog.com made me think a little harder about the process. 

Dubai can be an intimidating and down right overwhelming place for many reasons; everyone seems so confident, everything feels so fast-paced and as a newbie expat in Dubai, everything feels very foreign. Landing in a foreign land and jumping straight into a job hunt can blow your mind a little bit, but there was no time for getting used to my surroundings. One weekend and I was straight onto the task in hand; the job hunt. 

I searched google, I signed up to loads of recruitment agencies and I spent hours on Linkedin. And after a few weeks of hard searching and dedication, Linkedin came up trumps with a job more perfect than I could ever have imagined. 

For my tips for finding a job in Dubai, view my latest article: Finding Work in Dubai, UAE Expat Jobs and Unemployment. 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

how I spend my expat days in Dubai

As a new expat in Dubai, I never imagined I would find such an amazing job as the one I have. I spent the first few weeks in the apartment, in the air conditioning with only the dog for company. And then bam. All of a sudden I landed a job at Ripe and rather quickly, this whole moving to Dubai thing clicked into place. 

Ripe provides the resident's of the UAE with organic fresh fruits and veggies, hand-picked from local farms. I know what you're thinking...the UAE has farms?! I was a little shocked too since I thought this desert land wouldn't be able to produce much but let me tell you, the flavour of stuff coming from the ground here is unbelievable. 

I work in an office in the warehouse. It isn't glamorous, but it doesn't need to be. I love that everyday I can see, touch, smell and more importantly photograph all the delicious stuff we sell. As soon as the warehouse doors fly open and a whole bunch of our warehouse guys start shouting in various dialects, I know a a delivery is here and I can run downstairs, camera in hand and snap away. And it's not just fresh stuff; it's all those yummy gluten free treats and snacks and superfoods that you read about in womens health magazine. 

I have turned into a health foodie since starting work at Ripe. I am surrounded everyday by delicious organic fruits and veggies and superfoody things like chia seeds, kale and goji berries. Who knew I was a chia seed kinda gal!?

Every day is different. I get to write press releases, oversee artwork for the uber cool Ripe Food & Craft Markets, talk to press, arrange interviews, photograph beautiful fresh fruit and veggies, interact with our customers on social media and develop brand communication. It is, essentially, my perfect job! And who would have thought I would of found it here in Dubai. 

But you know the best bit (here is when we get emotional), I have found people I click with. I have found some of the nicest people that inhabit Dubai and I get to spend my days with them. 

Oh and I don't want to brag but going back to those uber cool markets I mentioned....Ripe do the coolest farmers markets in Dubai and this season I get to be a part of that, something which I am incredibly excited about. I am a bit like a kid at Christmas! But everyday is my Christmas. 

Monday, 15 September 2014

Life Lately; fruits, vegetables and humidity.

It is amazing how quickly you can establish a routine when you move to a new country. And it is quite hard to believe that I arrived in Dubai 3 months ago. Despite the short time frame, my attitude is that of someone who has lived here for years and it surprises a lot of people when I tell them that I am a newbie expat in Dubai. 

I feel the job has a lot to do with the settling in and the fact that the boyfriend had already done the tough stuff before I arrived, meaning I could just walk into a "home". Having a purpose everyday helps and I am enjoying spending my days talking about, writing about and photographing fruits and veggies. And working at an organic food company is rubbing off on our diets; the fridge is full of fruit and veg, I eat things like goji berries and chia seed pudding and I have a small addiction to berry and banana smoothies.

Dubai has done many things for me in the short space of time I have been here. My confidence has grown immensely, my skills have developed quickly, new, amazing people have come into my life and my style choices have become bolder. The amount of colour and prints in my wardrobe right now almost shocks me, because prior to Dubai, grey, white and black were abundant. I think the sunshine has a part to play in that. 

My least favourite part of Dubai so far is the humidity. Last week the temperatures started cooling down and the humidity subsided, but this week it seems to be back with a bang and the sweatiness of this city just doesn't seem to get better! Everyone keeps telling me how nice winter will be and this is what makes the climate bearable. It is strangely nice when you have a cloudy morning in Dubai because the temperature dips right down and the air is breathable again. The marina is so still in those early hours and the water resembles glass, reflecting the towering skyline and the sumptuous sky.

And now that everyone is returning to Dubai after their summer jollies, it is time to start exploring this place we now call home and indulging in the benefits of Dubai. And with new friends to share this city with, it makes it even more exciting. Winter is coming and that means many evenings spent outside (without sweating) with a cold glass of wine, tasting our way round the city, restaurant to restaurant and indulging in some pampering at a fraction of the cost of London.

You can easily see why people don't want to leave because the lifestyle grabs you and sucks you in. I realise how lucky I am right now though and am keeping my feet on the ground to avoid being sucked into the Dubai bubble. Wondering what the Dubai bubble is? Well that's a whole other post in itself. 

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Thursday, 11 September 2014

where to live? Moving to Dubai with Expatsblog.com

As a new expat in Dubai, finding somewhere to live, aside from your visa processes, is probably one of the most important parts of your move to Dubai. Luckily the boyfriend had already arrived a few months prior to me and had found, rented and set up our apartment well before I landed in Dubai. 

The process to find somewhere to live, started as soon as we made the decision to move. We narrowed down the areas we wanted and could afford to live in and then researched each one for its amenities, transportation links and dog friendliness. Our search came down to a couple of areas; Dubai Marina, The Greens and Al Barsha. 

In the end, Dubai Marina won because of the accessibility it offered me; I don't drive so proximity to a metro station and the availability of taxis meant Dubai Marina was our prime location. And it is relatively dog friendly, close to hotels and as such bars (all bars in Dubai are located within hotels due to licensing regulations) and restaurants and was within our price-range. 

There are a ton of expat friendly areas across Dubai, which range from the family friendly and dog friendly to luxury and young professional friendly. The price range of residential property in Dubai does vary and it isn't cheap when compared to the rest of Europe, but if you compare our spot, on the marina walk to say, living in a one bedroom apartment on the River Thames in London, then you would say we have a pretty good deal price-wise. 

But expats beware, rent is usually required in two or three post dated cheques and sometimes a whole years worth of rent is payable up-front. Then you have to factor in costs including estate agents fees, security deposit, Ejari fees, Internet set-up and DEWA set-up. 

It all sounds a little scary and luckily I skipped this bit, arriving just in time for the fun, IKEA shopping and decoration bit. But if you need to know more about the serious stuff, my article in association with Expatsblog.com, Finding Somewhere to Live in Dubai, has just been published.