Monday, 23 October 2017

Food: Jolie Floral Cafe, City Walk, Dubai

Today's cafe offering may just be the cutest yet. As Elodie said when I messaged her a picture "it's so cute it looks like it could be in Korea!"- high praise indeed (and confirmation that solo brunch is much improved by a friend in a timezone a few hours ahead to chat with).

Tucked away in Dubai's City Walk development, it looks a little unassuming from the outside - I must have walked past it a few times (possibly en route to Sarabeth's) before my first visit, prompted by a "best avocado dishes in Dubai" article in Time Out.

I, obviously, only had eyes for the avocado on toast but there are salads, sandwiches, burgers and a very pretty afternoon tea offering. The "his and hers' burger duo that the next table were tucking into did, even as a vegetarian, look very delicious (although maybe that's just a sign that I should start taking iron supplements again).

Some Insta-worthy cafes are a let-down in reality (mentioning no names but we all know the places where we took "that" picture only never to return) but Jolie, I think, would be just as enjoyable for those who don't meticulously document every morsel that passes their lips. It's a little on the girlie side but the few "Instagram husbands" I saw on my visit seemed convinced once their food turned up that this place is not just style over substance.

The avocado on toast might just be the prettiest plate I have ever laid eyes on. It's also a very generous portion - no scrimping on the green stuff here. I might have already had my (supposed) one coffee of the day but I ordered the mocha la flora (they do it with soy milk, praise be) because it sounded...intriguing. I usually regret sweet coffees after a couple of sips but this was really delicious and the rose flavour wasn't overpowering. Top marks for presentation with the rose and mini-cupcake, too.

Jolie Floral Cafe
City Walk Jumeriah - details here 
And they're on Deliveroo here 

Friday, 20 October 2017

Crafting: Halloween Flower Arrangement in a Pumpkin

I love Halloween - quite a strong statement from a girl who is an active avoider of anything with a whiff of Organised Fun about it. I'm slightly sad that I left all my potential dressing-up clothes in London... why a Japanese schoolgirl outfit didn't make the cut of things to pack for Dubai is something I will forever wonder.

As a committed pumpkin carver, I thought this year I'd share something a little different - a flower arrangement in a pumpkin. Not only more Pinterest-worthy, it's also a lot less risky as you only need to make one cut with a knife rather than play a risky game of finger roulette...

I took a class at Dubai Garden Centre but this would be so easy to do at home, too. You will need: a pumpkin, a block of oasis, cellophane, a sharp knife, scissors and a range of autumnal-coloured flowers...

Start with the dangerous / gross part. Cut the top off the pumpkin and scrape out its innards. I picked a long, tall pumpkin to make the best "vase" but any will work. It's less dignified but more fun to use your hands to scrape out the insides.

Coffee on the side is mandatory to all crafting endeavors. Feel free to substitute with gin if at home, maybe after the sharp knife step is done?

Messy work done. Now cut a block of oasis to fit inside your pumpkin and wrap it with cellophane. Trim the cellophane as close to the pumpkin as possible.

Start with some greenery around the base, to cover the bottom of the oasis block. Then take your chosen flowers and arrange from the outside in. Use a smaller flower as "filler" to make sure all the oasis is covered. Pro-tips - use more flowers than you think you'll need to make the arrangement look really lush and full blooming, cut the stems of the flowers on the diagonal to create a sharp tip to stick into the oasis and, once complete, give the flowers a good spray with water to perk them up after the traumatic arranging process.

Done! Give your flowers a top up of water every day and the arrangement should last a good five days.

PS. Dress is from Oliver Bonas similar here (minus the print).


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Life: Ten Things I've Learned Since Moving to Dubai

Has it really been... 8 months since I jumped (ok, more tentatively stepped) onto a one-way flight at Heathrow? There's really nothing like quitting your job, packing up your flat, moving to a new country, starting a new job and picking a country which doesn't really have a concept of "seasons" to throw you into a timewarp.

Eight months on, Dubai feels almost like home. I maybe didn't appreciate how hard moving halfway across the world could be and there were (past tense) days when I felt very small and lost and far from home and familiarity. Even seeing Instagram pictures of the notice boards at tube stations had me running to the nearest bathroom trying not to smudge my mascara.  

Today, as I type this, life is very different from the one I had last October in London and the one that I imagined for myself as an ex-pat. It's different in the day-to-day, in the things that for me are normal but that I appal friends at home with, and, it's different in ways that I never dreamed of for myself, or maybe I dreamed them but never let myself believe them, as I looked out at October skies from the balcony of my tiny flat last year. 

This is what I've learned (so far):

Firstly, the days of the week (let's start with a simple one). Friday is Sunday, Saturday is...Saturday and Sunday is a working day.

Secondly, the seasons. Summer is winter (air-con appropriate clothing, movie nights, copious amounts of Netflix, walking 10,000 steps inside the mall) and winter is summer (summer dresses, beach days, the prospect of a G&T on the balcony).

Thirdly, getting around. Taking four taxis in one day is not an indulgence or a luxury but the non-optional only way to get to work, to a yoga class and to a bar which is technically on the same street you live on.

Fourthly, selective amnesia. You will have no memory of the last time you did the following: walked down a street, took public transport, wore socks or tights, used a hairdryer, applied lipstick without immediately wiping it off again.

Fifthly, lifestyle creep. You will no longer gawp in shock when someone your own age tells you about their boat, their balcony swimming pool (yes that's a thing), their maid or their dog's personal trainer.

Sixthly, personal safety. You will leave your front door unlocked and your MacBook, wallet and phone on a cafe table while you pop to the bathroom. 

Seventhly, personal nudity. Introducing a friend to your boss while wearing a bikini (me, that is, not the boss) at a pool party is in no way as horrifying as it sounds once you've done it. 

Eighthly, road safety. Your taxi driver or other road users making three lane changes in one swoop, reversing back down a motorway sliproad or watching TV while driving becomes normal, if never any less terrifying. 

Ninthly, food shopping. You will stop feeling bad about getting groceries home delivered via an app. Even when your "groceries" are a six-pack of Diet Coke because you still don't know how to turn on your oven. 

Tenthly, saving the best until last. You will every day marvel at yourself for actually picking yourself up and doing the "move abroad" thing. It was worth it. 


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Dubai: Brunch at the Burj Al Arab

It wasn't hard to pick a venue for celebrating my first birthday in Dubai - having never been past the security gates of the Burj Al Arab on past visits, the Friday brunch offering seemed like an obvious choice. I've only been to a handful of Dubai brunches in the past - it's not the cheapest pastime and not really money well spent for a fussy vegetarian. That said, I don't quite roll my eyes at the sight of a chocolate fountain and if you can't do something a little extra for your thirtieth then when can you?

The interior of the Burj Al Arab is like stepping back in time to a late 80s / early 90s decadence. I have to say, I liked the jazzy carpets, the bright colours and the unashamedly OTT feel of it all. We are, after all, in Dubai and "understated" hasn't quite entered the lexicon.

My mother and I had a booking at midday (the brunching widow is 10am - 2pm) as she had arrived that morning on an overnight flight from rainy London. This felt very much like a "special occasion" type brunch - mine was not the only birthday being celebrated - so be sure to book well in advance as the restaurant isn't enormous. Payment is required a couple of weeks beforehand - not unusual here and it does make it easier on the day.

After marvelling at the view from the lift, we were greeted, shown to our table and I might have not been able to resist mentioning that it was my birthday. The Burj Al Arab's brunch offering is a buffet-type set up, it's not as huge as other brunches so you don't spend a large amount of time away from the table choosing food and the selection isn't too overwhelming (which always results in me making bad choices and then being too full to enjoy the good stuff).

There's a range of seafood and salads to start, sushi, dim sum and hot mains, a dessert table, a cheese table and, of course, the obligatory chocolate fountain. The setting and the views are really the main course here - we sat at the window with a view over the Palm and straight out to sea. I sometimes forget how, in it's own way, Dubai is beautiful and being up on the 27th floor of a 7-star hotel was a nice reminder.

Views and food aside, the best part of my brunch (the day before I was to turn 30) was getting offered a glass of champagne and then being ID-ed - I don't know who out of my mother and I were more delighted by this. Oh, and I got a birthday cake with a candle brought to our table which the restaurant kindly let us take away (so, breakfast for the rest of the week sorted...).

Friday Brunch at Al Muntaha, Burj Al Arab
Prices and booking info here


Saturday, 7 October 2017

Food: Even More Plates of Avocado On Toast

I know, I know. Eating dinner out is a distant memory. If somewhere doesn't have avocado on toast on the menu, I probably don't want to go. Here's the current round up of the avocado on toast offerings in Dubai...

The Sum of Us

the sum of us dubai

Ticking off another cafe in the Tom and Serg group, this unique plate of avocado on toast featured half a sesame seed sprinkled avocado and lots of fresh salad. I think The Sum of Us is my favourite Tom and Serg offering. It has its own bakery and coffee roastery and, avocado aside, I would struggle to chose from the menu if I went back.

Tom & Serg (the original)

tom and serg dubai

This is cheating a little as my mum ordered this but Tom and Serg have changed their avocado on toast recipe (former version here) and it now features a perfectly hard-boiled egg. The avocado is hiding under all the greenery. 

parkhouse kite beach dubai

Parkhouse cafe is so adorable - it has quite a British-seaside feel to it, minus the 40 degree heat outside. The avocado on toast here is topped with a perfectly poached egg and a sprinkle of cress. Had a great time watching the sea out of the window while waiting for it to be cool enough to venture outside.

baker and spice dubai

Another favourite Dubai spot and their bread is the absolute best. Probably my favourite avocado on toast in Dubai, here topped with two poached eggs for a change. Yes that is a side of more bread in the background...  

the daily rove hotel brunch

The Daily does a bargain AED100 brunch which includes - you've guessed - avocado on toast (and a coffee, unlimited juices, fresh fruit and baked goods). Topped with two poached eggs, roasted peppers and a sprinkle of cheese. Top marks for crockery and lovely service, too.


Sunday, 1 October 2017

Life: September Round-Up

I think the month just gone might have been my least prolific, blog-wise... Life wise, September was very lovely. I turned thirty and spent my birthday-eve drinking gin and Chartreuse cocktails and my birthday day eating avocado on toast. I wouldn't have had it any other way. Online life has taken a slight backseat - it turns out the best moments are not capable of being reduced to pixels and hashtags and 140 characters and don't need to be recorded for "later" because there's only really the present moment... That said, there is an avocado-on-toast-post in my drafts for when I, once again, feel like tapping words into this box.

Anyway, this was September:

Dubai expat life

1. I had some thoughts about eating meat again this month and then felt bad about thinking about it. Funny how what we don't eat ends up defining us... Anyway, I try not to think about things too much these days and this meat-free burger from Supernatural Kitchen was delicious (really!) regardless.

2. Playing with more of my Paperself tattoos. I'm too indecisive for a new tattoo and too irresponsible for a pet cat. So impressed with the staying power of these - it's that time of year where its still a little too hot to be outside but we're all got cabin fever so three showers a day it is...

3. Not my cat on the beach at Le Royal Meridian. She jumped onto my sun lounger and stretched out for an afternoon cat nap while I failed to read any more of my book. I finished reading The Blind Assassin this month (which swiftly finds itself in my list of favourite books ever - Margaret Atwood is a goddess) and can't really get in to anything else.

4. I'm slowly starting to enjoy the more "extra" aspects of Dubai life. The Candy Land pedicure at Kozma and Kozma was so much fun and my feet looked and felt very nice afterwards. Having sugar sprinkles dusted onto my feet didn't really feel that weird in the context of life lately.

5. If we're talking about "extra"... I finally went inside the Burj Al Arab for their Friday brunch on the day before my birthday. I got offered complimentary champagne and then ID-ed. The best 30th birthday present I could wish for.

6. Lunch at Zuma in DIFC - the black cod was amazing, as was the pink grapefruit vodka cocktail at lunchtime for this girl who is still disappointed that working life isn't a mix of Mad Men and The Wolf of Wall Street.

7. Showing off, getting my mother to be an "Instagram Husband" on the beach at Le Royal Meridian. I wouldn't really recommend doing yoga in a bikini in 40 degree heat but sometimes you need to get the 'gram and that's okay.

8. Birthday flowers from my friend, M. Grateful for all birthday wishes from near and far and for friends who co-opted my mother's limited suitcase space to get gifts to me. This birthday was genuinely one of the happiest I have ever had.  

9. Taking my phone into the sea for a snap of the Dubai skyline during the Golden Hour. I felt like "one of those people" until I looked around and everyone else in the sea had their phones in hand, too. Maybe I fit in here better than I thought I did.


Monday, 11 September 2017

Life: 30 Years And What I've "Learned"

It's my birthday month and while I cannot stand Organised Fun or events that feel like the may turn out to be a Bit Of A Disappointment, I'm trying to be a more positive person. This month is not only an excuse to drink copious amounts of gin but also to reflect a little before starting my fourth (!) decade.

Birthday Cake With A Candle at The Standard, NYC - for when it's not your birthday but you want cake anyway.
So here are some thoughts to take away from 30 years of existence (I planned to do 30 things for 30 years but...that's a lot). The last 2-3 years might have really been the steepest learning curve in terms of all that I now "know". Something about a one-way flight to the other side of the world will do that and, besides, I've already forgotten my 12 times table and still struggle to use a knife and fork properly...

1. Checking the dates and times of flights again and again and again saves a lot of upset and applies at age 29 as much as it did at 19.

2. Editing the words "just" and "sorry" out of my speech and emails is an essential but...ongoing process. I'm not actually sorry about anything.

3. Putting my phone into airplane mode after two G&Ts makes drinking much, much more enjoyable.

4. Celebrating the successes and life milestones of others is fun, there's room for all and "my turn" will come (although not knowing when is all part of the fun...).

6. Hair grows back - although I've cut and dyed mine to the point that I'm now just grateful to be able to wear the same style as I did at aged 8.

7. There will always be nice things to convince me to part with my money. None of them will make me any happier.

8. Notable exception to the rule: Louboutin Simple Pumps in black patent leather.

9. There are always exceptions to rules.

10. And rules are made to be broken anyway.

11. Spending a small fortune (don't actually work it out - its depressing) on coffee and Diet Coke each year is fine by me. See point 7.

12. Learning to graciously accept compliments is hard but worth it. So worth it.

13. I'll never stop learning about "who" I am - it turns out that I actually don't like "alone time" as much as I thought I did.

14. Things I don't regret: spending too much money on holidays, filling a suitcase with Korean skincare, getting a tattoo, staying up all night, my "drinking straight vodka to look cool" phase.

15. Things I do regret: excessive worrying about the future, about what people think of me, about whether I'm "good enough", trying to be "cool", spending moments I won't get back looking for an available wifi network.
16. Truly believing that there's still so much fun to be had and so much to look forward to is as sweet as the above-pictured cake, as is typing these words and actually meaning them.


Tuesday, 5 September 2017

London: A Bouncy Blow-Dry at Rush, Shepherd's Bush

A good hair day fixes everything. Although in London, the weather is guaranteed to do its worst on a day that my hair gets the professional treatment. Case in point - hail in August.

I popped into the new Rush salon located by the West 12 centre in Shepherd's Bush - just opposite Westfield and on the way to the Shepherd's Bush Empire where I had an evening date with Conor Oberst. Convenient.

Having arrived in London at 8am after a (three hour delayed) overnight flight and almost OD-ing on Starbucks and Pret coffee, an hour's pampering definitely made me feel a little bit more alive and having a swishy head of bouncy curls made me feel less uncool opting to sit down at the gig (and having to grudgingly admit that I needed to put my glasses on to see the stage).

My stylist Eak took his time to get to "know" my hair (fine, lots and lots of it) and suggested a curled style which would provide the volume I need and not fall flat in the face of the British "summer". After a heavenly head massage my hair was speedily blow-dried and curled with straighteners (something I will never be able to master if I want to still possess fingers) before being pinned in place.

I flicked through a pile of magazines and maybe ate some Lindor chocolates (for "energy") before the curls were unraveled, gently brushed out and teased into a look that perfectly complemented my vintage-esque floral dress.

Thank you to Rush for my blow-dry, and to the British weather for managing not to rain once I'd left the salon...


Friday, 1 September 2017

Life: August Round-Up

August is over and that means that I'm turning 30 (or twenty-ten as I am now calling it) this month. August has been a good month in many ways - partly because I discovered that I can order iced coffee from 1762 via WhatsApp and partly because I'm no longer even a little bit bothered about saying goodbye to my twenties. The last month of them has been good, very good, but aside from the ability to look (and feel) slightly perkier on zero sleep I wouldn't go back to the self-doubt of being 23, or even 28, if you paid me my weight in Louboutins (and that's not a hint for what I want for my birthday).

1. I started the month with the oddest craving for yellow American mustard in a squeezy bottle so the solution was to go to Shake Shack. Their veggie burger is okay. Their chips are excellent.

2. Venturing onto my balcony before 6am. It's getting a little bit cooler here everyday - I thought I was crying joyful tears when I felt a slight breeze a few mornings ago before I realised that it was sand being blown into my eyes.

3. I cannot disclose how many avocados were eaten in the attempt to make this avocado rose.

4. I love all things celestial (I have a tattoo of a planet) so had to buy this horoscope constellations plate from West Elm when I went in there to purchase cutlery (which was not purchased).

5. Post sunrise yoga at Zoga - an obvious addiction to iced coffee forms when its been 45 degrees for the past three months.

6. Poke at Circle Cafe because its the prettiest lunch and yes, that matters.

7. A quick trip back to London which made me appreciate fluffy clouds and the ability to (somewhat) function on very little sleep.

8. Seeing Conor Oberst at the Shepherd's Bush Empire was more wonderful than I can even describe. I'm sure it would make him feel awkward but I would love to thank him for providing the soundtrack to my life for the past twelve years.

9. Just checking that London's still looking good - I might not be back again for a whole twelve months and that's okay because London is never not going to be there for me.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Food: Brunch at 90 Degree Melt, Mile End

Things I miss living in Dubai: decent vegetarian food, paying less than £10 for any meal, East London....

brunch 90 degree melt

90 Degree Melt is a new offering on Mile End Road serving American-inspired, vegetarian (and vegan) dishes. It's proper comfort food that just happens to be vegetarian - all served without any hint of "wellness" in a minimalist American-style diner just a few steps from Stepney Green station.

brunch 90 degree melt

Eliza and I showed up at around 1.30pm for a late brunch and grabbed a spot at the end of one of the shared tables. Service was a little slow but I guess they are still figuring things out. There's no danger of us ever running out of things to chat about. We ordered three dishes to share - a vegan tofu scramble on toast, a vegan chilli skillet and jalapeno cornbread with fried eggs. I usually hate sharing food but I loved having the pick of the whole menu and being able to try a few different dishes. 

brunch 90 degree melt

The tofu scramble was the stand-out for me, so full of flavour and topped with a delicious pesto sauce with a side of guacamole for my daily avocado fix. Portions are generous and the bill came out at around £15 each (including two very tiny bottles of sparkling water) which is amazing value for London.

I would be back very soon if it wasn't for the 7 hours flying time...  

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Food: A(nother) Round-Up of Avocado on Toast in Dubai

Avocado on toast is back on the blog after an extended hiatus for Ramadan (when most cafes and restaurants were closed during daylight hours aka the only time to be taking Instagram photos), two trips back to the UK and 40+ temperatures. Sometimes, even avocado on toast cannot lure me outside...

Having a name like "amongst few" written in italic lowercase text must mean that this cafe is a hipster dream and, yes, it totally is. Located in the Palm Strip Mall, amongst few is a delightful spot for setting up for a few hours with a MacBook or, as I did, perching at the counter (a blessed joy for all solo diners not to be sat opposite an empty chair) partaking in coffee, avocado on toast and people watching. It's a popular spot with locals who all have better sunglasses, make-up and iPhone cases than I ever will. This plate was as tasty as it was pretty, I loved the addition of asparagus, feta, seeds and roasted baby tomatoes. Good coffee, too.

Vida Saturdaze

I visited this "Saturday Brunch" (the Dubai equivalent of a Sunday brunch in the UK) with my parents and any worries that it might be aimed at a younger crowd were unfounded. Billed as a chilled out, "hangover-curing", lazy brunch, I picked Vida because unlike most brunches in this city it actually serves brunch food. Are you confused, yet? At AED 139 per person (£29) it's good value for this city, especially as it includes one "brunch concoction" (i.e. a cocktail) and a buffet of granola, fresh fruit, salads and pastries as well as a juice bar. Tea and coffee is unlimited and there's a menu of brunch dishes to pick from - I obviously had the avocado on toast which was not most creative version of the dish but it was tasty all the same.

Clinton Street

I often go to this cafe after my barre classes because it's next door. The staff maybe recognize me, it's okay. The avocado on toast here was very green with a lot of rocket (/roquette if you shop in Waitrose) topping sourdough bread, chunky avocado and baby tomatoes. Very similar to the avocado on toast I sometimes make at home but with bottomless coffee which does not happen at home.


I've started a bad (for my wallet) habit of ordering lunch from here every day at work - yes, it's crazily expensive and portions are tiny but it's SO good. I credit their iced soya latte for me not treating my keyboard as a pillow at 4pm on a daily basis. Also, you can order by WhatsApp and the delivery guy brings a card reader to the office... obviously Dubai has not changed me at all. At all. The avocado on toast is on the small side but it's really good and along with a "raw vegan sweet of the day" makes me feel more virtuous than I ever deserve to.

Previous round-ups of avocado on toast in Dubai here, here and here.


Thursday, 17 August 2017

Food: Where To Eat Vegan In Dubai

Dubai hasn't quite embraced vegan, or even vegetarian, eating like London has. When I first moved here I was a little disappointed in the lack of options for the sort of foods I favour - I eat vegan at home and as much as I can when out unless I really fancy poached eggs... I know, I know. London seems to have got its act together for catering for all dietary whims (although New York does it better still) whereas Dubai is definitely a little too keen on eat-as-much-as-you-can buffet style arrangements which is fine if you're here for a long weekend but y'know, I live here now. 

best vegan cafes dubai

I would happily move in to this "concept store" on Jumeirah Beach Road. The self-described healthy cafe is not all vegan but there are a lot of options and everything is so delicious. I love the avocado crostini and the almond milk matcha tea and the outdoor area is just so nice for a chilled afternoon in the shade (the beach is a five minute walk away if you're that way inclined but I'm still this pale for a reason...). Yes, it's a little over-priced but, hey, welcome to Dubai! 

best vegan cafes dubai

A more "hippie" rather than hipster take on vegan eating, Life N One feels like one of those village garden centre cafes I'd get taken to as a child only with a more "yoga" decor scheme. The menu is mostly raw vegan but they do sweet potato fries (#balance). I love the vegan sushi and the raw matcha donut is so amazing (if you love matcha - I do and it seems hard to find here). The bathroom wall says "you just have to trust that what you want is coming, and watch how fast it comes" which I like a lot.

best vegan cafes dubai

One of my favourite spots for brunch and somewhere that you will be dragged to if you visit because its a ten minute walk from mine. Again, not a vegan place but the avocado on toast here is possibly my favourite and the salads are amazing too. The white crockery is very Instagram friendly. Oh, and they do the best bread in all of Dubai (most bread here is somewhat thankfully Very Disappointing) and have bottles of balsamic vinegar on the tables which is something I don't realise I miss until I get to drown my food in it. 

4. Tom and Serg

best vegan cafes dubai

Tom and Serg were (maybe) the first ever hipsters in Dubai and they've now got a small empire of cafes around the city. The original Tom and Serg in Al Quoz is my favourite - my slightly difficult to please daddy loved it too despite it being down a alleyway behind a hardware store and the interior looking like the decorators gave up halfway through. The vegan veggie bowl is really good and the coffee here is the absolute best. Oh, and the staff are super cool and always compliment my outfits, maybe they do that to everyone but it makes my day regardless. 

Located in the Galleries Lafayettes food hall, I was so happy to remember the existence of this raw vegan counter when I was last in Dubai Mall. The menu reminds me a lot of Tanya's Cafe (a West London favourite) - definitely a good thing. The food is really creative - the vegan sushi I ordered didn't contain fish (well, yes) or rice but still had that authentic sushi taste. There are some very beautiful raw vegan desserts which I managed to resist on my first visit but seeing as I tot up 10,000 steps every time I go to Dubai Mall, I can have one next time.

More to come once it gets a little tiny bit cooler outdoors...


Sunday, 13 August 2017

Life: Apps To Help You Survive The Dubai Summer

Don't let the niche title put you off. My recent app discoveries aren't all Dubai (or summer) specific but in the context of "feels like" 50 Celsius temperatures, these apps have been making my life a little easier, maybe even enjoyable during what is our "stay indoors" season. While I've made watching all seven seasons of Mad Men a personal goal during this season, I've had to set a daily one episode limit and force myself to maintain some sort of productivity and not merge into my sofa come September so these apps can take all the credit...

Kate Spade case (similar) and my new Samsung S8 Edge - still unscratched and in one piece 

The Dubai equivalent of ClassPass, GuavaPass lets you book workout classes anywhere in Dubai / Abu Dhabi in just a few clicks. Filter it by area, time of day and activity to find something you want to book and get all the information on whether the studio has showers, provides towels and whether you need to bring along those grippy toe socks (or risk being charged £10 for another pair you do not need). The 4 classes per month package works out as good value compared to booking classes individually and I've discovered new studios that I wasn't aware of before that are only a five minute taxi ride from my apartment.   

Android here, iOS here.

Uber / UberEATS

Something you all know about anyway but if you are in Dubai I definitely recommend using Uber to get around in a slightly more comfortable manner than regular taxis and they have GPS so will be able to find that yoga studio and deliver you straight to the door with minimum fuss (and sweat). UberEATS get a mention for delivering my lunch from Circle Cafe on a daily basis and the occasional afternoon iced soy latte because a walk to Starbucks (basic caffeine tolerance over here) may be the end of me in these temperatures but a girl still needs iced coffee.

You have it on your phone already, right? Use my code lilys279 for money off your UberEATS order wherever you are.

Office Lens

A slightly geeky favourite of mine but Office Lens is such a useful app - whether you need to email someone a document or want to go paper free and have everything on your Google Drive (so no need to tear your apartment apart when you need to provide your National Insurance number or ask your mother to trawl through your home bedroom looking for your old P45). This app effectively makes your phone a tiny scanner and lets you crop and adjust documents and email them to whoever needs them or electronically file them away. A 50 degree weekend is a great time to scan some adult-y looking documents and expense receipts and then satisfactorily bin them all (of course after checking they've been successfully uploaded or emailed away). Ex-pat life has practically turned me into Marie Kondo or maybe I do just need to get out more? 

Android here, iOS here


I sort of wish I had had this in London but, then, I'm not sure if there was really any need given that I lived opposite a Waitrose. InstaShop lets you pick groceries from an Instagram-esque interface that are delivered from your nearest supermarket in around 45 minutes. You can order as much or as little as you like (subject to a minimum spend), paying by card or cash on delivery but I mostly use this app for emergency ordering the Diet Coke that I claim not to drink anymore. Unfortunately it does not deliver gin although if it did then I may never leave the house again.

Android here, iOS here.

Physique 57 On Demand

Not an app as such but another workout savior this summer. I love a barre class but they are super pricey over here (and pretty much everywhere actually) and, as previously addressed, involve going outside. I do one or two weekend classes in a studio but keep myself en pointe during the working week with P57's online workouts. P57's barre classes are super tough and the at-home workouts are no different, minus an instructor being there to "helpfully" move your leg to the correct but far more painful position. The workouts are handily split by target area and duration so I (rarely) have an excuse not to do nine minutes of arms and feel in awe of the superstar instructors before work or telling myself that I've earned a second hour with Don Draper... 

Available here, the first month is free (and you can cancel and not pay anything).

Any others I should add?

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Life: Friendship Bracelets

Twenty years ago my friend E and I weaved brightly coloured threads together in that gap between school and sitting down to a meal which definitely would have included oven chips. We never gave one another these "friendship" bracelets, oddly, but made them together often while pondering much the same things we do today (namely food and whatever will we do when we are grown-up).

I'm not sure how I still remember to make these, especially as I've forgotten a lot of what I once spent hours learning since: EU Law (now outdated anyway), how to drive (never really mastered it) and Hangul characters (but I can still recognise "bibimbap" so all is not lost).

It's been over 40 degrees in Dubai for over a month now so indoor activities are on the agenda. It's not so bad in a country designed for hot temperatures - anything can be delivered to your door in under an hour and most activities have wound down for the summer so there's no guilt in devouring all seven seasons of Mad Men with a cold Diet Coke (we may have Waitrose but it doesn't sell gin) in hand until outside becomes a little more pleasant.

Making these these bracelets is also an ideal way to prevent online shopping (harder to resist when you have a trip home approaching and can avoid shipping charges), mindless snacking and booking flights to cooler places, as well as being a nostalgic reminder of a much simpler time.

If you want to give them a go and need a refresher then these links should help (1), (2) and (3).

Until next time, #netflixandweave.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Food: London Eats

Being reunited with London's food scene was such a joy on my trip back home. As much as you can have "anything" in Dubai the city is slightly behind the curve on vegan and even vegetarian food (I ate a lot of hummus when I first arrived) and finding decent, affordable sushi is an ongoing process / struggle. Thanks to the "clean eating" movement and the rise in fashionable food allergies, London is now a haven for vegans and almond milk iced latte drinkers, and also for those of us who had a bridesmaid dress to fit into right at the end of a two week trip and a constant nagging fear of it not zipping up (spoiler alert: it did)...

Kaia The Ned

The Ned was obviously top of my list after seeing it on a few friends' Instagram feeds and genuinely feeling green with envy. I visited solo and felt simultaneously very classy perched at the counter at Kaia but also a bit like a scruffy student in my scuffed plimsoles and plaited hair amongst grey-suited city types. The venue itself is so, so beautiful and exactly the sort of place I'd imagined I'd spend time in as an adult until I realised that adulthood is no different to what came before it other than having to pay bills and make pension contributions. I obviously had the rainbow poke bowl along with a side of edamame and a ginger kombucha mocktail (#detox). The food was good, not mindblowingly so but the ambience and scope for people watching (the man sitting next to me ordered two old fashioneds "with an extra shot" at lunchtime, no judgement) are second to none.

The Lighterman at Kings Cross is a good alternative to Grain Store and Caravan - I'm still so pleasantly surprised every time I visit Granary Square it's such a contrast to the rather grim Kings Cross area I remember as a child. Make a reservation (a newfound joy after years of thinking them unnecessary) for the upstairs restaurant which is more spacious and airy than the ground floor and has amazing views over Regent's Canal. The meal I had here was pretty much my ideal dinner - a seasonal G&T with a slice of grapefruit, a superfood salad (dressing on the side) and an order of sweet potato fries dipped in ketchup. A friend and I caught up on the last few months without being rushed out and service was fast and friendly. The weekend brunch is a must for my next visit.

Itsu! I never tired of having Itsu for lunch in London and during a quiet period at work spent an hour a day with a green tea, the Greens, Grains & Glory rice pot and one of the Games of Thrones novels immersing myself in Westeros without leaving the City. Itsu has loads of new menu items, many of which are vegan as well as all the usual sushi (avocado baby maki mmm) - I had the vegan "miso happy" soup, tofu zero noodles and the raw chocolate pie while petitioning Itsu on Twitter to please open a branch in Dubai.

Coppa Club is another new city opening doing the rounds on Instagram. I actually visited twice during my trip back as its a super easy spot to meet up with former colleagues and city-working friends. Unfortunately on my first visit, our waiter accidentally spilt a drink on my friend but was very apologetic and the drinks were taken off of our bill. Service was much better (and much speedier) on the second visit, I guess its still early days. The salads are served in huge portions (because no one wants a small salad) and come on their own or topped with feta or chicken. On my second visit a friend and I shared the courgette fries which were better than Byron's (and I had previously always held Byron as the gold standard of courgette fries).

I loved Veggie Pret when it opened in Soho last year and now one of my regular Prets (Great Eastern Street) is a Veggie Pret, too! I wanted to order one of everything but limited myself to the cauli & tumeric super-veg salad, a dairy-free mango chia pot and a coconut matcha latte. I've clearly been away from London too long to be this excited about Pret but it's great to see so many options and for veggie foods to finally be more exciting and varied than a falafal wrap or a sad salad.

Where should I try next time?

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Life: July Round-Up

July is always a favourite month of mine. Main highlight this year: a trip back to UK for two weddings (of the same friend), baking in my parents' kitchen to the chirps of our little canary bird (he's seven years old can you believe it) and a fair few G&Ts enjoyed under still-light-at-9pm skies. 

1. Blue skies after arriving at Heathrow at 7am. I had inexplicably booked a waxing appointment for noon.

2. The food at my friend's Indian wedding - for once not being the awkward fussy vegetarian.

3. Summer night skies at Sophie's house - she hosted a BBQ which was my first of the season.

4. My bridesmaid hair, I went to Academy in Welwyn where Rachel coaxed my super long but super fine hair into a braided bun.

5. Back in Dubai and amusing myself with Paperself temporary tattoos and avocado art.

6. Baking with mother - we made a chocolate and hazelnut loaf cake (this recipe) which smelled and tasted amazing.

7. The beautiful venue for my friend's civil ceremony, Mickelfield Hall. Would recommend if you're looking for wedding venues in the Hertfordshire / North London area.

8. Visiting my old neighborhood, just to check that everything's still ok.

9. I didn't get many pictures of my first foray into bridemaid-ing as the day went by in a flash so here's a selfie (Benetint on lips and cheeks) and a little glimpse of my bridesmaid dress (ASOS).

How was your July?

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Travel: London Town In The Summertime

You can go anywhere but, for me, nowhere will beat London in July. Or August. Or whenever the temperature heads above 23 degrees and the city shifts from grayscale to full technicolour.

I've walked and run alongside the Thames so many times - this time a friend and I walked and chatted for a couple of hours in the evening sunshine. 
Five months in Dubai, it seems, does not acclimatise one for the Central Line at 3pm on one of the hottest days of the summer but after a month in the great indoors I can forgive a lack of air-conditioning and, tentatively at first, not pack a pashmina to head out for the day. I can even forgive the hayfever, the tingling in the back of my throat that started a few hours after landing at Heathrow making me appreciate a small mercy of living in a grass-free dessert.

Driving the bus when it's empty in the middle of the day, reacquainting myself with public transport. 
Absence does make the heart grow fonder and not having to go into work makes London considerably more enjoyable (roll on retirement, I say). Every day might have been a holiday for me but I must apologise to any friends who were feeling less than perky at their desks as a result of weeknight boozing and the deceptiveness of it still being light at 10pm. Contrary to what I feared, my gin tolerance has not been affected (too) much by an almost abstinent five months and nor has my ability to only stop talking when I'm asleep.

The best my hair has looked in years thanks to Lisa at Jones & Payne - the speed at which her appointments get booked up is testament to her cutting skills and I've never felt calmer with a pair of scissors in close proximity to my head.
Boarding my flight back to Dubai was less difficult than I imagined and I can only attribute this to the handful of Very Good Conversations I had during my trip with friends old and newer - adult life is hard (I knew that), I am very hard on myself (but I'm trying to be less so) and sometimes you need someone to pull you back from the details and show you that the bigger picture...sort of looks quite good.

Visiting my old neighbourhood for a wander, a coffee in the sunshine by the lake and a visit to the Sci-Fi exhibition, Into The Unknown (make sure to catch the short film - it's amazing).
So, I guess these are my holiday snaps and maybe, just maybe, I will face my fears of finding a decent hairdresser in Dubai, and a dentist, and work out how to make a doctor's appointment and my next trip back will be a little less hectic and my new home will start to feel more like one.

The lake looking green, some graduating students making me feel old (I myself graduated 7 years ago and still have the shoes I bought for the day and only wore once).
The opening night of Walala X Play at Now Gallery in North Greenwich - you'll recognise her art from the Old Street area and the outside of Frame in Shoreditch. Walk through the mirror maze and then head upstairs to watch others taking mirror selfies. 
Where are you heading to this summer?

P.S. I'm back again in August! 
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