Exploring Basel with kids

Most people have a bucket list a mile long of exotic locations and they meticulously plan and sequentially tick them off. We have one too, but our destinations rarely end up being  from the traditional bucket list locations, and even less frequently are the planned in advance! The biggest perk of living in Dubai and other “hub” cities is the freedom with which you can pack your bags and head off to pretty much any destination at the drop of a hat. For us, getaway planning is about opportunity and many of those opportunities come from work schedules. Hubby has to travel for work, I start checking calendars and if they match we just may end up in some off-the-beaten track locales like our trip to Lund a few years back. This time around, we ended up in the picturesque city of Basel.

Continue reading “Exploring Basel with kids”

XPark Jr: Baby it’s a jungle out there.

The monkeys have reached soft play expert level status. They have mastered cinema etiquette. They are borderline professional global travellers. They complain about wet feet and have no clue how to make a wooden raft. It’s actually incredibly embarrassing because the one thing I swore would not happen, has come to be. They are becoming the stereotypical Dubai kids! Continue reading “XPark Jr: Baby it’s a jungle out there.”

1148 Days later…

318 days into our expat journey I wrote my third blog post (read it here) reflecting on life as a stay at home mom. Almost 2 years later, I again find myself in a reflective mood (I’m sure it has happened a couple of other times in between). This time as the realization dawns on me that we may well be moving again.

We always knew that a return to South Africa was not on the cards, at least not unless it was under extreme circumstances that involved little to no choice on our part. It was always a distant prospect, the topic of long-term planning, career discussions, and school curriculum decisions. It was not the topic of short-term planning, frantic google searches (because that’s always a good idea right?) and heaven forbid it interfered with holiday planning 🙂 Yet now that far off blurry dream is now a lot closer, almost more in focus – we’ve almost reached the 12-week-tell-everyone-you-know mark!

This time around, however, I find myself reacting quite differently. When we first realized we were moving to the UAE, it couldn’t happen fast enough for me. I counted down the days until I handed in my resignation and then counted down the days until we were leaving. I eagerly sold all our furniture and belongings and rapidly started disengaging from life in South Africa. I understood we were leaving family friends, but this did not seem an insurmountable obstacle. This time around, I haven’t done a thing other than compiling a list of all the things we haven’t yet done in the desert! I’m loathed to discuss a move with friends and family. A 10-hour flight from South Africa for a visit seems infinitely longer than a 7-hour hop. I dare say, this time around there are no rose tinted glasses to observe a future life through and I’m beginning to think that is a normal side-effect of expat life.

With each move, you understand that while all the reasons that I love living abroad still exist, I can now also add all those niggly hassles that come with an international move. Niggles like finding a pediatrician when the monkeys first fall ill. The uncertainty of who becomes your emergency contact when all the numbers you know have international dialing codes. The implications of choosing the wrong school because now I’ve been there, done that and got the uniform to prove it! Have I become cynical living in the UAE? Has my outlook been irreparably been tainted by retrenchments, hotel apartments and being a stay at home mom? Or, and I can’t believe I’m admitting this, is this just a type of growing up? Am I now capable of making more informed and insightful decisions versus when we first embarked on this journey?

I’ve been churning this in my head for the last few days and try as I might I cannot settle on any one reason for why I’m feeling so uncertain and I think it’s time to make peace with the fact that it may not be a single one of these. It is probably an amalgamation of all of them and an added shot of an emotion that I just don’t comprehend yet. More importantly may be that in the greater scheme of things, it doesn’t actually matter. What does matter is that we’re going on an adventure. An epic and exciting adventure and if we choose to focus on the what if’s we’ll miss out on all the amazing that comes along with it!

Here’s to planning our UAE Bucketlist!

 

 

 

Win an Inkcrate from JAFInk

Remember how I was raving about discovering the #InkCrate from JAF Ink and how it was perfect for not only getting me to enjoy genres of books I would ordinarily not even consider, but it was a great monthly reminder of, “What have I done for me lately?”

Well, now I’m going to rave some more because we’ve partnered up to celebrate the month of love by helping another UAE Mom practice some self-love!

@jafinkofficial will be giving one mom (or Dad 😉) their very own Ink Crate 📚 and the competition is pretty simple! Head over to my Instagram feed to participate!

Rules:
• follow @jafinkofficial

• follow @and_then_there_were_2_

• tag a mommy who needs a little #mommytimeout

• tell us which is your favorite book genre.

The competition will run from 29th January to 7th February 2018. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced on 8th February via DM and Instastories (you must be a UAE resident to enter).

Note: This #giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with Instagram.

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An educational afternoon at Wild Flight Dubai.

Who says Dubai is all about shopping malls and soft play areas? While these are generally the most obvious and prevalent options, with a little bit of digging you can turn some amazing gems. We’ve just discovered Wild Flight Dubai located in the Ghubaiba district of Bur Dubai – you know, that part of Dubai that most expats tend to only venture into when there is family visiting? Guilty! Except even then, I had still only ventured there once for fear of never finding parking or getting lost or traffic or some other similar excuse. So when I heard about Wild Flight, I quickly made plans with fellow blogger Sustainability Tribe to pack up the kids and visit before the excuses kicked in again 🙂 Honestly – I am thrilled that we did it and will definitely be returning soon once Willie is back!

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Exploring the coral fossils around the al Shindagha watchtower which was originally built in 1939.

Wild Flight Dubai is located in the Juthoor Art Center which is the House of Sheikh Khalifa Bin Saeed Al Maktoum and houses gorgeous artifacts from days gone by. Tucked away in the one corner of the center are Wild Flight and their amazing birds of prey. We got to interact with owls, hawks, and falcons though neither of the boys was up to stroking the birds though (may have something to do with the way the falcon was tearing into his fresh piece of quail).

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The birds are required to fly for the food which would mimic what would happen in the wild so we were treated to some amazing displays by the owls. You’re free to walk through the sanctuary and the staff are more than willing to answer questions and they were really good with the boys.

 

There seemed to be about 30 birds on the premises including the grumpiest looking vulture called Bones and if you haven’t booked a specific tour and are just dropping in, look to spend about 30 minutes to an hour depending on your kids’ mood (Mr. Grumpy Pants limited us to 45 minutes though Joshua would happily have continued chatting with the team for a while longer).

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Through until the end of January, entrance is free for anyone and they are open to the public in the morning (8 am – 11 am) and then again in the afternoon (4 pm – 6pm). Starting in February there will be an AED20 per adult charge which will include a photo opportunity with one of the birds and they will be open throughout the day (8 am – 6 pm). Parking was really simple, there is RTA metered parking directly in front of Wild Flight, alternatively you can take the water taxi through as the Al Ghubaiba Marine Station stop is very close by.

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There is a coffee shop on site if you need a snack (read bribery in my case), we, however, chose to walk along the creek and explore the souq instead followed by dinner at Bayt  al Wakeel (delicious Arabic cuisine and chicken and fish fingers for the kids) which was a great way to round up an afternoon. They were thoroughly drained by the time we finished and ended up falling asleep in the car on the way home!

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You can reach Wild Flight to make bookings for specialized tours and experiences via the following channels:

Website: www.wildflight.ae

Facebook: @WildFlightDubai

Instagram: @Wildflightdubai

Google maps: https://goo.gl/maps/hQQaWUooD3G2

 

 

 

Mommy Time Out: Ink Crate Review

It’s no secret that I am a bit of a bibliophile (is it still called bibliophilia if you predominantly read on an e-reader). If you follow me on social media you would no doubt have noticed that the only thing I hang out with more than the boys is my kindle. Before bed, in waiting rooms, on the plane, and always in preference to TV! The challenge being such a voracious e-reader is that I’ve slid into a very distinct rut and tend to read from only a few genres and authors. Bookstore meandering while one of my favorite activities is a dangerous (read expensive) past time for me so unfortunately, I’ve become reliant on algorithms to map my reading journey.

Goodbye algorithm…

I think I may have just discovered a solution for it though! While researching subscription boxes that we Moms could look at to help incentivize us to prioritize Mommy Time Out, I discovered a local gem – JAF Ink. Primarily JAF Ink is a community for local artists, writers, and readers. They are also the curators and suppliers of the Ink Crate a monthly creativity based subscription box. While there are numerous international options in the category, Ink Crate is only homegrown one and involves as far as possible regionally sourced artists and businesses.

 

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Espionage themed Ink Crate from JAF Ink.

 

What’s in the box?

Ink Crate box contents vary based on the monthly theme selected, but will always include a surprise book, 3 – 5 miscellaneous items and a letter from the JAF team. I bought the Espionage Ink Crate which included the book Agent Zig Zag by Ben Macintyre (absolutely amazing read), a mini safe disguised as an English Dictionary (perfect to hide treats from kids), a themed glass travel mug, invisible ink pens and black light (the boys’ favourite) and a DIY decoder ring. Previous boxes have included paint sets, notebooks, candles, calligraphy pens and specialty tea and that’s what I love the most, discovering a topic/theme through the goodies collected by the JAF team.

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The book safe is perfect for hiding treats from the boys…or your phone from yourself!

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Who doesn’t love invisible ink!

How do I get my box?

You can sign-up for the Ink Crate boxes either as a single, one-off event or subscribe to receive your box every month via their website and pricing will vary based on your selected option. The site is pretty simple to navigate and while you’re on it you can also custom make a gift box, order one of the previous boxes or read one of the many book reviews by the trio.

So if, like so many Moms your New Year’s Resolution includes more self-care and me-time here’s a great way to support incentives yourself!

Find out more about JAF Ink on through the following channels:

Website:         www.jafink.com

Instagram:     @jafinkofficial

 

Kid-Friendly Halloween Events in Dubai.

Joshua seems to have been bitten by a hairy scary, Halloween crazy spider this year. We have a calendar up on the fridge to count down the days to our Christmas holiday – he has hijacked it and created a Halloween countdown command centre, complete with daily updates, hourly interrogation to ascertain what we will, in fact, be doing on the day and costume ideas. Considering that in all likelihood we would have just landed back in Dubai from visiting hubby in the UK, I think I will end up going as hyper-real “Zombie Mom” 🙂 Here are some of the event and party options that have made it onto Joshua’s not-so-short-list:

  • Feel the Fete 2017

Our community seems to have missed the Halloween boat this year, but the Feel the Fete event at the Canal Residence West, Retail Promenade in Dubai Sports City is both free entry and super convenient if you’re in our neck of the woods. There are loads of dining options, play areas, a great community vibe and suitable for all ages.

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  • Aventura Nature Adventure Park

For slightly older kids, have a look at Aventure Nature Adventure Park which has just re-opened for the 2017/18 season. The park is in Mushrif Park and from the 20th – 31st October, they’ve created an entire “Haunted Forest” where kids and parents alike can get into the spooky spirit of Halloween with themed treats in the Cafe and the coolest decorations throughout the park. The main event is on Friday 27th October, where the park will be hosting an exciting Halloween fun day complete with a whole host of children’s activities including face painting, trick or treat, a photo booth, popcorn machine and lots of fun and games for the whole family.

Do note though, that currently the park is geared up for kids over the age of 6 years. There is a play area for the littles but do manage their ziplining expectations ahead of time to minimise meltdowns!

Aventura Halloween Haunted Forest

 

  • Spooky Treats at Tub of Butter

If you haven’t yet tried out Tub of Butter on Sheikh Zayed Road, this is the perfect excuse. There will have daily kids’ activities including Pumpkin decorating, creepy cookie decorating and chilling cupcake creations. Activities are AED100 each and you’ll need to book in advance, but the food is amazing and they have the most amazing latte art!

Bookings: + 971 4 343 8884

 

Halloween at Tub of Butter

 

  • Halloween Family Puppet Workshop

Over the summer we attended the Sock Puppet Workshop at the JamJar so I was really excited to hear about their Halloween Puppet Workshop. The theme this time around is Shadow Puppets and you’ll be guided to make your own Monster Theatre, develop characters and storylines. This is an amazing option for families with kids 5 and up who are looking to do something creative together and get the kiddies away from their digital gadgets. The workshop costs AED350 per parent and child duo (add AED10 per additional person) and includes all materials required. You can sign-up online here.

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  • Halloween Chocolate Pumpkins at Boutique le Chocolat

I love finding alternative and quirky activities for the boys to take part in. This chocolate pumpkin decorating class at Boutique le Chocolat, looks like a perfect fit for us, because, you know, chocolate…The activity is only AED65 per child and is running from the 27th – 31st October.

Bookings: +971 4 590 5075

Chocolate Pumpkin decorating

 

  • Haunting Halloween at Kids HQ

Kids HQ is one of our absolute favourite play areas in Dubai, mostly because its a one-stop-shop for us, especially over the summer months when I was attending the Urban Energy fitness classes there. The boys love the atmosphere and the staff are amazing with them! Their Halloween party is on the 26th October and includes a visit from Magic Phil. Tickets are AED 100 per child (10% off for siblings) and you can book by calling them on +971 04 379 4233.

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  • Host your own Halloween Bash!

You could always throw your own Halloween bash and considering the gorgeous decorations available at Party Camel, you may want to host more than one 🙂  They’ve put together an inspirational Halloween Party Ideas blog to get you started.

 

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Easy peasy homemade Oat Cookies!

You may have spotted a trend in things I write about and explore – I love a good hack and simple tricks to get things done easily (like planning dinner for instance). This is probably why I love this oat cookie recipe. I think in its original form it comes from the goddess of baking herself, Nigella Lawson, at least that’s what my Dad always calls them – the Nigella cookies. Then again perhaps he is just partial to Ms Lawson, but either way, these cookies are both indulgent and incredibly simple to make and honestly, the hardest part is waiting for them to cool down and develop their crispy bite (take note that the crispness is rarely experienced in our house as they are generally polished off in a matter of minutes)! They work so well for tea/coffee with friends, baby led weaning (with some modifications) and apparently even make pretty good lactation cookies!

Ingredients:

  • 100g butter *
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 100g rolled oats**
  • 100g granulated sugar (I use Demerara sugar for less sweetness)
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tablespoon Golden Syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Method:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a baking tray with parchment paper – this is much much much less messy that lining it with butter/margarine and it makes it simple to plop on the second batch.
  • Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
  • Place the butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan and slowly heat it up until the butter and sugar have melted and formed a yummy, gooey caramel sauce.
  • Take the pot off the heat and stir in the dry ingredients until well mixed (a wooden spoon and a minute or two would do it).
  • Now to get a bit messy! Scoop up about half a tablespoon of the mixture and roll into a ball, place it on the wax paper and press down gently in the middle to flatten the cookie out. You will need to space the balls out a bit as they will spread out and you don’t want them to run into each other. Rule of thumb, you can comfortably fit 12 cookies on one standard baking tray which means you’ll be putting in 2 batches based on the size guidelines above.
  • When one tray is full, place it in the oven and bake for 8 – 15 minutes. It’s a wide range I know but will depend on how crispy you like the biscuits. If you have a toddler remove the tray as soon as the edges start to brown to help with more sensitive mouths.

 

Modifications:

  • *Go dairy-free by substituting the butter with coconut oil (1:1 ratio works well)
  • **I prefer using rolled oats because of the texture. You could also use porridge oats/quick cooking oats depending on your preference.
  • Upgrade to lactation cookies by adding 2 tablespoons of flaxseed (as flaxseed meal) and 2 tablespoons of Brewer’s Yeast (depending on availability you could use nutritional yeast too).
  • Jazz them up with chocolate chips, raisins or cranberries.

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The Golden Pavlova Challenge

I love baking and cooking in general. I’m not always very good at it, and more often than not you’ll find my creations on #PinterestFails rather than Pinterest 🙂 Don’t get me wrong, they always taste pretty good, presentation, however…Let’s just say that they should be served with a generous helping of artistic license! So when Al Jazira Poultry Farm approached me about participating in their Golden Pavlova challenge I was equal parts excited and nervous. Pavlovas are traditionally decadent and exquisitely beautiful both traits which I associate with tricky and finicky. Turns out, that while being rather time-consuming, it is pretty simple to make and much more satisfying than a store-bought variety!

Al Jazira Golden Pavlova

 

Ingredients:

  • 6 Egg whites (room temperature)
  • 1,5 cups of white sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons corn flour (corn starch)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Method:

  • Preheat your oven to 120 degrees Celcius. To be honest, I’ve seen so many temperature variations and combinations. Some seem to have graduated temperature profiles akin to mashing cycles in a brewery, but when you’re a mom juggling kids and baking, go for simple, you’re less likely to screw it up!
  • Line a baking tray with parchment paper (baking paper). I drew out a circle the size I wanted my pavlovas to be on the underside of the paper with a marker. In this case, I traced a plate for the large one and 2 glasses for the smaller ones. This will ensure that they come out the shape and size you want. A simple trick here is to remember to dollop a small amount of your egg white mixture when it’s ready, to the underside of the baking paper and then “stick” it to your baking tray. This will stop the parchment from sliding around while you’re shaping your meringue base!
  • Beat the egg whites at high speed until soft peaks form. No fancy schmancy food processors required trust me, just make sure your bowl (glass or stainless steel) is super clean and dry when you start as any oil/fat residue will prevent the egg whites from stiffening up properly. My Grandmother always insists that you should clean the bowl out with a lemon sliced in half to make sure there is no grease and everyone knows Grannies know best so I stuck with that one!
  • Once you have soft peaks, slowly add the sugar, one spoon at a time. Slow and steady here does the trick. I am not a patient person, but in this case, it’s needed. Once the sugar is in, you will notice the mixture becomes super glossy, it looks amazing! If you want to make sure all the sugar is dissolved, take a small amount and rub it between your fingers. If it feels grainy, keep mixing! It should feel smooth. When you have the right texture, add the lemon juice and keep mixing.
  • Fold in the vanilla extract and the corn flour until mixed through. Do this as gently as possible to keep the fluffiness.
  • Spoon the mixture onto the baking paper (don’t forget to “stick it down”! This is where you start to get creative. You can choose to pipe the mixture and create beautiful patterns or you can dollop it on for a more rustic, casual feel. When you have the general shape, use a spoon to create a bit of an indentation or “nest” in the middle as it helps keep the toppings in later!
  • Bake for 1 hour – I know, it seems forever! I had to set an alarm or I would have gotten distracted by the kids 🙂 After an hour, the meringue should get a light brown colour to it. The outside will be crispy and the middle like marshmallow but judge its readiness by the colour rather than opening the oven and letting the warm air out.
  • Turn off the oven and let the meringue sit until it cools down…as in completely…don’t cheat!
  • You want to add the toppings just before serving (to keep the top crisp) so if you need to stop, this is the time to do it. You can keep the meringue in an airtight container or wrapped in cling wrap (be gentle) for a day or so. I made mine, the night before so I had time to repeat if I got it horribly wrong 🙂
  • Decorate as your heart (and guests) desire!

Traditionally, Pavlovas are topped with whipped cream (about 250 ml will be enough for a 6 egg dessert) and fresh berries but I have a super fussy eater who immediately began to frown when I mentioned raspberries and blueberries so I made a mini version with marshmallows, toasted almonds, Maltesers and chocolate drizzle. The only thing holding you back is supplies and your imagination! You can substitute the cream for lemon curd or custard and the fruit can be whatever is seasonally available.

Individual Maltesers and marshmallow Pavlovas
Because boys are boys and heaven forbid they eat fruit! Maltesers, mini marhsmallows, whipped cream, toasted almonds and chocolate drizzle!

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Summer Berry Pavlova
Summery and fresh, this Pavlova has unsweetened whipped cream, pomegranate jewels, blueberries, goose berries and strawberries. Add to the decadence with toasted almonds and drizzled chocolate!

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I admit, if not for the @goldeneggs_aljazira #goldenpavlova challenge I would never have plucked up the guts to try one out. Turns out it’s not all that tricky provided you have the right ingredients and considering it’s a meringue recipe fresh eggs are probably a must 😉 and we honestly love the Al Jazira eggs range.

Big thank you to Al Jazira Poultry Farms who provided the eggs and the inspiration to get creative in the kitchen! Let me know what your favourite Pavlova toppings are in the comments.

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