Saturday, 28 June 2014

Come fly with me...

We are preparing for our journey back to the uk for the summer holidays. After nearly a year here in Dubai, it will be nice to have a long stint in the uk to visit family and friends and enjoy a bit of cooler weather (although not too much please mr weatherman!) 

So as I am dusting off our suitcases and wheeling out our carry ons, I thought I would do a bit of research into how to make our long journey as successful and pain free as possible. Flying with a toddler is quite hard work, so here are the tips and tricks I have found out...


- Sticker books, William loves them. They will occupy him for aaaaages! I have found simple cheap ones in supermarkets but Borders, toy stores and other book shops here in Dubai sell some great ones. If you really plan ahead, order them off of amazon, try this link...
- Felt tips and colouring books
- Twisty crayons, good for colouring with but also keep him occupied as he likes to twist them open and shut repeatedly. I bought these from Daiso, a Japanese pound shop here in Dubai. 
- Small puzzles. These little puzzles are great! I found these also in Daiso, a set of four with varying degrees of complexity, for just 7 aed, that's £1.20 ish. 
- A new pencil case and bag to hold it all. Never underestimate the effect of a child having a 'new' item. Again I got these from Daiso for about a pound each. They don't need to be expensive, or even new at all really, as long as it's new to the child. William finds it exciting that he is taking his new pencil case and I am sure he will spend time zipping and unzipping it on the plane. 

I will also be adding...

- Toy plane
- Miniature cars
- A cuddly toy ( this is starting to sound like the generation game!)
- Books, as many as we can fit in!
- Lots and lots of snacks! I try to chose healthy options but you've got to add some fun things in there too! Dried fruit, fruit peelers, fruit pouches, fresh fruit, biscuits, cheese crackers, puffy rice snacks, nuts, animal shaped crackers, etc etc, you get the gist of it. Chewy sweets may be good for take off and landing to help with their little ears popping! Food is very important to keeping my son happy!
- Portable DVD player/iPad, these are a great extra if you can manage to bring them. There are some great apps out their for iPads, including educational ones that will keep little ones busy while waiting in the airport or on the plane. William is really good at sitting still and watching films too so the little portable DVD player grandad got him works wonders, you only need a couple of films for the trip.
- 'Noony', this is Williams blanket he likes to sleep with, your child may have a muslin cloth, cuddly toy or smelly old rag. Whatever helps them to feel comfortable and sleep. 
- Spare nappies, more than I think I will need just in case, wipes, spare clothes for little one, spare top for mum/dad if you have a drooly baby, antibacterial hand gel, calpol sachets just in case... Oh and the kitchen sink! ;) 

To top it all of, this to put it all in...

Williams Aunty Lindsey brought William a trunkie for his first Christmas present and he loves it. Unfortunately we were unable to bring it out to Dubai last year as we didn't have enough allowance, but we are hoping to bring it back with us this time. It's perfect for little ones as they have their own luggage to pull along, they can ride on it, it gives them a sense of importance and inclusion in the airport. It also stops them from pulling your suitcase around and pushing it over so it breaks fragile items you out in it... Yes this happened to us at Christmas! I know we can't all get hold of trunkies, but any child friendly pull along or small,back pack for older ones would do the trick! 

The airport

While in the airport, there is a lot of waiting around, faffing about and general boredom. I get frustrated sometimes that William starts being a pain, running about, leaving the ques, pushing luggage away, going in and out of shops etc. but let's face it, kids attention spans are not great at the best of times and waiting around can be boring. 

- Their own bag. They will love pulling and pushing their own bag around, it will make them feel part of it all, like mummy and daddy. If they are old enough to bring their own bag, let them, it's one less thing for you to carry! (For the first hour until they get bored anyway!)
- Make a treasure map. It could be a treasure map, eye-spy, word search, directions to follow or a simple quiz of what they see in the airport. Find the check in desk no, gate no, colour of plane, count how many other children are in the que, on the plane, etc. 
- Airport staff. Talk about all the staff that you come across at the airport, get them to draw pictures of them, what are their jobs? This obviously depends on your child's age. 
- Aeroplanes. How many aeroplanes can you see take off or land? How many different names or colours are there?
- Sleeping lions. How long can you sit/lie in one spot of the waiting area without making a sound or movement without getting on mummy and daddy's nerves when they are tired and sleepy because they chose to book a stupid overnight flight because it was cheaper? ;) 

Top tips

- Let your child do what they want. Within reason obviously. Try not to annoy other passengers or be unsafe, but you will all be happier if they are allowed a little freedom. Let them eat when and what they want, let them sleep when they want. 
- Sleep whenever. If you are on a long haul flight you will feel the need for the little one to sleep, and yourself probably. I have done this before, tried making William go to sleep when he plainly doesn't want to. It makes for a stressful experience and doesn't get you anywhere. They will be excited about the trip and the plane so let them wear themselves out and they will sleep eventually. Personally I have found even with the time differences when travelling, that William catches up with sleep and gets into a routine fairly quickly into the holiday. So worry about that when you get there!
- Snacks. Make sure you have snacks for everyone. Flight meals can be rubbish sometimes so be prepared. They are expensive at the airports so take what you can from home. Take little ones own drinks bottle/cup and buy water and juice to mix once into departures at the airport. 
- Ask the staff! Most airlines have something they can give you for the kids. It may be a colouring book, some sweets, blankets and pillows or extra drinks. Maybe try to see the captain in the cockpit?
- Baggage allowances. Check with your airline before you fly what your baggage allowances are and what extras you can take for free. Can you take a push chair right up to the plane door? Can you check in a car seat? Try using one of those luggage weighing gadgets when you pack, that way you can make sure you are within your weight limits and you don't have to rearrange everything at the airport. (Yes this also happened to us, but to be fair we were moving abroad!) 
-Keep important information to hand. Make sure you have a special compartment in your bag for your documents, passports etc. somewhere you can get to easily each time you need to produce them. 

Well I think that's the lot. Below are a few links to other blogs and sites that offer similar tips. If you think of anything that might help, please comment on this post! Most importantly, have a wonderful summer, whether you are staying at home, road trips or flying, and have lots of fun!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Summer holidays in the uk calls us...

I cannot believe we have been in Dubai for nearly a year! What a year it has been! 

I guess the biggest thing has been taking the leap of faith to change our life completely. My hubby was not happy with his old job, he had been there for 9 years and a lot had changed in that time, so it was time to move on. At first, I did not realise that 'move' would be abroad! But hey ho! 

I think I can look back now and say it was one of the best decisions we have ever made (next to getting married and having William I should say!). It has improved our every day life immensely. Hubby is so much happier at work, he comes home smiling and excited about his day. Even if he has a hard day, a quick dip in the pool makes it all go away. 

It's true living here in Dubai does make you feel like you are on holiday. I wasn't sure how I would feel about not having a job for myself and being a stay at home mum, but I have enjoyed every bit of it. Well perhaps not the two month stint with Williams broken leg but we won't talk about that right now!

I have tried my best to make sure William is having fun and eventful experiences, there has been a lot of crafting, cooking, swimming and playing going on! All this will continue for another year, and I will make the most of it! It won't be long until he starts school in September 2015! 

So as I prepare for our trip back to the uk for the summer, I am thinking about the following...

- slightly cooler temperatures! It is 45oc here in the day now, so a nice 25oc uk summer would be lovely! Even if it only lasts a few days. 
- pork sausages, bacon, roast ham etc. even though you can get pork here, it is kinda expensive and you have to go to specialist supermarkets so we don't get it that often. I'm not obsessive about pork or anything, I just think when you can't have much of something, you want more!
- roast dinners
- crafting sessions with Linda. Some of you know my mother in law Linda, her blog is we have a lot of crafting hobbies in common and enjoy a project or two when we spend time together. Not sure what it will be yet but I'm going to predict card making and some sort of crochet or sewing!
- grandparent and William time. I love William, I love playing with him. But it's also nice to just sit and read or do nothing while the grandparents entertain him for a while. I'm looking forward to seeing him playing in the gardens, help pick fruit and veg, and wind up his grandads by making a huge mess probably!
- holiday in Spain. We are having a week in Spain with my brother and his wife and I am sooo looking forward to it. We love visiting my I laws house there, it's very chilled out, lovely weather, nice local markets and beaches etc. my brother and his wife really deserve a holiday so I can't wait to show them the local bar for tapas and wine and enjoying the sun on the balcony!
-nieces and nephews. I haven't seen my nieces and nephews for 6 months, since we were back at Christmas! It seems like ages ago in some ways. They are such good fun and William loves playing with them so I'm looking forward to spending some time with them! 
-general family time. I do miss my family being so far away from them. Skype is a wonderful thing but it's not the same. My brother can't give me a noogie on it, and my sisters can't do my nails and my hair. I can't snuggle up with my brother and sisters kittens, be dragged into the garden to play with Ben or to Maya's bedroom to see her latest freaky looking doll, ride bikes with Nathan and Chloe. 

So off we go, bye for now Dubai. Don't worry, we will be back before you know it. Probably looking a bit paler and maybe fatter after being fed up by mothers! 

Yas circuit racing, Abu Dhabi!

We are coming to the end of our first academic year here in Dubai. My husband has absolutely loved his new school and has had a fantastic year there. It is always nerve wracking starting a new job. With new staff, different personalities to get to know, new students, new school campus, changing from a public British school to a private, fee paying British curriculum school in Dubai... Let alone moving our family to another country and setting up life again, it has been a busy year for my hubby. 

One of the big achievements of his new department at school has been winning the UAE finals of F1 in schools competition. The competition involved a group of students designing and making a miniature model f1 car. The students had to put in a lot of work for this project, not only with the making of the car but also securing funding, a design portfolio and team work. The students have been amazing and absolutely deserved to win. In fact, the two teams that the school put forward came 1st and 2nd!

The 1st team will be going on to the world championship finals in Abu Dhabi in November, same week as the F1 final race. So good luck to them for that! 

But their prize for winning the regionals was a trip to Abu Dhabi for a passenger experience in a two seater F1 car! So last weekend, we took a little trip to Abu Dhabi, had a night in a hotel, relaxing and enjoying time with hubby's department members. On the Saturday afternoon, the F1 students joined us at Yas Marina circuit for their passenger experiences. 

The staff members who took part in the project also got a ride along, so hubby got suited up and ready for his thrilling ride in the F1 car. 

I think he was a bit nervous at first but more because he wasn't the one in control driving. However, he had an amazing time! The driver he had was really giving it some! At one point he somehow managed to spin the car on one of the corners, right where we were stood watching. It just shows how much effort the driver was putting in! They reached speeds of over 230mph. Absolutely crazy!

As the students were too short to see out of the F1 cars, they had a ride in Astin Martins instead which went just as fast! The kids were buzzing after their rides and enjoyed it so much! A treat well deserved by all! 

After that, the students and staff had a few goes at kart racing. William had come along with us and was desperate to go on the go karts but was too young bless him. He did try on a helmet though!

We stayed at the radison blu hotel on Yas island and had a fantastic weekend. The hotel was lovely, good pool and nice facilities. Hopefully we will get another few nights there for the finals in November! 

Another baby blanket all done!

Tada! Just wanted to quickly show you another baby blanket I have finished this week. It is for a lovely family expecting a new baby boy I'm September. 

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the baby shower at the weekend, but have whipped this pram size blanket up ready for baby's arrival. I decided to do a mixture of colours, so rather than just traditional blues I added some lime greens, turquoise and apple greens. I enjoyed making it as I love doing these giant granny squares with mixed stitches. They come together fairly quickly and I suppose you could use up some of your wool scraps to make one. I have lots of small bits of these colours left and I am considering just making another big granny out of them with random colour changes. What do you think?

It's so bright and cheerful and I really hope the recipients like it! 

I have so many little things to blog about from the last few weeks but don't seem to be getting round to actually doing it! I am trying to finish things off and get sorted as next weekend we will be flying back to the uk for the summer holidays. 

One of my next posts will be about travelling with little ones, so if you have any tips please let me know! 

New hats for new babies!

I was commissioned by another photographer here In Dubai to make her some newborn baby hats. She uses them as props for her photo shoots and after looking at the results of her previous shoots, I'm sure they are going to look gorgeous! 

If you fancy checking out her website, here is the link...

So before she can publish her professional photos of the hats, here is my little collection.

I found some patterns online and adapted them for what Sarah wanted. The striped elf hat was quite fiddly but very cute! The grey hat has flowers that are detachable, that way it can be used for boys and girls. I think my favourite is the chunky blue one with wooden buttons. It's a simple, textured pattern, I love the colour and the buttons finish it off nicely. 

It has inspired me to do a few more hats, as I don't usually do them. Living in Dubai, there isn't much need for them to be honest. I have niece and nephew birthdays in the winter so I may create some for them! 

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Father's Day gifts

Following on from my post about Father's Day cards, here are some of the arty gifts William and I have been making for Father's Day. 

"Terrific ties"

Another lot of ideas from Pinterest I must admit! But it is so useful for activities for kids, especially as William is at home with me all week and does not attend a nursery. This is self explanatory really, William painted and coloured a piece of card, I cut it into a tie shape and added some ribbon so dear hubby can (and will!) wear it around his neck! My hubby loves his ties! He wanted to bring all 100 of them out to Dubai when we moved last summer but I had to restrict it to 40 as we didn't have much space. (He also wanted to bring a 'trumpet holder', pasty shaper and approximately 15 old school mobile phones for his product design lessons, needless to say, they remained behind in the uk).

"My daddy rocks!"

Absolutely hilarious play on words here.. Haha. We invited a couple of Williams friends round for a play date to do this one as I thought it would be a fun activity for them to do together. He was the oldest in this set of 3 comrades and it was funny watching them do it. There is a very lucky daddy round the corner who will be receiving a mushy brown/purple painted rock for Father's Day from his 18month old little boy. 

Unfortunately, the day we decided to do this activity, hubby happened to return home from work really early so he kinda spoiled it. We had to go out and get the rock in time for Williams friends to turn up, so as we accompanied hubby outside on his way to the pool, he cottoned on to the fact we were searching for rocks. He also returned back from the pool as we are in the middle of painting. But never mind, it was funny and it's the thought that counts! 

"Bag it up"

Now that we had a little collection of things to give daddy, we needed a bag to put them in. So we were killing about 3 birds with 1 stone with this activity...
1. We needed a bag for the goodies.
2. I had been advised by a friend who is a physio, to get William to make circle shapes with his legs, as a way to get him moving his joints and exercise his legs to build the strength back up after having broken his leg a few months ago. 
3. It is messy and fun. That alone is a good enough reason for us.

I attempted to protect some of the floor by taping down some bin liners. (I really should get a big waterproof wipe clean table cloth). Then basically let William go mad with a plate of paint. Apologies for the lack of clothes on William, but there was no way he was doing this activity fully clothed! 

He absolutely loved making foot and hand prints, wiping paint all over the paper (and floor). Again it gave us the chance to talk about colours, making shapes and lines, using left or right hands and feet etc. it's amazing how much you can talk about and what little ones learn through doing simple activities like this. I can see us doing this many more times!

The massive roll of paper was from ikea but you could use a cheap wall paper lining roll or something. The paints were from ikea too and I have found them great as they are lovely bright colours but also wash off fairly easily. Instructions on how to make aYour own paper gift bag can be found here...

As you can imagine, we both had to get in the shower after doing this!

Well I hope you have enjoyed reading about our Father's Day activities and I hope if you have little ones you have managed to have a go yourselves! Whatever you do this weekend have a fab time! 

Father's Day cards

It's no long until Father's Day, so for the last couple of weeks William and I have been working on some arty gifts for daddy. In this post I thought I would share the Father's Day card ideas we have been trying. We have also been making a couple of gifts which I will post about soon. Now these were made for Father's Day but can obviously be adapted for other occasions and other people!

Now, I am all for home made! Hand made, unique, made with your own family/recipient in mind. I referred to trusty Pinterest for some ideas on things to make and started with this lot...

"I love you to pieces"

Fairly self explanatory really. Fold a piece of paper or card into three, write your message and let your little one stick the pieces down. I had to draw the heart for William and do the writing as he is only 2 1/2 years old. To make the 'pieces', William used some stamp pens and crayons etc to colour on some paper. I then gave him some children's scissors to try and cut it up. 

As you can imagine, William was not massively successful at the cutting part so I did some for him. Although, it did give him a chance to practice those fine motor skills that everyone harps on about! Using coordination to open and close the scissors and stick the pieces inside the heart shape. It also gave us the opportunity to talk about and find shapes and colours. 

"My daddy is one in a minion!"

I'm not sure whether to admit to who actually ended up cutting and drawing the minion here... Either I am terrible at drawing, or it have a wonderfully advanced toddler... I will let you decide. William absolutely loves the Despicable Me movies, it was his go to movie when laid up with a broken leg or when we were travelling and flying at Christmas. I think he probably knows all the lines from both movies, which is a tad sad... 

You will most likely find much vpbetter versions of this card online and on Pinterest, but never mind. This is our attempt. Sometimes when doing arts and crafts with little ones you have to work quickly! 

"Lego daddy"

Now this is a bit of an odd one I suppose... My hubby loves Lego. He teaches kids to make Lego men models in his design and technology classes at school and he loves the whole design and styling of everything Lego. So this is quite a personal one for my hubby! As you can see from the picture we basically painted some cardboard toilet roll tubes and Drew Lego features on them. I stapled these to some card and wrote a message for daddy. I happened to have some Lego stickers left over from something and William really enjoyed sticking them on. 

William is obsessed with stickers at the moment. OBSESSED I tell you! Nearly every crafty thing we make has to have stickers on it! But again, I figure that him peeling them off the paper and sticking them down where you want them is all practicing those fine motor skills and hand eye coordination etc.  you can't read in the picture but the Lego bricks have words on them which we thought could be associated with his dad, 'my favourite', 'cool', 'best' and 'fun'. 

"My daddy is out of this world"

This one was really fun to make! Again, we recycled some toilet roll tubes and painted them to turn them into a rocket. I fashioned some sort of cone for the top, and William stuck stickers (obsessed) on it for windows and special oddly shaped things that you may find on a rocket. He also found stars and planet stickers to decorate the background. 

Finished off with a cheesy quote. 

"This is the hand you used to hold when I was only 2 years old, and this is the foot you tickled"

Hand and foot prints with paint. Always a winner! 

Sometimes I am not sure who likes making these things more, me or William. We have been doing some crazy painting today which I will show you soon, we just need to finish it all off! In the mean time, have fun making your Father's Day gifts and cards and have a lovely day!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Family time and cooking

Yup... It is a good 40oc most days now here in Dubai. Hot hot hot! So although it is nice to spend some time outdoors, in the pool etc it's also nice to keep cooler inside. William and I have been keeping busy with all this lot...

Making apple and cinnamon topping for our porridge. Yes it's perhaps a bit weird to be eating hot breakfasts in this heat, but it's yummy! Got the idea from where she made a similar thing but with plums I think. Went down fairly well with William, until he got some chunks of apple that weren't mashed enough so he spat them out. Lovely. 

Ok this was me not William, but still. I finished the flower garland I had been making. I wanted to try out some new flower patterns and attempted to make some up of my own based on ones I had found online. They worked quite well and I have turned them into bunting so it can be hung up as decoration. If I had a little girl, I would be tempted to use them as curtain tie backs, I just thought it might be cute. But so,show I don't think they really go in a boys room with lightning McQueen curtains!

Williams Aunty briony is back in Barcelona and getting ready for another sail around the med. She works on a huge boat and will be spending the summer travelling around the Mediterranean with the owners, seeing some lovely sights I am sure. But this weekend she was feeling a bit poorly, so William made her a little card. Obviously post is not an option so I photographed it to send her online. The fishy plasters and stamp pens are bound to make her feel better, according to William. 

We did some more cooking and made some pumpkin cookies this morning. This is another one of my attempts at being a sneaky mummy and getting some veg in William without him realising it. Yes I know...there's sugar in the recipe but we all need a bit of everything! He thoroughly enjoyed helping me make them, lots of mixing and tasting of the mixture before baking. You can find the recipe here... 
It made quite a few, so some may be heading to work with hubby tomorrow and some going to a play date with William. I did alter the recipe slightly... I used a mixture of 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup porridge oats instead of the plain plain flour, cinnamon instead of nutmeg (didn't have it), and half and half brown sugar and caster sugar. Just a few ways I was hoping to make them a tad more healthy. I haven't bothered with the icing although I'm sure that will make them even yummier! 

We try to make sure we have some quality family time at the weekends, and this time we visited JBR here in Dubai. Jumeirah Beach Residence, is next to the marina and has recently been done up and it is lovely. There are loads of new shops and restaurants along the front by the beach, and the beach itself is nice too. I have mentioned it in posts before I think. Well as William is up and about now, (he decided last Thursday he is just gona walk everywhere again now), we took him to the splash playground by the beach. It cost 60 aed for one hour of splashing and fun in the water. There are various sea themed fountains and squirted a etc to play with. It was good, and William did enjoy it although I think we are a bit spoiled with the pool we have in our complex at home. He would have had just as much fun at home in our communal pool and it wouldn't have cost us a penny. But it was nice to try, and I am sure if you live in Dubai without a good pool or are just visiting here on holiday then it's worth a trip. 

We also had lunch at a restaurant called Eggspectstion. The food was good, I must admit I didn't even look inside as it was so busy so there were no tables available and we ate outside. Service was good, William had about three different breakfasts. Toast, my pancakes and daddy's fry up! 

Right, better get on with the dinner as I have two hungry boys waiting. I will be back soon as I have some of Williams crafts and art work to show you that he has been making for Father's Day! 

Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to leave your lovely comments as I love to read them. If you are new to my blog, please comment and leave me a link to yours so I can check it out! :) you can also follow me on Instagram @sharky_knows and Pinterest. Links are on the side bar at the top! 

Monday, 2 June 2014

Mum makes pancakes...

I love scrolling through Pinterest and classy blogs looking at gorgeous photographs of food and beautifully displayed yummy creations! I happily 'pin' away, saving ideas to a board filled with healthy, yummy dinners and gooey chocolate treats! 

In reality, about 10% of these recipes ever actually get made in my house! Most of the time they don't look as perfect as the photos that enticed me to try them. I don't know why. Maybe I'm just rubbish at cooking, maybe I am just too eager to stuff my face with it to take any time over presentation. Anyway, this week I tried a recipe for oat pancakes. You can find the beautiful blog recipe here... 

I was attracted to this recipe as my son enjoys pancakes but I wanted them to be a bit healthier. I figured using whole wheat flour is good for you, honey rather than white sugar and oats for all the goodness they have! All the ingredients are a regular in my cupboards too, so we can make them on a whim. We both love cinnamon too so this was sure to be a winner... And it actually was! I found it pretty successful! They tasted yummy, they looked... Well ok they looked like brown splats but that didn't seem to bother William! 

Instagram does wonders doesn't it? I use it for most of my blog photos nowadays, they just make my quick iPhone snaps look a bit more thought out and professional haha. Now if I was a posh, accomplished food blogger, I would have pretty photographs of the pancakes from various angles on attractive plates, perhaps with different toppings, taken in a shabby chic white dining room... (No offence to these bloggers AT ALL! I love them, they encourage me to bake and cook and blog)

Well in reality, I am a (hungry) mum of a two and a half year old hungry toddler waiting for his pancakes.  In the ten seconds it took me to plate them up and bring them to the previously tidy table, William had managed to cover it in crumbly play dough. 

However, I am not going to bother tidying it all up again and get out special plates to take photos etc. 

This is us. 

Wooden chopping board, oddly shaped yummy pancakes with fruit and yogurt, chunky wood table, splatterings of play dough and a very happy little boy eating his yogurt with his fingers.