Friday, 27 February 2015

Crochet lovey baby gifts

I seem to have a lot of friends with babies arriving and as always, I have been trying to make them some special homemade gifts. Two have already received a blanket, which you can take a look at here. 

Next on my list was some crochet loveys. Basically, a small cuddly blanket for little hands, with a character on top. I found this pattern here, and used it for an elephant one. I decided to make up my own blanket pattern.

What do you think?

I think it turned out really well and it was fun to make, so now I just want to do more! A friend commissioned me to make this one and another in yellow that I am in the middle of finishing but ran out of wool! 

I have also nearly finished one for a special special baby that will be joining our family in the next few weeks! Another niece or nephew to add to my collection! But I would like to keep that one a surprise! I am thinking of making a few to sell here in Dubai. I'm going to practice some other heads too for different animals. What do you think would be popular?

Thanks for popping by!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Al souk, fishing harbour

I have just got back home after finding a gorgeous new spot by the sea here in Dubai. It is called the fishing harbour in umm suqueim and is located just down the road from the famous Burj Al Arab and Jumeriah Beach Hotel. 

It is a beautiful, secluded fishing harbour with gorgeous boats to ogle over. It's been a beautiful day today, with the sun shining a really pleasant temperature in the mid twenties and we had a slight breeze coming from the sea. Perfect for watching the boats and jet skies coming in and out. 

The area has been newly refurbished. The work began in 2008 but has only been completed within the last year. It features some nice looking cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating overlooking the harbour. We decided to stop for some lunch and chose Pizzaro restaurant at the end. The service was fab and the food was delicious. We simply had a pizza and salad to share and the prices were reasonable. It was very quiet today (mid week, around 1.30pm), and the waiter said it sometimes gets busier at the weekends. 

I get the impression this is a hidden gem in dubai at the moment as not many people seemed to know about it. I thought it was the perfect place to stop for a quiet lunch or dinner in the week and I would be interested to see what it's like over the weekend. I imagine it's nice in the evening too. I have heard the burger cafe "Meat me there" has been recommended too. 

I took my 3 year old son William and he thoroughly enjoyed it. I think he ate just as much pizza as me! He was very welcome at the restaurant and the waiters were lovely to him. Some of the outdoor seating can be very close to the rocks and the waters edge so you might want to watch out for little ones there. William enjoyed looking at the boats as we had a walk along the short jetty and was happy waving to all the people on the boats. 

It was calm and serene; a lovely place to just chill and catch up with friends or family. There is a small amount of parking outside but I spotted an underground car park there too. On the other side of the harbour wall is a nice section of beach too. Sorry, I don't know the name of it. There is also umm suqueim park nearby. I think next time I go, we may spend some time at the beach first then pop to the harbour for lunch again. 

My parents who are still visiting, really enjoyed it too. It was nice to relax by the sea with the sound of the water lapping around the harbour rocks. A tranquil break from the busy bustling city of Dubai. 

You can reach the fishing harbour via the beach road in the umm suqueim area. I followed signs for umm suqueim 2. The fishing harbour has a large wall along the roads edge which has big letters identifying it. I entered the gates for the outside parking but there was underground parking about 100 meters further down (going in the direction of dubai). Sorry if this makes no sense, I'm not great at directions. But here is a map! 



Friday, 20 February 2015

Hatta fort hotel

We have just got back from a fab little break in the mountains! We have my parents visiting us here in Dubai for a few weeks and we thought it would be nice to have a night in a hotel. Hatta fort hotel is about an hours drive from dubai and takes you through some gorgeous scenery! A short part of the journey takes you through Oman, and it's amazing how the landscape changes from sandy desert to rocky Mountains!

We stayed for one night/ two days and had a great time! We hired a villa which has two double bedrooms, kitchen, beautifully decorated lounge areas and your own private garden featuring a jacuzzi! It felt like such a treat! (We haven't won the lottery or anything, we just found a really good deal on groupon!)

William thoroughly enjoyed his time playing around the family pool and did some amazing swimming without arm bands! So we had a special proud parent moment too! Spending time with him at the hotel this week reminded me how awesome he is. Well I think so anyway! He just takes everything in his stride, was polite and friendly to the staff there and is such a good boy, you know you can take him anywhere. 

(While I'm sat writing this, William happens to come up and moan that I have turned the TV off, with quite an amusing sad face including wobbly bottom lip, so don't worry, he is not some super child, he can still be a pain!) 

The break in the mountains was so nice and as always the weather is amazing. I would definitely go back to Hatta fort one day. The staff were great, setting was nice and although the hotel itself was a tad dated it had a quaint charm about it! There was so much to do there, especially for families with children. William particularly loved the crazy golf, it was his first attempt and he wasn't too bad! There's also archery, pool, table tennis, volleyball and two fab swimming pools. 

The breakfast was amazing, with a huge selection to choose from. We all got stuck in! They even served pork bacon and sausages which is rare for our Muslim country. As usual, William made the most of it!

I hope you are all enjoying your half term! I'll be back with more adventures in Dubai soon.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Tips for reading with little ones

My son William has always had a love of books. We began reading to him when he was only about 6 months old and it has become special, quality time with him. I enlisted the help of a very special lady, my mother in law Linda, to come up with these tips on how to instil a love of reading with children. She also happens to be a professional!

"I taught in The Foundation stage all my teaching career. I think my favourite time of day was "Story time!" And my most rewarding moments were listening to children read and see that "lightbulb" moment when a child chose to spend their time in the Book Corner or ask if they could read to me, or see them read to a friend, a teddy or anybody else that would listen.

To know that they had started on a Literacy journey that would enrich the rest of their lives. The children who came into class with a love of books, poetry, nursery rhymes, in fact any aspect of the written word stood out like shining beacons. They could not "read" per sae but knew that books and stories were special. They knew that story time was a time for quiet enjoyment. They understood that they had to listen to get the magic.

Instilling a love of the written word in its many forms can be the best gift you could give your child. I honestly believe it is the key to every area of development and learning.

Albert Einstein said, "if you want your child to be intelligent read them Fairy Stories. If you want your child to be more intelligent read them more Fairy Stories!" Just change the words Fairy Stories to the wider spectrum. Fiction, non fiction, poetry, nonsense rhymes, comics, newspapers anything that takes their attention."

Top tips 

1. Start them young! 

You can begin reading to your children at any age. Even in the womb! Babies will love hearing the sound of your voice and as they get older there will be many opportunities for you, daddy and grandparents to have special story time with your little one.

2. Lead by example.

Children will always copy what their parents do. If they see you reading and looking through books this will encourage them too. As your children get to an age where they can read by themselves, why not have 10 minutes reading time in the evenings after dinner, where you also get your book out. 

"Children learn by example. A house with books, and reading seen as an essential part of life by all in the family is paramount. Be that model. Read yourself. Visit the library. Write stories with your child about their life so that the written word is seen as something personal, relevant and important."

"I honestly believe that when a child starts to read independently they should not be expected to read unknown text. When he or she has started school and a book comes home from their teachers read it to your child first. Maybe many times. Make reading a safe thing. A wonderful journey. Never let a child feel it is hard, difficult or something they can fail with."

2. Make it fun!

Try not to make it a chore; if you show excitement about story time it will rub off on them! Use silly voices, change your tone and volume of voice to make the story really come alive for the little ones. Involve others- be it grandparents, aunts and uncles, or their favourite teddy bear! Williams cuddly dog Buster loves listening with him! 

Discuss the pictures, ask them to point out the characters etc. When reading a book you have read before, try leaving out the last word of a sentence for your child to finish. This is easier with short, simple stories but is a great way of engaging children. William surprised us recently by being able to sing the whole of the song from The Smartest Giant! ... My tie is a scarf for a cold giraffe, my shirts on a boat as a sail for a goat.... 

"Read with expression, read with silly voices, read with love. Make it fun, a time of bonding, make it something to look forward to."

3. Get comfy!

Find a comfy place, wrap yourselves up in a blanket, (or if in dubai like us, relax on the balcony). Turn off any distractions like TV so your little one knows they have your attention and enjoy the quiet time together. We look at books throughout the day with William, but our main time for stories is just before bed. William is then calm, cuddled up in bed and we can lie down with him. 

"In this modern technological age there are so many ways of entertaining and educating your children. I am in no way saying these things do not have a place in young children's lives. They obviously do. But, nothing replaces close cuddles, either on the settee or in bed when a little one knows he has 100% of your attention. Make it a part of every day. Try and find a time where your child is in the mood. Children love routines and most of all, be prepared to read favourite books a zillion times."

4. Choosing a book.

William has his favourite story books that we end up reading over and over. Julia Donaldson ones are great as they often have a rythym and ryhme to them. The smartest giant seems to be Williams favourite at the moment. It doesn't matter what you read to your child really. It could be stories with a message or moral to learn or just down right silly, weird ones! Childrens poetry could be nice for a change too; I found a great book called Revolying Ryhmes by Roald Dahl

I try to take William to the library every week and amongst our choices of story books we always try to pick a non fiction book too. This week we have one about the ocean and one about the beach. We have also tried books about growing flowers, monster crafts, transportation, jelly fish and dinosaurs. I wasn't sure about this at first but William loves them! They are particularly good for giving inspiration for crafty activities too!

"Albert Einstein said "if you want your child to be intelligent read them Fairy Stories. If you want your child to be more intelligent read them more Fairy Stories!" Just change the words Fairy Stories to the wider spectrum. Fiction, non fiction, poetry, nonsense rhymes, comics, newspapers anything that takes their attention."

5. Get interactive.

Another way of engaging children with stories and reading is letting them experiment with them in other forms. William was given a CD player by his grandma and grandad for his birthday recently and has absolutely loved listening to story CDs on it. You can buy some fab story CDs now, just have a browse online. You can even borrow some from library's too. Nursery rhymes are also a winner! 

As Linda has said, you cannot replace the quality time spent cuddled with your child reading a proper book, but sometimes it's nice to mix things up. If I need a few minutes to myself during the day, William enjoys playing games on my iPad. I recently found a CBeebies story time app where you can read along and the pictures are interactive. Or maybe try watching a short film that has been adapted from a story book, like The Grufalo, Grufalo's Child or Room on the broom. 

However you do it, enjoy this special time with your little one! Sadly, when they are older reading together is probably one thing that will slowly disappear. I will be trying my hardest to keep this going as long as I can!