Friday, 30 December 2016

Plans for 2017

I'm not doing New Years resolutions, because as soon as I set myself a target, I usually fail at it.

So this for this year, I'm going to share my plans for what I would like to do in 2017 instead.

As I'm no longer working I shall be spending more time blogging and on social media, but I want to do something constructive with it, I'm not interested in making money off my blog, or reviewing products, but I would like the opportunity to have more experiences offered to me through it. Be it free entry to somewhere in exchange for a review post or invitations to opening events in and around Dubai.

My wider plans for the year will mostly be revolving around travel, from Dubai I will be going to South Africa, Germany, Dublin, Northern Ireland and England and Wales. I'll be starting my travels off with a trip to Luxor in January with Peter.

I want to focus my photography on wildlife and gardening for the two links I've been joining in with for almost 2 years. Annie with How Does Your Garden Grow? and Rosie with Animal Tales. Hopefully I can add France to my travels and meet up with both Annie and Rosie this year. I'm also planning to attend Britmums and catch up with a few more bloggers.

Project 365 will be in full swing, with my own hashtag of #OneDailyPositive. I've tried a couple of times to start my own linky, but it's a lot of work that I just haven't had the time for. After 2 years of photo prompts with #snaphappybritmums and little interaction, I'm unsure if I'll continue with them or not.

There's also My Sunday Photo with Darren and #PoCoLo with Stephanie and Morgan and I'm on the lookout for a travel linky that doesn't focus on days out with kids and is aimed more for single, adult travellers.

While the weather is cooler I plan to cycle or walk or swim at least three times a week, until it gets too hot to be outdoors. There will be weekly trips into the desert with Bob and there is a lot more exploring of Dubai to do now the new water canal is open. I also want to take rescued dogs for a walk once a week and take Bob for socialising on a weekly basis.

I have a book I started to write 6 years ago when I first became an expat, time will be dedicated to that also. I don't necessarily intend to get it publish, just finish it.

I have 100's of physical photo's I've been meaning to sort, date and label and loads of bits of craft stuff I want to do something with. There's a lot of decluttering to be done, stuff of the kids we've lugged around the world.

My sewing room is full of half finished projects, bags, dogs beds, clothes to be altered etc.

On a personal note I need to meet more people, make friends, have someone to share a coffee with. All of the above is all well and good but it's very isolating.  I'm not actively seeking employment, I didn't enjoy the demands of teaching in Dubai after a break of 5 years, but if something comes up that I feel I'm suited to I'd consider it, as long as it fits in with my travel plans.

I'd love to know your plans for 2017, let me know what you're planning on doing next year.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Growing old gracefully.

Back in the summer, 2016, I took up an offer with The Daily Mail to have my hair dyed grey, cut and styled like Theresa May. 

Why? Because I've been grey since the age of 28 and I spend a fortune dying it blonde to hide the grey from the outside world. But who was I kidding? There aren't many 45 year olds that don't have grey hair these days. so rather than deny the fact I was getting older, I decided to embrace it.

When I looked into having my hair dyed grey, professionally it was around £200 +, so when I saw the request from Jill Foster for the Daily Mail, I decided to go for it.




I will admit, I hated the finished style, when a gust of wind caught me, it was my feet that moved and not my hair where I had so many products in it, but I loved the colour and the cut when it wasn't so heavily styled. I've been able to maintain it with ash blonde toner as the blonde continues to grow out.

Edward James Aveda in London, did a fantastic job with the cut and blending in the grey, it was a great experience and a once in a lifetime visit to a BAFTA hairdresser, not somewhere I could justify a monthly visit to.

The only trouble is I no longer like being grey, I feel washed out, my hair is dull and lifeless and there's no style to it anymore.


I failed to recognise myself in the picture above and my 21 year old son says I need to sort my hair out, most days I'm walking around like this.

I've not had much luck with cuts and colours in Dubai and it's bloody expensive and I certainly can't afford to travel to the UK just to get my hair done, regardless of the stylist and Salon I choose, so I guess I'll keep wearing my hair up, I don't need to use the toner anymore, but I'm not happy with it.

My son suggested dying it purple, pink or blue. In his words 'why not grow old disgracefully?'

Any suggestions or recommendations greatly received.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Why I quit teaching in Dubai

I'm a good teacher. In fact, according to my last Governors Observation, I'm actually a very good teacher.

I'm also organised and work well under pressure, my data is always up to date, my planning is always ready on the weekend, my gap analysis is under close scrutiny and I differentiate my planning for the children.

Having an occupation for me, forms part of my identity, something I lost when we became expats in 2011.

I was always 'Hi, I'm Suzanne, a wife, mother to 5 and a teacher'

It has always been important to me to be able to say that.

Suddenly over night I became 'Suzanne, a wife and a mother to 2'

Then I became 'Suzanne, Peter's wife' as we moved to Dubai and the kids left home.

I needed to reinvent myself, I needed to feel that I was something more than just 'Peter's wife' So I took a job teaching British Curriculum in an Arabic School in FS1.

But it wasn't for me. Having not worked for 5 years, I needed something that defined me. I blog, but I don't describe myself as a blogger or writer and I certainly didn't earn a living from it.

I spent 4 years in South Africa as a volunteer working with children's charities.

But everything in my life started with 'When I lived in South Africa I was a .........' Prior to that it was 'When I lived in the UK I was a ...........'

I needed something for the 'now' and I got it wrong.

As much as I loved teaching the children, I wasn't trained to work with this age group, I had no phonic's training or training on how to teach a child to hold a pencil, let alone work on letter formation and blending words.

But I learnt, I hadn't written a formal lesson plan for 5 years.

But I'd also never worked under such close scrutiny, never had to deal with unannounced short deadlines for inputting data and all of a sudden being told the data needed to be entered in a completely different way than the last time. I'd never in my entire life been observed so much, not even when I did my Teacher Training. I'd never had to work 12 hour days, work most weekends and still be told that being very good just wasn't good enough, that I could be better, I could achieve more and then being given a deadline in which to improve myself.

My background is teaching special needs, yet I felt I was being taught how to suck eggs. I'd worked in Child Welfare, multi agency, yet I wasn't allowed to work off my own initiative.

I felt I was being moulded into a one size fits all mould. My planning had to be done in a certain way, my activities had to be the same as the other teachers, my resources were often used, yet little was shared back. Then I was told I had to treat the children as individuals, teach them according to their needs, it would appear no one actually read my planning that was differentiated, colour coded according to ability, language and special needs.

I could have done so much more if I'd been allowed my individuality, if I hadn't been lumped in with everyone else, if I wasn't dragged into meetings for group discussions on the importance of submitting planning on time, setting up classrooms, use of resources, when I clearly did mine, above and beyond what was asked for.

But it seems that the more I did, the more I was asked to do, until in the end I felt like I just wasn't good enough, like I was failing.

I don't know if it was the management, the demands of the British Curriculum, the environment in which I was working, me or a combination of the above, but I decided enough was enough and I quit.

So now I'm back to being 'Suzanne, Peter's wife'

The sad part is that on reflection, I could have played the game till the end of the school year, I wasn't struggling with the teaching or the paperwork, I was struggling because I just didn't feel good enough.

I feel good enough to be Peter's wife though. I'll just have to find another way to reinvent myself for the rest of the world.

Monday, 26 December 2016

When the magic of christmas is no longer there.

In December 2010 we moved out of our home and into a hotel ready for a new life in South Africa, we're now in Dubai and the past 6 years have meant Christmas has been in the sun.

I know that Christmas is in the sun for a lot of people, but after 39 years of it being in winter time, it's still very strange for it to be so hot.

I just don't get in the festive mood anymore. I love walking around the malls and seeing all the decorations, I buy and wrap the gifts, I write and send cards in September to family and friends around the world to ensure they arrive in time.

The advent calendar I bought myself was only opened for the first 10 days and that was on day 10.

Only 2 of our 5 children were still living at home when we left the UK and as we've both been married before, all 5 of the children would often spend christmas with their other parents, so the day itself stopped being magical a long time ago, but the build up was still there and what ever day we held Christmas on, I still felt more than I do now.

We had 1 family christmas in South Africa, in 2011, but the boys were then 12 and 16 in 2012 and 2013 we spent christmas with friends and 2014 was spent in a hotel as we moved to Dubai. Last year we had the youngest child with us, then aged 16 and this year Dan the second youngest came out to Dubai, but he's 21 now.

I still did him a stocking and there are gifts under the tree for the youngest and our niece who arrive tomorrow night.

The build up to Christmas has left me, gifts are wrapped with the labels intact and receipts are often included. There's no one to share the excitement of the build up, although I did sneak into the 21 year olds room with a stocking which I know he appreciated.

Even if we'd stayed in the UK, we'd still be on our own for Christmas, we popped to my Grans for a couple of years, when the kids were away, we went to friends and shared christmas with their families or we popped to my Mum and Dads or Peter's mum for a few hours on the day.

But something has changed this year. On our return from Christmas brunch at a hotel, Peter announced he'd have to go to work today and didn't return home till 6pm. Dan and I hit the shops for the sales and then spent the afternoon on the beach.

I guess at 45 with all my kids grown up now and left home that things will always be like this from now on. I'll just have to find a way to liven things up a little for next year, maybe go away and remove the expectations, but it won't be back to the UK. If I'm going to spend the next few years living in the sun, I think we should go somewhere where it snows, even if it's just the ski dome down at the Mall of Emirates for the day.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Week 104 - My Sunday Photo. Christmas in Dubai 2016

The child woke at 7am to open his presents, the child is 21 years old and yes, Santa brought him a stocking. He then spent the morning playing with his new gadgets.

Peter made tomorrows dinner and prepared a curry. I flaffed around catching up with the soaps and having a leisurely bath using my new smellies.

Taxi to The Sheraton grand for 1pm for all we could eat or drink christmas brunch, taxi home at 4.30pm.

Peter now dozing on the sofa in front of the TV. Dan in his room and I'm in my PJ's in bed.

Peter took a day's holiday but is back in work tomorrow so Dan and I will hit the first day of the sales in the morning.

Youngest child, Alex aged 17 and 24 year old niece arrive early hours of Wednesday morning, there will be more gift giving, eating out and getting ready for the New Year.

Hope you've all had a very Merry Christmas, wherever you are and whatever you're doing.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Week 51 - One Daily Positive and Project 366

Well I'm pleased to say my mother has now returned to the UK, I'm bloody shattered. I have explained to her that what we've been doing is not our average week.

Sunday we collected child 4 of 5 who is here until January 7th. I also took Bob to meet Santa.
 Day 352 Thank you

Monday been to the Mall of the Emirates and to Kite beach. 
Day 353 Roast The only place I'm prepared to put the oven on and cook a roast is inside the Ski Dome.

Tuesday had afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason's as well as going up the Burj Khalifa and watched the fountain and LED display, all in one day. 
Day 354 Holly

Wednesday went to the beach, drunk coffee and visited Za'beel Gardens for their How does your garden glow event.
Day 355 Tree

Thursday Dan and I (child 4 of 5) after taking my mother to the airport went to visit a dog for adoption and drop off some presents, went to a dog christmas party and carol service and collected a raffle prize I won when I took Bob to visit Santa.
Day 356 Baubles

Friday into the desert with the dogs and food shopping in the afternoon. 
Day 357 Drink Just to show that we can drink alcohol in Dubai as well as drive a car, wear a bikini on the beach, eat pork and celebrate Christmas.

Saturday we went to Dubai Mall which was surprisingly empty for Peter to buy my gifts and then I visited a friend and did the food shop so we can stay in till the next airport run.
Day 358 Ho Ho Ho

Christmas lunch is at the Sheraton, there are no plans for boxing day and on the 27th we collect child 5 of 5 Alex and our niece from the airport ready for the New Year.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Elf on a shelf? No, it's Panda's on the Veranda

Last year I did an alternative to the 12 Days of Christmas.

Time for something different this year.

Are you ready for this?

Everyone is doing Elf on a shelf.

This year I bring you......


Follow their adventures in the lead up to christmas on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

Having forgotten to lock the door last night, the Pandas made it inside the house. Shortly after taking this photo, they disappeared.
Helping themselves to the contents of the drinks cabinet.

'What happened here?'

'Nothing to do with us'
These pandas are driving me up the wall.

What did I say? You'll pull the tree down if you carry on like that.

Came home after the last bit of Christmas shopping to discover I have to rewrap all the christmas gifts from under the tree.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Week 103 - My Sunday Photo. Bob meets Santa with Animal Tales.

Bob's new friend Jelly Bean is staying with us over the christmas holidays while her humans are on holiday. She only arrived this morning and after settling in we headed over to Dog Walk for their annual Christmas Party. Taking 2 large dogs out was a little stressful and I spent a lot of time unravelling myself from the leads.

They both had a lovely time meeting Father Christmas and their secret santa gift, as well as plenty of snacks. 

 Neither of them were over impressed with their accessories they wore, but they looked the part and I wore my Christmas jumper, which was a bad idea when it was 28c.

Jelly had her first swimming lesson, while Bob jumped in and out of the pool.

Bob's secect santa gift.

When we got home Jelly and Pushkins met, Jelly ignored her and Pushkins just hissed.

Bob isn't too impressed with sharing his bed with Jelly.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Week 50 - One Daily Positive and Project 366

My last week as a teacher in Dubai. I survived a year, but it wasn't for me. After 5 years of not being able to work, I think I probably took the wrong job, so I could reclaim some of my identity.
There's no sadness about leaving. The work load was manageable and I loved teaching the kids, but I felt under so much pressure to be 'better' all the time. My reasons for leaving were because of this, but I told the parents it was because I needed to spend more time with my family in the UK. 

My official letter wasn't issued till Tuesday and it implied that the school had asked me to leave.
'From time to time we have to restructure staffing arrangements.........'

My colleagues came to say goodbye and threw me a little party, the parents and children gave me some amazing gifts of jewellery, flowers and perfumes, but the management team didn't say goodbye, my salary cheque wasn't ready and I was even told I had to do planning for the new teacher for the first week back.

So no regrets.

My mum is still finding it too hot to go out during the day so it's home from work and off out somewhere. this week we visited Mirdif City Centre Mall, The aquarium on the Palm, Mercato Mall, City Walk and The Green Planet Rain Forest, Dubai Festival City and the beach at sunset for a walk and dinner.

Day 346 Carol. Mirdif City Centre, christmas shopping.

Day 347 Dark. The Atlantis Palm. A visit to the aquarium, a drive round the Palm and fish and chips for supper on the Board Walk.

Day 348 Teacher. Completing the final pieces of paperwork in school. In the evening we popped to Mercato Mall where I picked up some Jack Wills clothing for the 2 youngest kids for Christmas as there was 40% off.

Day 349 Looking up. The Green planet rain forest.

Day 350 Family. Last day at work and some of the gifts from the families of the children in my class. 
We went out for a meal in the evening to The Walk at JBR with Peter's colleagues.

Day 351 Cake. A visit to Dubai Festival City, including a trip to Ikea.

Day 352 Thank you. Bob and Jelly's party bag from Dog Walk. 
We're looking after a friends dog until the New Year.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Christmas in Dubai 2016

I'm slightly disappointed with Christmas in Dubai this year, probably because I've been working all year and just haven't had the time to explore fully. This is our 3rd Christmas in Dubai, the first year was spent in a hotel with 2 teens; and the boys had their Christmas lunch in Subway while Peter and I sat around the corner eating salad in The French Bakery.

From what I've seen this year, it's pretty much the same as last year. We're off to see Santa tomorrow with Bob and his friend Jelly. I planned to go to Carols in the Desert, but I just don't have the energy, there have been a few Christmas Jumper parties, but I just didn't get the energy up to go along.

I'm not feeling christmas this year, we've booked lunch with child 4 of 5 at the Sheraton Grand and we've plans for the New Year on the beach with child 5 of 5 and our 24 year old niece who is visiting also.

Christmas chocolates have been bought and replaced several times already. Any one else do this?

It's also been particularly warm even though it is winter, although gloves, fleece and scarf are worn on the way to work at 6am and a good coffee has helped out.

I'll add more photo's to the blog as now I'm no longer working, I'll have time to visit a few more places.

The shops have been full of christmas stuff since the beginning of November.

Carrefour Supermarket.

 Ace Garden Centre.

There are very few 'real' trees in Dubai, and at around £140 for an 8ft tree we certainly won't be buying one.

Our purple tree of nothingness. no theme, just a home to hang all the owl decorations that we've collected for some reason, we're not owl fans.

Our main tree, that the Pandas on the Veranda (Elf on a shelf alternative) have been messing around with.

Having lived on 3 continents, Europe, Africa and Asia over the last 6 years, we've bought lots of local trinkets which we like to hang on the tree.



South Africa

Not designed as a Christmas Tree but looks good.

Display Windows in Dubai Mall

 The Souk Madinat Jumeriah.

Mirdif City Centre Mall

The Palm

 Mercato Mall.

The Walk at JBR.

Mall of the Emirates, Ski dome. We still need to explore the rest of the mall.

We're off later to Festival City and of course there is still the Dubai Mall to fully explore, but for me this is the best Christmas tree in the world.

The Burj Khalifa with it's daily LED display.