Tuesday 30 May 2017

Treat yourself to a make over

I love a good make over. I wear make up most days, but I'll also happily go out without any make up on. It all depends and how long I have to get ready and what else I'm doing.

If I know I'm going out for dinner in the evening. I'll put the make up on in the morning and just top it up before I go out. If the day is just food shopping, coffee with or without friends, then I usually don't bother.

I've done my make up the same since I was 14, foundation, powder, eye shadow (no longer blue) eye liner, lipstick and mascara.

I've added sunscreen, serum and concealer over the years, as I've aged and my skin has become damaged. 

The way in which I apply my make up has also changed, I use brushes now rather than my fingers to blend the foundation and concealers in.

Last week the lovely Vicki, who you can find on Instagram as PerfectCanvasDXB, invited me to a make over session. All she asked for was a couple of photos she could use on her Instagram account to show 'less is best' but i picked up a few good tips that I wanted to share.

I'm not sure if I'm doing it right, but I have noticed my make up techniques have improved, it's taking me a bit longer to apply than usual, but it's worth the end result.

  • Apply serum and moisturiser. I use products from Boots and love their factor 50 face cream, it's not greasy and living in Dubai it's an absolute necessity.
  • Using a brush apply foundation and lightly dust with powder, avoiding under the eyes as this just makes them look darker.
  • Using concealer, blend onto problem areas for complete, even coverage.
  • Apply eye shadow to the outside corners of the eyes and blend. I have quite heavy eye lids, so applying colour all over, just makes the eye look smaller.
  • Apply mascara to the top of the lashes.
  • I'm not very good at drawing a straight line with eyeliner on both eyes so I'll carry on applying it to the inner lid.
  • For my eye brows, I've purchased a brow pencil to fill in the missing gaps. I have my eye brows threaded every 3-4 weeks, but with age, they are thinning and the brow pencil colours the grey hairs as well as filling the gaps.
  • Use a lip liner and a brush to apply lipstick. I find a gloss lasts a lot longer.
I've had a couple of make overs the last 12 months. One with Bobby Brown in Dubai, but that was more about selling products than teaching you how to apply them. I certainly didn't feel or look like I'd had a natural make over. The make up was too heavy and I could feel it cracking when I talked or smiled. It also aged me.

Last year I had a make over with the Daily Mail, which included a full transformation into a Theresa May Look alike.

I loved the before shots, where a small amount of make up was applied. I thought I looked my age, which is 45 and I loved the look, but the after shots, oh my I aged about 10-15 years.

The make over Vicki did managed to leave me looking at least 10-15 years younger and I will certainly be going back to see her when I'm next having a night out.

I wasn't asked to write a review for Vicki's time and skills and all products mentioned have been purchased by myself. I did receive payment for the Daily Mail shoot, plus travel expenses.

Monday 29 May 2017

Should I cancel my UK holiday in light of recent terrorism?

Terrorist levels in the UK raised to critical levels now by Government.

A question I see a lot from bloggers is 'should I cancel my holiday to xxxxxxx? after an attack in another country. Maybe we should be re thinking the sensitivities as to asking those types of questions.

The media reports that I got locally about the Manchester bomb last week varied little from how the UK reports on terrorist bombs abroad, they focus on their own people over there.

I'm travelling to the UK next month, should I cancel my travel plans?

What advice would you give someone who posted that question?

How does someone posting that question while the situation is still ongoing make you feel about your country?

It would be much more beneficial in future if we asked these types of questions to the right people, rather than people who have no real idea of what a country is like, other than they've had a holiday there.

Do ever get an idea of what a country is really like, what the people are like from a 2-3 week visit?

Holidays are not real life, a tourist resort does not represent a country, its people, a way of life. You know that. Most British people are never more than a 2 hour drive, maximum from a holiday resort and even closer to tourist destinations. You know the misconceptions people have about the north if they're from the south or the opinions of city folk v country folk. Why make those assumptions about another country?

After the attacks in Turkey and Tunisia, people were posting these questions about whether it was safe to go there for their holidays. They were offered to rebook their flights and accommodation to go to other resorts and even other countries. People were flown home early. 
Is this the current case for people who are holidaying in the UK? Are other countries warning against travel there? I can't find anything other than general information on local websites here, but I have found this information from the British government. (May 24th 2017 9am UK time)

Credible information indicates terrorist groups continue plotting possible near-term attacks in Europe. All European countries remain potentially vulnerable to attacks from transnational terrorist organisations. 
This year we've travelled to Egypt and Hong Kong. My husband has also travelled to Saudi and Pakistan with work. Last year I was in Germany and South Africa, there was an attack near Munich when I was there, not terrorism, but that wasn't known at the time. We get asked all the time about our personal safety, especially in regards to flying back to Dubai. But we never get asked about our travel plans to the UK. Do we feel safe? No one ever asks us to reconsider our UK trips, like they do when we travel to other countries. Why is this? 

I of course won't be cancelling my plans to fly to the UK in 3 weeks time. I'm flying via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines, I've already travelled this route since the new restrictions with hand luggage. I expect security to have been tightened even further since the end of March.

Sunday 28 May 2017

My Sunday Photo - Week 126. R is for Ramadan

Yes it's that time of year again.

As a non Muslim, Ramadan is an important time of year for me while I live in Dubai.

There are rules to follow for those not fasting and it is against the law to disobey.

So as from yesterday for the next 4 weeks, I will not be able to do any of the following in public during daylight hours.

  • Eat
  • Smoke
  • Drink
Yes that includes water, chewing gum, taking medication.

It's not a problem for me, it's slightly frustrating, as I often go to light a cigarette or swig water from my bag.

But I can carry on as normal otherwise:

  • Food shop
  • Beach
  • Cinema
  • Visit a mall
The fact it is summer plays a big part on restrictions on my life anyway, the only other change to my daily life is I won't be able to go out for coffee during the day, unless I

a) get a take away for home or drink it in a toilet cubicle
b) visit one of the 120+ restaurants that are open during the day
c) visit a large mall and use the food courts that open to non Muslims from 12pm

There are many sales and special offers to be had during Ramadan, Iftars (breaking of fast) to attend and life in general is much slower at this time of year with reduced working hours for all.

Don't be put off visiting Dubai during Ramadan, you can read more about it here. Although I'd think twice about spending summer here and that's why I'm going to the UK just before Ramadan ends, it's not all Fun in the Sun.

Saturday 27 May 2017

One Daily Positive - Week 21

I decided the house needed a deeper spring clean than I'd given for a long time, we've been plagued with an ant invasion and it's difficult to treat the ants, with the cat and dog in the house full time, so I shut them in the lounge and blitzed the kitchen, this involved rearranging every cupboard and drawer, which will provide hours of entertainment to me as I watch Peter trying to find things.

The rest of the week continued in the same vain, with every room getting tackled and a huge decluttering took place. With Ramadan approaching this weekend, it's a time to be charitable, so I'll be finding an organisation to come and collect all our unwanted items.

I had a sore throat, probably due to the constant air con. On Friday a migraine started to appear, stiff neck, eye strain, it takes a few days to hit full force, but I'm hoping fluids, rest and meds can keep this at bay.

I'm also still trying to deal with a few UK issues, that I guess will have to wait till next month when I visit. There's only so much that can be done via email.

141/365 Sunday. Car.
This is my 3rd Ramadan in Dubai. 2015 I only had a week as I'd been to Canada for the first part, I didn't cope at all well with the restrictions of eating and drinking in public, I didn't have a car, so I was pretty much stuck indoors for that time as it's too hot to be walking anywhere in summer. Last year I was working, but with work and the heat I was too hot and tired to do anything once I got home from work. This year I'll be here until 4-5 days before Eid and I have a car, most places I use/visit in Dubai are within a 3-5km radius, but are beyond walking distance, again due to the heat. It was midday when I returned to the car the temperature inside was 43c. Kitchen is now spotless, will be eating out the rest of the year. I turned the job offer down.

142/365 Monday. Mud.
It's amazing what a professional make up artist and good lighting can do for someone. Not wanting to waste such a good look, I popped into Mall of the Emirates on my way home and bought Bob a McDonalds as a late birthday treat. I then tackled some emails, chasing replies and had a little nap. I dropped Peter at the airport as he's in Saudi till Thursday and called in at Dubai Festival City, had a coffee, did some shopping and watched the Imagine fire, water and light show. I then treated myself to a face pack and hair conditioning treatment.

143/365 Tuesday. Outdoors.
The lounge, dining room, sewing room and conservatory is now also spotless, it was mid morning before I heard about the suicide bombing at the MEN in Manchester. As an expat I think I've become desensitised to events such as this in my home country, but it doesn't mean I don't care or have empathy, it just becomes harder to relate to. popped out for coffee early evening to enjoy being able to spend time outdoors, the cat is in and out like a yo yo all day. When I go out, I do make sure she's safely inside.

144/365 Wednesday. Mix it up.
Sorted some paperwork and headed off early to beat the crowds for a coffee at The Souk Madinat, ended up as usual in Costa as there is shade to allow me to sit outside for as long as possible. Tackled the bedroom and bathrooms mid morning and did the washing. School confirmed son's taxi for his lift to the airport tomorrow. £90 each way. Headed off to the beach just before sunset for a swim.

145/365 Thursday. Drinks.
Peter arrived home in the early hours then headed off to the office for the day. I ironed, washed up, prepped tea, walked the dog and did some gardening, all before 8am. I went food shopping and was back home by 12pm I had to stock up for the teens arrival in the morning and enjoyed some time in my lovely clean home.

146/365 Friday. Random!
Up early and off to collect the teen from the airport. Apart from cooking breakfast and preparing dinner for another night. The only other thing I did today was sort and pair 45 socks the teen brought with him, throwing 15 socks away that I couldn't be arsed to pair up. The teen slept most of the day, as did I and Peter watched the TV, walked Bob and washed up.

147/365 Saturday. Old.
FA Cup Final 2010 Chelsea v Portsmouth. Back when life was uncomplicated, we all lived in the UK and we were there with my job. Those days are long gone now, I really need to try and move on. 

On the blog this week:

My Sunday Photo - J is for Job.
Travel - Monday Escapes and PoCoLo - Visiting Dubai during Ramadan.
Parenting - TweensTeensBeyond and TriumphantTales - How Social Media can damage children's lives.

Thursday 25 May 2017

Deadly Nightshade in the garden

Back last year I was given a packet of Organic seeds, I had to register on a website and sign to declare I was an organic gardener. There were no instructions other than 'do not use chemicals' and no list of the contents.

I sowed the seeds, stood back and watched them grow.

At first I thought I'd planted potatoes, the leaves and white flowers looked familiar, then after 2 weeks away the plant had shot up over 3 ft and the good people on the internet declared they were chillies.

2 weeks later berries had appeared, so a whole new google search took place and here's what I discovered.

Deadly nightshade is the popular name for Atropa belladonna and as it's name indicated it can kill. It only takes 3-10 berries to cause a hallucinogenic reaction and 10-20 berries can kill an adult. The leaves and stem are also poisonous, and the deadliest part of the plant is the roots. 

Potatoes, tomatoes and aubergines are part of the deadly nightshade family, hence why I originally confused the seedlings for potatoes.

What I've actually cultivated is Solanum nigrum or Black nightshade, which produces edible berries and is used as animal fodder around the world.

Solanum produces white flowers before the berries appear, belladonna produces purple flowers before it fruits.

But then someone told me different.

Scroll to the last picture to see what I did next?

Putting on gloves, long sleeve top and trousers, I ripped it all up and chucked it in the bin.

I'm not prepared to take the risk....would you?

Tuesday 23 May 2017

Animals on my UK travels

I spent 3 weeks in the UK in spring, every where I visited there were pets, farm animals and birds.

Living in Dubai, one doesn't see cows, horses and sheep in fields, although there are birds, other than a few doves, pigeons in the garden and the occasional parrot, one needs to go to Al Quada Lakes or to Ras Al Khor bird sanctuary to see swans, ducks and even flamingoes.

It was really weird to be able to make and eat a cheese or ham sandwich and take the lid off a yogurt without the cat and dog morphing into the room.

My Aunts cat kept a close eye on me when I drank my tea and my sisters 2 cats were keen to help me eat my dinner.

Dubai isn't very dog friendly and there are few places I can take Bob. I just hope Bob can move back to the UK with us one day and we can take him to the pub and into coffee shops after long walks.

There were woodland walks with my friend and her dogs. 

And entertainment from Morgan who sat and stared a stick, no matter how small until it was thrown for them to fetch.
 Dexter, my niece's dog treated me like a long lost friend.

I've not seen bees yet in Dubai, my friends had a bug house in their garden and I was fortunate to have spotted this bee in a field and not to have stepped on it.

I'll be back in the UK in 2 weeks time and look forward to visiting some summer shows and fairs in and around Monmouth, Malvern and Gloucester, so if you know of any or you're happy for me to join you for a dog walk or a visit to a farm, just give me a yell.

Sunday 21 May 2017

My Sunday Photo Week 125. J is for Job.

Actually that should read J is for job that I've declined.

Make your mind up Suzanne, all you've ever talked about for the past almost 7 years since leaving the UK is giving up your career and how it formed an important part of your identity.

I've been offered a teaching job in the UAE. I live in Dubai, one of the 7 emirates. I could be placed in any 1 of them and a school won't be allocated until the day before training begins on the 20th August. If I am allocated a school outside of Dubai I could face up to a 2 hour commute each way to work every day. I cannot relocate due to Peter's employment.

There are a few other issues I needed to consider, mainly managing our UK home that we rent out, the flat we've purchased in South Wales and all the paperwork related to it, including annual UK tax returns, as well as maintaining our home here. We have no family here and few friends, so if Peter is away and I'm ill I have no support, if the pets need to go to the vets, I take them, when visa's and house rent need renewing, i do all the paperwork, same with car insurance and re registering our vehicles each year.

Last year I was teaching in Dubai and due to the timing of leaving the UK it means visa's, rent and policies expire and need renewing x's 3 all within a few months. It takes time and effort and with weekends being Friday and Saturday here and up to 4 hour time difference. Due to Peter travelling it has fallen to me to manage the home and the UK side of things.

I'm also the primary support for our 5 children, yes they are all adults now, but our eldest is disabled and lives in a care home, we've had major issues with her funding and it took a couple of weeks earlier this year to sort out. The youngest is in his final year of boarding school and needs somewhere to live from the start of July until his apprenticeship starts, which I need to be in the UK for to a) put a roof over his head and b) help with finding him somewhere to live and moving him out of school and into his new life. 2 of our boys went into the army and the 3rd went into staff accommodation when they left home at 18, so this is a new process for me and he has to be UK based for interviews etc.

I did have a job last year, teaching in Dubai. But I was stressed and tired all the time, pathetic I know, but I had 4 years in South Africa of not being able to work and my role in life changed. I became a SAHM and then went through empty nest which is what probably forced me into getting the last teaching post.

The final deciding factor into turning this job down was the fact they were going to apply to cancel my current visa, which would mean Peter would lose his family package and would in effect be a single person, this would involve us moving in December, I'd lose the medical cover and be provided with basic cover. There was also no leave during the first 6 months during probation, so I wouldn't be able to see the kids until next March.

Sadly by turning this job down it will delay our return to living in the UK. 2-3 years of teaching here would've bumped the retirement fund up nicely and would've put me back in line for resuming my career on our return to the UK. I'll be almost 50 by the time we move back to the UK, Peter will have retired and I'll need something to do.

Visiting Dubai during Ramadan

Ramadan will be here this week around the the 26th May until the 24th June. Dates vary around the world and are dependant on the sighting of the moon. As the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar it's date comes 11 days earlier each year. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar.

During ramadan, Muslims do not eat, drink, smoke or have sex during sunrise to sunset. It is called fasting and is one of the 5 pillars of Islam, along with the declaration of faith, prayer, charity and Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Fasting varies around the world between 10 and 21 hours each day.

The fasting is broken daily with Iftar, traditionally with dates and milk.

At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr - festival of breaking the fast.

So what does this mean for Non Muslims, those who live here or visit during Ramadan?

  • Life is much slower and quieter, with reduced working hours and restrictions on working outdoors. It is also a cheaper time to visit the UAE with discounted hotel rates, especially when Ramadan falls in the summer, to encourage tourists to visit at this time of year. Many Non Muslims will actually leave Dubai during the summer as the heat can become unbearable.
  • All the malls are open during Ramadan, but you will find it difficult to get a taxi between 2pm and sunset as working hours are reduced, people are heading home to be with their families before breaking their fast. Restaurants will be very busy around sunset with people queuing for an hour or so for a table, so it's best to wait till around 8pm to eat out in the evenings.
  • Eating, drinking, chewing gum and smoking in public is forbidden during Ramadan. That includes in your car. But you can do all the above in the privacy of your own home and if you are a guest in a hotel, you will be able to eat and drink in the restaurants. Until last year, alcohol was banned from sale until 7pm, after Iftar, but now you can purchase it in hotel bars during the day.
  • There are many restaurants also open during the day, but check ahead. The majority of coffee shops are open, but only available for take outs, as a result queuing times to use public toilets will be longer as many non muslims will drink their coffee in a toilet cubicle.

  • The food halls in the malls will open from 12pm to serve food as usual, but they are screened off from public view, you can enter before 12pm but you will not be allowed to purchase or consume food before that time, including take aways.
  • Music is banned from public places, but that doesn't stop you from taking part in ladies nights and other events, although time tables and availability are limited from place to place, check with your hotel.
  • It is expected that you dress appropriately during Ramadan and many places will deny you access if you have bare shoulders or clothing above the knees. Carry a pashmina when you go out to avoid unwelcome looks.
Fasting during day light hours really does mean 'not even a sip of water' if you are ill, pregnant or elderly, you are exempt from fasting as are children. So if your child requires feeding, a drink, carry on as normal. All the supermarkets are open during the day to purchase food and drink from, you just can't consume it in public unless you fall into one of the categories mentioned above.

People in Dubai are very helpful and polite, so if you are unsure, just ask at your hotel and with security when you go out.

The terms Ramadan Mubarak or Ramadan Kareem mean generosity, giving and blessings. you will find the malls and shops highly decorated during this period and Eid is usually marked with fireworks and other celebrations.

Saturday 20 May 2017

One Daily Positive - Week 20

Last week I lost my house keys and memory stick, they eventually turned up, but I need a better routine. This week I left the house keys in a taxi, thankfully the dodgy lock on the study door allowed us to force entry with no damage. I was tired and l ached all last week, the more I rested, the worse I felt. Peter has helped me realise I shouldn't feel guilty for not working and that what I do in regards to parenting from abroad, sorting out issues and problems and coping with the heat is more than enough. I keep a clean and tidy house, my choice to stay at home, so my role, but we still share the food shopping, cooking and ironing.

I had an job interview last week, for the post of a Life Skills teacher and I was offered the post, I have accepted at the moment but am likely to pull out prior to applying for the visa unless they are able to allocate me a school or at least an area in advance. Schools are allocated on 'arrival day' people coming in from outside the UAE stay in a hotel for a few weeks, attend training and get to meet the people they will be working with and move according to the Emirate where their school is located. As I'm already in Dubai, with a home and a husband who works here, I am unable to relocate or travel to the other Emirates without adding a 2 hour commute each way to my day.

As I'm in the UK for the summer, it would mean returning to Dubai mid August (I did originally state I was unable to start until September) to find out where I would be working. At that point if I decline I have to pay back the cost of my visa and then fund another flight back to the UK or stick around in Dubai till whenever. I can't just book a return from the UK to Dubai mid August then return for the Christmas break as different schools have different terms dates and length of holidays.

134 Sunday. Stay.
Making the most of being outdoors while we still can, can only manage short walks, first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I met a friend for coffee and cake and the afternoon was spent doing absolutely nothing.

135 Monday. Stones.
Peter dropped me off at JBR The Beach to collect some vouchers I won with #TheBeachSelfie competition on Instagram. Had a coffee, went for a swim, sat on the beach till it got too hot, did some shopping, caught the tram and bus home.

136 Tuesday. Play.
By 11am I'd done a food shop, cooked 3 meals for the week, washed up and watched my soaps and was sitting in the nail bar having a manicure and new shellac polish.

137 Wednesday. Fun.
Up early and off with Bob to Bark Park. I managed to book the last two boarding kennel spaces in the whole of Dubai for Bob and Jelly, for the first week in July. I booked the teens flight for next week and replied to endless emails. We finished day off with dinner and quiz night with friends. We came 3rd. 

138 Thursday. Indoors.
A day at home, ironing and tidying up, although I did pop out for coffee mid morning. I have a bit of a sore throat and spent the afternoon and evening sleeping on and off in bed.

139 Friday. Up Close.
Woke up to an email that will require a fair amount of attention which didn't get the day off to a good start. A few discussions took place about the job offer and then we switched off and met friends for brunch, the evening spent watching movies, too full to move.

140 Saturday. Dark.
Couldn't sleep, so sat outside with the cat and dog making the most of the cooler weather. 29c. Going out for breakfast to a local mall once Peter wakes up.

On the blog this week:

My Sunday Photo - O is for Outdoors 
Spectrum Sunday - Disabled Toilets in the UK
Parenting #TriumphantTales and #TweensTeensBeyond - Are you good a social media role model to your children?

Thursday 18 May 2017

Spring Garden in Dubai

March was strange weather wise, we'd already had rain in February and in previous years it's usually just a few days during the month, however we had unexpected and heavy rain in march also, giving the garden an extra boost after the recent planting and redesigning of the sand pit.

Spring in Dubai marks the end of an outdoor life, as temps creep up to the high 30's we spend less time outside, by the time it hits 40c anything and everything that involves being outdoors is an effort and not welcomed.

Just walking from the kitchen door where the photo below was taken from to the garage door at the rear of the photo is hard work and you can feel the sun quite literally peeling the skin from your body and by the time the external garage door is opened, car reversed and door closed, one feels like a shower is needed.

This recently planted tree died off shortly after planting, during my 4 weeks away and after much welcomed rain, it sprung back into life and will hopefully now survive the summer.

The roses have now finished flowering but I'm pleased they actually flowered in the first place and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for their survival over the summer months.

I have yet to discover what fruit this plant will produce, but I think it is a squash. The tomatoes and strawberries have finished and I'm hoping the gardener doesn't yank them out the ground and chuck them away, as he does with everything once it finishes flowering.

I'm leaving Dubai for summer and returning to the UK till the end of August at the earliest, I have learnt a lot over the past 2 summers and every year I have different successes and failures. The sweet peas and nasturtiums let me down this year, but the bean plants and sunflowers were plentiful, although no beans were produced. I've also grown and eaten the aubergines and chillies. It's all to do with timing and transplanting at the right stage and shading from the harsh sun.

I'm looking forward to trying to grow some root vegetables this year, invest in shade netting and an irrigation system.

How's your garden growing this spring and what plans do you have for the rest of the year?