Friday, 15 December 2017

Food: Cabin Dubai

cabin dubai

A relatively new opening and a new discovery for me - Cabin Dubai might just be one of the nicest spots I've whiled away a Friday afternoon in lately. 

Outdoor seating and sunshine aside, the relaxed atmosphere and decor here felt far more like an old favourite east London haunt than Dubai's usual offerings. The restaurant scene here means that despite (or maybe because of) being spoilt for choice, it's hard to find spots that feel like the sort of neighbour hang-outs that other cities take for granted.

cabin dubai

We were shown around the interior of Cabin after arriving  - the walls are decorated with art works and there's a mini store selling art supplies, candles and jewellery. My attention was somewhat distracted by the coffee table tome in the lunch date thankfully has better conversation skills than me or just didn't spot it... We grabbed an outside table because it's winter and being outside is finally pleasant again. 

cabin dubai

After a quick browse of the menu (which changes seasonally) I obviously had to have the avocado on toast. It came beautifully presented - the portion was not the largest but it was just right for a late-ish lunch in the sunshine. 

The location is a little out of the way, in Al Barsha South behind Maisan Towers. The apartments are home to the Emirates Cabin Crew (belated wondering from me if this inspired the name of the restaurant) who I think comprised our fellow-diners and the drive out made it feel like a getaway from the city, more than making up for our longer than usual journey for food. Cabin is open from 7.30am - 7.30pm so is catered towards the breakfast / brunch / lunch crowd. For avocado fans, the breakfast menu is served all day. 

cabin dubai

Cabin Dubai, Al Barsha South

Friday, 1 December 2017

Life: November Round-Up

I spent the middle part of November in India so my round-up this month can't really be about anything else.

1 - Humayun's Tomb, New Dehli; 2 - Jama Masjid Mosque, New Dehli; 3 - India Gate, New Dehli; 4 - Tomb of I'timad-ud-Daulah, Agra; 5 - Fatepur Sikri Fort; 6 - City Palace, Jaipur;  7 - City Palace, Jaipur; 8 - Taj Mahal, Agra; 9 - City Palace, Jaipur
India isn't the easiest of holiday destinations - beyond visa applications and trying to figure out how to fit a huge and varied country into ten days of annual leave, it's one which can make you feel every emotion in the same day. Extremes of poverty and wealth, centuries worth of history and the more recent scourge of plastic co-exist, sometimes uneasily and sometimes wonderfully incongruously. A five minute journey can take in more sights and sounds and smells than I witness in an entire day in my current home city.

The streets are packed, there is no concept of personal space and everyone (and everything - water buffalo, cows, goats, skinny stray dogs) is on the move, at any hour of the day or night - often all at once in six different directions. There's little regard for the highway code and a scooter, a tuk-tuk and a (for now) unscratched new car have the same status. Everything is moving, literally and figuratively in a country of 1.2 billion people.

We did the Golden Triangle (New Dehli, Agra and Jaipur) with a few relaxing days in Ranthambore National Park before flying up to Amritsar. I saw the Taj Mahal at sunrise, heard the almost silence of a national park as the day unfolded and intrepidly tasted (for this rather unadventurous eater) the most colourful and spiciest vegetarian food.

But, sights and sounds and tastes aside, the overriding memory of this country is of the people: our brilliant guide who made us learn and laugh in equal measure; the matriarch of a colonial-era bungalow in Agra who served us sweet chai; the teenagers who politely asked for selfies in perfect English and our travel companions with whom we shared laughter and life lessons over ice-free G&Ts.


Saturday, 25 November 2017

Life: Reading List - Feminine Dystopia

While I haven't quite kept up the reading streak that I had when I first moved to Dubai (a lunchbreak being a distant memory, seven seasons of Mad Men, reacquainting myself with gin), I'm still getting good use from my first generation Kindle.

My most recent reads all have a somewhat similar theme - female authors, strong female characters and a dash of dystopia for good measure.

1. Margaret Atwood - The Blind Assassin

I loved Margaret Atwood before I read this and when my friend F mentioned, three double G&Ts down, that this was one of her favourite books I added it to mental to-read list when it was, in fact, already on my Kindle. Even halfway through, I knew two things - I'd be sad when it was over and it was already one of my favourite books.

The Blind Assassin tells the story of Iris and Laura Chase, sisters growing up between the wars in Canada - bereavement, the complexity of sibling relationships, privilege and the changing society make for a compelling tale before Atwood skilfully weaves in the book-within-a-book - the story of the Blind Assassin. Complex but still immensely readable, terribly sad in the realness of the sisters' story and with an ending that left me sitting in silence for a good few minutes staring into space - this book left me convinced that Atwood is indeed an actual goddess and that I will do the unthinkable and re-read it sooner rather than later.

"Beginnings are sudden, but also insidious. They creep up on you sideways, they keep to the shadows, then lurk unrecognised. Then later, they spring."

2. Emily St. John Mandel - Station Eleven

If Atwood is the queen of her craft then Emily St. John Mandel is surely her heir apparent. A fellow Canadian, Mandel's work reads like a natural continuation in the line of female-led dystopian fiction but her voice and story-telling is completely her own. Beautifully written and almost too plausible to be a settling bedtime read, in a very near-future a virus has wiped out the majority of the population and every creature comfort we have come to rely upon. Amid the scattered survivors, a travelling symphony of actors tour the post-apocalypse North America performing Shakespeare plays. In a world where nothing will be the same again, this feels oddly perfect.

Station Eleven weaves together several plot lines of the last days of "our" world and the new reality. Extremely readable, terrifyingly realistic and with characters I grew to truly care about, this book is almost perfect. Oh, also, I googled the author and she is exactly as cute as I imagined.

"No more Internet. No more social media, no more scrolling through litanies of dreams and nervous hopes and photographs of lunches, cries for help and expressions of contentment and relationship-status updates with heart icons whole or broken, plans to meet up later...No more reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in the room."

3. Naomi Alderman - The Power

Well, Margaret Atwood liked it. And so did I. The Power is firmly set in "our" world - a female mayor, a gangster's daughter, a runway abuse victim and an aspiring YouTube journalist provide their interweaving tales following the "Day of the Girls". Girls and women have mysteriously developed the power to cause pain and even death through electrical impulses - a plot device which helps Alderman explore the (admittedly huge) theme of gender (in)equality. While the novel isn't perfect and some elements felt, to me, overly-simplistic, I found it a hugely enjoyable and (cliche alert) unputdownable read. I read this amid a backdrop of daily revelations of abuses of power and position and the themes that this book explores filled my head for the same amount of time I spent reading it. I loved the writing style and the characters and as a woman who sometimes struggles to find her own "power" I couldn't help but like the idea of the "Day of the Girls" (a little bit).

It doesn't matter that she shouldn't, that she never would. What matters is that she could, if she wanted. The power to hurt is a kind of wealth. 

4. Megan Hunter - The End We Start From

Another apocalypse, this time distilled into a read-in-one-sitting 140 page serving. This book is beautifully and sparsely written, the lack of detail makes it all the more terrifying as the reader has to fill in the gaps and the chapters are interspersed with biblical-sounding apocalyptic predictions. London is submerging beneath rising flood waters when the protagonist gives birth to a baby boy. This short story covers a family's journey from comfortable city-dwellers to displaced refugees in a dangerous world. The reason for the (I presumed) environmental crisis is never covered as the focus of the story zooms in on the family's plight. While a short read, this book covers a lot of ground and is one that has stayed with me long after turning the last page. Oh, and Benedict Cumberbatch's production company has bought the film rights for this...

”What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.” 
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Life: October Round-Up

October marked eight months since I moved to Dubai and eight years since I started LilyLipstick. I can still remember setting up my Blogger account and tentatively typing up my first post - blissfully oblivious to everything that would unfold as a result of that, at the time, tiny step. Eight is the magic number for this month's round up, then. And here's to taking more tiny steps, every single day, because who knows where they will take you...

1. Brunching at home was back on the menu this month - avocado on a bagel with...eight pierces of halloumi. Possibly the only meal I made at home all month.

2. A new piercing (I went to Kyra in Dubai) for a false rook / Tash rook piercing (popularised by piercing goddess, Maria Tash). My tenth piercing in total and my eighth ear piercing - I'd wanted this one for a while but kept putting it off, even though I actually quite enjoy getting piercings done.

3. Jumping right on that Glossier bandwagon. It's not (yet) stocked here in Dubai but I would like at least eight more of their products in my collection.

4. A...lavocado and a lavender latte. My working hours have been obscenely anti-social of late but I try to take a bit of morning "me" time in the form of a slightly perfumed breakfast before eight A.M..

5. I signed up for a flower arranging class at Dubai Garden Centre and despite waking up in a less than completely positive mood, an hour of flower arranging (and a coffee from the adorable onsite cafe) and all was right with the world. Yes, I look eight years old here.

6. I might have been better at this when I was eight but it's hard to worry about the bazillion things you think you need to worry about with a colouring pencil in hand.

7. Eight delicious tacos at Muchachas - I'm not usually a "Dubai brunch" kinda girl but if it's by Tom and Serg and comes with tacos and bottomless margaritas then count me in...

8. A friend in town is the ideal opportunity to do some exploring. Dubai isn't much fun solo but with a friend in tow it's excellent - we visited the coffee museum and the rather low-key (entry is 60p) Dubai Museum. This is point eight, my imagination is failing me...

9. A quick trip to Abu Dhabi and the Yas Viceroy hotel. The hotel is built over the F1 track and watching the sunrise over it from the rooftop pool at 6am made me feel slightly better about my current terribly insomnia. Oh, and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has been held eight times.

November sees me head to India (eighteen months after booking the trip), eight years after horrifying my parents with a planned solo trip there. I'll be Instagramming a fair amount given it's my first holiday in over a year and I've sort of fallen in love with the platform again this last month, acronym be dammed.

Some reading material I loved this month -

Sophie's post ties right back in to my eight years of blogging - no I'm not blog famous or Insta-famous and this blog doesn't pay my bills and never will. And that's ok because it's brought me so much more than money and sponsored posts.

I've read this Man Repeller piece countless times this month. Haley's writing is always spot-on and this is my favourite article appeared when I needed it most. I'm digging a hole to plant a tree, even if it doesn't always feel that way.

I love R29's Money Diaries. How we chose to spend our money is complex and fraught with judgement. This round-up is so interesting. My own relationship with money is...something I'm working on, both in terms of how I spend it and how much it matters to me.


Friday, 27 October 2017

Dubai: Brunch at Muchachas by Tom & Serg

I had a friend in town last week - my first time playing hostess in my new city! I always love visiting friends who live abroad, it always seems like a much more authentic way of experiencing a place. I was keen to avoid the tourist trail and instead take my friend to my favourite spots - preferably ones where we could have an extensive de-brief of life lately, and possibly with a drink in hand.

muchachas brunch

For Friday brunch, I booked a table at Muchachas Mexican Cantina - a Tom and Serg offering in the Holiday Inn Express near Safa Park. The venue is a little out of the way and very low key but I guess it circumvents Dubai's alcohol licensing laws and avoids the Dubai brunch cliches, y'know, ladies in ballgowns, chocolate fountains, all you can eat I've heard, having not actually made it to one of these affairs yet (/ever).

muchachas brunch

The decor here is definitely millennial interior goals, a pleasant surprise after milling around the hotel reception impatiently waiting for a midday margarita. There's a choice of drinks and a set brunch menu - the food is brought to the table so there's no jostling at a buffet or the risk of making a Bad Decision. The "with booze" option is AED295 which is pretty good for a "Dubai brunch" offering.

muchachas brunch

I very much enjoyed the classic margatita, starting with a glass (to check I liked it) and then moving on to a jug because it had been One Of Those Weeks. My friend tried a frozen watermelon margarita before switching to the sangria, mixing drinks at lunchtime is totally fine. The food was plentiful but not guilt-inducing excessive - I loved the guacamole the most and would have happily eaten just this for three hours but the fish tacos were amazing, too, and the corn salad might have been the first vegetable I had seen all week. We finished off with churros dipped in warm chocolate sauce.

muchachas brunch

As the afternoon wore on, the music got louder, the drinks continued to flow and we deprived the wall of two sombreros. All before 4pm when we forced ourselves to leave the party-getting-started atmosphere before it got dark.

muchachas brunch

muchachas brunch

muchachas brunch

Muchachas Mexican Cantina
Holiday Inn Express, Al Safa
Details here 

Monday, 23 October 2017

Food: Jolie Floral Cafe, City Walk, Dubai

Today's cafe offering may just be the cutest yet. As Elodie said when I messaged her a picture "it's so cute it looks like it could be in Korea!"- high praise indeed (and confirmation that solo brunch is much improved by a friend in a timezone a few hours ahead to chat with).

Tucked away in Dubai's City Walk development, it looks a little unassuming from the outside - I must have walked past it a few times (possibly en route to Sarabeth's) before my first visit, prompted by a "best avocado dishes in Dubai" article in Time Out.

I, obviously, only had eyes for the avocado on toast but there are salads, sandwiches, burgers and a very pretty afternoon tea offering. The "his and hers' burger duo that the next table were tucking into did, even as a vegetarian, look very delicious (although maybe that's just a sign that I should start taking iron supplements again).

Some Insta-worthy cafes are a let-down in reality (mentioning no names but we all know the places where we took "that" picture only never to return) but Jolie, I think, would be just as enjoyable for those who don't meticulously document every morsel that passes their lips. It's a little on the girlie side but the few "Instagram husbands" I saw on my visit seemed convinced once their food turned up that this place is not just style over substance.

The avocado on toast might just be the prettiest plate I have ever laid eyes on. It's also a very generous portion - no scrimping on the green stuff here. I might have already had my (supposed) one coffee of the day but I ordered the mocha la flora (they do it with soy milk, praise be) because it sounded...intriguing. I usually regret sweet coffees after a couple of sips but this was really delicious and the rose flavour wasn't overpowering. Top marks for presentation with the rose and mini-cupcake, too.

Jolie Floral Cafe
City Walk Jumeriah - details here 
And they're on Deliveroo here 

Friday, 20 October 2017

Crafting: Halloween Flower Arrangement in a Pumpkin

I love Halloween - quite a strong statement from a girl who is an active avoider of anything with a whiff of Organised Fun about it. I'm slightly sad that I left all my potential dressing-up clothes in London... why a Japanese schoolgirl outfit didn't make the cut of things to pack for Dubai is something I will forever wonder.

As a committed pumpkin carver, I thought this year I'd share something a little different - a flower arrangement in a pumpkin. Not only more Pinterest-worthy, it's also a lot less risky as you only need to make one cut with a knife rather than play a risky game of finger roulette...

I took a class at Dubai Garden Centre but this would be so easy to do at home, too. You will need: a pumpkin, a block of oasis, cellophane, a sharp knife, scissors and a range of autumnal-coloured flowers...

Start with the dangerous / gross part. Cut the top off the pumpkin and scrape out its innards. I picked a long, tall pumpkin to make the best "vase" but any will work. It's less dignified but more fun to use your hands to scrape out the insides.

Coffee on the side is mandatory to all crafting endeavors. Feel free to substitute with gin if at home, maybe after the sharp knife step is done?

Messy work done. Now cut a block of oasis to fit inside your pumpkin and wrap it with cellophane. Trim the cellophane as close to the pumpkin as possible.

Start with some greenery around the base, to cover the bottom of the oasis block. Then take your chosen flowers and arrange from the outside in. Use a smaller flower as "filler" to make sure all the oasis is covered. Pro-tips - use more flowers than you think you'll need to make the arrangement look really lush and full blooming, cut the stems of the flowers on the diagonal to create a sharp tip to stick into the oasis and, once complete, give the flowers a good spray with water to perk them up after the traumatic arranging process.

Done! Give your flowers a top up of water every day and the arrangement should last a good five days.

PS. Dress is from Oliver Bonas similar here (minus the print).


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Life: Ten Things I've Learned Since Moving to Dubai

Has it really been... 8 months since I jumped (ok, more tentatively stepped) onto a one-way flight at Heathrow? There's really nothing like quitting your job, packing up your flat, moving to a new country, starting a new job and picking a country which doesn't really have a concept of "seasons" to throw you into a timewarp.

Eight months on, Dubai feels almost like home. I maybe didn't appreciate how hard moving halfway across the world could be and there were (past tense) days when I felt very small and lost and far from home and familiarity. Even seeing Instagram pictures of the notice boards at tube stations had me running to the nearest bathroom trying not to smudge my mascara.  

Today, as I type this, life is very different from the one I had last October in London and the one that I imagined for myself as an ex-pat. It's different in the day-to-day, in the things that for me are normal but that I appal friends at home with, and, it's different in ways that I never dreamed of for myself, or maybe I dreamed them but never let myself believe them, as I looked out at October skies from the balcony of my tiny flat last year. 

This is what I've learned (so far):

Firstly, the days of the week (let's start with a simple one). Friday is Sunday, Saturday is...Saturday and Sunday is a working day.

Secondly, the seasons. Summer is winter (air-con appropriate clothing, movie nights, copious amounts of Netflix, walking 10,000 steps inside the mall) and winter is summer (summer dresses, beach days, the prospect of a G&T on the balcony).

Thirdly, getting around. Taking four taxis in one day is not an indulgence or a luxury but the non-optional only way to get to work, to a yoga class and to a bar which is technically on the same street you live on.

Fourthly, selective amnesia. You will have no memory of the last time you did the following: walked down a street, took public transport, wore socks or tights, used a hairdryer, applied lipstick without immediately wiping it off again.

Fifthly, lifestyle creep. You will no longer gawp in shock when someone your own age tells you about their boat, their balcony swimming pool (yes that's a thing), their maid or their dog's personal trainer.

Sixthly, personal safety. You will leave your front door unlocked and your MacBook, wallet and phone on a cafe table while you pop to the bathroom. 

Seventhly, personal nudity. Introducing a friend to your boss while wearing a bikini (me, that is, not the boss) at a pool party is in no way as horrifying as it sounds once you've done it. 

Eighthly, road safety. Your taxi driver or other road users making three lane changes in one swoop, reversing back down a motorway sliproad or watching TV while driving becomes normal, if never any less terrifying. 

Ninthly, food shopping. You will stop feeling bad about getting groceries home delivered via an app. Even when your "groceries" are a six-pack of Diet Coke because you still don't know how to turn on your oven. 

Tenthly, saving the best until last. You will every day marvel at yourself for actually picking yourself up and doing the "move abroad" thing. It was worth it. 


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Dubai: Brunch at the Burj Al Arab

It wasn't hard to pick a venue for celebrating my first birthday in Dubai - having never been past the security gates of the Burj Al Arab on past visits, the Friday brunch offering seemed like an obvious choice. I've only been to a handful of Dubai brunches in the past - it's not the cheapest pastime and not really money well spent for a fussy vegetarian. That said, I don't quite roll my eyes at the sight of a chocolate fountain and if you can't do something a little extra for your thirtieth then when can you?

The interior of the Burj Al Arab is like stepping back in time to a late 80s / early 90s decadence. I have to say, I liked the jazzy carpets, the bright colours and the unashamedly OTT feel of it all. We are, after all, in Dubai and "understated" hasn't quite entered the lexicon.

My mother and I had a booking at midday (the brunching widow is 10am - 2pm) as she had arrived that morning on an overnight flight from rainy London. This felt very much like a "special occasion" type brunch - mine was not the only birthday being celebrated - so be sure to book well in advance as the restaurant isn't enormous. Payment is required a couple of weeks beforehand - not unusual here and it does make it easier on the day.

After marvelling at the view from the lift, we were greeted, shown to our table and I might have not been able to resist mentioning that it was my birthday. The Burj Al Arab's brunch offering is a buffet-type set up, it's not as huge as other brunches so you don't spend a large amount of time away from the table choosing food and the selection isn't too overwhelming (which always results in me making bad choices and then being too full to enjoy the good stuff).

There's a range of seafood and salads to start, sushi, dim sum and hot mains, a dessert table, a cheese table and, of course, the obligatory chocolate fountain. The setting and the views are really the main course here - we sat at the window with a view over the Palm and straight out to sea. I sometimes forget how, in it's own way, Dubai is beautiful and being up on the 27th floor of a 7-star hotel was a nice reminder.

Views and food aside, the best part of my brunch (the day before I was to turn 30) was getting offered a glass of champagne and then being ID-ed - I don't know who out of my mother and I were more delighted by this. Oh, and I got a birthday cake with a candle brought to our table which the restaurant kindly let us take away (so, breakfast for the rest of the week sorted...).

Friday Brunch at Al Muntaha, Burj Al Arab
Prices and booking info here


Saturday, 7 October 2017

Food: Even More Plates of Avocado On Toast

I know, I know. Eating dinner out is a distant memory. If somewhere doesn't have avocado on toast on the menu, I probably don't want to go. Here's the current round up of the avocado on toast offerings in Dubai...

The Sum of Us

the sum of us dubai

Ticking off another cafe in the Tom and Serg group, this unique plate of avocado on toast featured half a sesame seed sprinkled avocado and lots of fresh salad. I think The Sum of Us is my favourite Tom and Serg offering. It has its own bakery and coffee roastery and, avocado aside, I would struggle to chose from the menu if I went back.

Tom & Serg (the original)

tom and serg dubai

This is cheating a little as my mum ordered this but Tom and Serg have changed their avocado on toast recipe (former version here) and it now features a perfectly hard-boiled egg. The avocado is hiding under all the greenery. 

parkhouse kite beach dubai

Parkhouse cafe is so adorable - it has quite a British-seaside feel to it, minus the 40 degree heat outside. The avocado on toast here is topped with a perfectly poached egg and a sprinkle of cress. Had a great time watching the sea out of the window while waiting for it to be cool enough to venture outside.

baker and spice dubai

Another favourite Dubai spot and their bread is the absolute best. Probably my favourite avocado on toast in Dubai, here topped with two poached eggs for a change. Yes that is a side of more bread in the background...  

the daily rove hotel brunch

The Daily does a bargain AED100 brunch which includes - you've guessed - avocado on toast (and a coffee, unlimited juices, fresh fruit and baked goods). Topped with two poached eggs, roasted peppers and a sprinkle of cheese. Top marks for crockery and lovely service, too.


Sunday, 1 October 2017

Life: September Round-Up

I think the month just gone might have been my least prolific, blog-wise... Life wise, September was very lovely. I turned thirty and spent my birthday-eve drinking gin and Chartreuse cocktails and my birthday day eating avocado on toast. I wouldn't have had it any other way. Online life has taken a slight backseat - it turns out the best moments are not capable of being reduced to pixels and hashtags and 140 characters and don't need to be recorded for "later" because there's only really the present moment... That said, there is an avocado-on-toast-post in my drafts for when I, once again, feel like tapping words into this box.

Anyway, this was September:

Dubai expat life

1. I had some thoughts about eating meat again this month and then felt bad about thinking about it. Funny how what we don't eat ends up defining us... Anyway, I try not to think about things too much these days and this meat-free burger from Supernatural Kitchen was delicious (really!) regardless.

2. Playing with more of my Paperself tattoos. I'm too indecisive for a new tattoo and too irresponsible for a pet cat. So impressed with the staying power of these - it's that time of year where its still a little too hot to be outside but we're all got cabin fever so three showers a day it is...

3. Not my cat on the beach at Le Royal Meridian. She jumped onto my sun lounger and stretched out for an afternoon cat nap while I failed to read any more of my book. I finished reading The Blind Assassin this month (which swiftly finds itself in my list of favourite books ever - Margaret Atwood is a goddess) and can't really get in to anything else.

4. I'm slowly starting to enjoy the more "extra" aspects of Dubai life. The Candy Land pedicure at Kozma and Kozma was so much fun and my feet looked and felt very nice afterwards. Having sugar sprinkles dusted onto my feet didn't really feel that weird in the context of life lately.

5. If we're talking about "extra"... I finally went inside the Burj Al Arab for their Friday brunch on the day before my birthday. I got offered complimentary champagne and then ID-ed. The best 30th birthday present I could wish for.

6. Lunch at Zuma in DIFC - the black cod was amazing, as was the pink grapefruit vodka cocktail at lunchtime for this girl who is still disappointed that working life isn't a mix of Mad Men and The Wolf of Wall Street.

7. Showing off, getting my mother to be an "Instagram Husband" on the beach at Le Royal Meridian. I wouldn't really recommend doing yoga in a bikini in 40 degree heat but sometimes you need to get the 'gram and that's okay.

8. Birthday flowers from my friend, M. Grateful for all birthday wishes from near and far and for friends who co-opted my mother's limited suitcase space to get gifts to me. This birthday was genuinely one of the happiest I have ever had.  

9. Taking my phone into the sea for a snap of the Dubai skyline during the Golden Hour. I felt like "one of those people" until I looked around and everyone else in the sea had their phones in hand, too. Maybe I fit in here better than I thought I did.


Monday, 11 September 2017

Life: 30 Years And What I've "Learned"

It's my birthday month and while I cannot stand Organised Fun or events that feel like the may turn out to be a Bit Of A Disappointment, I'm trying to be a more positive person. This month is not only an excuse to drink copious amounts of gin but also to reflect a little before starting my fourth (!) decade.

Birthday Cake With A Candle at The Standard, NYC - for when it's not your birthday but you want cake anyway.
So here are some thoughts to take away from 30 years of existence (I planned to do 30 things for 30 years but...that's a lot). The last 2-3 years might have really been the steepest learning curve in terms of all that I now "know". Something about a one-way flight to the other side of the world will do that and, besides, I've already forgotten my 12 times table and still struggle to use a knife and fork properly...

1. Checking the dates and times of flights again and again and again saves a lot of upset and applies at age 29 as much as it did at 19.

2. Editing the words "just" and "sorry" out of my speech and emails is an essential but...ongoing process. I'm not actually sorry about anything.

3. Putting my phone into airplane mode after two G&Ts makes drinking much, much more enjoyable.

4. Celebrating the successes and life milestones of others is fun, there's room for all and "my turn" will come (although not knowing when is all part of the fun...).

6. Hair grows back - although I've cut and dyed mine to the point that I'm now just grateful to be able to wear the same style as I did at aged 8.

7. There will always be nice things to convince me to part with my money. None of them will make me any happier.

8. Notable exception to the rule: Louboutin Simple Pumps in black patent leather.

9. There are always exceptions to rules.

10. And rules are made to be broken anyway.

11. Spending a small fortune (don't actually work it out - its depressing) on coffee and Diet Coke each year is fine by me. See point 7.

12. Learning to graciously accept compliments is hard but worth it. So worth it.

13. I'll never stop learning about "who" I am - it turns out that I actually don't like "alone time" as much as I thought I did.

14. Things I don't regret: spending too much money on holidays, filling a suitcase with Korean skincare, getting a tattoo, staying up all night, my "drinking straight vodka to look cool" phase.

15. Things I do regret: excessive worrying about the future, about what people think of me, about whether I'm "good enough", trying to be "cool", spending moments I won't get back looking for an available wifi network.
16. Truly believing that there's still so much fun to be had and so much to look forward to is as sweet as the above-pictured cake, as is typing these words and actually meaning them.


Tuesday, 5 September 2017

London: A Bouncy Blow-Dry at Rush, Shepherd's Bush

A good hair day fixes everything. Although in London, the weather is guaranteed to do its worst on a day that my hair gets the professional treatment. Case in point - hail in August.

I popped into the new Rush salon located by the West 12 centre in Shepherd's Bush - just opposite Westfield and on the way to the Shepherd's Bush Empire where I had an evening date with Conor Oberst. Convenient.

Having arrived in London at 8am after a (three hour delayed) overnight flight and almost OD-ing on Starbucks and Pret coffee, an hour's pampering definitely made me feel a little bit more alive and having a swishy head of bouncy curls made me feel less uncool opting to sit down at the gig (and having to grudgingly admit that I needed to put my glasses on to see the stage).

My stylist Eak took his time to get to "know" my hair (fine, lots and lots of it) and suggested a curled style which would provide the volume I need and not fall flat in the face of the British "summer". After a heavenly head massage my hair was speedily blow-dried and curled with straighteners (something I will never be able to master if I want to still possess fingers) before being pinned in place.

I flicked through a pile of magazines and maybe ate some Lindor chocolates (for "energy") before the curls were unraveled, gently brushed out and teased into a look that perfectly complemented my vintage-esque floral dress.

Thank you to Rush for my blow-dry, and to the British weather for managing not to rain once I'd left the salon...


Friday, 1 September 2017

Life: August Round-Up

August is over and that means that I'm turning 30 (or twenty-ten as I am now calling it) this month. August has been a good month in many ways - partly because I discovered that I can order iced coffee from 1762 via WhatsApp and partly because I'm no longer even a little bit bothered about saying goodbye to my twenties. The last month of them has been good, very good, but aside from the ability to look (and feel) slightly perkier on zero sleep I wouldn't go back to the self-doubt of being 23, or even 28, if you paid me my weight in Louboutins (and that's not a hint for what I want for my birthday).

1. I started the month with the oddest craving for yellow American mustard in a squeezy bottle so the solution was to go to Shake Shack. Their veggie burger is okay. Their chips are excellent.

2. Venturing onto my balcony before 6am. It's getting a little bit cooler here everyday - I thought I was crying joyful tears when I felt a slight breeze a few mornings ago before I realised that it was sand being blown into my eyes.

3. I cannot disclose how many avocados were eaten in the attempt to make this avocado rose.

4. I love all things celestial (I have a tattoo of a planet) so had to buy this horoscope constellations plate from West Elm when I went in there to purchase cutlery (which was not purchased).

5. Post sunrise yoga at Zoga - an obvious addiction to iced coffee forms when its been 45 degrees for the past three months.

6. Poke at Circle Cafe because its the prettiest lunch and yes, that matters.

7. A quick trip back to London which made me appreciate fluffy clouds and the ability to (somewhat) function on very little sleep.

8. Seeing Conor Oberst at the Shepherd's Bush Empire was more wonderful than I can even describe. I'm sure it would make him feel awkward but I would love to thank him for providing the soundtrack to my life for the past twelve years.

9. Just checking that London's still looking good - I might not be back again for a whole twelve months and that's okay because London is never not going to be there for me.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Food: Brunch at 90 Degree Melt, Mile End

Things I miss living in Dubai: decent vegetarian food, paying less than £10 for any meal, East London....

brunch 90 degree melt

90 Degree Melt is a new offering on Mile End Road serving American-inspired, vegetarian (and vegan) dishes. It's proper comfort food that just happens to be vegetarian - all served without any hint of "wellness" in a minimalist American-style diner just a few steps from Stepney Green station.

brunch 90 degree melt

Eliza and I showed up at around 1.30pm for a late brunch and grabbed a spot at the end of one of the shared tables. Service was a little slow but I guess they are still figuring things out. There's no danger of us ever running out of things to chat about. We ordered three dishes to share - a vegan tofu scramble on toast, a vegan chilli skillet and jalapeno cornbread with fried eggs. I usually hate sharing food but I loved having the pick of the whole menu and being able to try a few different dishes. 

brunch 90 degree melt

The tofu scramble was the stand-out for me, so full of flavour and topped with a delicious pesto sauce with a side of guacamole for my daily avocado fix. Portions are generous and the bill came out at around £15 each (including two very tiny bottles of sparkling water) which is amazing value for London.

I would be back very soon if it wasn't for the 7 hours flying time...  

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Food: A(nother) Round-Up of Avocado on Toast in Dubai

Avocado on toast is back on the blog after an extended hiatus for Ramadan (when most cafes and restaurants were closed during daylight hours aka the only time to be taking Instagram photos), two trips back to the UK and 40+ temperatures. Sometimes, even avocado on toast cannot lure me outside...

Having a name like "amongst few" written in italic lowercase text must mean that this cafe is a hipster dream and, yes, it totally is. Located in the Palm Strip Mall, amongst few is a delightful spot for setting up for a few hours with a MacBook or, as I did, perching at the counter (a blessed joy for all solo diners not to be sat opposite an empty chair) partaking in coffee, avocado on toast and people watching. It's a popular spot with locals who all have better sunglasses, make-up and iPhone cases than I ever will. This plate was as tasty as it was pretty, I loved the addition of asparagus, feta, seeds and roasted baby tomatoes. Good coffee, too.

Vida Saturdaze

I visited this "Saturday Brunch" (the Dubai equivalent of a Sunday brunch in the UK) with my parents and any worries that it might be aimed at a younger crowd were unfounded. Billed as a chilled out, "hangover-curing", lazy brunch, I picked Vida because unlike most brunches in this city it actually serves brunch food. Are you confused, yet? At AED 139 per person (£29) it's good value for this city, especially as it includes one "brunch concoction" (i.e. a cocktail) and a buffet of granola, fresh fruit, salads and pastries as well as a juice bar. Tea and coffee is unlimited and there's a menu of brunch dishes to pick from - I obviously had the avocado on toast which was not most creative version of the dish but it was tasty all the same.

Clinton Street

I often go to this cafe after my barre classes because it's next door. The staff maybe recognize me, it's okay. The avocado on toast here was very green with a lot of rocket (/roquette if you shop in Waitrose) topping sourdough bread, chunky avocado and baby tomatoes. Very similar to the avocado on toast I sometimes make at home but with bottomless coffee which does not happen at home.


I've started a bad (for my wallet) habit of ordering lunch from here every day at work - yes, it's crazily expensive and portions are tiny but it's SO good. I credit their iced soya latte for me not treating my keyboard as a pillow at 4pm on a daily basis. Also, you can order by WhatsApp and the delivery guy brings a card reader to the office... obviously Dubai has not changed me at all. At all. The avocado on toast is on the small side but it's really good and along with a "raw vegan sweet of the day" makes me feel more virtuous than I ever deserve to.

Previous round-ups of avocado on toast in Dubai here, here and here.

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