Cumbria in the Sunshine

The girls and I are currently in Cumbria spending a couple of weeks at my parents house and escaping the Abu Dhabi summer.

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Cumbria is in the North West of England and is home to the Lake District National Park. I was lucky enough to grow up here and only left when I went to University. I didn’t appreciate quite how beautiful it was until I had left. It really is one of the most picturesque places in the world, the scenery is quite simply breath taking.

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Unfortunately the weather can be a tad unreliable (hello English summertime!) We have been here for 10 days and already experienced rain, wind, cold spells and bright, warm sunshine. I have an endless debate with myself every morning over what clothes to put on the girls – will they be too hot? Will they be too cold? We seem to go through endless outfit changes from when it is cool when they get dressed at 7am to when the sun suddenly appears at 12pm. And what are you supposed to do with children when it rains?! It’s not an issue I have needed to deal with often! I seem to have an endless bag of stuff to carry around containing jackets, waterproofs, sunscreen, sunglasses. It really is a never ending guessing game!!

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But it has been fantastic to watch the girls running around my parents garden all day long. It has simply been too hot to spend great amounts of time outside in Abu Dhabi for the last 6 weeks or so. The fresh country air is doing them the world of good, they have been eating really well and are both exhausted when their heads hit the pillow at 7:30pm.

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The girls have also been having a great time in the car that I use in the UK, I have a little Ford Ka and they think it’s like a go-kart. They are screaming ‘weeeeee’ every time we go down a hill (quite often in Cumbria). We’ve also been on the look out for cows and sheep, something we don’t see when in the car in Abu Dhabi!

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Every year when we come home in the summer I get a shock at how late the sun sets. The light nights are brilliant, you feel you can get so much more from your day. It is dark by 6:30-7:30pm in Abu Dhabi, I didn’t realise how much I miss the light nights. Although the endless questions about why are we going to bed when the sun is still awake are getting slightly trying!!

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Also – how awesome are the supermarkets in the UK?! So much choice! So many options! And everything under one roof! I spent the first 5 minutes gazing around in wonder before filling my trolley with glee (maybe not so much glee on the hubby’s part).

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So that is how we have spent the last week. We have another couple of weeks left in Cumbria before we are heading to Ireland to visit the in-laws for more fun and family frolics (with a wedding or two thrown in).

Kx

Travelling With Toddlers

So it’s that time of year – the temperature & humidity is up, the schools & nurseries are on their summer breaks and it’s time for our annual trip to the UK. I enjoy our yearly trip, we usually spend a few weeks in a couple of different places / areas so we get to catch up with all kinds of friends & family. Yes, we have Skype and Facebook so we are able to stay in constant touch with people but it is just not the same as seeing them in the flesh. I think visiting people is definitely more of a priority for us since having children, I want all of our loved ones to spend time with the girls and see them change and enjoy them as much as we do. I’m also very proud of them and want to show them off!

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Actually getting to the UK however is not usually as much fun as the trip itself. I did my first visit home with Kaela when she was just 2 months old. This was a piece of cake. I did the overnight flight, had a bassinet the on board the plane and a sleeping baby just 30 minutes into the flight. And she continued to sleep for the next 6 hours (had a very smug mummy moment after having the man sit next to me complain about sitting next to a baby when we first got on board).

Travelling with a 2 & 3 year old is not quite as peaceful. I was less worried about travelling with Kaela (the 3 year old) than I was about travelling with Darcie. This was also going to be the first time I had flown home solo with both of them A couple of weeks before the flight we started mentioning going to Grandma & Grandie’s house on the aeroplane. Darcie didn’t really understand but Kaela started telling us about all the things she was looking forward to doing in England (she also started saying that she would be travelling to Cumbria on a spaceship…..I know Cumbria is remote but that’s a bit extreme!) Her memory actually amazes me – she remembers things that we did in Cumbria last summer. This doesn’t sound overly extraordinary until you think that last summer is one third of her life ago.

Anyway, I packed our suitcases (a variety of clothes needed seeing that you never know what way the weather will go in the English summertime) and off we trotted to the airport. The hubby came with us and got us checked in (three seats next to the window, phew) and saw us to airport security. We waved our goodbyes (hubby is unfortunately working whilst we are gallivanting) and off we went. We’d left it as late as we could to go through security as I didn’t see the point of having two bored children in the airport. So we wandered towards the gate. The flight was 20 minutes delayed but this wasn’t an issue, the girls sat and watched the planes from the window.

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I had my trusty Babyzen Yoyo with us (amazing pushchair for travelling – it meets the regulations to fit into the overhead lockers on board the plane so no-more tired Darcie (who weighs over 15kgs) wanting to be carried from the plane to baggage collection) so I had the pushchair with us right to the plane door).

Once onboard we got ourselves comfy. I got out everything I thought we would need relatively soon (drinks, sticker book) and popped them into the pouch on the seat in front of us. I also had the Trunki with us which Kaela had thoroughly enjoyed pulling through the airport. This brilliantly slotted underneath the seat in front of us. I was delighted as I had a feeling I would be delving inside of it for treasures rather frequently. I had been and bought the girls a small new toy each the day before we flew so to get them settled I pulled these out (a small Tinkerbell and a small Periwinkle – Tinkerbell’s long lost sister in case you’re wondering). The girls were over the moon as we have been watching quite a bit of Tinkerbell & Periwinkle in the days before we flew. The onboard nanny that Etihad have also popped over to see us with a little backpack full of goodies. This kept them entertained until the plane had taken off and the entertainment system had started.

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Once Kaela realised there was a TV to watch she was excitedly waiting for it to begin. I plugged her headphones in (JVC Children’s Headphones) and she chose to watch Ice Age. Once Darcie saw Kaela doing this she obviously wanted to do the same. So far so good.

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The iPad Mini’s also made the trip. Between these and the TV we kept ourselves entertained for the majority of the flight. We also read some stories, did some colouring and played with sticker books. Going to the toilet was a bit of a mission – it’s a bit of a squash with 3 of us in there! And the flush scared Kaela slightly. But we managed it.

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Both of the girls slept for around an hour. Kaela is now old enough to recognise when she is tired and she rested her head down on my lap and told me she needed to rest. Darcie fought sleep for most of the flight but drifted off about an hour before landing.

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We had pre-ordered children’s meals prior to our departure. Unfortunately the girls decided that the food on offer wasn’t to their liking so neither of them ate a great deal. In future I will be bearing this in mind and packing more snacks as they were both quite hungry by the time we landed in Manchester. This was an error on my part, I should have realised that they probably wouldn’t like the aeroplane food (they are not the most adventurous of eaters) and packed food I knew they would eat. I had thought of this before we left AD but I was trying to limit the amount I had to carry. Serves me right! Luckily they had eaten a decent breakfast & snack before we left so they weren’t going to starve.

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Upon landing we let most people exit the plane before we gathered our things together and made our way through arrivals. We flew through passport control, collected our baggage relatively easily and met my dad on the other side. The girls were so excited to see their Grandie (nearly as excited as he was to see them), it was lovely to watch.

All in all it was a relatively easy journey. Would I prefer to travel alone, enjoy duty free and have a restful flight? Most probably. But would I want to miss the girls seeing their beloved grandparents and enjoying the summer in the village I grew up in? Not a chance. I am having a fabulous time showing them places that I spent many an hour playing in when I was younger. They are having so much fun outdoors in the fresh country air, something that we just couldn’t do in AD at this time of the year.

Now, will the hubby be as well behaved on the flight home after he joins us in a couple of weeks?!

Kx

New Playhouse

We actually decided to buy the girls a playhouse before Christmas. After looking in pretty much all of the toy shops in Abu Dhabi it became apparent that the only ones readily available over here are plastic ones which they seem to charge a ridiculous amount of money for.

I wasn’t happy to spend that amount on a playhouse that I didn’t think would fare particularly well in the desert heat and, in my honest opinion, looked a bit ugly.

I had my heart set on a wooden playhouse. Upon looking online I found so many beautiful ones available in the UK. Unfortunately delivery for these to the UAE would be extortionate so they weren’t an option.

So off I went on a mission to source a wooden playhouse in Abu Dhabi. My husband thought I was loopy and could see the money heading down the drain as I set off but I was determined!!

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The first port of call was a company we’d previously used to build a fence in our garden. I e-mailed them photo’s and dimensions of what I wanted and waited with baited breath for them to get back to me. They did and I was a little overwhelmed by the price they quoted. I had a chat with my husband and we decided to think about it / shop around before committing to anything.

I decided to broaden my search to include Dubai. What a revelation that was! As soon as I typed ‘wooden playhouse, Dubai’ into Google images of exactly what I wanted popped up. I followed the links to the website and discovered a company called ‘Playhouse Creations’ (now known simply as Creations)

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Playhouse Creations was set up by Dave Chidgey in 2012 when he was faced with the same predicament as myself. He wanted a wooden playhouse for his daughter and couldn’t find anything other than plastic ones in Dubai. So he decided to make one himself. One thing led to another and suddenly orders were pouring in for more and more elaborate playhouses (seriously, some of them are bigger than houses are in West London).

Fast forward to March 2014 and Playhouse Creations joins forces with Cherwell Carpentry and Creations is born. They have some amazing ideas on their website, from beautiful bunk beds to bespoke built in cupboards. I actually currently have them designing and providing a quotation for a storage unit / reading nook for our playroom (I’m actually really excited to see their ideas).

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So back to the playhouse. I got in touch with Dave through e-mail. He said that basically they can make anything but that I could take ideas from previous playhouse he had made, photo’s of which I could find on his website. So off I toddled to gaze at the amazing playhouses on offer. I narrowed it down to two options – ‘The Cottage’ and ‘The Villa’. We eventually decided on ‘The Cottage’ in pale pink with white trimming as we decided it would fit best in our garden (and it was within our budget……just!)

Playhouse Creation playhouses ensure that:
– No nails or screws protrude
– All edges are either sanded or machined to avoid splinters
– All joints, panels and surfaces are screwed and glued or nailed and glued
– The roofs are all water tight

Once we had decided on the playhouse and paid a 50% deposit Dave and his team got to work on our playhouse. When it was nearly completed he got in touch to arrange a delivery date. We actually delayed this by a couple of weeks due to our house move (more on that Here)

The delivery date eventually arrived. We didn’t tell the girls as we wanted it to be a surprise. It happened to be a day that Kaela was in nursery which worked out well. Dave arrived with the playhouse and assembled it for us. I thought this would be an hours job but I discovered that Dave is meticulous and would not finish until the house was completely perfect. He repainted, cleaned and basically ensured that the playhouse was as amazing as we were expecting it to be.

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That evening, once the hubby was home from work, we led the girls out to see their (my) new toy. Their reaction was everything we could have dreamt of and more. Kaela was so excited, and proclaimed that the playhouse was ‘lovely’ and it was ‘the best day ever’.

We’ve since spent many afternoons out there playing and to listen to the girls making up stories really is magical. Their imaginations amaze me. It’s a bit warm at the moment to be out there at the middle of the day but I’m hoping that once autumn hits the girls can be in and out of there all day long.

Was the playhouse expensive? Yes. But was it worth it? Completely. It’s something that I can see being used for many years to come. And once the girls grow out of it we’ve decided that it can become the hubby’s ‘man house’. Ha!

Right, I’d better go. The house is now a doctors surgery and apparently I have to see Dr Kaela with my ouchy.

Kx

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Moving House

It’s been a while since my last post. To be honest I feel I’ve had a bit of ‘bloggers block’. I have been struggling to think of anything interesting to write about.

Life has also been pretty hectic over the last couple of weeks. We decided back in April that we would try to secure an apartment in the building over the road from us. We ended up being successful and after taking aaaaaages to get the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted, in the end it all happened very quickly. So we had a bit of a panic on to get a moving company in place that could move us on the desired weekend. After getting a couple of quotes we decided to go with the company that moved us back in September. They came in at a mid ranged price and we knew that they had done a good job for us previously.

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Moving in the UAE is actually relatively easy. It’s very much a service based culture and you can have the moving companies do as little or as much as you request them to do (with all services billed for obviously). Gone are the days of having boxes everywhere and trying to reassemble furniture. We had decided to rearrange the furniture slightly in the new place (it is the same layout as our old apartment). When the removals company arrived that morning we merely went through what room we would like the furniture put in and they cracked on.

We decided that having two young children about on moving day probably wouldn’t be wise. There was going to be people and things everywhere. So the girls and I set off for a play centre that morning. After a fun filled few hours there a friend of mine came to the rescue and we hid away at her house for the majority of the afternoon with the hubby giving me regular ‘move’ updates over the phone.

At 5:00pm we started to make our way home. The girls were utterly exhausted and the hubby had asked me to pop back to check a few things. Due to the excitement of the day and Little Miss D refusing to nap earlier they both promptly fell asleep in the car. Not ideal if I wanted to get them to bed that evening! But couldn’t be helped, it was a mixed up old day.

Anyway, I arrived back at the apartment and it was still in the midst of moving chaos. After having a chat with the hubby and giving a bit of ‘wifely direction’ the girls and I made ourselves scarce again and went to The Club for dinner. The late nap actually came in rather useful, they were full of beans and had a great time playing in the play ground of the Family Room.

At 8:30pm we were given the all clear to return home. It was still a bit of a mess but at least the girls room was ready and we could get them both to bed.

So since then I have slowly been working my way from room to room sorting out things we want to keep, things to sell and things for the charity box. In hindsight I probably should have done this before we moved but, quite honestly, I was a bit lazy and didn’t get round to it!

My top tips for moving? Pack an overnight bag with clean clothes for the following day. We were able to get the girls ready for bed as soon as I arrived home as we had everything we needed to hand. Also put a box of all your valuable things together and leave it somewhere safe. The last time we moved we left this with friends of ours. This time we just popped the box into the boot of the hubby’s car. If we were in the UK I would have left it with a friend but the crime rate in the UAE is so low and we were moving such a short distance that the car seemed the best option for this move. To be fair to the removal men they won’t touch anything valuable. I had forgotten to pack my camera away and they came and gave it to my husband. They are obviously worried about being accused of stealing.

I finally got some pictures put on the wall this week so life feels as though it is returning to normal. The girls don’t actually seem to have noticed that we have moved, the biggest thing they seem concerned about is that our car park space has moved!

There’s still plenty to do in the new place but Rome wasn’t built in a day and we are enjoying choosing new furnishings and making our new house into a home.

Kx

Wanasa Land

On Thursday the girls and I met friends at Bawabat Al Sharq Mall to have a play date in Wanasa Land. Bawabat Al Sharq Mall is in the Baniyas area of Abu Dhabi.

Wanasa Land is a huge indoor entertainment centre with different zones for different age groups. As it’s getting so hot outside now a safe, air conditioned play area is just what we needed.

We went into the play area which is for children aged 1-12.

There are a variety of activities within the play area to keep little ones entertained. Darcie loved the trampoline and, although I had to climb up and help her get to the top (the final part was just too high for her little legs) she really enjoyed sliding down the slide (my heart was in my mouth but she’s a bit of a dare devil!)

Kaela also loved the slide and had a great time in the ball area where you can shoot soft balls into the air with wind machines. By far Kaela’s favourite bit was climbing up to the helicopter and pretending to be a pilot.

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All in all it’s a safe and entertaining play area for younger children. Elements of it are designed for older children but this didn’t seem to bother the girls, they just stuck to the areas they could handle. It was unfortunate that on the morning we were there a school trip was also visiting so it was rather busy. But this couldn’t be helped and it wasn’t really an issue. The girls both enjoyed themselves although it was probably a tad more suitable for Kaela’s age than for Darcie’s.

The friends we met are moving on to pastures new and they’re going to be missed. One of the perils of expat living is watching friends move on.

Kx

 

 

 

 

Mini Movers

Kaela was at nursery this morning so Darcie and I decided to check out the new Mini Movers class at The Club (I will write a post about The Club when I have the time).

Mini Movers has been started by The Club’s new dance teacher, Elisha. She seems lovely and enthusiastic. Elisha is a fellow northerner and has set up a whole host of new dance and fitness classes for Club members of all ages (there’s a timetable and description of each class on The Club’s website – I’m tempted to give the Metafit a try!)

Anyway, Mini Movers was fun! We began by stretching to warm up (reaching for the stars and bending to touch our toes) and then we went on to do little dance steps (marching, waving our arms in the air). This was all done to children’s songs that we all know and love.

Drum & maraca fun

The musical instruments then made an appearance! Darcie chose the drum and had a whale of a time banging along to the music. She also had a go with the tambourine and maracas.

Exploring different instruments

Exploring different instruments

We then played ‘follow the leader’ where we had to copy one child’s dance moves. Darcie was second to have a go and loved having everyone copy her. This was all well and good until everyone figured out Darcie’s talent for spinning in endless circles!

All in all we both enjoyed ourselves and it’s a fun and gentle way to introduce toddlers to dance & music. The Mini Movers class is held in the crèche (the only issue we had was that Darcie found some of the toys a tad distracting but what 22 month old wouldn’t?!)

If I can't see them they definitely can't see me!!

If I can’t see them they definitely can’t see me!!

The class is free for crèche users and 15Dhs for anyone who is just attending the class. Unfortunately this is only available for Club members.

Kx

Making New Friends In A Foreign Land

So, first things first……making brand new friends is not easy!! We are very lucky that having lived in Abu Dhabi for a while now we have a great circle of friends, a complete mix from all walks of life. But I can remember arriving here and thinking I would never make friends, that it was just an impossible task. When we lived at home we were always meeting new people – we met people through friends of friends, through work etc….in AD I wasn’t working and didn’t know anyone to begin with.

Friends in London - Supporting at the London Marathon!

Friends in London – Supporting at the London Marathon!

 

Friends in London - At Eamonn & Lara's wedding

Friends in London – Eamonn & Lara’s wedding

 

Friends in London - Kaela's Christening

Friends in London – Kaela’s Christening

 

So how to begin making friends in Abu Dhabi? I initially found a ‘bumps’ group on http://www.abudhabiwoman.com and I began by attending that every Wednesday. Some of us were new to AD, some had lived here for a while before falling pregnant. Most of us were new to the pregnancy & baby game. Once the babies were all eventually born we carried on our Wednesday coffee dates and compared stories of lack of sleep, feeding issues etc etc. Slowly the Wednesday meet ups dwindled out as some women went back to work, some left AD altogether, some just didn’t have the time to continue attending. I am still in contact with a lot of the women from that first year in AD. I don’t see all of them regularly but I did make some life long friends in that group and our children have grown up together.

Kaela at one of many Wednesday morning coffees

Kaela at one of many Wednesday morning coffees

 

Kaela dressed at a cow for Halloween with our bumps & babies group

Kaela dressed at a cow for Halloween with our bumps & babies group

 

Kaela and I one Wednesday morning

Kaela and I one Wednesday morning

 

From there it became the same as making friends at home – I met friends of friends, I met Kieran’s colleagues and their families, I met people through various classes the girls attend.   The best piece of advice we were given upon arriving in AD was to accept every invitation we were given. Yes, you meet people that you don’t have much in common with but it also gives you the opportunity to meet people you do have things in common with and who you’ll try to see again.   We miss our family and friends back in the UK but you find that your expat friends become an extended family. No-one has their own family on their doorstep so we turn to each other for support. Everyone has been the newbie in town and most expats are more than willing to help a newcomer out.   We are lucky enough to live in a home away from home and have friends that will stay with us for life, wherever we are in the world.

Girls a Night Out

Girls a Night Out

 

My birthday 2012

My birthday 2012

 

Amanda's birthday 2014

Amanda’s birthday 2014

 

Kx

Two Little Girls Growing Up In The Desert

Having a goggles day!

Having a goggles day!

My First Post! I’m not entirely sure what this blog is going to be about……but first things first, Kaela & Darcie are two very lucky little girls growing up in the beautiful Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

They were both born here so they don’t really know any different but I do have days when I have to pinch myself that this is actually their life. I think it’s pretty cool that in their passports under ‘place of birth’ it says Abu Dhabi and that they both have Arabic birth certificates giving their years of birth as 1432 and 1433.

We live on Saadiyat Island which is just beautiful (Saadiyat Island recently received the ‘Middle East’s Leading Beach Destination’ award at the World Travel Awards Middle East 2014)

So this is us and this is home (for the time being!)