Tag Archives: Dubai Mommy blogger

Have a birthday party at OliOli® – what’s new and how it works | New workshops included in the party packages.

Birthday parties can be overwhelming but one of the most enjoyable places to have a birthday party is OliOli® for children and their families especially if you are looking for a bit of educational fun.  The venue takes away the stress of parenting, and with the galleries, the there is gallery for all children – it’s even hard for my children to choose a favourite gallery.  Not only is it enjoyable for the children but also for the parents – most importantly they serve excellent coffee at OliOli® which is a clear winning formula for me.


OliOli® have now launched new creative themed workshops and unique party favors as of of the ‘Awesome Party Experience.’  My children were privileged enough to attend an Oli Oli party with a Slime Factory workshop was included as part of the celebrations and it was a total hit with all the children who then took the slime home.  This is such a lovely bonding experience for parents and children who may not want to mess up their own homes – OliOli® is willing to take it on for you.

Birthday Packages

There are three packages to choose from.

The Awesome Party– Providing two hours of play and a choice of three galleries.

The Awesome & Then Some Party– Bringing children two and a half hours of fun and a choice of four galleries.

The Awesomest Birthday Ever– Allowing children to enjoy three hours of pure excitement across all galleries.

OliOli® also provides a feast of healthy and organic party food for kids and a dedicated party facilitator to ensure everything goes to plan. The new party favours are available from AED 15 per child giving children an awesome and stimulating play experience!


To make the birthday extra awesome, parents can also add a 30-minute workshop to the package and choose from unique and creative themes that include;

Slime Factory– Make the birthday extra messy, gooey, and slimey as kids get to make and play with their own slime.


Epic Superheroes– Kids can become heroes for the day as they create and make their own capes and masks to keep forever.

Crazy Catapults– 3… 2… 1.. LAUNCH! Kids can use real slingshots to launch fuzzy projectiles in an attempt to knock their opponents’ structures down.

Robo-Jousting– A Robot Jousting Battle where the last robot standing wins! Kids control their robots with an iPad and try to pop their opponents’ balloons all while protecting their own.

All workshops are priced at AED 35 per child* and will add a special touch to the birthday party experience.


The Awesome Party

AED 130 per child Sunday – Wednesday

AED 150 per child Thursday – Saturday and Public Holidays

The Awesome & Then Some Party

AED 160 per child Sunday – Wednesday

AED 180 per child Thursday – Saturday and Public Holidays

The Awesomest Birthday Ever

AED 190 per child Sunday – Wednesday

AED 210 per child Thursday – Saturday and Public Holidays

All birthday packages are available to book at http://www.olioli.ae/birthdays/

*Workshops are dependent on age


Fatherhood | James Bignell | A professional family photographer with 17 years experience talks to us about his craft and how he tries to capture that ‘magical moment’

James Bignell, is a professional family photographer based in the UK, and comes to Dubai several times a year to take family portraits for his growing list of clients.  I thought to feature James in our Fatherhood section, as he has been our family portrait photographer for the last 7 years since Luca was 18 months old, and we have done several more shoots since then. James’ photographs are natural and capture the children’s expressions beautifully  – some photographs are posed and others tell a story.  Looking back at photos of Luca, Sofia and Lorenzo, it is such a lovely investment to have these family shoots, and we have just completed a set for Leonardo too.  As a keen photographer myself, I have never liked studio shoots much, and prefer James’ style where the children are given more freedom to express themselves in his work.  The children are comfortable with him, and he is extremely patient which is a gift when doing family photography.

James Bignell

James has been a professional photographer since the mid 1980s having started out his career as a still life photographer working for a big advertising agency in Soho, London.  For the past 17 years he has specialised in photographing people and his favourite work is especially with family.  He still continues to do commercial headshots and teaches digital photography in the UK.

James is married to Victoria, who is a writer and they too have 4 children.  His eldest daughter, Dixie is a fine figure skater and studying musical theatre at college.  His eldest son, Ike, is a keen footballer player and represents his county, Kent, and also been recently inviting by Premiership Champions, Leicester City to trial with them.

Often, many people don’t understand the value of professional photographers.  When it comes to taking photos of children and families, many people don’t realize there is an art to it.  People assume it is just the camera that does the work.  Tell us more.

Understanding the camera inside out is essential but is only a very small part of the job. It’s so complex on so many levels. You have to understand how to light a person in different lighting conditions. Be aware of textures, colors, composition and most importantly engaging with different personalities.   I’ve always spent time in galleries, studying art, working on my creative eye. You get into a zone when your working where your total concentration is only on what is in front of you.

You are always trying to create that magical moment but it can’t be forced, DH Lawrence once said ‘sometimes you have to let the book write itself ‘ You have to go with the flow and make the most of every situation you find yourself in. Fortunately there are no magic buttons so it will always be a skill; I’m using 30 years of life and work experience to create an image. Then there’s the complex software we use nowadays to further enhance our images. That is another skill in itself. 

You come out to Dubai once or twice a year; can you tell parties who are interested how to organize a shoot with you?  Can you walk us through the process from start to finish?

It’s so easy, all they have to do is email me on james@jamesbignell.co.uk I keep a list of clients who want me to work for them and as soon as I know my Dubai dates I email them back with the days I’m available.  It works on a first come first served basis. So the earlier they book they can pick the best day and time for them. Once a shoot is complete I either visit them for a screening if we both have time or I post the images to a secure server online for them to choose, I offer full creative support so they get the best creative solutions for their homes. The process can take time but I resulting images and products are well worth it. 

You do most of your printing in the UK (which I appreciate), what other ways can you preserved these photos?  Do you make albums?

I print in the UK and sometimes in Dubai but that is depending on how urgent the job is and how large the print run is.

I use a company called Queensberry Albums based in New Zealand who make the best handmade albums in the world. They are precious family keepsakes and I can only imagine how special they will become in the years to come. It’s a shame nowadays so many people have images on their computers and often they get lost or they do nothing with them. I think it’s wonderful to have beautiful artistic images on your walls and around the home. They bring such a lovely family feeling to a home. I work closely with a framer in Dubai and also ship out acrylics and canvases. Anything is possible, 

Most people are also afraid of pricing of professional photographers, and without giving away too much, can you just give us an idea what you charge for your time?

To do a shoot properly, with all the postproduction work, the editing, image preparation and screenings. I have to set aside around 16 hours. Plus all the time helping clients choose and the admin work. So if someone is genuinely interested in quality work I would expect them to appreciate that I’m a professional and with my experience they should pay a reasonable fee for my time. My loyal returning clients understand this. I find that most people appreciate hard work and quality.  So depending on the exchange rate around AED1000 – 1500  per shoot.

What are your new dates in Dubai in March?

I’m hoping to come out again before it starts to get too hot to shoot so in the next couple of weeks. 

How do you balance work and the kids?

I try and spend as much time with the children as I can, I really miss them when I’m away working but try to never miss a football match or an ice skating show. My youngest son loves golf and I take him out at least once a week to play.  I’m always up very early so try and get as much production done then so we have time as a family in the evening.

You have an interesting family scenario where your children are home-schooled.  What are the benefits and the challenges?

 Only 2 are home schooled now but it’s given us the opportunity to allow them some sense of freedom they might not have had otherwise. They are all good kids and work hard. The biggest challenge has to be feeding them every day and having to be there for them at all times. They have plenty of home schooled friends and their childhoods have been happy one’s.

Tell us your favorite part about coming to Dubai?

I love seeing my old clients and how their children have grown, it’s so lovely to meet new additions to their families and catch up with what everyone is doing. I love leaving a cold English winter and getting some summer sun and seeing how Dubai has changed and developed. It’s a remarkable country and I have huge respect for what the Emiraties have achieved.  I’m also a big fan of Lebanese cuisine and there are so many great places to eat.

 For more information go to Jamesbignell.co.uk or email James at james@jamesbignell.co.uk

The Milkman has arrived in the UAE | Ordering Koita Milk Online to lighten your grocery load | Use your Seashellsonthepalm discount code to get 15% off

Offer: Seashellsonthepalm readers can receive a discount of 15% on a one-time purchase of AED500 or less and deliveries within the UAE are free.  Offer is valid for 30 days. Quote: SEA15p

Seashellsonthepalm has had a long working relationship with Koita because as a family we believe that Koita is trying to do something good.  It is an organically grown Dubai business although the key component to their successful enterprise, the cows,  live in Italy, a country with decades if not hundreds of years of experience in dairy farming.  I have always felt it important to educate families about certain choices, and to get the right information out there.

Online Delivery – new launch

Milk is one of the heaviest and bulkiest items on my grocery shopping list. With a family of 6, I will buy on average between 4 – 6 1L packs a week.  The milk is usually used for cereal, teas, cappuccinos, mash potato, pancakes etc.  Koita now delivers a wide range of milk making it easier for the weekly grocery shopping in terms of volume and weight.  The new online service will deliver cases of 12x 1L or 24x 200 ml from Lactose Free (non-organic), Skim Milk (organic) to Full Fat Milk(organic), as well as providing non-dairy solutions like Non-GMO Soy Milk (non-ogranic).  For more information about their free delivery service check out the link.  Koita Delivers.

Organic – what does it mean?

Organic milk means no added hormones, antibiotics, pesticides or preservatives. This means a lot to me as a mum to know my children are not being exposed to unnecessary toxins in their developing bodies.  I know it is always not possible to control what my children eat but I have an 80/20 approach to it all, and if I can remove certain chemicals from their daily intake I will certainly try.  Koita cows live in northern Italy and are fed on grass grown in volcanic soil.  The Koita Organic Milk range includes full fat, low fat, skim milk and for the occasional treat chocolate milk.  We usually buy the low fat or skim milk which are family favourites.  The organic chocolate milk we might keep in the fridge for the occasional ‘treat day’  – it makes a quick hot chocolate on a chilly Dubai day or you can freeze them in lolly containers to turn them into organic chocolate ice-creams on a warm summer’s day.

Lactose Free  – New launch

Due to popular demand because of a high number of lactose intolerant people from the Middle East, Koita has now created the first lactose free milk in the market that is free from added hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and preservatives, which is still produced in Italy.  The milk is created by adding a natural enzyme lactase to the milk to break down the lactose milk sugar into more easily digestible sugars, enabling people who are lactose-intolerant the ability take milk into their diet.  The Lactose Free milk is not organic but remains free of unnecessary chemicals and toxins, but cannot be declared organic only due to the feed of the cows.

Non-Dairy Soy Milk – New launch

Soy lattes and cappacinnos have always been popular, and for those who prefer not to have dairy in their diet can use the Koita Soy Milk which is an ideal substitute.  The milk is not organic but the soy has been created from non-GMO soy.  Non-GMO means non-genetically modified organisms that have been created in a laboratory using genetic modifications/engineering techniques.  Scientists, and many other groups including consumer groups have cited many health and environmental risks to consume foods containing GMOs.

For more information or to make your first online delivery go to Koita.com 

And don’t forget! Offer: Seashellsonthepalm readers can receive a discount of 15% on a one-time purchase of AED500 or less and deliveries within the UAE are free.  Offer is valid for 30 days. Quote: SEA15p

The Residence Maldives | Spa by Clarins

The SPA by Clarins is exclusive to The Residence Maldives.  It is the first and only Spa by Clarins in the Maldives and offers an array of holistic treatments, pampering massages and hair services.

The spa was a 5 minute walk from our room, located on the quiet side of the island out on its own pier. All the treatment rooms have sea-facing views. The therapists are experienced and professional, and often from Thailand or Indonesia – best countries for massages in my opinion.  It was our one hour escape from the children, and that made it feel even more like a sanctuary.

It was a soothing 50-minute massage, in a tranquil couples room with a priceless view.  My husband and I tried to stay awake during the massage to savour every moment but the soothing body rub lulled us both off at some point to sleep.  A lovely variety of oils to relax or to boost energy – we must have chosen the sleepy kind.  We woke up refreshed and ready to deal with the 4 children. The massage was so revitalising that we sneaked in on another day   when the children had an hour or so at the kids club after a 4am start for fishing.

We would love to have extended our time at the spa to 90 minutes to enjoy the views longer and try other treatments but duty called.  The Maldives isn’t a place I would normally recommend a massage.  Often, they are overpriced but The Residence Maldives charges just over USD120 for a 50-minute full body massage which makes it more reasonable than most five-star hotels in Dubai.  It is worth booking it upon landing to massage away all journey stress to start the holiday a little more relaxed.

For more on dining options for the family click here

For more on the hotel click here.

For more information visit www.cenizaro.com/theresidence/maldives-fm