Tag Archives: Expat mums in Abu Dhabi

The truth about overbusyness and parenting.

It hit me when author Rob Parsons discussed the countdown clock in our children’s lives.  When our children are born we have those 18 years  – that ‘s the equivalent of 6,570 days.  When your child is 10 years old, you have 2,920 days left.  In Rob’s words, ‘no amount of money, power, or prestige can increase that number.’  My eldest is 10.  I want to utilise those 2,920 days I have left wisely.

It makes you rethink life’s busyness.  Life always creates that busyness.  It’s no one’s fault but our own.  It’s hard to say no.

This is not to say, don’t work or don’t have a life. I think it is just a half-time call to reassess priorities. I truly thought that when my child was 6 months-old, he needed me most.  Yes, it’s true, he needed me.  I thought that need would dissipate with time as he potty-trained and learnt to feed himself.  However, I was truly mistaken.

Most mothers with children around age 5 and above would agree,  our children need us even more in a different way.  That surprised me. They need us around to discuss their day or random thoughts that fly through their minds, play boardgames, guide them with their homework, to support them when they have a bad day at school, or just be there with them, and the list goes on.  My children note how many nights I have out in a week, and they tell me off.

I have always tried to speak with parents with greater parenting experience; often I find it most interesting to observe or speak with parents with children ten years older than my own.  It’s an eye-opener to see the path they have experienced to get an idea of what is to come. Think about it, when you meet an 18-year old you know much of what they might experience, and everyone has some gift of wisdom to share. I, therefore, try to ask those parents who have wonderful relationships with their adult children what made the biggest impact of that relationship, what worked, what didn’t.  I have amalgamated a wealth of parenting knowledge that they have shared taking some advice that works for my family and me.

However, one thing is most common with all their answers.  They said, enjoy it all now.  Don’t be filled with regrets about not spending enough time with the children.  I feel that already.  Therefore, it’s important that we adapt to the new season our children are in.  I have reached that new season.

Five Languages of Love

Gary Chapman’s Five Languages of Love should be a must read – I highly recommend it. Even if time is limited, it is important to understand how our children need to feel loved. Sounds simple right?  This book was initially written for couples but it works with children, family and friends too.  Chapman identifies five main love languages: acts of services, touch, words of affirmation, gifts, and time.

For myself, I feel loved through acts of service – when my husband remembers to make me an espresso for example or helps me with the children’s reading without me asking.  For me talking is useless, it’s actions that matters.  For my husband, words of affirmation and time matter.  Each of us is different. This is similar with our children too.  This is a great way to arm ourselves to be an effective parent even if busyness is all around us.

Just the other day, I took time to discuss with my children individually over lunch about what makes them feel loved.  My eldest tells me it’s cuddles and tickles.  He feels loved when I tickle him until he can’t breath with laughter, and it’s the time he spends with me one on one.  Simple tasks like taking him grocery shopping makes him happy.

My third child loves words of affirmation and gifts so praises and presents makes a difference to his week.  All totally different children.

It’s amazing what children reveal when we ask them the right questions.  Armed with this knowledge, I try to fill up their love tanks so they feel loved.  I realised there was little point loving them how I thought love should look.  Almost none of my children mentioned acts of service.  Obviously, they do appreciate the things I do for them but that wasn’t what filled up their love tanks.  Some of those extra tasks I made myself busy with don’t matter anymore, and I ought to spend time with them in ways that fulfill them, not me.

Preparing for a new season

Therefore, this September, I am trying to rework my days.  I want to make sure that I am not exhausted by the time I pick them up like doing four meetings in a row. I need to ensure that my love tank is full by the time I see them and that may involve giving myself a break for an hour before pick up.  I realise it is also about preparing myself before picking them up at school so I am in the best mental state before seeing them.  I take note of what tasks I do that leave me feeling exhausted.  I now try to cut those out.  I am trying to protect my time to ensure I can handle motherhood in the best way.  I don’t always succeed each day, but I wake up trying again and again to make it work.

3pm – 8pm are the most intense hours everyday after school as most mums understand. I need to rework my patience as I read a ‘yellow’ colour band Biff & Chip book for the fourth time with 4th child and I am trying not to shout out in boredom wishing I was doing anything else but this, and this often exacerbated when I am low on energy and overcommitted. It’s important to not let myself get in that state. When I am feeling frustrated doing mundaning parenting tasks, I also try to remember the number of days left.


Rob Parsons eloquently put it about a life of illusions when it comes to parenting and over committing ourselves.  There are three main illusions.

1. ‘I am doing this for them’ – the number of times I have justified that to myself.  The truth is our children would prefer less things and more of us.  As one child psychologists said, ‘ We are so busy giving our kids what we didn’t have, we don’t have time to give them what we did have.’

2. We tell ourselves that life will not always be so busy.  I do tell myself that this is just a busy season, and that this too shall pass.  I will wait to make time to do more with the children.  It’s not a busy period, it’s life.

3. The door of childhood will be open forever is an illusion. I am guilty when I say ‘later’ when the kids are begging me to swim or to take them out on a bike ride. My son is 10-years old, and many mums tell me that in a few years, he won’t want bedtime stories, to hang out as much, and to just hang out.  I have to savor every moment.  Even if I fall asleep reading them their bedtime story, I want to keep trying whilst they will have me.  I have read Peppa Pig continuously for 8 years already.  I am longing to turn each page, as it is mind numbingly dull but I know there will come a day when my youngest won’t want to share that moment anymore.

We need to remember a useful proverb, ‘If we do this, we can’t do that.’  Therefore, parenting also requires self-care.  Like any athlete, its about getting into the right mind set, health, and protecting the energy levels to ensure that we are able to perform to the best of our abilities.  If that also means cancelling a coffee morning, lunch or a meeting, it’s worth reassessing.

With that said, I am off to book a massage before pick up today.  It was a long weekend with the children.  I am trying to be my best self at pick up time. Yes, I do work too but we all need to find time to recharge.

Household Cleaning | Non-toxic receipes

Household cleaning products have so much more ‘stuff’ in them that I am afraid to use them. Some culprit chemicals include formaldehyde found in our shampoos, nail polishes, eye lash glues. Formaldehyde can cause cancer after chronic, long-term exposure, and cause many other symptomatic issues. Others include optical brighteners found in laundry detergents – it is a dye that absorbs UV light to make your whites whites and your clothes brighter by removing yellow tones.   Our grandmothers used lemon and vinegar, and that was good enough.  We have in the last couple of decades been outsourcing so much of our homes to make our cleaning products and food (processed food) that we now believe that is the truth.  I have tried to take back some of that control over my household which I recognise is the only place that I have authority over as a mother.  Over time I have swopped out the most harsh chemicals starting in my kitchen to soften and reduce the amount of toxic cleaning products that my children are exposed to.

I also use DoTerra Essential Oils also to support the lemon and vinegar first to add scents but also most have antibacterial properties like Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Lavender, Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca) and many more.  I do run free workshops so do email me if you want to learn more.  info@seashellsonthepalm.com

#1 All Purpose Cleaning Receipe (note: I don’t use vinegar or lemon on marble)


¼ cup white vinegar

1 ¾ cups water

30 drops doTERRA essential oils

Recommended essential oil combinations:

15 drops each of Lavender and Lemon

10 drops each of Eucalyptus, Peppermint, and Wild Orange

30 drops doTERRA On Guard®

15 drops each of Grapefruit and doTERRA On Guard


Add all ingredients to 16-ounce spray bottle.

Shake thoroughly.

#2 Dishwashing Liquid Receipe


2 cups unscented castile soap

20 drops Lime oil

8 drops Lemon oil

6 drops Citrus Bliss®


Fill a large, clean bottle with castle soap
Note: Dilute according to instructions if using a concentrate

Add essential oils

To use, shake and add 1–2 tablespoons to dish water

#3 Hand Soaps


2 tablespoons unscented liquid castile soap

1 tablespoon Fractionated Coconut Oil

10 drops favorite essential oil


Note: I used five drops of Peppermint oil and five drops of Melaleuca oil


Pour castile soap and Fractionated Coconut Oil into bottle.

Add essential oils.

Slowly add water into bottle making sure to leave room for the foaming pump.

Add lid, shake, and you are good to go!

When ready to use, just pump one to two times into hands and wash with warm water.

Butterscotch Baby | Redesigning my children’s rooms with one of my favourite interior designers, Leigh-Ann Steele | Her handmade bespoke linens are just stunning | We speak to Leigh-Ann herself about her business and how she created a collection for each of my children

Photography by Alex Jeffries Photography Group.

Interior designer, Leigh-Ann Steele, launches her own bespoke high quality handmade linen collection, Butterscotch Baby, for babies and children in Dubai.  Leigh-Ann moved here to Dubai in 2010 from London where she worked as an interior designer for many years.  Although her move to the land of sunshine had its initial challenges, she still describes it as her best one yet.  She worked for Hacker Kitchens as a Senior Designer before leaving after 6-years with them to launch her own design consultancy collaborating with other designers and to focus on Butterscotch Baby, a family-based business in South Africa.  Leigh-Ann has kindly created a bespoke linen collection for all my children, and it is just utterly divine with top quality linens with the highest thread count   She tells us more about Butterscotch Baby and how she designed each concept for the children.  It was perfect timing as we are transitioning as a family out of the baby phase now, and wanted something a little more sophisticated for the children.  However, for expectant mums, Leigh-Ann can also create the most magical nursery too.

#Can you describe how the whole concept of Butterscotch Baby Linens was created?

Butterscotch is a bespoke baby and kids linen brand. It was started by my family in South Africa 8 years ago. It was still a relatively new concept which has steadily grown worldwide.

It isn’t always possible to find the exact design that you have created in your mind’s eye and that’s where our designers come in to guide and support. Alternatively, some of our clients don’t really know what they want but they do know that they want it to be unique!

I have worked in the interior design industry for many years. As such I always admired the beautiful linens that were being created by my Cousin and Aunt in their very successful business based in Johannesburg.

I had mentioned to countless friends that it would be a great idea to bring this product to the UAE…. And then one day it dawned on me that this was going to be my next career. And so Butterscotch finally arrived in the UAE. It has taken a lot of time and hard work but worth every minute!

#What makes the linens so unique and where are they actually manufactured?

All our products are manufactured at our studio in Johannesburg. This ensures that each item is meticulously made, and quality checked before being shipped.

We have just completed a project for a very creative mum, who wanted her own hand drawn images and her little girls name in her individual handwriting on her linen. It came out beautifully and is totally unique to her.

We only use 100% cotton and 300 thread percale linen. It washes very well and lasts a long time.

We can do any fabric combination from a range of 100s of different designs in our range. If we don’t have it, we will find it. We also collaborate with a very talented artist from time to time. We can create a bespoke fabric design which we print to order if the client wanted something completely different.

With the UAE being such a melting pot. We have clients from all four corners of the globe. This means different furniture and linen sizes. We can create practically anything in terms of the design, size and specification.

Some people don’t really know what they want at the outset, so we take them through the design process and create really beautiful linens for them. From clean and contemporary mono chrome to whimsical and bright.

#For mums wanting to order a linen collection, what is the full process of ordering a bespoke collection?

It is a very easy process.

#1 Contact

Send us an email, call us or request a call back.

#2 Design

If you know exactly what you would like we can supply a quote immediately.

If not, we are happy for one of our designers to visit you at home to look at fabric swatches and put together a combination and range if items to suit the nursery or kids room.

#3 Order

When the order is agreed with the client, we will do a fabric swatch mood board and sketch to confirm that everything is correct.  We then send it off to our Studio in South Africa to go into production.

#4  Production & Shipping

Once it has been produced and gone through a rigorous quality check we ship it to Dubai.

 #5 Delivery

It is then delivered directly to you either in person by your designer or via courier.

It really is a simple process!

#How long, on average, will it take to receive the linens in Dubai once the collection has been designed?

Our lead times vary between 4-8 weeks depending on the order and time of year. This may seem a long time compared to walking into a retail outlet and buying off the shelf, but it is important to note that this is a fully bespoke item and made to order on an individual basis. You won’t find your bespoken linen in a shop.

We find that most of our expectant mums start planning the nursery very early on. In some instances, we get the call just after their 12-week scan and big announcement to friends and family. So, this leaves more than enough time to plan and deliver their beautiful linen.

They can also add items along the way. We keep a record of all our designs for each client so in a years’ time if they wanted to add to the scheme we can easily do that with very little fuss.

#Does Butter Scotch only cater for bespoke collections or do you hold a small collection of items here?

Our current offering is completely bespoke and made to order for each client. We are however in the process of creating individual ranges for a few Baby boutiques and retail outlets. These will still have their own unique theme, but you won’t be able to personalise them with things like your baby’s name or a quote etc…

We are very excited about these collaborations as there are lots of clients looking for a last-minute gift or mums closer to their due date. This is an excellent option for occasions like baby showers that are still unique and beautifully made.

#Apart from linens, what other items can people choose? I understand that you have a new collection of sleep pods too?

Our sleep pods are amazing and come in a range of suggested colour combinations. We can also personalise them in all our fabrics to match the nursery design. They come in 2 sizes. Small- birth to 6 months and large- 6 to 18 months.

Our Elly feeding pillow is so popular and can also be customised accordingly.

We do a range of bath time accessories including towels, face cloths and mini bathrobes, as well as, changing matts with removable covers and nappy bags.

We can easily incorporate soft furnishings to compliment the theme. Lampshades, bunting and curtains tend to be the most popular to bring it all together.

We also do beautiful mosquito nets in any length depending on the room ceiling height.

#For my daughter and son Leonardo who share a room, how did you blend their colours together so beautifully?

Their room was an absolute delight to plan. We used a blue and aqua colour palette for Leonardo. For Sofia we did the same blue & aqua and added pinks in the same fabric design to her linen.

Mixing the same pattern in alternative colours really brought the room design together, still being individual and brining out their personalities. It became apparent very early on that Sofia likes girly things but not everything needed to be pink!

#Sofia loves the drapes, such a clever concept. How do you suggest co-ordinating the styles and colours of drapes for children’s four poster beds?

We used a muslin voile for the curtain drops and added ties to the top of them in all of the fabrics used throughout the room. We also made them slightly longer to give a more luxurious feel to the way they hang. I’m really pleased with the way they turned out. We did them on all four corners so if she decides to hide away from her brothers for a few minutes this is her own special place!

#Luca and Lorenzo share a room, and love their nautical concept, how did you make each design personal to them?

For the boys you already had great furniture, so we just added to the nautical theme.  We used the same linen combination for the duvet covers and pillow cases. With red and blue embroidered details on the main pillow cases in different designs.  Each of your boys has their “favourite thing”. This in mind, we added planes to one and cars to the other. We did a small embroidery on the back of one of each of their scatter cushions to differentiate. We called it their secret! Each scatter cushion was done in a different combination, allowing them to be reversed to show a different pattern every day.

 #Are you able to cater to a wide range of budgets?

Yes, we can cater to a range of budgets. Within our fabric ranges we have different price points which does affect the final cost.

My opinion on the design process is that we should explore every option to begin with and create something fabulous. If we need to economise we will. There are various ways of achieving the same look and feel on a lower budget with different fabrics and combinations. It is important to get the design right first. We don’t exclude ideas because of budget constraints at the outset.

In terms of cost- We are on par with most good quality off the shelf products at the higher end of the market. However, it is important to remember that our product is fully bespoke and made to order. Each piece is handmade & quality checked before leaving the production stage. Our clients appreciate that our linens wash well and stand the test of time. If you look at this over the lifespan of your linen it will more than make up for the difference if any.

#Are you able to also assist in the design of the entire nursery or children’s room as a professional interior designer as well as designing bespoke linens?

We offer a room design service which we charge a set cost for depending on the scope of works. This will include introductions to other suppliers for furniture and accessories. The client can then decide how much or how little they would like to invest in the project.

We introduce contractors to undertake decoration work and carpentry if required. As well as a full room design and build option. This means we will work with you from start to finish to achieve the final product. POA.

Our introductory offer includes a in home consultation with one of our designers. If the client decides to purchase linen we will do a free room design including paint colours, furniture, and accessories. They will receive a mood board and buying details for each item and can implement it all themselves.

For more information email hello@butterscotch.ae or call +971 50 2813577


Fatherhood | Alex Jeffries, owner of Barefoot Dubai Photography, is one of the leading family photographers in Dubai

Photos: Alex Jeffries

I don’t treat the words lightly when I say someone is a great photographer.  In the new age of digital, there are many photographers but not many great ones.  Alex Jeffries is certainly one of the great ones who is technically brilliant at his work and is also a genius in post-production too.  Very rarely do you find a photographer who is good at both.  A man of incredible detail and focus, and his work speaks for itself.  Alex, from Harrogate in Yorkshire has lived in Dubai for 15-years.  He lives with his beautiful wife, Kelly, and their 4- year old daughter Aya, and most importantly with Molly, the cat.  Alex first came to Dubai because of his love for the region when his father worked with the Oman Police with Sultan Qaboos many years ago. Together Kelly and Alex run three businesses: two Photography and one Public Relations. To see Alex’s work click here.

How did you get into photography and when did you turn professional?

I studied Graphic Design at University but from the darkroom days at school I’d always had an interest and a passion for photography. Having a designer’s eye gives you an advantage: you understand typography, composition and know design and layout. I also studied Art History which gives a great understanding of the golden rectangle and how the masters constructed their paintings.

I started shooting stock with istock it was great to be part of the Getty Images family. I stuck with it and my skills grew. They keep you abreast of the global creative image needs and standards, a great grounding.

I also teach. There’s a great reward that comes from it, that you can miss whilst doing other paid work. I’ve taught Adobe Photoshop for many years, firstly in the UK and then here in Dubai at GPP, the local photography education provider and elsewhere in Dubai.

With teaching Adobe software for so many years, I was also invited to become an Adobe partner. This partnership gives access to the latest design and imaging technologies before anyone else and direct contact with Adobe. The relationship and experience gives me and the team great retouching and colouring skill. Additionally I was also invited to be a Coloratti – a collection of the world’s top professional photographers recognised by X-rite who understand the importance and implementation of good colour management. It’s great to be involved with them.

I inherited a great work ethic from my father – I worked incredibly hard and my skills grew in all areas. I began to build the business and jobs started to flow in.

Back to 2017 and I have recently been awarded qualifications by the British Institute of Professional Photography – one of only two Photographers in the region that holds these. BIPP are internationally recognised and respected and its qualifications are a benchmark of excellence. Members must be qualified professionals and agree to be bound by their code of conduct. BIPP qualifications are among the most rigorous in the world, requiring hard work, determination, commitment and lots of creativity.

These days, being a professional photographer you need to wear many hats, it is no longer good enough to pick up a camera and take some good photos. You need to teach, you need to be skilled with colour management and retouching and have design and composition training and you have to be good with Social Media, Strategy and Marketing – it’s great fun.

Now, over ten years later, I run two successful photography businesses www.alexjeffriesphotographygroup.com – that specialises in Hotels, Hospitality and Interiors Photography and www.barefootdubai.com – family photography.

Can you tell us about Barefoot Dubai Photography?

Four years ago, when Kelly was pregnant with Aya, I was thrust into a wonderful world of families, babies, children, mums and dads. It was exciting, and because so many people knew I was a photographer they asked if I would do a maternity shoot, or a family shoot, or a newborn shoot. At that point I told people that we were a commercial photography company not a family one. But the requests kept coming, and so did the stories about family photographers in the city.

It seemed many people were unhappy with what they had seen or experienced, whether it was the quality, the pricing, what was delivered or the shoot packages. There didn’t seem to be much that they were pleased about and I heard so many negative stories.

Our pregnancy with Aya was not an easy one and many times we were told to prepare to lose her. With strength and prayers and an amazing doctor, our little angel Aya arrived at 8 months – her name fitted perfectly as it means “Sign from God’ or ‘Miracle’. Many late nights gave me time to think about this family photography problem that I kept hearing about, so around that time, ‘Barefoot Dubai – photography for family’ was born too.

I put a whole lot of work and investment into the launch and the web site. And all of this strategy and thinking was solely based on customer research and feedback. Consumers expect and demand high standards and they want transparency in pricing, packages and deliverables. So I looked at the whole project with a commercial eye. I wasn’t going to just set up a Facebook page and do a few shoots at the beach. It had to be done professionally and in the right way.

We were the very first family photography company to be awarded membership to the National Association of Professional Child Photographers, NAPCP. Others have now followed, but it was very important to me that people trusted our work, our qualifications.

I thought about the shoot packages – what people wanted and expected from a shoot. The images had to be professional, modern and the style needed to be less posed, more real. People told us that they were tired of being lured into a photographer’s studio with the offer of a cheap shoot, only to be told that their images are going to cost thousands of dirhams. Their images are effectively held to ransom until they pay outdated and ridiculously high prices for them.

We give all the images to clients, in high resolution for print and low resolution for social media, in different colours and styles, additionally all our costs are listed on our website, both of these aspects – we were the very first company in Dubai and the UAE to do this.

We haven’t paid to partner with any hospital, we haven’t rented a space in a mall. We have grown organically and successfully and now are a great photography provider in Dubai, giving families really what they want.

We’ve photographed multiple generations of families coming together, we’ve been invited to palaces in Al Ain and Abu Dhabi, photographed members of the royal family and now have numerous pages of testimonials on the website from happy customers.

Enquiries come in daily from the UAE and all over the world. We worked so hard to build a good reputation and I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved.

You also have Alex Jeffries Photography Group – can you tell us a little bit more about that? (so people don’t get the two confused)

Alex Jeffries Photography Group is our commercial company, we have made great progress in winning clients and building an impressive portfolio. We photograph hotels, resorts, interiors, corporate and food and beverage.

Our client list now includes Apple, Jumeirah and Meraas, owned by Dubai’s ruler – Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, most of the global law firms in DIFC including Herbert Smith Freehills, Clifford Chance and Linklaters, hotel groups including Radisson, Rotana, Jumeirah Group and Marriott.

Can you describe Barefoot Dubai Photography’s artistic style and what is your vision and emphasis to capture the essence of each family?

People want real, natural images, not heavily posed and photoshopped. It is often the shot between the shots that is the best one – if a photographer says ‘smile’, people tend to go rigid and stiff, but when they think the camera is off they relax and smile. These are the images that we like to capture.

Are your family shoots on average indoor or outdoors?

We offer both – no surprise that during Dubai’s fabulous Winters we spend a lot of time outdoors. We take families down to the iconic Burj Al Arab for fun beach sessions, or to one of the beautiful parks for the lush green background. When Summer comes we either head to the studio or to our clients’s homes for relaxed, laid-back sessions.

Do you also do photoshoots for newborns?

Absolutely, and I’m really proud of our amazing newborn shoots and the beautiful images that we capture. This was one of the shoots I had heard so many negative stories about: photographers that had never held a tiny baby before, conducting sessions in a garage, squishing babies into plant pots, even insisting that the parents could not be in the room. All wrong!

Taking a precious newborn baby that is just a few days old from the hands of a new mother is a very special privilege, not something to be taken lightly. It’s an amazing time and we were passionate to get this shoot package exactly right. We’ve photographed the tiniest premature babies, we’ve worked with many sets of twins, we’ve been to tiny studio apartments and the biggest palaces. It’s a magical and lovely shoot. I think we have designed it perfectly.

With our newborn session we go to our client’s home so that they can relax completely – no stress wrestling a new baby into a car and across the city with all the things that you need for changing and feeding. We take very natural, beautiful images, we don’t squish and push a new baby into poses that are uncomfortable.

We encourage parents to be present and to take part – babies need to cuddle mum and dad every few minutes. We take photos with parents too, and other relatives if they are there.

We also advise new parents how to soothe a new baby, how to hold them. You can practice swaddling, you can read all the books available, but until you have that newborn baby in your arms, only then can you really understand what they want and need.

Can you describe to us the process for a typical family organising a photoshoot with Barefoot Dubai Photography?

We’ve tried to make the process as simple and as streamlined as possible. A client’s first point of contact is usually our website which details all of our shoot packages and ways of working. They can send an enquiry through the ‘Contact Us’ page. which we respond to within a maximum of 48hrs.

At this point, I’m aware that issues high on peoples minds are:

#1 Is the photographer professional?

We explain that we are licensed, qualified and insured.

#2 Does the Photographer make great images?

We direct them towards our great portfolio to see examples of beautiful images, these are updated weekly.

#3 What are the costs?

We discuss the shoot package that they are interested in and direct them to the page on the website, they can clearly see one cost and all details, no need for confusion or a hundred emails back and forth.

#4 Is there any feedback from other clients / families?

We show them testimonials from our happy clients – we have many pages of great feedback on our website.

At this point people reserve an agreed date with a deposit or full payment, which is easily done through the website with Paypal or a credit card. We stay in touch as the shoot date approaches and are as flexible as we can be – we know that babies do not always arrive to a schedule!

What’s really lovely is that we see many clients as their lives change and their families grow: we might start with a maternity session, then meet their newborn, then have a 100 day session, then a first birthday cake smash.

For a family with a AED1,500 budget, can you tell us what they would get for that?

Our costs are ‘all-in’ costs. We have a number of packages on the website for 1,499 AED, one of our most popular is the Classic Barefoot session. This is an hour at the beach, park or desert, with 30-40 digital images included in a variety of styles: lovely vintage, vibrant colour and classic black and white.

Your wife Kelly works too, how do you both balance between work and time with your little girl?

As for any working parents, we co-ordinate and plan carefully. I’m present for many nursery pickups and drop-offs and the great benefit of running our own businesses is that we can be flexible and work the diary around commitments.

Aya and I often have sunset swims together and weekends are always planned well in advance. We live near the beach in Jumeirah and we spend a lot of time there and at the city’s gorgeous parks. Family time at the weekend is such a great time to relax and re-charge together.

We have our own little rituals that ground us in busy times: no one is allowed to leave the house without a hug and a kiss (this includes Nanny Grace and Molly the Cat!) and we have a special ‘kiss-cuddle-hug’ moment at bedtime. There’s not an evening that she sleeps without one of these from Dada.

Your favourite place to getaway from Dubai?

When I came back to work in the Middle East and Dubai, I visited Al Ain and grew a great fondness for the Emirate, as did Kelly. In those early days exploring, I shot many photographs of the old doors there and this became a coffee table photography book, published by Motivate.

Al Ain remains largely untouched and we usually visit every month. I enjoy nothing more than exploring a peaceful oasis with Aya in the winter months.

Your favourite piece of art?

I grew a great passion in my early days of Art history study for both the Impressionists and the Pop artists. I love Salvador Dali and visited his museum in Catalonia, I love the Gaudi architecture in Barcelona too. I’m also a big fan of Frank Lloyd Wright, his way of working can be seen everywhere today.

Your favourite art gallery in the world?

I’d have to say the Dali museum in Spain, although I’ve yet to visit Andy Warhol’s. It’s not an art gallery but the new Etihad Museum in Dubai is walking distance from our house and has some fascinating exhibits – we have been a few times and I urge everyone with a passion for the history of the UAE to head there.

Your favourite restaurant in Dubai?

I’m constantly shooting in the greatest 5 star hotels and restaurants in Dubai and Abu Dhabi so for my favourite restaurant I’d have to opt for a simple more down to earth restaurant. Ravi’s in Satwa makes great Pakistani street food, we’ve been going for so many years. All the staff know us, we know exactly what to order and it never changes.

What do you do on a weekly basis just to get some downtime?

I ride a motorbike and have a great group of friends who head out to ride very early every Friday morning, usually to Kalba through the mountains to the East coast. It’s a 5 hour trip, great to get some flow and blow away the cobwebs and see the guys.

Additionally I also get up at 5.30 every morning and swim for half an hour in our pool. It really clears my mind and sets me up for the day ahead.

Mums tend to struggle with buying gifts for their husbands, can you tell us your current top 3 presents on your wish list?

#Some Oppo headphones, the best you’ll ever hear

#The book – ‘How will you measure your life’ – Clay Christensen

#El Chapo – DVD Box set

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