Tag Archives: Mummy blogger London

Disney World | Orlando, Florida | Tips and Hints on the best way to tackle one of the largest theme parks in the world

The Magic of Disney | Planning Disney this year?

Disney is probably on every parent’s agenda at some point in the first 18 years of their children’s life. Usually, between 3 – 15 years old would be the peak period when every family undertakes a trip, and at every stage of the children’s life the family will enjoy Disney in a completely different way.

Ever since I was little I had a thing for rollercoasters, the faster the better.  I had only been to Disneyland LA once when I was 10 years old, and that trip has been ingrained into childhood memory forever as one of the best holidays. It was my first time on Space Mountain –  back then it was so innovative to have a rollercoaster experience in the dark. So when I was invited by the Disney Team back in January to explore Disney World in Florida, I didn’t know how I would feel as an adult – I thought it might be best for children and probably be an anti-climax as an adult.  I was totally wrong.  For those of you who don’t have children yet, do go now!

For those who have been to Disney will understand how difficult it is to capture the essence of Disney in words.  Most of us won’t remember the details but we remember the emotional aspect of the experience. Disney’s goal has always been to be the best storytellers in the world.  I can see how and why they remain at the top of their game as Disney Imagineers for generations have brain-stormed to bring every story to life through touch, sound and visual effects resulting in emotionally connecting with park visitors. There is an element of ‘magic’ in it.  By walking through the park, you will see rides and go through experiences, and still many years after the death of Walt Disney his parks still remain at the frontier of new experiences.  The latest one being Pandora: The Land of the Avatars. Their new simulation ride, Avatar: The Flight of Passage, is a must, and I cannot describe the sensation of flying a banshee.  Before  the ride, I was warned people cried after as it was such an emotional experience.  I witnessed one or two guests in tears.  Needless to say, I returned and used my very last Fast Pass + token to ride Flight of Passage again.

Disney World | Orlando

Disney World is made up 4 parks; Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, EPCOT and Hollywood Studios, and two water parks.  There are also  over 20 hotels & resorts to choose from.  By 2020, Disney World, to celebrate its 50th birthday would have expanded with even more attractions and hotels for guests to choose from including Toy Story Land and a Star Wars Hotel.

Children & Organisation

One thing I took away from my week at Disney and from experiencing all four parks is that there will be a great deal of logistics involved when booking your holiday. I am a mother who would prefer to ‘wing it’ normally on arrival and to be spontaneous BUT travelling to Disney with young children will take some thought, planning and consideration as hotel accommodations and restaurants are booked months in advance.  With the huge volumes of guests visiting Disney each year everything is booked in advance with restaurant bookings requiring 3-months booking prior to your trip especially for Disney signature restaurants. For mums and dads planning a trip, I would recommend doing some research online and to consult travel agents on how to tackle the parks.  Ideally, if possible, I would also recommend staying at a Disney hotel to enjoy the benefits of Disney properties especially the the Disney Hour.

Here is a schedule to start organising your trip.

#6months – 1 year in advance

Start looking at the seasons and when you might like to go.  Think about the 27 resorts you might like to stay at.

#6 months in advance

Book your rooms as soon as possible especially for resorts like the Grand Floridian and Four Seasons to guarantee adjoining rooms, concierge state rooms  or the villas.

Book your 16- hour flights via Emirates Airlines through Emirates Holidays to guarantee the right days as there is currently only one flight per day, and to ensure Economy or Business Class seats.

Book your VIPGuides.  See more below.

#3 months in advance

Organise your restaurant reservations at the top and most sought after Disney restaurants. The top restaurants include:

Tiffins Restaurant in the Animal Kingdom, Be our Guests as you dine at the Beast’s Castle, California Grill at the Disney Contemporary Resort, The Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios, and my favourite 1900 Park Fair at the Grand Floridian where you have breakfast with your Disney’s favourite characters.

#30- 60 days in advance

Organise your My Disney FastPass +.  Hollywood Studios has a high demand for FastPass so organise which rides you might like there in advance.   There are higher chances of getting Magic Kingdom passes on the day when you have used up all your fast passes.

#1 month in advance

Book also your Magical Express transportation.

#1 week in advance

It’s time to get excited and to get packing.  Pack comfortable shoes (I cannot stress this enough as you will be walking a lot), sunscreen, hats, swimsuits, goggles, comfortable clothes, and for my family there will also be some healthy organic snacks.  There is a dress code in Disney’s signature restaurants (no shorts, flip flops) so do pack shirts /polo t-shirts for boys and a casual summer dress for the girls.

Top 10 rides for children 8 years and over

Top 10 rides for children 7 years and under

Consider VIP Guides

We hope to take our 4 children to various Disneys around the world at least 3 or 4 times during their childhood.  As time is precious in Disney, we will recommend booking at least for half a day a VIP Guide.  You can think of them as Disney gurus or high ranking Disney conceierges who make the time spent at the parks extremely efficient including transportation. They are a little pricey but totally worth the investment.  They will cost approximately USD1,500 for 7 hours for up to 10 adults and children including infants.  The guide will be able to plan your wish list allowing to skip queues, book restaurants in advance of your arrival (again, do give the guides as many weeks notice as possible as everything is fully booked months ahead).

Book 6 months in advance as there are only 30 full-time guides so they do get booked up much in advance.  They are all very professional with decades of experience working in the park.


If you are coming from the Middle East, the most popular hotels chosen by Middle Eastern guests would include the following

#1. Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (Deluxe & Deluxe Villa Resort)

Disney’s Grand Floridian resembles colonial hotels such as the Raffles Hotel in Singapore with its impressive white buildings and red roof tops nestled next to the Seven Seas Lagoon. The property design is inspired by the Victorian era, and the property is furnished with genuine antiques and artefacts collected from around the world. The property has 867 rooms but it doesn’t feel so vast as the rooms are located between 6 separate buildings, with two shared outdoor pools.  The hotel has baby sitting and childcare options available upon request.  The most popular rooms would be their private villas and adjoining rooms, and it is important to book this 6-months in advance of your stay. It has 7 restaurants of which 1900 Park Fair is one of their signature restaurant and families can have breakfast with Disney characters, but like everything at Disney it is worth booking this 3-months in advance of your stay.

#2. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House ( Deluxe & Deluxe Villa Resort

We stayed at the property, and it was pretty magical to wake up in the morning to see a family of giraffes walking past your window.  There are over 30 species of African wildlife and you can spot zebras, gazelles and flamingoes amongst them.  Do ask for for view of the safari park as it is not always guaranteed.  There is also the Simba Kids Clubhouse for children aged 3 – 12 years.

#3. Disney’s Contemporary Resort Review (Deluxe Resort)

This hotels is at it sounds – a modern take on a Disney resort.  It is a contemporary building giving guests a different feel to more traditional Disney hotels.  It one of the few resorts that has direct access to the Magic Kingdom via the monorail making accessibility very easy.  The resort has two pools and one has a 17-foot slide.  Don’t forget to book in advance the California Grill, a Disney signature restaurant at the top of the hotel with beautiful views of Magic Kingdom.

#4. Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort.

It is the only hotel in Central Florida to receive the coveted AAA Five Diamond Award.  There is a complimentary kids club, and have an adult pool, family pool, splash zone, lazy river and a water slide. Kids under 5 will eat for free.

Tips for families with children 7 years and under

#Don’t stress and don’t cram. Disney is not a cheap experience and understandably many families try to ensure they schedule as much in as they can.  However, be mindful of the fact that if you are travelling with young children, you won’t be able to cover much of the park as it spans 40 square miles. Be realistic with the number of rides you wish to cover in a day, and have plenty of breaks for snacks and let the children experience other activities like Cinderella’s Castle and make sure each day is a Happily Ever After for everyone.  The children won’t realise they missed a single ride.

#Bring a water bottle to fill up because purchasing bottled water at every kiosk will quickly start adding up.

#If you stay at a Disney resort, do make use of the Magic Hour which opens one-hour for Disney residents before the general public arrive.

#Do check if there are any closed attractions prior to your trip to avoid disappointment as there are always a few rides closed for refurbishment and safety checks.

#Ensure the children are well-fed before the firework displays in the various parks.  Disney’s Magic Kingdom Happily Ever After fireworks begins at 8.55pm and lasts for 18 minutes so it is worth getting there early to find a fabulous spot on the grounds near the Cinderella’s Castle.

#Do purchase a Disney Autograph book (one for the whole family), to collect Mickey’s and the whole cast’s autographs.  They will be available usually at the hotel gift shop.

#Download the Disney App which will tell you about the waiting times, shows and locations of various activities

#Do bring a stroller – the kids will be exhausted, and it will be tiring trying to carry them around when they want a quick snooze.

#It is also lovely to get out of the parks for one day by visiting Disney Springs, a lovely retail therapy day for the family.  Visit the Lego store, Sephora, Anthropologie and have lunch at Paddlefish.

#If you have time do consider a three-night cruise to the Bahamas on Disney Dream.  Click here to find out more.


Emirates Airlines flies once a day from Dubai to Orlando – 16 hours.

The team at Emirates Holidays will also be able to help you plan the trip as many of the team themselves have experienced Disney World. They can arrange hotels, flights and much more and be able to guide you on the best time of the year to visit.


To find out more about the Disney Cruise

To find out more visit www.disneyworld.go.com

10-minutes with Hacker’s Senior Interior Designer Leigh-Ann Steele | How to upgrade your kitchen on a budget

We are currently living most of this summer without a kitchen, and it has not been easy with young children, and thank goodness the team at Hacker and Roseville have tried to make it as painless as possible but I am hoping that when school starts, it will be finally done. 

At some point, we will all face wear and tear from heavy usage of our family kitchens and some will need a temporary or permanent facelift. It is always so satisfying when renovations are finally complete no matter the scale of the project but it is also a big commitment especially if you are on a tight budget, short of time or have young children and not everyone is up for dramatic changes.  

So if you need ideas to make worthwhile cosmetic changes to the kitchen without ripping the whole room out, I sat down with Leigh-Ann Steele, Senior Designer, from Hacker Dubai to ask her advice on affordable tips on making effective changes.

 Change the worktops

There are lots of different materials that you can use for worktops. They each have pros and cons and varying price ranges.

Laminate- The most cost effective material and quite readily available locally. There are some really nice new laminates available that have textures & funky colours. They aren’t as cold to the touch as marble granite or quartz material. They are easily installed by a skilled kitchen fitter too. The drawback is that they never look like a natural stone or quartz material.

Marble & granite – These are natural materials and come in many colours with unusual textures and veining which are different in each slab. This is the beauty of using natural stone. You can visit a stone yard and choose the exact slab for fabrication. The fabricator can do varied thicknesses by mitring the edge to make it appear that the stone is thicker than the slabs actually is. The can also do under mount sink cut-outs with polished edges all round. If you have an under mount sink with drainer grooves cut into the stone you give the illusion of more counter space as there is no need for a large sit on sink with an attached drainer.

Quartz– this looks and feels like a stone worktop but it’s a manmade material. There are many different manufacturers of quarts material. They are not all made of the same quality though. Be sure to go with a reputable supplier of the stone and a really good fabricator who cuts worktops regularly, or you may be disappointed! A well-produced quarts will not stain as it is completely non porous. Even if you were to leave turmeric on it overnight, as long as you scrub hard enough it will come out. Be sure not to use anything acidic though as this could harm the surface. It comes in lots of different colours that you wouldn’t find in natural stone slabs. As well as solid colours. Solid white is very popular at the moment as is anything in more neutral colours- cool greys, taupe & light brown. It also comes in a volcano finish which is a roughened texture to see and touch but still very practical in a kitchen. Suede finishes are also popular as they have a matt appearance   The fabricators of quartz material can do all of the things listed above with regard to the sink cut-outs and overall worktop thickness.

Wooden worktops– These are not that popular in the UAE as they are a natural material which is susceptible to climate changes. If the AC is switched off in the warmer months they can begin to warp. Water and heat damage are the most common problems. If you were to leave a glass with a rim on the surface overnight you would more than most likely see a permanent ring on the top as it will have penetrated the surface. They are not suitable for wet sink areas for the same reason. A hot plate or bowl will also mark the tops quite easily. The tops will need to be oiled every few months to keep them in tip top condition.  So although beautiful the maintenance and day to day use can be tiresome. 

Change the splashbacks

Natural stone or quartz- if you are replacing your worktops you may want to consider having the splashbacks done in the same material. The beauty of a single piece of stone is that you won’t have grimy grout joints appear over time in cooking and wet areas. The cost is going to be substantially more than a mid-range tile would cost.

Glass- you can have a glass back painted splash back. Again you will need to find a really good company as a template needs to be done. Cut-outs for plugs etc.. once this is done the glass needs to be toughened for safety reasons. After this it is painted and has a film applied. The supplier will then come and install the glass onto your wall with a silicone adhesive. The drawback of this is that if the glass is even a few millimetres out it cannot be re cut. Once the panel is toughened that’s it. You can’t change it or cut it anymore. Be sure to check that the paint work is perfect before they install. Again as it is behind the glass there is nothing you can do to touch up badly finished areas or rectify bubbles etc…  

Tiles- there are so many trendy new tile shapes and finishes available from Hexagonal marble to slithers of natural stone. Of course the cost range on these can vary greatly. If you didn’t want to break the bank there are options which are reasonably priced and can easily be installed by a contactor. The downside is of ours the grout lines. These may get dirty over time in your cooking and sink areas especially. Make sure the contractor who installs uses a waterproof grout.

Change the flooring

Some properties in Dubai are looking a little tired especially the flooring- there is a great product called LVT which is perfect for use in a kitchen. It has the appearance of a very realistic wooden floor. It is only 6mm thick so can be applied directly over your existing tiles. The surface is waterproof making it the ideal choice for a kitchen area and running it through the rest of the villa or apartment. This will also give the illusion of the space being a lot larger with eh same finish. The installation is fast and clean. No need to lift the existing flooring.

A resin or concrete floor can be applied over your existing tiles in a number of colours. This is a very thin layer in a multitude of colours giving you a more industrial look throughout. Again it is quick and won’t require you to lift the existing tiles which is a very messy job!

 Change the lighting

Bad lighting is one of the most common issues in a kitchen. It can make everything look dull and unappealing.  Changing the ceiling from those awful tiles to a freshly painted flush plasterer board finish could be just the answer. You can get warm coloured lighting which can be movable ( I call them rock and roll lights). You can angle the lights to highlight the features. For instance if you have a funky piece of art or furniture in your kitchen. Make it a feature. Under cabinet lights make a huge difference as they bring a different light source into the mix. You can switch them separately for mood lighting when the kitchen isn’t being used to cook or do anything that requires full task lighting. 

Re-decoration & internals

Clean freshly painted walls in neutral colours are always good. If you wanted to do something a little different there are lots of paint effects offered by Jotun that can transform a wall into a feature wall and really make it stand out. From a texture brick finish to something that appears as a hessian look and feel. These won’t break the bank.

If you use wall paper in a kitchen make sure that it is suitable for areas with a high moisture content. Try not to put these anywhere near the coking or washing up stations. Wall paper and water or  steam don’t mix.

You can change your knobs or handles on the kitchen doors. Just be sure that you line up the holes. There are handles available that have a flat back plate and would cover any existing holes from with a single knob or handle with 2 screw holes.

Clever storage solutions inside the cabinets-re organise your cabinets internally with baskets and additional shelves- plan in advance what you’re going to store in each cabinet and crate spaces for items to fit in.  

Replace the sink  and tap. By replacing an old dull sink and tap you can make the entire space feel clean and more user friendly.

Calin a steam cleaning company to give your existing cabinets a good once over. They will come back to life and feel fresh. Even if they aren’t brand new! They can also steam clean the appliances. Your oven will look & feel brand new!

The Hacker Showroom in Dubai is located on the Sheikh Zayed Road between The Change Initiative and Al Zahra Hospital. 

For more information go to www.hacker.ae

PLEASE VOTE FOR US | Seashellsonthepalm.com has been nominated by Stylist Arabia in their Parenting Category for their Social Media Awards


The Viel family are so thrilled to have been nominated by Stylist Arabia’s special panel of Judges in the Parenting Social Media Star of the Year category.

We would be thrilled if you could just take some time out to vote for our family.  I know that you have supported us, and it would mean a lot to us to have your vote.  Voting closes on 6th May 2016.


Click on the link

Click ‘Back’ to find the Parenting Category and vote.


Thank you and we love you all.  God bless.

Love, Edwina, Maurizio, Luca, Sofia, Lorenzo and Leonardo xxx

Curiosity Lab Dubai | Self-admitted science geek, former jet engineer for Rolls Royce, creates the most amazing teaching science laboratory in our home.

My kids have just had the best afternoon filled with novelty, science experiments and wonder. Moheb Nabeel is a genius and that is no exaggeration.  He is the creator of Curiosity Lab, but he is formerly a jet engine engineer who worked for Rolls Royce in the UK.  He got his dream job and then he came back to Dubai where he grew up having attended Cambridge High School & Dubai College before heading overseas for University.  His other dream was to teach kids about science; he is seriously over qualified but the self-admitted geek says he realised teaching was a passion, and he started last year to pursue it.  The KHDA have also asked him to speak at several workshops to inspire teachers classrooms at affordable costs.   He is so enthusiastic about science that he spent 6 months working out how he would break down science into modules for children so that they would love it and enjoy it.  Most of all, Moheb  has a true passion and a thirst of knowledge, and his enthusiam rubs off on the children.

Moheb didn’t shy away from introducing to the children (7 years, 5 years and 3 years), to the physics concept of Force (naturally my sons’ both shouted out Star Wars), and he introduced Sir Isaac Newton to them.  I was surprised that my children understood from his explainations what the concept of Force was as this was not introduced to me until my later years of school.

If I had to give my children a dream teacher to teach science, Moheb is it.  He ticks all the boxes, and for younger children there is no paper based work.

We have decided to bring Moheb home to teach our kids once a week.  He charges AED125 per child (5 years and up), and would ask for a group of 4 – 6 children to be in the class.

For more details contact: Moheb Nabeel at Curiosity Lab

Facebook page or call 050 407 9007

Book soon as he has very little time spare because of his overwhelming popularity with parents and kids.