Tag Archives: things to do in dubai

Creating Memories | Barefoot Dubai Photography Photoshoot – a shoot with Alex Jeffries

I love photography.  I just wish I had more time to capture every moment of my children’s life.  I really believe it is important to organise regular photoshoots to capture the moment, the age and the memory of the family during that period of time because every stage is different.  These days, most of our images ‘die’ on the iPhone – they are never printed, never placed into albums. It makes wonder what I would show my grandchildren and on what format.  Would I scroll through Facebook memories or my iCloud?  For me, I still prefer traditional photos albums because there is something so lovely about sitting around with the different generations of family laughing and reminiscing over old family photos.  It is one of my top priorities to get professional shoots done every so often to have a memories and keepsakes as the days and months rush past.

The world of social media has blasted into the world with many so-called photographers but very few truly have the skills and talent to call themselves professional.  Some clients may not see the difference between a good photographer or a great one but I do.  For me, one of the leading photographers in Dubai is Alex Jeffries, owner of Barefoot Dubai Photography, who captured moments with my family in such a unique way.

As well as beautiful photos, Barefoot Dubai Photography also offers a sleek service that is efficient and professional, and expectations are properly managed. Preparing your children for a photoshoot is tough enough and you need the photography team to deliver as children have also a limited concentration span, and won’t perform as we want.  Alex and his team were extremely patient with the children and he exceeded my expectations capturing some moments that I will always treasure as a mother and wife.

To read more about Alex Jeffries, click on the link.

To find out more or to book a photoshoot with Barefoot Photography www.barefootdubai.com

Intelligent Luxury | My visit to Greenheart Organic Farms

It’s hard to trust anyone with the title organic.  Organic is now big business, and everyone is getting into the game.

Organic and clean foods are also a source of medicine for the body.  Genuinely sick people rely on the right nutrients from organic foods as part of their healing process.  Big businesses are messing around with people’s lives by claiming to be organic when they are not, and consumers are buying without research and with too much trust.  Some of the biggest cons in the market include agave syrup which is just high corn fructose in a nice bottle and pink himalayan salt which adds no value to your plate just your monthly expenses.

It’s pretty confusing for consumers as the bad food list expands to include burnt toasts, or anything that contains refined sugar (that covers a wide list of products found in supermarkets) and barbecue meats that contribute to cancers.  There is also so much research out there that it can be exhausting to sieve through food trends.

I watched a fabulous show on Netflix titled Cooked with Michael Pollan, an important food writer.  In one of the episodes, one of the world’s leading experts said, eat anything you want.  Eat apple pie with ice-cream and expand on that list.  There is nothing wrong with eating all of it but on one condition, he said, that you make it all from scratch.  Such an easy philosophy and yet how many of us struggle on a daily basis to prepare the three meals a day without succumbing to the ease of using tin or jar food, or readily prepared meals.  I know it is not easy.  The trend of the world hasn’t left us mums enough time to cook. The typical family in the US spends less than 30 minutes preparing food and in Europe and India they are starting to follow the same trend.  Big industries want to prepare everything for you – it’s big money.

We need to fight big industries and starting going back to basics.  We don’t have a microwave at home.  Just get a saucepan to heat up your food.  It takes 5 minutes to heat up vs 30 seconds when you zap all nutrients away.

Greenheart Organic Farms

You can imagine my delight when I got an invitation from Elena Kinane, owner of Greenheart Organic Farms to visit her farm in the UAE.  It’s the real mccoy.  I was blown away by what I saw.  I wasn’t sure if I was standing in the UAE or a field in England.


One of the most important aspects of organic foods is the quality of the ground that it is grown in.  Sand is not nutritious.  Therefore, to make it so, quality compost is key, AKA ‘black gold’.  This compost has to be added for the crops to grow.  It takes 6-months to produce compost, and there are no shortcuts.

Elena keeps 800 goats and chickens on her farm  – the most healthy looking goats I have ever seen with shiny coats from all the organic produce they are fed on.  The cockerel had the most splendid display of colours like a painting from the 1800s having only eaten organic all his life too.  Their manure and leftover crops are prepared for composting and none of the animals are killed for food.  Most importantly, compost should not have any smell, and surprisingly there are farms around the world who do not know how to compost making their produce susceptible to E. coli.

The fields are manually prepared so no heavy machinery is used to plough the fields, and the compost is scattered in straight lines, and volcanic minerals are added to further enrich the soil.

No chemicals

Elena does not use any chemicals on her fields, and uses old farming methods to swot away white flies, and she organises her fields using certain crops to protect other crops.  For example, the smell of kale protects the tomatoes from certain insects.


Her fields are overflowing with kale, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, heirloom tomatoes, kohlrabi, swiss chard, basil, purple pak choy, rocket, lettuce, fennel, coriander and the list goes on.  Her pain staking efforts of manually shading each broccoli and cauliflower from the desert sun takes time.  Her specially designed papermache cooling systems for the greenhouses cost money and profits from her sale are reinvested into her farm.  There is so much hardwork and effort that goes behind the scenes for the production of an heirloom tomato.

Elena is really a champion at pioneering organic in the UAE.  It is no easy feat and she does it from a place of pure passion and love for her job.  A mother of two, a farmer, and a supplier leaving her little time for anything else.  Four Seasons Hotel and Freedom Pizza are some of her customers, and she has won multiple awards, as well as winning the respect of international chefs, Giorgio L’Ocattelli and Tom Aikens, who have both spent time on her farm.

I trust Elena.  I trust her brand Greenheart Organic Farms.  In this day and age, Greenheart Organic Farms is intelligent luxury.  Whilst, big business wants us to buy the designer clothes, handbags and plastic toys for our children, the luxuries in life will be clean food.

I truly believe in organic for the family especially my children.  It’s hardwork but I persevere.  Most of my monthly allowance goes into food. There are 84 meals in a month so it is expensive for a family of 6 and time consuming but for me it is worth it in this day and age to have health above everything else.  Every month, I learn that I don’t need to buy pesto in a jar or tomatoes in a can.  Just buy fresh and use a blender.

Social media has many downsides but there are also important benefits, and one of them is the exposure healthy food bloggers get from social media changing the way nations eat and in the last 2 – 3 years they have created a new landscape for healthy eating – I applaud them.  As consumers, we are also responsible for setting the tone for future generations to lead big industries and not let them lead us.

You can purchase Greenheart Organic Farm products from their website www.greenheartuae.com or visit their farmshop

Greenheart Organic Farm Store, The Light Building, Ground Floor, Shop 8, Arjan, Al Barsha 2, Dubai.

T : +9714 361 7010
M : +9714 (0)56 6407060
E : admin@greenheartuae.com

Newborn gift ideas

Parenting | The truth hurts | What children really want.

Over the summer, I cleaned out the children’s playroom and disgusted myself as we threw out 6 super large boxes of toys.  Before I could even move the toys back into the playroom, the children were happily playing with just one or two toys in an empty room.  They were much more energetic and creative in their play with an empty room – making me realise the old adage is true that less is more.

I was also inspired by the ‘tidy up’ expert Marie Kondo, best selling author around the world from Japan, that we should only keep things that ‘spark joy’.  

Too much choice

My children, I realised, were overwhelmed with the number of toys they had and often couldn’t figure out what they wanted.  Experts often say too much choice is exhausting, and I am beginning to see that.  Our generation, as parents, has to make so many choices on a daily basis, probably tenfold over our parents’ generation.  We have to decide, which pram, which monitor, which brand of cot, blanket, nappy, organic/non-organic, colours, style – it is a nightmare and we are adults.  Our children are experiencing the same exhaustion.

Children, ironically, have no choice but are wired to purchase things, and they are more vulnerable and more susceptible than us.  There are large companies who ensure that children have to purchase their products – they hire experts who pick the right shade of pink, fonts and designs to ensure that children are magnetised to their products, and they invest millions into this.  During our summer holidays in Europe, I was appalled at the children’s adverts on various children’s TV channels, and my children were begging for all these toys after every episode of Paw Patrol.  Thank goodness the UAE does not allow this.

We are also all so guilty as parents for purchasing toys just to see the pure joy on their face that lasts for about 2 hours.  That’s the truth.  It is more fun for the children to open the packaging to extract the toy then to actually play with it.

Toys are essential

Toys have always been a part of growing up, and I am not suggesting throwing them all out.  Enid Blyton’s Amelia Jane, and Disney’s Toy Story movies are evidence that they are essential, and part of growing up.  Children learn by mimicking adults in their own world using toys as props.  But what we choose to let into our homes as parents is also important.

The choice available today is overwhelming for children, and toys today are not necessarily designed with children’s interest at heart.  Most Disney’s costumes are made with poor quality materials ready for mass purchase at affordable prices.  We have plenty of those Princess dresses at home. #guilty

As parents, we purchase the toys for the children, and we sometimes all deep down hope these time replacements can entertain the children. Whilst the children will go off for hours to play by themselves (in theory), we can tick lists off our own agendas.  But that’s not really what children want.  They want us to play with them.  They want our time.  I have really decided less is more now.  Our children want experiences with us.

My eldest two children went for one of the best playdates with school friends.  This mother, I admire raises her children old school style.  Her children have few toys, no TV access except for family movie nights on a Thursday, and our children together had great fun creating ‘spy scenes’ and adventure in the house.  My children still rave about it being one of their best playdates to date.

As a family, we try to invest more time in the pool, the beach, the garden, and play traditional board games together.  The toys we choose are different these days.  My eldest son, age 7, prefers a game of chess, battleships and chess with my husband or me.  My  daughter wants us to build Lego friends together, and my third child  enjoys Peppa Pig’s version of Snakes and Ladders.  Those are often birthday gifts I give to other families as it is so lovely for the family to do these activities together.

As a mum, I have started to realise the importance of bringing back the old school style of parenting.  Time is really the most precious gift we can give our children – they won’t remember the toys we bought them but the games and fun they had with us.  I don’t always succeed in doing this because life gets busy, but I am really trying to protect my time and afternoons with the children as much as I can.

Calling up for a bit of help | Hello Chef! | Fresh ingredients with easy receipes delivered to your front door starting at AED35 a meal

It is now week 8 of the school term. Time has flown by with the logistics of 4 children, packed school calendars, homework and after school activities, and there are days when I run out of steam and we are only half way through the term.  My beginning of term resolutions are waning fast, and as much as I love cooking in the kitchen, I need inspiration by week 8.  It seems I am always in a supermarket or organic shops having run out of items for school lunch boxes and the children’s dinner.  Also, with 4 children, it has also become very expensive.

I decided to try out Hello Chef! for a week, to put a little zest and fun back into cooking for the family because there are days when I run out of headspace and my children are also bored by the usual receipes.  Often, I also find when I am finally inspired by my large volumes of cookbooks to try new receipes, my enthusiasm then goes unrewarded as my key ingredient is not available typically in supermarkets here, and it could be something as common as organic eggs or chicken even though re-stocking at supermarkets has improved dramatically over the last 8 years.  Hello Chef! has also saved me a week’s worth of painful supermarket shopping.

Hello Chef!

Hello Chef! is the creation of Olivia Manner, who is half Finnish and half French, and is herself a mum of two young children. She felt she had to give up her day job to find a new lifestyle that suited her family, and her passion was born.  Olivia has a university degree in Hospitality Management from Finland which has given her a strong foundation to support the concept, whilst her French mother has given her memories and passion of family dinners that she hopes to re-create in more homes in Dubai and the rest of the UAE.

How it works?

Olivia and her team create new recipes every week, you can go online and choose the size pack that suits your family on www.hellochef.me and your ingredients and easy recipe instructions are delivered to your front door for free.  Meals start at roughly AED35 a meal making it very economic too.

Who’s cooking now?

Most of the time I am rushing through dinner preparations having rushed around all afternoon covering children’s activities, and when we all get home I don’t always have the patience required to start cooking with children around 4.30pm.  With Hello Chef! everything is delivered to our home in packages of Day 1 – Day 5 which are all clearly labelled, it has saved me sufficient time and patience to ask my oldest two children to cook with me.  The truth is that my children love being in the kitchen cooking with me – my eldest boy tells me that is his favourite thing to do with me.  It makes me really happy to spend this time with them. The recipes are simple enough that the children can read it themselves; and my 7 and 5 year-old are happy peeling potatoes, preparing the salmon and trying new recipes that work.

One of the dishes delivered home was chicken and broccoli pasta, and broccoli being one of my 5 year-old’s worst nightmare I was a little nervous but I made sure that was a meal she alone prepared  it for her 3 brothers with a little help from me.  The difference was she was so proud that she cooked it that she ate it (without the broccoli, of course) but even if there were tiny florets floating around she would happily eat it.   I know if I had just laid out the already cooked meal in front of her at dinner time, she would have refused to eat any of it. She has since requested the dish again.

Leftovers can also be used for the children’s lunchbox at school the next day.

Dinners for friends

I rarely host dinner parties these days.  After a 6am start everyday, I am often too tired to prepare dinner for anyone.  We might go out but rarely host.  With Hello Chef! I am probably more willing to invite just 2 or 3 friends round for a casual dinner London style.  Imagine coming home, and finding all your ingredients on your doorstep.  That is indeed becoming a luxury in my view.


I have always believed that despite the privileged help we receive at home, it is always important that children see their parents cooking. Also, I want them to understand the importance of preparing dishes from scratch, not out of jars and bottles.  I know that is not always possible with our busy schedules so we cook and freeze a lot in batches to save time.  Hello Chef! helps us to prepare fresh food that day.

I know my family loved it, and we will definitely be using Hello Chef! again especially for our super busy weeks.

For more information please visit www.hellochef.me