Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Posh Brunch At Mina A'Salam


As you can see, this was a brunch full of indulgence in beautiful surroundings! The Mina A'Salam hotel is right on the beach in Dubai that really delivers on luxury and service. Brunch begins around midday with tables set right on the decks overlooking the ocean and you can stay for as long as you like. You can also eat as much as you want from the five-star international food stations dotted around the decks with everything from fish & chips to sushi to margaritas and pints. It's heaven!  If you get the chance to visit Dubai, I highly recommend booking ahead for this amazing brunch, you won't regret it!

Monday, 25 February 2013

Mulberry Love

Mulberry bags are a staple luxury item in London...I see them everywhere and have really come to love and covet them. They are so chic and look so well-made, the only drawback is the steep pricetag. I am especially loving the new collection of handbags above and had to share a few of my favourites. The Cecily in that lovely peach colour is beyond and that Cecily tote would be the perfect everyday bag. Hopefully one day I'll have one but until then I can just covet them on my blog!

[Images via Mulberry]

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Dubai Desert Safari

I can't believe we were in Dubai on Sunday...this has been such a busy week! I must say Dubai surpassed any expectations I's a little surreal and very impressive. Reminds me of a mix of LA, Vegas all mixed up with Islamic culture. We had such a wonderful time and loved staying with our great hosts, Matt and Kathy, who showed us a great time from the very first day when we did this Desert Safari. Our red eye flight landed early in the morning and by 3 p.m. we were heading out in the desert with our guide in an SUV. Our cousin John was also in town with our uncle Ken so he came with us too, which worked out so well...crazy to be able to have a mini family reunion half way around the world!

We drove about 20 minutes outside of Emirates Hills where Matt and Kathy live (almost like Beverly Hills!) and then we stopped off at the entrance to the designated desert driving zone to take some of the air out of the tires. We soon found out this was so the driver could take turns and drive crazily over the sand dunes...I think I might have gotten minor whiplash! Our first stop on the tour was to check out the camels and learn a bit about falcons. They had one flying around and taught us about its hunting habits...I was most impressed with the beautiful view in the background of the rolling sand dunes and blue sky. This trip made me realise how much I miss the sun and good weather! After the falcon stop, we started our fast, bumpy drive through the desert. Just picture 100 SUVs driving fast through sand dunes with passengers squealing at every turn...Dylan (Matt and Kathy's son) was screaming with fear/delight the whole time. As the sun set, we stopped off to see the last rays of the day go down, which was really beautiful.

Our final destination was the desert camp where we had a lovely dinner spread and local entertainment. The setting was beautifully decorated with ornate rugs, pillows and couches, artwork and fancy lighting. Surprisingly, we were able to have a few beers with dinner (you're normally only allowed to serve alcohol in Dubai if it's connected to a hotel, so this must have been some type of loophole). There was also a shisha (hookah) loung area which we of course had to try, along with the henna tattoo area (I got a little flower on my wrist). The finale was a belly dancer who danced for a few songs before people started heading back out to their SUVs. We were absolutely knackered on the drive home since we had such a long day, but this experience was so worth it.

I'll share more photos soon from the rest of our trip including the Burj Khalifa, our swanky hotel brunch and our trip to the mosque in Abu Dhabi. More to come!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Jetsetting: Dubai

Tomorrow we're off to Dubai! I'm so excited to see what this trip holds. Unlike a lot of our trips, I feel like I don't have much background on Dubai so am not entirely sure what to expect. I think it will be fabulous, modern and thrilling (and definitely warmer than London!) but I will just have to see it for myself. Jim's brother and sister-in-law live there with their children, so we're really looking forward to seeing their lives in action. Our agenda includes a desert safari complete with camels, boozy brunch at one of the big hotels, touring the city (and maybe the beach if it's hot enough), visiting the Burj Khalifa (tallest building in the world) and a day trip to Abu Dhabi. So basically lots of adventure and culture. Come back for a peek at the photos next week!

[Image via Peace and Awe]

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Valentine's Weekend

This past weekend was one of indulgence and romance. We decided to celebrate Valentine's Day a little early since we'll be in Dubai for the actual day this week. The loving weekend started off on Friday night when I arrived home to a beautiful bouquet of flowers from Jim along with delicious red wine already poured and Miles Davis playing in the background. He knows the way to my heart! On Saturday we had breakfast at Gail's on the Kings Road in Chelsea (my favourite bakery in London) and feasted on sugary good morning buns, rich cappucinos and an extra pain au chocolat. In the afternoon we shopped around Chelsea and then I made a quick stop at Roccocco Chocolates, a famous chocolatier in London, to get Jim some decadent truffles.

We'd made reservations at La Poulet au Pot, a restaurant highly recommended by Gwyneth Paltrow on her GOOP London guide and it definitely lived up to the hype. Situated on a corner in Pimlico near Chelsea, the atmosphere is so cosy and authentic, and everyone who works there is French. To start, we ordered the French onion soup and a salad of arugula, mushrooms and fromage (both of which were amazing) and then moved on to the main course - steak and frites for Jim and coque au vin for me. We topped off the meal with a huge, creamy creme brûlée. All in all it was such a lovely evening with my Valentine. Celebrations continued this morning with some homemade raspberry pancakes, and although I can't say they looked as good as the photo above (nor were they cut in heart shapes), they were absolutely scrumptious.

Hope you all have an incredibly romantic Valentine's Day! xo

Thursday, 7 February 2013

English Lessons Continued

We've now been here for a year and a half, so I think we're due for another round of Britishisms. I keep picking up new things every week and I feel a strong need to share them with you...they're too good!
  1. The word keen is used all the time and it's one you just don't hear in the States that much. It means 'are you up for it' but in a more concise way. For example, 'Are you keen on going to that movie?' or 'I'm not really that keen on her.' 
  2. Chuffed. This one took a while to understand. It means I'm so pleased with myself as in after you've won an award. The best part is that people will say 'chuffed to bits' and that means you're extremely pleased. 
  3. A few months ago, a coworker used the word kerfuffle without laughing. He was absolutely serious. In case you're not familiar with the term, it means commotion or fuss. Just stop making such a kerfuffle!
  4. Bum or bum cheeks instead of butt. This one never gets old.
  5. If someone's being a bit short or rude with you, you'll often hear the term 'stroppy'. For example, you could say 'my client sent a really stroppy email' or 'she's being a bit stroppy today.' It's a good alternative to rude that I've adopted.
  6. If something's just begun, British people will often speak about a situation as being in 'early days.' I hear it all the time, it's kind of like we're waiting to see what's going to happen. I haven't heard this one in the States too often.
  7. Have you gotten your flu jab yet? No? Right, that's because we call it a shot. I laughed the first time I heard it because it sounds a bit silly. Don't think I can really get behind this one.
  8. Sometimes people will say they 'simply can't be bothered'. This is very common and I think it's a British thing more than anywhere else. It's taken a while to understand as someone might flat out say this or it can be assumed that someone just can't be bothered. It just means they're being lazy and can't be asked to do something (like get out of bed on the weekend, go out on a cold night, you name it). 
  9. If someone's good looking or hot, you will always hear Brits say 'fit', as in 'that girl is fit, mate'. If she's really hot, you could call her 'well fit'. Love this one. 
  10. The term bespoke is very overused. It means custom-made, unique and one-of-a-kind, which is something I think people here are very drawn towards. You see the word tossed around a lot with clothes, paper goods and the like.

[Image via Pinterest]

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Currently Craving: Black, Yellow and Gold

Black, Gold and Yellow

Clockwise: Asos feather clutch / Gap printed canvas loafers / Essie Good as Gold nail polish / J. Crew Tippi sweater / Kate Spade iPhone case / Rebecca Minkoff Mini Mac handbag

I've been having a little bit of fun over on Polyvore putting together collages of the clothes and accessories I'm currently craving or loving. I got this Asos feathered clutch late last year and love how beautiful and dainty it goes really well with white / cream outfits and black. The Gap loafers would be perfect for work and are pretty inexpensive, so definitely on my 'want' list. That swanky nailpolish is on my nails right now and I adore it. It's almost matte and is super easy to apply yourself (no need for a mani!). I love canary yellow although I don't have that many pieces, so this yellow sweater would be a perfect addition. Whenever I get my new iPhone 5, I want a pretty cover like this Kate Spade polka dot number. And my ultimate crave at the moment is this Rebecca Minkoff purse. It looks like the perfect size and can be worn over the shoulder or cross body, love! Anything else I should add to my list?

[Image via Polyvore]

Friday, 1 February 2013

Lemon Yogurt Cake

I'm starting to feel like the only things I actually bake are loaf that as it may, they're darn good. When it was snowing here a few weeks ago and Jim's mom and brother were still in town, I felt like making something sweet for their last day. I went through my Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, naturally, and chose Lemon Yogurt Cake. Surprisingly, there's no butter even though it tastes absolutely decadent. The great thing is you can have it for breakfast, as an afternoon snack or for dessert (I recommend pairing it with a scoop of ice cream and a handful of raspberries).

Here's what you'll need:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool. For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.

[Images via A Bountiful Kitchen]

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