The weekend closest to 2 December is time for National Day celebrations in Dubai, when residents celebrate the joining together of the seven emirates to form the modern day United Arab Emirates. There are fireworks (cue Rex, the world’s most neurotic dog, to have a meltdown), car rallies and plenty of traditional arabic dancing. And there’s often at least one day of Public holidays too – even more reason to celebrate. For the expat community, it’s also time to start opening your advent calendar (one Dairy Milk calendar and two of the Lindt variety in our house this year), time to put up your Christmas tree (tick) and time to make the annual pilgrimage to the Rugby Sevens – a weekend of rugby, fancy dress and beer … not necessarily in that order….
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
I haven’t succumbed to the Christmas tree yet, or a tin of Quality Street – but a Christmas List has appeared on the fridge, the occasional festive tune is sneaking into the playlist and there’s a steady stream of clementines in the fruit bowl….
There was a time when we used to have a Halloween party every year. There were always plenty of games – the ‘Mummy’ game being a particular favourite.
TOP TIP – Don’t go too ‘value’ on the loo roll or it rips just by looking at it and that’s no fun for anyone.
The Mummy game was always closely followed by the ‘Who Can Clear the Garden of the Most Shredded Loo Paper’ game ……
Saturday evening is the end of our weekend, here in Dubai. It’s usually a time for a final bit of family time before the new week starts – normally a dinner together (something like this Sausage and Puy Lentil Pot, which I can make earlier in the day, would fit the bill) and the hope that –
- packed lunches for the next day are already made – because there’s nothing worse for me than having it still to do after dinner
- everyone has finished their homework
- there’ll be no last minute, “OMG, I’ve forgotten to do ……” (fill in the blank as necessary)
- there will be a bottle of wine open in the fridge, because you know the rule – if there’s a bottle open, it’s OK to have a cheeky glass, even if it’s school the next day.
And with Saturday night dinner comes that weekly debate … and it’s a BIG ONE – who is going to fill the food flasks in the morning? Because the thing is, it’s one of THOSE mornings – one of those mornings when #1 and #2 teenage sons have swim training and for them, that means leaving the house at a time with a 4 in it….
These days it’s hard to find something that our whole family wants to watch together. The Great British Bake Off does the trick at the moment – Mel and Sue’s tongue in cheek comments, Mr Hollywood’s icy stare and Mary’s utter gorgeousness – and of course, each week there’s the ‘who do you think will be going home’ debate to be had. It’s always accompanied by a Thursday night takeaway (we watch it the day after it’s broadcast here and it’s also the start of our weekend in Dubai) plus some kind of ‘it’s the weekend’ cake … because it’s wrong to watch GBBO without a cake to hand. Come to think of it, maybe it’s the food that comes with it that makes GBBO so palatable to our teenage sons – whatever it takes to buy their attendance, I guess.
The cinema is an even bigger can of worms when it comes to keeping everyone happy….
Everyone in our family knows what they like for breakfast. That’s the way it is and it seems to work. But occasionally, I throw caution to the wind and throw in something new … And when #2 teenage son and Hella tell me that they could eat it everyday for the rest of their lives, my ears prick up. Especially because this one is super healthy AND it’s so easy they could make it themselves (hint, hint) AND it can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for a few days (hence avoiding any early morning preparation ugliness). What a breakfast coup.
There’s nothing new about Chia Puddings – the internet has been groaning under their weight for the last few years – but I am well and truly late to this sensational party….
It’s been a couple of years since we spent our summer holidays in rural France. It’s a world away from Dubai that’s for sure – fresh, green, cool, relaxed … simple pleasures. A perfect recipe for recharging the batteries. Although travelling to new places is exciting, there is something comforting about returning to familiar haunts and this year I realised that in the time since our last visit there were loads of things I’d temporarily forgotten about holidaying in France -…
#2 teenage son is convinced that his bedroom is the house dumping ground. Maybe it’s the six foot artificial Christmas tree in his wardrobe and the collection of camping gear that we have accumulated over 10 years – even though we’ve only ever been twice. It could be the two (enormous) memory boxes stashed in there – filled with mementoes that I treasure, but, to be honest, are of little interest to him. Then there’s the ‘fold down table’ which just doesn’t really work anywhere else in the house, but is too useful to get rid of. Oh and let’s not forget the two gigantic sombreros – don’t ask.
Maybe he has a point.
So, in an attempt to get him off my case and to help him to love his room a bit more, I decided that a coat of paint would be a good plan + a bit of a de-clutter.
When your children are little … and even when they’re medium sized, they seem to want to be wherever you are. Even if you have a reasonable sized house with plenty of rooms, they’ll be where you are – on top of you. But nobody tells you that with teenage years it’s all change and their bedroom becomes their place of choice – I guess because it’s where you’re not….
#1 teenage son – I’m now officially a classy guy, Mum.
Me – Oh really. Why’s that?
#1 teenage son – As of last week, I am now the proud owner of not one, but TWO belts – one casual and one smart. That, in my world, is the definition of a classy guy …
Wow – who knew it was that straight forward.
So, the occasion that called for a smart belt was the Year 11 School Prom – the social event of the year when you’re 16. At least I imagine it feels that way for the girls … An opportunity to wear THE dress, to do nails, to fancy up your hair and to rock the highest of high heels. And my gut tells me that the dressing up thing for most of the boys is an inconvenience, an annoyance, a right hassle but at least our 16 year old boys have reached an age where they accept that they’re going to have to do it anyway – even if it’s just to keep the girls happy. And the Mums….
Drum roll, drum roll….
‘This’, I declared, ‘is my new favourite dish’, as we all ate dinner together one evening.
Silence. And then contemplation.
‘Mine is that sausage and lentil thing‘ – #1 teenage son.
‘You know mine, Mum – mushroom soup AND you haven’t made it for ages’ – #2 teenage son.
‘Mine’s cheesy jacket potatoes but with tuna added’ – Hella.
‘For me, it’s always Corned Beef and Potato Pie with beetroot and chips’ – my lovely husband. Note to self – maybe the time has come to introduce the blog to this family favourite? What do you think?
Let’s be honest, my favourite dinner changes all the time – every time I cook something new that goes really well, in fact. Although having said that, my fondness for Crispy Duck Pancakes is a constant – you know, the DIY kind with the teeny tiny strips of cucumber + spring onions + hoisin sauce.
But anyway, back to the main event of today … this Tomato and Spinach Curry with hard boiled eggs. Apologies for the less than catchy name – it was a tricky one. ‘Egg curry’ sounds a bit yuck and leaving out any reference to the eggs wasn’t right either. I think we’ll just have to go with it – although all suggestions gratefully received … It’s adapted from a recipe by the New Zealand chef, Karen Martini, in her book, Cooking at Home – a Christmas gift from my lovely husband. He bought it at speed when we spent the festive season down under, so is pretty chuffed that it was a good choice….