Inside the Atlantis the Palm, Dubai

The first thing I always want to know when going to any hotel is, what is it like inside? I mean, what’s it REALLY like? Not the same old corporate images you see trotted out in every brochure, I want to see the ‘real’ inside. The one holidaymakers see. I want to see if the brochure images match up in any way to visitors’ images.
So this is me showing you the visitor view of Atlantis the Palm, Dubai!

It’s a pretty amazing hotel.
Sat right at the top of the iconic Palm Jumeirah Island, it has views over the Arabian Gulf and, I mean look at it! It looks pretty amazing!
We travelled to the hotel as a family with older kids. You know, the sort of kids who need to be entertained constantly if you want them to put their phone down and a kids club just isn’t going to cut it any more.

One of the reasons we chose Atlantis is because it has it’s own water park literally next door, which was a huge tick in the box for us. But it also has a beach, pools, activities to join in with and flexible dining.
AND it’s in a place in the world we’d never travelled to before.

Atlantis the Palm Dubai: The interior

So what can you expect when you visit the Atlantis?
The interior is lavish to say the least. A stunning blue and green glass sculpture by artist Chihuly dominates the lobby area, as it climbs from floor to ceiling in a mass of writhing, beautiful glass.
The rest of the hotel is beautifully decorated in an underwater ‘Atlantis’ theme, and at one end it houses a magnificent aquarium which dominates the whole of the wall – a giant water feature which marks the start of the Lost Chambers Aquarium, another free feature here at the hotel.
They really don’t do anything by halves here.

The rooms

Considering how lavish the hotel is, the rooms are surprisingly basic. They’re perfectly OK and comfortable, I’d just say they’re nothing special.
We stayed in the Imperial Club room with a window overlooking the front of the hotel and the sea beyond.

The pools

There are two pools – a sit round and chill out pool (Royal Pool) and an active, get up and join in pool (Zero Entry Pool). Obviously the kids loved the active pool and spent hours at the basket ball hoop, underwater with the GoPro, throwing a ball to each other (seriously, if I’d said ‘entertain yourselves by throwing a ball to to each other . . . ‘)

The best thing for me? There was always a great lounger to be had and plenty of shade. Which was vital when we were there as it was so hot (elbowing 50 degrees celsius) there was no going on the beach unless you wanted the soles of your feet resurfacing.

The water park

We visited the water park pretty much every day. A couple of hours here and there and everyone was happy. It is literally a 5 minute walk away. You can access it via the hotel or by walking along the beach front. And it’s FREE to anyone at the hotel.

The location

While it does look out on to the Arabian Gulf, there is an awful lot of building going on around the hotel so it does hamper the view somewhere.
This image below, however, was the lovely view from the beach front in one area – you can see the famous Burj Al Arab there in the distance.

However turn 90 degrees and the view changes to cranes and building sites, with that lovely cityscape in the background.
By the way, that mist is the heat, as while we were there it was touching 49 degrees Celsius!

So what else do you need to know?
We actually had a fabulous time here. If you’re looking for small and personal, this isn’t the hotel for you. It’s big and flashy and extravagant and aims to WOW.
It’s hellishly expensive BUT there are ways around that (more of that to follow). However it has to be said, it kept us happy for 10 nights and the kids didn’t moan once – and that’s some going for a teenager and a pre-teen!

Have you been? Let me know what you thought.

Posted in Family Holiday, Luxury Getaways, Travel | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

A week of blending and 5 simple smoothie recipes

The thing about smoothies is they are Worthy.
You get to throw everything into one container, press a button and voila; your five a day are pretty much taken care off before you’ve even combed your hair.

The other thing about smoothies is they can feel like a chore.
Heaven forbid you type in a search for smoothie recipes on Pinterest; you feel like a failure before you begin with raw vegan this and a list of ingredients longer than any Thai curry I’ve ever made.

Here’s the thing. I want my smoothies to be good for me and easy. Oh and I don’t want them to be a colour that makes people pull a face when you share your concoction on Twitter. “What the HECK is in that?” kind of thing.

So this week Breville charged me with road testing a bunch of smoothie recipes, using the Breville Blend Active Pro.
It’s a compact, easy to use blender that literally has one button to press and once your concoction is mixed you pop the lid on, slip it in the neoprene sleeve and go.
It also has the ability to grind your own nuts (oh for goodness sake stop laughing), but I buy my nuts and seeds ready ground so I didn’t use it.

Take a look at this super quick video to see what we threw into our concoctions!

So I tried out a lot of ingredients; berries, bananas, nuts, seeds, tropical fruit, spinach and kale. More on the kale later.
Some didn’t work out, although to be fair they were rare as you throw many fruits together and they work somehow. Some were such a disgusting colour it didn’t matter how good they tasted you couldn’t get past the idea of drinking sludge.
But some were wonderful and have stuck, so I’m sharing the recipes here.

5 Simple Smoothie Recipes

The Breakfast Smoothie

Ingredients 
1 small banana
1 handful of raspberries/blueberries/blackberries
2 dessertspoons natural yoghurt
2 tsps crunchy peanut butter
2 tsps chia seeds
1 cup skimmed milk

This is my absolute favourite. It’s really filling – the double protein hit of chia and peanut butter keeps you fuller for longer – and it looks super pretty. Obviously you shouldn’t judge your smoothies on the prettiness factor, but this one ticks all the boxes!
If you always keep a bag of frozen raspberries and blueberries in the freezer you’ll never run out. If the bananas were too big, I would also put half in a sandwich bag and throw it in the freezer.

The Sunshine Smoothie

Ingredients
1/4 mango, in chunks
handful pineapple chunks
handful coconut (I bought frozen)
1tsp flaxseed
1 cup orange or pineapple juice

If you’re looking for an afternoon zinger, this is your smoothie. I used frozen coconut and frozen pineapple to make things easier and colder which adds a lovely hit to this smoothie. It does take a little while longer for it to blend as the coconut chunks take some breaking down but it’s worth the wait.
Flaxseeds ar high in fibre, great for the health of your skin and hair and can help lower cholesterol levels. A big a super food!

The Pick Me Up

Ingredients
1 handful spinach
2 slices, pineapple
I whole kiwi, top and tailed
3 springs mint
I dessertspoon chia seed
200ml coconut water

We tried all manner of recipes, many of which turned out brown (don’t mix spinach or blackberries, it’s not pretty).
We also tried kale which I really really wanted to like. And actually it tastes fine mixed in with other ingregients, but I found it had an aftertaste that made me pull funny faces so I didn’t push it any further! But spinach was a winner. I kept a bag in the freezer to add a nice icy chill to the smoothie.

The Naughty Smoothie

Ingredients
1 small banana
250ml coconut milk
1 heaped tbsp oats
1 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
few drops of vanilla extract

When I say ‘naughty’ it’s obviously a healthy naughty because you’ve got the double punch of bananas and oats in there to keep you filled up!

A couple of other tips I’ve leaned from our week of smoothie making:

  1. Always have a few fruits and veggies in the freezer so you never run out. Also it’s a great way to chill your smoothie without watering it down with ice.
  2. Bag up a week’s worth of smoothies. Literally put everything you need in a sandwich bag (apart from the wet ingredients) and throw the contents on the bag into the blender as and when you need it.
  3. Adding protein (peanut butter, flax seeds, Chia seeds, natural yoghurt) to your breakfast smoothie really does keep you fuller for longer.
  4. Experiment, try different textures, change the recipe up a little to suit your taste and find the recipes which suit you.

Happy blending and many thanks to Breville for the challenge!

Posted in Food, Recipes | Tagged , | 2 Comments

The truth about being a mother

The truth about being a mother

The truth is . . .  the truth is . . .  well, the truth is it sucks being a mother much of the time.
You spend a lot of time bemoaning the drudge, the hardships, the lack of SLEEP.
So yeah, the truth about being a mother is it kinda sucks.
Would you change it? Well maybe little bits. Maybe the bit where you lose so much sleep you fear your eye bags will never ever reduce. Or the bit where you keep getting calls from school with the opening ‘we need to discuss some behaviour issues’. Or the bit where you sat on the loo and sobbed because your beautiful baby keeps hitting you and now they’ve moved onto the biting stage.

OK, so it doesn’t SUCK as such, it’s just tough and quite frankly we all want a bit of recognition and, you know, maybe a medal or two . . . Because we’re all just doing the best we can. And sometimes it feels like an endless, backbreaking uphill trudge.
I take heart in what novelist Jill Churchill said: “There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.”

Still. Those home truths for anyone who needs them:

The Shower
I no longer have a shower to relax and unwind.
Gone are the days of fancy body washes and intensive hair conditioners that need to be left in for 10 minutes.
These days a shower now serves a basic clean. Hair and body. Shave under the arms if I’ve got time. Both arms if I’m lucky. AND on top of that, I double up with cleaning the actual shower. Because it saves time and you may as well kill two birds with one stone.
I sometimes use a nice body scrub to zing myself awake but to be honest, the cleaning it requires to get the stuff off the shower doors is arduous so I have to REALLY need zinging awake.

The Toilet
Speaking of the bathroom you can kiss goodbye to ever going to the toilet on your own again. That private time is no longer yours to own. You will not pee alone again for a Very Long Time.
Somewhere in their DNA kids believe that it’s OK to have a conversation with you while you’re on the loo. If you shut the door, they will simply stroll in. “Err, hello? I’m on the loo” doesn’t work. If you lock it they will whine at you from the other side of the door.
The trick is to go to the loo with the door slightly ajar and not turn the light on. That one worked for me for months. My kids have sussed me out now, but I’m gifting this one to you.

The Supermarket
Ever since having children, a trip to the supermarket is a treat. It’s my ‘me’ time.
The bloody supermarket!
Sometimes the husband offers to come along or, heaven forbid, do the shopping for me! NO, that’s the only bit of sanity I get. My headspace. Where I can make decisions by myself and not by committee.

Clothes Shopping
I can spend hours in town and not come home with a single solitary stitch for me. Because when we’re in a shop all I get is sighs and arm folding and exaggerated eye rolling. Before that it was a toddler vomiting in the underwear aisle or grabbing at clothes and pulling them off the hangers for sport. Strips all the joy out of it.
If I go out shopping for me, on my own, with actually cash to spend, I still come back with bagfuls of stuff for them. Because, you know, mothers.

Being Shouted At
Not in a mean way but get used to everyone yelling ‘MUM!’ from some room in the house – usually the furthest one from where you currently are.

All The Guilt
I feel guilty about working and not being around to invite their friends back for tea after school.
I feel guilty about spending too much time with one of them.
I feel guilty about not spending enough time with each of them.
I feel guilty for not feeding them the right food, for not teaching them the right manners, for not being able to afford everything, for not being around, for being around too much and not giving them their independence, for nagging, for not nagging enough.
You get the picture?

Nits
They will invade your home. You will spend literally hours of your life combing through hair. Theirs, your own, your husband’s. Get used to it.

It’s Bloody Tough
It’s much much harder than you ever think it’s going to be. Times 100.
The baby years are tough; all that teething and crying and nappy changing and chronic lack of sleep and fretting over reaching their milestones.
The toddler years are basically a fug of coping with tantrums, a mobile child who wants to touch/lick/eat everything and the hell that is potty training.
The school years are a nightmare of homework, friendship issues, more tantrums and burgeoning independence.
Phew.
But let me tell you, those were the easy years. The teenage years you are not prepared for.
Basically you need to know that you will feel dizzy for years and years with the sheer chaos of your life.

One Day You Will Have To Let Go
That child you have spent all that time worrying about, loving, nagging, hugging, nurturing, protecting will say these words “can I go on the train to town with my mate? On our own?”
You know it’s the right thing to do and that they will love you all the more for it and it will help with their independence, their self esteem and their self confidence.
But TOWN. On their OWN.
You will sit at home and fret the whole time. Just suck it up.

You Will Never Ever Be The Same Again
Total, all-encompassing, heart swelling, unconditional love does that to you.

truth about being a mother

Posted in Family Life, Lists | Tagged , | 14 Comments