Sunday 31 May 2015

The Sofitel Dubai Jumeriah Beach hotel

We've recently come back from one of the most fantastic holidays we've ever been on. We had 3 weeks which consisted of 2 nights in Dubai, then on to Australia for 2 weeks and then another 2 nights in Dubai on the way back.

On the first trip to Dubai we chose to stay in the Sofitel Dubai Jumeriah Beach. We chose this after trawling through lots of websites and trip advisor reviews so we couldn't go wrong with our choice. We opted for a half board option as at least we knew we wouldn't have to pay for 2 meals on an already very expensive trip. We'd heard from lots of people who have visited there about how pricey the country can be. We paid a little over £500 for the room and the half board which seems incredibly expensive for 2 nights but when comparing with most other hotels in a prime location, it was coming up about the same. I think an important thing to remember also when booking a hotel in Dubai is that the majority of hotels are 4* plus, so you do get what you pay for.

As soon as you enter the hotel reception you are astounded by the decor and grandness of the hotel. It's simply luxurious whilst still feeling welcoming. Immediately you get the feel for how you are going to be treated for the rest of the stay as there is not a member of staff who will not hesitate to help you in any way you wish. All of the staff are very friendly whilst remaining professional and they are all absolutely wonderful with the children. This is obviously a big plus when travelling with your kids. We did worry about staying in a luxury hotel with a toddler and whether staff and other guests would be annoyed at it but it was quite the opposite. 

We stayed in one of their normal priced rooms but did pay a bit extra for a sea view. Dubai is full of high rise buildings and we could see from some of the reviews that you could be sat on a balcony and staring at a wall. The view was worth the extra as it was a beautiful picture of Jumeriah Beach. The only down side is that they are building the Dubai eye (like the London eye but a LOT bigger) in view of the hotel but as with most areas of Dubai there is always construction going on somewhere. This didn't spoil or evenings of sitting on the balcony.

The room itself was simply stunning. No other words for it. My pictures don't do it justice at all. I can't imagine what the more upgraded rooms or suites look like as this was perfect. You can view the room on their website here, Room. Again the decor is lovely. The room itself is a good size and in no means felt too small for the 3 of us. There were tea and coffee making facilities (no hotel is worthy in my opinion if they don't supply you with this) and plenty of bottled water. The bathroom was gorgeous. By far my favourite part of the room. It had a fantastic big bath and an amazing shower area which could have comfortably fitted about 5 people in it. The hotel also comes to turn down the room which is great as it's always nice to get into a freshly made bed with a chocolate. 

We were really happy with the half board option. It suited us much better. Eva loves nothing more than a bit of variety so a buffet style breakfast and dinner was right up her street. The restaurant where the buffet area was, was big. It never felt overcrowded and you didn't have to wait for a table. The food was always really tasty and there was a huge selection. I was a particular fan of the pancake station for breakfast!

The pool area was very nice and had lovely views of the sea and a swim up bar. The only downside for us was that it was a little on the small side and there wasn't enough sunloungers for people.

The location is perfect for families. It is literally a stones throw away from the beach and all of the bars, restaurants and shops on the walk. There was also a park on the beach that was very close to the hotel. This was a great place to take Eva in the night.

Overall we would definitely recommend this hotel to anybody whether it be families or couples and we hope to stay there again in the future. 

Have you ever been to Dubai? Have you stayed in a Sofitel hotel before? 


Thursday 28 May 2015

The Crispy Duck on Whitchurch Rd Cardiff

I don't know about you but finding a good restaurant in Cardiff can be quite a daunting task at the moment. We seem to have had a huge influx of new restaurants popping up everywhere that we really are spoilt for choice. The only problem is knowing whether they are any good or not. I tend to choose my restaurants based on word of mouth, blogger reviews and social media and trip advisor. I think it's very important to write trip advisor reviews of places you go.

When it comes to finding an asian restaurant I am quite picky. If I were to order a takeaway, asian would not be my first choice as i'd rather an Indian. I normally find asian quite greasy and more often than not end up feeling quite sicky. So as you can appreciate if i'm to go out for an asian meal it needs to be somewhere quite special. 

For me to have visited The Crispy Duck twice in a couple of months is a testament to how wonderful it really is. Firstly the staff and the manager himself Mr Lee are very friendly. Mr Lee is happy to talk to you about the dishes and his inspiration for the menu. The service is always very efficient.

The restaurant itself is very basic but this does not detract from anything. I particularly like the plates that the food are served on as it all adds to the authenticity of the cuisine.

The pan-asian menu is very extensive and features the best dishes from China, Japan, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. You can view the menu on their website If you are stuck on what to choose ask the staff for advice as they are happy to offer it. Both times that we have visited we have just had a large selection of starters and mains and have all shared. I think in a restaurant like this that is the best way to get a good feel for the menu.

We were a party of 7 this time around so we had so many dishes that I can't remember all of them. Stupidly I forgot to make a note of everything and take photos of all the dishes but again this is because I was enjoying it so much that I got distracted. I also only had my phone rather than my camera so the pictures aren't as clear.
Some of the starters included aromatic crispy duck, chicken karaage, soft shell crab karaage, harumaki and king prawn tempura. The crispy duck is served already wrapped up which I quite liked. The prawn tempura is really tasty when dipped in the sauces that come with it. 

This time around I only ate my main because it tastes so good I didn't want to share it! I had the Malaysian chicken curry which is cooked with potato, coconut milk and curry leaves. I'm salivating just writing about it. It's got a beautiful fruity taste to it but with a kick of spice. I'm a huge fan of potato in a curry so for me this dish ticks all the boxes.  We ordered a selection of rices dishes to accompany the mains which are all served in quite large portions. 

Overall, I am in love with this place. The pricing is very reasonable for what you get and the food is absolutely delicious. Next time I go I will write a much longer review instead of this brief one and actually photograph and write about all the dishes. For now you will just have to take my word for it on how tasty it all is.

Have you been to this restaurant before? What asian cuisines are your favourite?

Love Kerry x

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Travelling long haul with a toddler

How many times have you thought to yourself, 'wouldn't a holiday in the Caribbean, America, Asia or even Australia be nice?' And then you've thought immediately after, 'I could never go that far with a baby or toddler on the plane, it would be awful!'. Most people get a sort of cabin fever when it comes to taking a little one on a plane and then that wonderful holiday in the sun becomes a week away in the UK. We've all thought about how our fellow passengers would feel if our children were playing up (we were probably all once one of those people that roll their eyes or have a look of dread when they see a child come onto the plane before we had children of our own). We've probably all thought 'how can I travel anywhere with someone on my lap for so long?'. 'How will I ever entertain my toddler for so long?' 'What can I feed them?' 'What liquids/milk can I take?' The list really is endless.
My mum, stepdad and sisters all emigrated to Australia 7 years ago so unfortunately for me the decision about flying long haul was taken out of my hands. It was always going to be a must rather than a want. I'm very fortunate in my life so far to have travelled to many different places so flying on a plane is very familiar to me. The hubby and I are jetsetters and it looks like Eva and bump are headed for the same path. In fact the first holiday we took Eva on was when she was 7 months old to Turkey. That flight is 4 hours so that in itself for a first time flight is quite long.

A big top tip I can first give you is for when you are booking your flights. Try and find night time flights that follow the time zones you are going in to. We left London at 20.50pm and landed in Dubai at 06.00am. This was ideal as we knew that once Eva had calmed down from the initial excitement of being on the plane that she would fall asleep. She was awake for a couple of hours and then slept the rest of the way until we landed. As we then landed in the morning she wasn't jet lagged at all. When we left Dubai for Australia we did the same thing. The more time they can sleep on the plane the better. 
Also when you are booking your flights try and get the row of seats which are behind a bulk head. These give you a lot more leg room than any other seats. 

Before you fly the first thing to do is make a list of everything you think you'll need such as food, drinks, milk, comforters and soothers, change of clothes, nappies, toys etc. I always think that it's best to over estimate what you may want and that way you won't be stressed out if you think you've forgotten anything.

Eva is now 2 and a half years old but she still has milk before bed. Seeing as it's not formula I knew on a long haul flight that they would have milk so I didn't need to take any. However, when you are on board make sure you ask the staff in advance to warm it up because they don't have any microwaves and will just have to rest a bottle in boiling water. Seeing as Eva is over 2 and she has her own seat, she also has children's meals so I didn't need to worry about anything like that. I did pack small snacks though such as raisons and breadsticks. 

One of the most important things to remember to pack are your toddlers comforters. For Eva  this is her dreaded dummy (I packed a few) and her very precious bunny teddy bear that she does not fall asleep without. The easiest way to get them settled is to have all of their familiar things around them that make them feel safe.
It's also a good idea to take a blanket and maybe a small pillow. Even though you are given these items on board we all know how uncomfortable these plane seats can be so it's always nice to have anything extra to make the seat more cushioned. 

Eva is still in nappies so I packed quite a few of them along with a few spare changes of clothes. If your toddler is potty trained i'd suggest taking extra pants incase of any accidents, you know how long toilet queues can be on planes.

Now for the entertainment. We got a Trunki, which I can't recommend enough. It's the prefect way for children to feel 'grown up' with their own bag whilst having the fun of being able to pull it around or ride along on it themselves. I won't go into a huge deal about them as i'm going to do a separate post on them later on but check out their website here, We filled the Trunki with all of Eva's entertainment. This included mostly new things that she had not seen before. We had sticker books, colouring books, crayons, stamps, lego, felt shapes, mini peppa pig toys, books, an iPad and Eva's own tablet from On the movies. There will be a review of the tablet on the blog soon so keep an eye out for that. 

I think the best way to keep toddlers entertained is with brand new stuff and to give it to them one thing at a time over as long a period of a time as possible. Another tip is that you could wrap the new stuff up so again that is even more entertaining by unwrapping each thing. 
Also remember on long haul flights that you have an interactive screen with each seat. These are normally loaded with a huge amount of movies, programmes and games. Eva adored this on our flights. 

Have you flown long haul with your children? Have you got any tips you want to share? 

Love Kerry xx

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Thursday 7 May 2015

Big News

Well after 8 weeks of secrecy I can finally announce to everyone that  we are expanding our family!!! I am currently 12 weeks pregnant and couldn't be happier. 
We are away on holiday at the moment in Australia so we have missed the 12 week scan which means I can't have one until we are back when I will be 15 weeks. We are having it the first day we are back from holiday so at least that is something to look forward to when we will be suffering with holiday blues. 
We struggled for a while to decide when the best time to have another baby was and after weeks of going back and forth, we realised there is never a best time and it can happen whenever you want it. Lots of things ran through our minds such as financial situation, living situation, childcare but if we tried to fix all of those things then we would never be able to expand our family.
I was an only child for 13 years which has made me want Eva to have a sibling as soon as she can. As much as I enjoyed being spoilt, I would've loved a sibling to play with. I see the way she plays with children of similar ages and I am so comforted by that. The age gap will be just under 3 years between them which should be great as hopefully Eva will be able to help me out a bit with looking after her new brother or sister. 
We also really struggled with the idea of being able to love another child as much as we love Eva. I suppose it's a hard concept to come to terms with until the baby is actually born. Reassurance has come from seeing family and friends having more than one child so it clearly works. 
I don't know if you have a second child or are currently pregnant with your second or third etc but I find I am a lot more relaxed this time around. I hope this is the same for all mums and I am not just being lax. I also feel that I have forgotten a lot of things such as when you are in each trimester, what you can and can't do. I guess this allows the pregnancy to be exciting like it was the first time.
I'm so excited to do things like decorating a nursery again, choosing names and of course shopping for new teeny tiny clothes. We will definitely be finding out what we're having which I can't wait for. We would love a boy so that we have one of each but either way we will be happy. Although i'm not so sure how happy the hubby will be in a house surrounded by girls. 
I took some 12 week photos using my amazing milestone cards. You can buy them here Milestone Cards  and I can't recommend them enough. They make fantastic baby shower gifts for any new parents. I will be writing a separate blog post about them soon.

Have you got more than 1 child? When did you think it was best to have another? Have you gone through the same thoughts and feelings as me? I would love to know so please share. Also I would love to find other expectant mothers of a similar time to me so please do get in touch.
I can't wait to share my pregnancy journey with you all and keep you updated but for now I will continue to enjoy my holiday.

Love all of the Norris family xx

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