Though of the month - May

May is one of those months filled with happy events and where, although not necessarily the case in hot places like Dubai, a lot of our counterparts in cooler climates in the Northern Hemisphere will spend more time intaking all that vitamin D, so important for our wellbeing and positivity in life.

Positivity is also an aspect I try to maintain in our children, no matter how much their enthusiasm for the little things might drive me insane at times. 

So I thought this hilarious thought by Herm Albright was pretty appropriate. Worth the effort ... LOL

Pantone colour of the year: Greenery and tropical interiors inspiration

With the oh-so-pretty Pantone colours of last year, Rose Quartz and Serenity, I could not help but writing a post with inspiration on how to use them. Then when Pantone announced Greenery in the December as the colour for 2017, I instantly loved it too! So I can see myself making it a tradition of talking about the colour of the year, as I do love colour and the huge impact it can have on spaces and ‘things’ and also our moods and feelings.

Greenery is not only a very vibrant and refreshing colour but also highly symbolic of how many of us are feeling in the current socio-political uncertainty. The Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, Leatrice Eiseman, summed up the reasoning for their choice beautifully during the announcement: ‘Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate and revitalize, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another and a larger purpose’.

It is a colour that is not everybody’s cup of tea though, but here are some images that will hopefully help the ‘Greenery’ case and hopefully make a good project for that old console or the IKEA sofa that needs to be given a second life. Besides, it is the perfect opportunity to recreate that island or tropical resort styled home, quite the trend at the moment, as the colour just screams tropical and exotic.

If you have a home with neutral colours, like us, and do not feel so inclined to buying green furniture, soft furnishings or accessories, or paint the walls indeed, you can always decorate with botanicals. It adds a huge tropical vibe to an interior and you can keep your mid-century or traditional furnishings. Plus the hot plants at the moment are, again, tropical indeed: Monstera, Bird of Paraside, Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree, Banana Leaf or any of the varieties of indoor palms. They are all available locally and relatively easy to care for (if I can, you can, believe me).

So, let us proceed with the bombardment of Greenery tropical ideas (please excuse the excess, I am quite obviously in love with the colour).

Tory Burch's #EmbraceAmbition campaign

Never have I felt so passionate about empowering women and the need to teach our daughters and the next generation, that given the opportunity, women have as much potential as men in the corporate, cultural, social and political world.

So very appropriately and perfectly timed, and with many women around the world currently feeling pretty much the same, International Women’s Day has provided us with the Shero of the year, Tory Burch who today is launching the global campaign #EmbraceAmbition in an effort to encourage women to stop shying away from ambition, and articulate it and celebrate it instead. Ambition is and has been seen by society as a positive trait in men, but unfortunately, up to today, it still carries negative connotations when it relates to women, as is clearly illustrated by the meagre 4% of women CEO in Fortune 500 companies, less than 20% of women in boardrooms and, in keeping with the pattern, the very low percentages of women that are country leaders and heads of state worldwide.

Following her personal experience, this inspiring fashion designer, business woman and philanthropist founded the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009 with the aim of empowering women entrepreneurs by supporting with capital, education and digital resources through a number of programmes. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, do take a good look at the website – it is filled to the brim with interesting interviews, articles, guidebooks, business plan templates, and other tips and tricks that have already supported thousands of women entrepreneurs with their ventures.

‘Fearlessly pursue your dreams, embrace your ambitions’

– Tory Burch


Watch the campaign’s opening platform, a powerful video in which she enlisted a plethora of some the most influential celebrities and businesswomen, such as Anna Wintour, Kerry Washington, Sheryl Sandberg, Julianne Moore, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lucy Liu, Diane Kruger, Billie Jean King, Laila Ali and Melinda Gates amongst many others, as well as men (Chris Pine, for example), to address the stigma of ambition in women.

‘To today’s generation of young, powerful women I would say don’t apologize. Be who you are’

– Kerry Washington


To participate, visit the website HERE where you will find a link to take the pledge and encourage your contacts on social media to do the same through the hashtag #EmbraceAmbition. You can also have some fun creating your own photo with the caption that best defines your drive (Strong, Ambitious, Powerful, Visionary, Mother, Bold, etc) and share!

Oh, and DO download the Ambition Guidebook that talks you through the steps to success (defined by Tory as Happiness, by the way!):

  1. Dream: BIG, without boundaries.
  2. Define: own your confidence, needed to achieve those goals and dreams.
  3. Do: rank your top 3 goals, ascertain and remove the obstacles to attaining your goals, and surround yourself with brilliant, talented and inspirational people who will support you in your adventure.

I had to share it because I think this guide is a fabulous tool, not only for entrepreneurs or women trying to climb up the corporate ladder, but also for any project you might be passionate particularly about.

Now, go and #EmbraceAmbition!


Marissa xx

Thought of the Month - March

On International Women's Day I could not think of a better thought for the month; now more than ever.

Let us make sure that that our girls feel happy within and believe in themselves, that they follow their instincts, that we feed their curiosity, that they learn from their failures and we support them through it, that we encourage them to look for the humour in things, and always, ALWAYS aim for the stars, and yes, shatter those glass ceilings.




Thought of the month - January

Starting the year with optimism! 

Let us start the year fully charged with optimism!

It might not all look rosy out there, and our kids didn't sleep last night (and us neither, obviously!), and they won't eat the very breakfast they so much loved yesterday, and have just poured the entire contents of the bottle of ketchup on their last clean school uniform whilst looking for a better breakfast option, BUT ... you never know what every day is going to bring.

My youngest just surprised me last night tidying up, for the very first time ever, the usual huge mess she had made during the afternoon in the playroom!

The Crazy Stripes Collection from GAP

All photography by Lidiya Kalichuk Photography.

My children wear a lot of GAP clothes because they are fun and age appropriate, with a pricing that is adequate considering how fast they grow out of clothes at this stage.

Then I spotted the Crazy Stripes just over a month ago during a Grazia Middle East event for bloggers at Dubai Festival City. If you follow me on Instagram, you might know what I am talking about. It was love at first sight. 

So after getting a gorgeous dress for my daughter and a trapper hat with matching neck warmer and mittens for my son (not overdoing it ... lol), I decided there and then I had to showcase this adorable collection on the blog - besides being some of the cutest and happiest kids clothes I have seen, they go with pretty much anything! So four other families and one of my favourite photographers later, here is the photoshoot that we put together at the Dubai Marina Walk during a fun morning of the school holidays with these munchkins and Lidiya Kalichuk.

The collection may have been a tad too warm for the glorious Dubai winter weather, but perfect for the cooler temperatures much closer to subzero some of us are moving to over the coming days, to spend Christmas with our oldest and wisest. And do hurry, they have been such a huge success that GAP stores (in Dubai at least) are starting to run really low on stock. Plus there is a sale on these items now! If you can't find the piece you like locally, you can also go for their online sale on HERE. It is the second year in a row that GAP designs Crazy Stripes so if the worse come to the worst, there is always next year ;)

Oh, and for those who like twinning with their kids, there are also mummy and daddy Crazy Stripes pieces.

A huge Thank You to the mummies for making it all happen despite the little people being much more interested in playing hide-and-seek with their friends, and racing each other on their scooters and bikes.

Lydia Kalichuk

Lidiya is a Dubai lifestyle photographer specialising in newborn, maternity and family sessions in a clean and simple style with an artistic touch. She offers emotive ‘Fresh 48’ and ‘Simply newborn’ sessions as well as indoor and outdoor maternity and family lifestyle shoots. Relaxed, natural and stress free, these sessions are aimed at capturing connection and emotions, and the simple everyday moments that matter. 

To view more of her fabulous work or to get in touch, visit her website, her Facebook page HERE or her Instagram page HERE.


Christmas Stocking Fillers: 14 Australian children's classic books

Being married to an Australian means we have been collecting children’s books from Down-Under ever since our first visit as parents. They are books that either my husband grew up with or have become classics in the last few years, and are some of the most beloved by cousins and friends’ children, and have been the best gifts from Auntie & Uncle, Cousins, Grandma & Grandad and friends alike.

As every Christmas, including this one, my kids get books in their stockings, I thought I would share some of the books we have for those of you who are still looking for bits and pieces to complete your own children’s Christmas stockings.

Some of the most beloved authors amongst the youngest generation appear to be Mem Fox, Alison Lester and Yvonne Morrison, so anything by them is guaranteed to be a huge hit with the littlies, but there are also other authors who have proven to be able to captivate my munchkins' hearts, especially as many Aussie authors seem to have a passion for animals, much like our children.

So here are some of our current favourites:

Are we There Yet? – Alison Lester

The actual story of a family who take on a 3-month journey around Australia on a camper-van to visit the most iconic corners of this breathtaking country. My personal favourite spot: The Twelve Apostles that changes from year to year due to sea erosion. The story ends with a ‘Are we there yet?’ from children that after all the exciting adventures are quite keen to return back home to their pets and grandparents.

Where is the Green Sheep? – Mem Fox

My son read this while he first was at nursery and pretty much has stayed with us as a firm favourite. Perfect for kids who are starting to learn their colours, this repetitive and fun book will also make it fun for them to memorise the pages as they read over and over, which they will probably end up doing.

Koala Lou – Mem Fox

This is the story of a koala who, as the only child, had all of his mummy’s love … until more koala siblings arrived and Koala Lou decides to participate in the Bush Olympics to recoup mum’s attention. Koala Lou did not win but he got mum to give him the much needed reassurance: ‘Koala Lou I do love you. I always have and I always will’.

The Magic Hat – Mem Fox

The magic hat moves around and spins and sits on different people’s head to turn them into different animals. Finally the wizard arrives and takes the hat away rescuing everyone back into their original human bodies. Fun and repetitive, with a surprise factor where the child can try and remember what comes next at the turn of the page and learn about rhyming words.

Possum Magic – Mem Fox

Hush and Grandma Poss live in the Australian bush. Grandma Poss has magic powers and does all sorts of fun things to other animals. With Hush though, she turns him invisible - to keep her safe from snakes. Hush wants to remember what she looked like and Grand Poss tours Australia with her to find the (human) foods that will make her visible again.

The Cocky who cried Dingo – Yvonne Morrison

The Australian equivalent of The Boy who cried Wolf, impersonated by a Cockatoo, fun and filled with rhymings.

My Aussie Dad – Yvonne Morrison

Many if us have embarrassing dads. Or so we think J This book is about the different stereotypes of Australian dads – something most Australian kids will be able to relate to.

Give me a Home among the Gum Trees – Bob Brown (aka Captain Rock) & Wally Johnson

Based on the lyrics of one of the most iconic Aussie songs that was initially submitted in a contest organised to find the new anthem of the country. It was also later picked up by John Williamson who made it a hugely popular country-ish song. It celebrates all things of life in the Australian bush.

Uno’s Garden – Graeme Base

This is a beautiful story, and one of my personal favourites, about how humans turned a lush and fertile forest filled with exotic animals into a grey sterile city, and abandoned it once all had flora and fauna had been destroyed because they didn’t enjoy living there anymore. Future generations managed to restore and build in perfect balance for humans and other living things could to enjoy together. All but one animal, which they could only hope to see one day again. Sadly enough, something our children might experience in the flesh one day.

Wombat Stew – Marcis K. Vaughan and Pamela Lofts

One clever dingo caught a wombat and in his excitement, he spent a long time dancing and singing around the cooking pot. In doing so, he attracted the attention of the poor wombat’s friends who came to the rescue and tricked the dingo into poisoning his own cooking.

Silly Galah! – Janeen Brian

Rhyming fun while kids learn all about the Australian animals, from the better known koalas, kangaroos, platypuses and crocodiles, to the more exotic ones like Kookaburras, Quokkas, Frill-necked Lizards and Bilbys … oh, yes! And Galahs – a pretty type of pink Cockatoo.

Mulga Bill’s Bicycle – A.B. Paterson

Having been written in 1896, this is now a much-loved Australian classic that tells the story of Mulga Bill who decides to try the new method of transportation at that time – the bicycle. Unfortunately for him he turns out to be not as good as he had first decided he would be and after a spectacular crash in a creek, he settles for his more reliable horse. Lots of rhyming if your child is at that stage where they are learning their rhyming words and expressions.

The Wonky Donkey – Craig Smith

Not really a book written by an Australian, but a Kiwi who also created music to be played along with the book, but in any case, much loved by Aussie kids too for its playful way with words and repetition. Get to discover who the spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey is as you turn the pages of this fun book.

Baby Wombat’s Week – Jackie French

A spin-off of the original The Diary of a Wombat. The story takes us through baby wombat’s week day by day, as he makes friends with a human baby while he and his mum look for the perfect home.


More recently I have also learnt about Pamela Allen who has some really lovely reviews, so I will be happy to report back after our next trip Down Under, together with any future additions to our ever growing collection. 

Meanwhile, do any of the Aussie mums have any further suggestions to add?

Marissa xx

New brand for stylish little people - Kids in the Middle

As the 45th UAE National Day approaches, we have all been or are still busy looking for kandouras for the boys and pretty dresses in the colours of the UAE flag for the girls, so that everyone feels part of the celebrations on the anniversary of this country that we are so honoured to be calling our home.

So we have a beautiful and oh-so-elegant kandoura ready for my son to wear to school but let’s face it: Emirati children look adorable in their traditional outfits, but chances that my son will wear his kandoura again over the next 12 months are pretty slim. 

Two mums, Claudia and Filipa, have gone one step further and wondered how they could make the investment longer lasting by getting their children to wear the clothes purchased for the much celebrated anniversary, on other occasions as well.  This resulted in the recent launch of Kids in the Middle, an achingly cool brand for small people with a free spirited mind: original and simple white tees with a positive message, to pair up with Keffiyeh bottoms as well as other cute designs.

Their first collection named The Love Collection is made up of white T-shirts with a curved hem and inspirational messages that we can all do with a bit more of at the moment like ‘Namaste’ and ‘Love Peace Harmony’, Keffiyeh bubble skirts and pants, and adorable shorts and pants in different prints like leopard, camo and black and white polka dots or stripes.

Kids in the Middle caters for children aged 6 months to 4 years.

If you like these, you can contact them through their Facebook HERE or Instagram HERE for orders -  delivery within the UAE is free of charge. And they will also be available in markets soon, so do like their Facebook page to keep up with the updates!

The Three Hats of Emma Riedel

Meet Emma Riedel, an Aussie who has been in Dubai for 11 years, mum to 3 children: Riley and twins Amani and Noor, and serial entrepreneur (with the occasional assistance of her husband).

Photography by Lidiya, of Lidiya Kalichuk Photography.


Most of you will have heard of me&riley contemporary events LLC, the party organising and styling company that Emma founded in 2008. Then, in 2014 her ventures expanded overseas to make her the proud owner of Arabella on Boossa, a gorgeous private hotel 10 minutes away from the UNESCO heritage listed Galle Fort on the South West coast of Sri Lanka. She is also the owner of Arabella on West, an equally fabulous property with one, two and three bedroom holiday apartments a stone’s throw from the beach in Adelaide, South Australia. Back in Dubai, she also owns and manages Chase Property Maintenance LLC offering professional and efficient services for everything maintenance related from air-conditioning duct cleaning, to handyman services, to plumbing and electrical work.

How did it all start? After having studied Interior Architecture, worked in FCUK Australia and travelled the world, Emma and her husband Myles arrived in Dubai with just (although no backpackers!) 2 backpacks following her husband’s job.

Now they work to travel, and Emma uses their travels to inspire all of their businesses and their life as a family.



What prompted you to become an entrepreneur?

I started out of despair!  I found it very hard initially in Dubai and spent over 6 months searching for a job, constantly being told I was unemployable and being turned away from jobs.  I remember crying outside the Emirates office after yet another rejection!!


Your biggest challenge in owning and running multiple businesses across 3 different time zones?  

The expectations of all of the different nationalities and cultural backgrounds that we work with. We try really hard to be true to our advertising in photography as well as text.  We are also very ‘hands on’ and most clients have direct access to us which makes it very challenging to manage our time sometimes.


Your biggest success?

For me, it has been building a family environment in the UAE with no immediate family support. 


Your biggest dream?

Building a private hotel group from the ground up.

'Never give up on anything that you believe in.'


Is there the one business that needs more of your time and attention than another?

Yes - me&riley! I work in the warehouse almost every day, not because our team need me to, but because I love events and styling!  

If we lived in Sri Lanka, then it would be Arabella on Boossa as I love hotels and everything to do with travelling and hospitality – just making sure that everything has been done perfectly and our guests embrace and enjoy the Arabella experience.  

I would love to spend more time working with the Chase guys. Our vision for this company was based on DIY and decorating on smaller scale budgets particularly for renters to show that, even though your time in Dubai may be short, you don’t have to live in a nondescript environment with none of your personality.  


How do you manage your time to fit it all in, especially with 3 children and your multiple businesses?  

Organisation and my Muji notebooks!! I have a fairly average memory and I have to write everything down in job-list style!


Do you have any tips for other mums out there who would like to become entrepreneurs?

Absolutely!  Find a niche that is not already flooded – something that you are passionate about and interested in, and then give it your whole self - work, work, work.  

Never give up on anything that you believe in.  I remember when Riley was about 1 year old and I went to a mums morning group and talked to a few mums about my idea for me&riley, to simply be told that people would not be interested in that type of service and I would not do well. Thank goodness I followed my gut instinct! 



How did your life change after having children?

When we became parents we decided our children would be a part of our lives rather than directing our lives, so we do most things that we would have done without children, with children – I guess with a lot less money though as they are really expensive to look after!!


What has motherhood taught you?

Motherhood teaches me patience, it’s an ongoing lesson … although some days when I am tired, I will just have zero.


Your most challenging aspect of motherhood?

The hardest thing about motherhood and working is trying to make time for everything, and to not be easily distracted (which for me is very often)!!

What is for you the best thing about raising children in Dubai?

The opportunities that they have for everything!!  This puts a lot of pressure on us as parents but good pressure, as we have so many choices for everything, from schooling methods to activities and entertainment, as well as Dubai being a travel hub to explore the world from!


How do you help your children to stay in touch with reality as expat children?

Six months ago we decided to have no nanny or maid in our villa and this has been really hard for us, as we have had ‘help’ from almost day one with children, but we are doing it and I hope this will enable our children to see that it’s for the best that they learn how to do daily chores.  Their favourite job by far is dropping off the shirts for ironing at the drive-through window at Beach Centre in Jumeirah, there are a lot of fights about whose turn it is!


Favourite spot for mummy & me dates?

Travelling is our passion and we take turns in overseas trips with our children individually, so that we get quality, one on one time with each child!  This summer I took Amani to Indonesia with another two people (part of our Dubai family), Myles took Riley to Australia, and he also took Noor to Sri Lanka.

'Six months ago we decided to have no nanny or maid'


Favourite spot for child-friendly breakfast?

Tasha’s in Galleria, on Al Wasl Road.


Favourite stores for children’s interiors?

Zara Home, Marina Interiors and Ikea. When we travel we also buy, so a lot of our interiors items are from overseas. Our children’s rooms are quite grown-up rather than too childish, as I am planning for the future so I don’t have to keep redoing them!!



'I love to know everything and I like to know the truth.'


If you could have a superpower (besides producing 3 beautiful children), what would you choose?

Cloak of invisibility!  I love to know everything and I like to know the truth, I feel that sometimes as I have a strong character people feel they have to agree with me…


Favourite holiday destination

Bali is just perfect for everything: shopping, hotels, beaches, restaurants … everything! 


Favourite restaurant for a date with hubby



Favourite lunch spot with girl friends

Tasha’s (again!) or Slider Station


Favourite day of the week



Your 3 essentials in life

Happy and healthy children, happy husband, clean car and villa, then successful businesses with happy clients … whoops that’s 4!

Your 3 luxuries

Shopping, fresh flowers and my car - I love my car!


Are you reading a book at the moment that you would like to recommend?

I have just read the Mountain Shadow – the sequel to Shantaram – the reviews aren’t all amazing but I loved it.


Do you have any fitness routine? If so, what is it?

No!!  I want one, but it’s impossible to fit in!


If you could invite anyone you wished to a dinner party, who would it be?

My grandfather - I would like to know if he is proud of everything that we have achieved and I would love of him to meet my children and husband.


All photography by Lidiya Kalichuk Photography.

Lidiya is a Dubai lifestyle photographer specialising in newborn, maternity and family sessions in a clean and simple style with an artistic touch. She offers emotive ‘Fresh 48’ and ‘Simply newborn’ sessions as well as indoor and outdoor maternity and family lifestyle shoots. Relaxed, natural and stress free, these sessions are aimed at capturing connection and emotions and the simple everyday moments that matter. 

To view more of her fabulous work or to get in touch, visit her website, her Facebook page HERE or her Instagram page HERE.

The Little Black Book for a last-minute Halloween

Once upon a time we were not bothered in the slightest about Halloween. But since our eldest has been in school and American friends of ours got us to do pumpkin carving, house decorating, party hosting and trick-or-treating in our neighbourhood (where, I must say, the vibe is brilliant!), we are hooked, especially the kids who know what happens at trick-or-treat …

But if you have had a last couple of weeks like mine, where not only have I been mega busy but also the entire family has fallen sick, one by one, Halloween has not been high on the agenda and we have nothing ready!

No need to panic though! I have been keeping an eye out and this is my LBB (Little Black Book) for a last-minute Halloween that I am happy to share with you:


Party Camel

Always creative, on trend and just too happy to help. From wall decorations, to tableware, to one of Aisha's, Party Camel owner, favourites: Photo Booth props! Thank you Aisha for always being there! xx


Mystique Costumes

They have stores in Jumeirah and Umm Suqeim Street with rows and rows of costumes for grown-ups. Their sister store, Creative Minds, just a block away from the grown-up store in Al Barsha, has a good selection for children.

Mr Ben's Costume Closet

This is a great option if you prefer to rent although they also sell costumes. 

Superherokids Dubai

For the little people, I personally love these adorable superhero capes and masks that my kids were gifted by a close friend. 



The Party

If you are the type that can bake things that do not only taste good but also look pretty, then The Party have these gorge engraved rolling pins to make your own butter cookies with a choice of 4 different designs. Check out their neon orange and black Halloween cupcake toppers too!

Their website is still being built but you can find them on Instagram and Facebook, or contact them on

Lidija's Kitchen

If you already have the themed cookie cutters that usually are available at the likes of Spinneys, Tavola and Lakeland, why not give Lidija Abu Ghazaleh's recipe for double chocolate bat shaped sandwich cookies a try. Dare ... I think even I might ...



And if you do not dare, all of these stores and cafes have a lovely selection of themed and artistic cookies and cupcakes:

The Lime Tree Cafe

If you are expecting a large party, The Lime Tree Cafe make freshly prepared, delish party food in general. But their hand-iced Halloween cookies are ultra cute and cover pretty much all elements of Halloween: bats, ghosts, pumpkins, skulls & bones. Oh and there is also a witch hat chocolate cupcake!

Freedom Pizza

Get the littles busy decorating their own Halloween cookies or buy ready decorated if you don't fancy cleaning up the mess afterwards!

Magnolia Bakery

With stores in 3 different locations across Dubai, temptation is always around the corner ... Their Halloween cupcakes come in a choice of either chocolate or vanilla.

Hummingbird Bakery

Their Halloween cupcakes are hilarious and added bonus: there is a choice of 3 flavours with either vanilla, chocolate or the very indulgent red velvet.

Yamanote Atelier

Like good Japanese, Yamanote Atelier are the kings of all things mini and have designed the cutest Halloween pastries. Recommended for those who do not wish to load themselves up with sugar ... that won't be my kids, I think! 

Photography credit, as relevant, to: Party Camel, Superherokids Dubai, The Party, Lidija's Kitchen and Freedom Pizza.