I spy with my little... the highlife vintage style posters.

Dubai is getting more and more quirky and I am loving it! Markets are popping everywhere, there are more and more restaurants that look like actual bars (aka unpretentious, and smiley), food trucks are appearing on the beach etc... You can even find people who don't take themselves or Dubai seriously, how amazing and refreshing is that?
Clare Napper, a former Saatchi and Saatchi Bristish designer, who's been in Dubai 8 years, got inspired by both our expat lifestyle where everything is easy, and Roger Broders depictions of France touristy sites in the 1930's-1940's. I love the satire and honesty of her observation, as much as the retro style of these simple, yet spot on posters. Yes golf sucks in summer, yes, Jumeirah Janes are lost without their nannies, yes, the Palm is a posh neighbourhood... all these things that make me roll my eyes but also make Dubai what it is are condensed in this collection of 18 artworks.
To see the full collection, click here: www.highlife-dubai.com

I spy with my little eye... Spring time with Chantelle!

Spring is coming! I am not one to change my wardrobe with every change of season, but I have a tendency to crave new lingerie when in Spring and Autumn. When Chantelle new collection landed in my mailbox a couple of days ago, I instantly fell for Merci ensemble in grey. I loved the romantic subtle colour and art deco patterns, it made me think of a lazy Sunday afternoon in the South of France, in an old rustic house full vintage wallpaper and cracking wooden floors...

I realised after I shot this picture I had picked the same model but in a different colour... That tells you how much I loved it. As much as I like a classical style, I think Parisians have it a little bit too easy: you can't really go wrong if the only colours you wear are plain black, white, navy, beige or grey. That's just lazy fashion if you ask me. I like to add a touch of colour (it's Spring, let's go crazy!), for example that pastel yellow ensemble would be perfect under a grey sweater and black carrot pants!

For more information about Chantelle new collection, click here.

I spy with my little eye... The Paradis - French Kitchen.

The french restaurant Le Paradis du Fruit was always one of my favourite places to catch up with the girls in Paris. The concept of healthy, light cuisine wasn't really popular in France 10 years ago so this little gem was a novelty at the time: I remember I discovered frozen yoghurt thanks to them. So when I heard they were opening a branch at The Beach, I couldn't wait to check it out. 

They've always been known for their healthy menu but also colourful interior design featuring Philippe Starck details. Just walking into the restaurant feels like you've had a shot of vitamins!

I was happy to see that their menu is still as healthy and appetising as it used to be: the salads and smoothies without any added sugar are the highlights. But since I was there for breakfast, I decided to go unhealthy and get the French breakfast... You can get the French girl out of Paris but you can't get the croissant out of the French girl.

I started with a kiwi/apple/mint smoothie that looked a bit surprising to be honest because the kiwi and apple juice didn't mix nicely, but it was refreshing to see something normal and not utterly perfect in Dubai. The very few juices I make at home tend to look a bit strange too, which is why: 1- I stopped making them, 2- I could tell this was freshly made. It was tasty and light, just as promised.
Then I tucked in the pain au chocolat: I hadn't had such a light and buttery pastry since La Serre, and my lovely breakfast buddy Tjasha who definitively knows a good croissant when she sees one agreed that it was one of the best she had had in Dubai!

The bread selection with home-made jam were nice, and the coffee very good, but what I appreciated best after the menu and pain au chocolat is the service. It was fast, efficient, smiley and french! Whether I was talking to the waiter, the manager, or the guy making smoothies and juices behind the bar, everybody was speaking french, it definitively felt like home!

Happy gal! Thank you Le Paradis - French Kitchen, I will be back!

More information on: http://www.leparadisdufruit.ae/

I spy with my little eye... a road trip to Saida and Tyr.

What I loved the most about Beirut was the joyful, constant and loud mess! Jumping in a car with all the cousins, turning on the cheesy music, singing and dancing while racing with my uncle's car, stopping on the way for mana'iches, fooling around at the check points, and ending up by the sea, feet in the water in December.

Yallah, let's go to Tyr!

But first, let's stop in Saida to visit the old soap factory (that just happens to be in a gorgeous house).

Saint Exupery said that love wasn't looking into each other eyes, but looking in the same direction... Looks like lil sis' and her boyfriend are on a good track.

Might as well get coffee and pastries while we're here... We haven't eaten in 1h30, we definitively need a snack...

Then let's have a tour of Saida's soukh. (Note to self: shopping with a Lebanese family is the best way to test one's patience.) Bananas anyone?

Or maybe 10kg of fresh meat?

And my personal favourite: the disco veggie stall!

Eventually we got back in the car and headed to Tyr to find... the sea.

Cousins made plans to cross the sea.

And Lebanon gifted us with a gorgeous sunset. What an amazing day!

I spy with my little eye... a New Year.

Sometimes all you need is some time out and family to reboot. And that's exactly what I did in Beirut over the holidays: no phone, no emails, sometimes no electricity but LOTS of food, card games and laughter. I've always felt more French than Lebanese despite being half half but 10 days in a real city with no sparkle was exactly what I needed after 3 years of full-on Dubai. I know I'm a bit late but we're still in Jan so I'm enjoying the "holiday mood" extra time with a belated Christmas post.

Here is lil'sis who just moved from Paris to Beirut with Birdie, the most silent pointer on Earth. She never barks, and all she asks for is cuddles.

Birdie was very keen on the celebration, here she is, discussing with my mother. Yes, we do have that habit of discussing with pets. It applies to dogs, cats, monkeys, horses, parrots... I will never forget Jujupe, my grandfather's parrot in Nigeria, who used to play around with lil'sis: she would make her run down the stairs several times a day by taking my aunt's voice to call her.

Family portraits with the aunts.

Funny how cooking the turkey is a woman's job but carving it is always a man's job.

Birdie's best Chrismas present: cuddles with my cousin!

Happy times always lead to funny selfies, or "ussies" like my aunt calls them. "Did you take an ussie?" "Sorry, a what?" "A picture of us, an ussie!"

And it always ends up with flowers and hugs, happy times!

I spy with my little eye... Christmassy Cocktails!

Less than 10 days to Christmas and I'm running out of time. I still don't have all presents figured out, which is a great excuse to have cocktails and brainstorm so you can imagine how perfect Royal China's invitation to a mixology class sounded! Being raised in a French family came with a wine education (do not mess with my red wine: the last sommelier who tried to have me drink Syrah through a blind test was La Petite Maison's and he got disappointed), but I am clueless when it comes to cocktails. I learned how to drink martinis here in Dubai with my New Yorker friends, I know how I like my Bloody Mary and I like a good Hendrick's G&T but that pretty much it. Which makes me the perfect candidate for a mixology class!

I will be honest, I can't remember the recipes, but what I will take with me is that a good mixologist is one that serves as good a story as a cocktail. It's all about the entertainment and spending a good time. And at this game, Drago, Royal China's new mixologist was a real treat: good banter with the gentlemen, flirty with the ladies, I highly recommend him. Oh and the drinks were good too (nearly forgot about them!).
My cocktail education is clearly not done yet, I still have a lot to learn. For now, I am happy to observe and enjoy the ride and pretty colours!
Thank you Royal China, looking forward to more cocktail adventures!

I spy with my little eye... the "Hats of yesterday and tomorrow - Take 2".

Take 2 of the "Hats of yesterday and tomorrow" is with Aseya from Hello Pretty and Pretty in the Desert! She picked a 1920's burgundy little hat that I absolutely love!
For her look she chose to stress on the lips with a burgundy red lipstick and subtle brownish eye shadow. I love how her blond hair highlights the colour of the piece.

For me, she decided to keep it low and simple stress on the pink cheeks. It ended up being quite a natural dolly look, nothing flapperlike, no big eyebrow, no dark eyeshadow, just something light, which I love: the star is the hat!
I loved spending time with Aseya; half American, half Emirati, she's one on those people who have been in Dubai for so long they know all the good places and are unimpressed by the city of bling's Extravaganza. And I like that. She is easy going, chilled, fun and professional. So I figured if I liked her, you might like her too:
HOB: If you could live in a painting, which one would it be?
Aseya: It would be Georgia O'Keeffe's Abstraction Blue. The colours are so soothing, I would just flaot around in the painting all day.
HOB: If you could live in a different era, which one would you pick and why?
Aseya: It would be the late 60s/early 70s. I really love the music from that period.
HOB: What piece of clothing reminds you of your mother/father?
Aseya: Cropped pants always remind me of my mom, and traditional Emirati kundooras always remind me of my dad.
HOB: What scent takes you right back to your childhood?
Aseya: Christmas trees always take me back. Every year :)
HOB: When do you feel on holiday?
Aseya: I'm usually rushing around before a trip, so I am too busy to feel like I'm on holiday. But as soon as I'm in the new city and I open the curtains and look outside, I get that feeling of excitement that comes with being able to explore a new place.
HOB: What designer would you take on a camel ride?
Aseya: Betsy Johnson. She seems like she would be a riot!
HOB: Your favourite recipe to make?
Aseya: I make a really great fudgy chocolate brownie.
HOB: Best piece of advice you were ever given?
Aseya: Listen to your body; it knows what is best for you. Pay attention to changes in your mood and feelings.
HOB: What book changed your life?
Aseya: "Tuesdays with Morrie" was the first book I read that made me feel emotional. It really made me think about life.
HOB: The movie you've watched 30 times but might watch again tonight?
Aseya: I don't watch too many movies, but I love the show Arrested Development and I rewatch it every year.
HOB: Three favourite spots in Dubai?
Asyea: Smiling BKK, the Meydan Bike Park (I love skating there at night, when it's quiet and dark), Souq Al Bahar.
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