The Duncan Adventures
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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Friday Brunching at the Grand Hyatt


If you have spent anytime at all in the Gulf - especially Dubai and Abu Dhabi -you will know that Friday Brunching is a BIG deal! It the place to be seen and a chance to spoil yourself after a long week.

The past weekend we brunched the day away to celebrate the 30th birthday of a friend. The chosen venue was the ever popular, Grand Hyatt Muscat.

We arrived with our troop of hungry bellies ready to feast!

Bang on 2pm the fizzy juice - wink, wink - was poured into expectant glasses for those who were chosing to indulge in a few bubbles.







This handsome, smiley chap was my main date for the day. 



As the Bambino was along for the meal I didn't snap as many pictures of the beautiful decor of the Mokha Cafe as I would have liked.

For me, the best thing about brunching is variety of different foods to sample and being able to indulge in the seafood delights. I dined on huge prawns, smoked salmon, crab and oysters. These are things that I would rarely eat at home so I like to make the most of it when dining out.

See if any of this gets your taste buds going!






Between courses the boys had a 'time out' and orchestrated a plan of who would keep them in a constant supply of finger foods...

George won the award for most bread actually eaten and swallowed and Spencer trumped him with the most slobbery bread sticks on the floor.


Then it was on to the deserts...

There were fruits, puddings, cakes, pies, ice cream cones with sprinkles and even a huge flowing chocolate fountain. I couldn't resist but have a few chocolate covered strawberries.

Bang went that diet. Oh well.





With a belly full of bread sticks and cucumber slices it was all too much for the little Dude.


After copious amounts of delicious food, a few bubbles and lots of laughs we headed home for a well deserved rest. This brunching malarkey is hard work! 

Prices-
  • Non alcohol - 22 rials per head, includes water, soft drinks and juices
  • Alcohol- 25 rials per head 

For more info contact the Grand Hyatt or visit their website.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Amouage Perfumery Factory Tour


For over 30 years the name 'Amouage' has been known as a luxury brand famous for its decadence and sophistication. It is a globally lusted after brand retailing in 65 countries with 14 stand alone stores including Muscat, Rome and London.

Asides from the main stores it is prestiged enough to be included in the ranges at the worlds top department stores from Harrods to Selfridges and Bloomingdales to Harvey Nichols. This is something for Omani's to be proud of.

In 2012 a brand new Amouage perfumery and visitors center was opened in Muscat to celebrate their three decades of success.

From the outside alone you can see the beauty and workmanship that went into designing and building a location to reflect the luxury brand.






Upon entering the bright and opulent foyer area straight away you can smell the subtle perfume aromas dancing around the room. 

Our lovely tour guide, Menjie, greeted us with a massive smile and welcomed us inside. She talked us through the fragrance collection and the many ingredients that combine to made up that one single scent.

She explained that each fragrance is made up of top notes, heart notes and base notes with only the best and rarest elements used. These range from locally sourced Omani Frankincense to ingredients from all around the globe. 




Honor for women:

Top Notes- Pepper, Rhubarb Leaves and Coriander

Heart Notes- Jasmine, Tuberose, Gardenia, Lily of the Valley, Carnation

Base Notes- Vetiver, Frankincense, Amber, Opoponax, Leather







Throughout the range there are 36 fragrances to chose from with each as opulent as the next.

We got stuck in and sniffed our way through every fragrance for men and women only pausing briefly to refresh our nostrils a rest with the aroma of coffee beans. 

My favorite scent on myself was the 'Honour' perfume, for men I much preferred 'Epic'.


Every beautiful scent has a story behind it, below is the story of 'Epic' for men: 

"Evoking memories of the ancient Silk Road journey from china to Arabia this woody oriental fragrance is inspired by the poetic splendor of cumin, saffron, cardamon infused with myrrh, geranium and the richness of oud, musk, leather, patchouli, cedarwood, frankincense."





What amazed me is that this factory just isn't for show, this is where every single bottle of Amouage perfume originates. The factory has the capability to produce between 5,000 - 10,000 bottles of fragrance per week.

Through the glass walls you can see right to the production floor and spectate as the workers beaver away. With around 80% of the work force are local Omani's it gives it a more authentic feel.

From filling the fragrance to decorating the bottles and wrapping them, almost everything is done by hand without the aid of machinery.

Vat 25, pictured below, has enough fragrance inside it to fill 5,000 bottles of 100ml fragrance!











'Reflection' for women:
"Reflection opens with a lush green freshness reminiscent of morning dew. A bouqet of white flowers crowns the fragrance with richness and depth"




'Ubar' for women:
"Romancing the mystery of Ubar's splendour, paradise is regained with echoes of Bergamot and Lily of the Valley complementing the majestic Damascene Rose with the eternal prescence of Sandalwood"



The tour is short and sweet, it fills you with enough knowledge of the brand to be swept up in the dream but leaves you with a taste wanting more.

This is when they divert you into the gift shop - a very clever move! 

Eagerly I dashed around sampling the testers and filling my nostrils full of aromas. The displays are grand and sophisticated that sweep you along like you are in a dream world where you can afford everything. If only.


My little Omani Cherub


Most prices aren't displayed in the shop, possibly in fear of scaring people off with the huge figures or possibly because their regular customers don't scrimp on the cost. Either way, This is a slice of luxury living and a little piece of Omani history.

As I type this I am wearing the Amouage 'Reflection' scent for Women, the smell is just divine.

If you haven't yet visited the perfumery yet then I suggest you do, you may just get wrapped up in the magic like I did. Just remember to bring your credit card!

Tours run every week day from 0830 - 1630
There is no charge to enter or take the tour - Amazing!
Visit Amouage's website here for more details.

Monday, August 18, 2014

'Tis The Season To Be Friendly


As we have just waved goodbye to many friends who are moving on and embarking in the next chapter of their transient lives we are now welcoming this year's batch of newbies into town.

Planes full of new Expats are touching down in Muscat most of them with a bewildered look in their eyes. This adventure could just be the best thing that will ever happen to them, or the worst. They have not yet decided.

Does this sounds like you?! If so, then fear not Newbie! The airport arrivals hall is sh*t and the culture shock will probably hit you like a train at full speed... Just keep walking for the exit and I promise the rest of the country is better once you are out of those doors. Oman has so much to give and so much to teach you.

Every week I have been receiving numerous emails from these wide eyed newbies who are planning their move into town or have just arrived on the tarmac and are scrambling to finding their feet and a new 'normality'. Often they contact me just to say hello and get a little advice or sometimes they are looking to make friends with me. 

Through this blog I have met some amazing new friends, some associates and a few who are just not my kind of people -The internet brings out all sorts! Unfortunately I cannot meet or be friends with everyone who contacts me. There just aren't enough hours, or Soya Lattes, in the day. I don't blame them for contacting me as I would too if I was new in town and wanted to know someone, anyone. But then it's not really my job to stand at the arrivals hall with a sign board welcoming people; I'm just here writing a blog about my life and people are drawn to it.

Saying that, It is up to all of us to show a little community spirit and compassion - we have all been brand spanking new and overwhelmed at where we are and what comes next.

So when you see someone who looks a little lost or asks you for help, it would be great of you to give them a little of your time and show them some of this world famous Omani hospitality. 

Even just a smile goes a long way to making people feel like they aren't alone in the world!

We've all been there.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Cyberbullying - The Joker Behind The Screen

Cyberbullying and online harassment is as serious problem for adults as it is for children. In fact, adults can be far more adept at hiding their identity and far more malicious and sophisticated in the way they use technology than children. We are live in a world of constant pinging and beeping as smart phones and electronic devices light up with the latest messages information allowing gossip to spread faster and wider than ever before.

Cyber Space is a vast place with many screen names, fake profiles and avatars to hide behind. As we carry our electronic devices everywhere with us - I take mine everywhere - the bullying also comes with us, lurking and haunting. This leaves us wide open to attacks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

In internet slag these bullying culprits are called "trolls" - they deliberately set about to upsets others by starting arguments or posting unnecessary inflammatory messages on blogs, websites, forums and chat rooms.


"Muscat - Where Can I Find" is one of the most active and popular Facebook groups here in Oman where users can ask the local community for help in searching for particular items, directions or advice. This page is a fantastic and valuable tool available to us but, like most websites these days, it has been subject to trolls thinking that they are clever to insult and ridicule others. The creator of the page, Nicholla Henderson Hall, explains to this trials of having such a dynamic page:


"The purpose of MWCIF is to help members of the Muscat community to find what they need. We have built up a credible and loyal following over the past 4 years. Although we have guidelines in place there are times when these are thrown by the way side and he forum becomes a battleground or comment war fueled by a controversial topic. As a spectator to a comment war, comments may seem funny or entertaining. We all read them with a disassociation of a person. We aren't involved. It's not hurting us BUT it is hurting someone. Someone who is reading the comments could feel emotionally targeted, feel like they are being being made a fool of or being disrespected. One of my BIG comments to the group is 'think before you write' or 'take a step back from the computer' when you begin to feel emotionally charged by someones words. 

The other big issue we have is that we are such a culturally diverse group with English not being the first language to many. Last year we did a survey that showed we had 49 nationalities present. What does that mean? It means the written word could potentially be interpreted in 49 different ways. This is why we have guidelines. This is why we take the time to protect content and why we have an open policy of asking members to send us anything that is insulting or disrespecting so we can promptly remove it and the culprits from the group."


Most of us have probably at least been border line culprits ourselves at some point or degree as we exercise our 'freedom of speech' and push our opinions on others or take the mick out of other online users. I have been a culprit myself. Laughing at someone else's expense on a Facebook page and watching them get rattled. At the time I thought that I was clever and witty as people 'liked' my comments. But what we seem forget at the time is that there is someone else on the other side of that screen with feelings reading our harsh words and opinions. My new rule of thumb - If I wouldn't say it to the persons face then I won't type it to them either.


As a Blogger I have chosen to put my life, my opinions and my identity out there for the world to see. I didn't expect glorifying praise and admiration from the masses but I certainly didn't expect to be targeted by internet trolls either. In the past two years I have had countless nasty messages and emails usually from 'anonymous' sources. For the most part I choose to ignore the hate, delete and then move onto the positive messages I receive every single day but something still nags me deep down inside. I just don't understand the mentality of these people who deliberately take the time out of their day to spread hate and upset others. Maybe I never will understand but it still hurts to read the hatred directly at you.


Next time you think it is hilarious or clever to harass, intimidate or ridicule someone online then just take a second to think about how it might feel if the boot was on the other foot.

Don't be that person.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Surviving The First 6 months Being a New Mum


Last week my squishy faced little guy turned 6 months old, a whole 20 weeks has whizzed by. The little bundle of brand new baby is now a giggling, wriggling two toothed boy full of personality and mischief.

The past 6 months has honestly been the quickest of my life, mainly on autopilot fueled by Starbucks coffee and take away pizzas, but also the most enjoyable and full of love. It is only just now that I am starting to feel 'normal' and like I know what I am doing and confident in that.

Here are my top 10 tips to surviving this tough time fraught with hormones, emotions and new experiences:


1- Surround yourself with supportive people:
Whether it is your husband/partner, Mum, Best Friend or other new Mums you are going to need someone to lean on. Parenting is hard. That is a fact and anyone that tells you differently is a total fibber!
I have a great Mums & Baby group where we can talk all things baby from the color of poop to sleep patterns and the post parturm body. Talking to people who are going through exactly the same thing and having the same concerns is so reassuring for me.


2- Trial and Error:
You will know your baby better than anyone, you know what works for them and what doesn't. You only find this out through trial and error. Sometimes you have to learn the hard way through tears and screaming but you learn from each other how to work together as a team.


3- Accept help:
I'm not great at this one and I don't like to accept help in fear or burdening others but there really is no shame in it.
Even just someone to hold the baby for a while whilst you get a shower or to make you a cuppa so you can have 5 minutes alone is a great start.


4- Have some alone time:
Get your nails and/or hair done, put on some make up, take a long bubble bath and feel like a gorgeous woman again instead of a dairy farm or a human spit shield.
Your body has just created something amazing but the chances are you just aren't feeling very attractive or quite like the old 'you'. A little bit of rest and pampering goes a long way to feeling like that kick-ass yummy mummy you know you can be.



Post-baby pedicure time


5- Celebrate your 'Firsts':

There will be a lot of firsts since having a baby. Celebrate them, remember them and feel accomplished!
The first time I took Spencer out in public on my own was a big one for me. We walked to our nearest Costa and sat in a glow of achievement that I had made it there at all. The walk there is less than 10 minutes and it probably took me hours to get ready between showering, expressing enough milk, clean clothes for us both, pack a nappy bag, baby in pram and get there crossing a road and not killing us both. But we did it! Once I got that 'first' hurdle out of the way our trips out the house got a lot easier.


6- Don't sweat the small stuff:
It's ok if dinner isn't made, that's what take out is for.
It's ok if the baby hasn't had a bath for two nights, they don't really need it anyway.
It's also ok if your house looks like a war zone, it can be tidied later. Or even tomorrow. Or in my case - the day after that! 


7- Ignore unwanted advice:
I wanted to punch people in the face. Hard. Everyone seemed to have an opinion and they are very quick to tell you exactly what they think.
So what if my baby is in his bouncer parked onfront of the TV whilst I grab a quick shower? They preach with their "oh we don't have a TV, It will ruin babies imagination" Bahh!
A few other subjects that people will be VERY quick to lecture you on - breast feeding, baby wearing and cloth diapers. Do your thing girlfriend, ignore the haters.


8- "Sleep while your baby sleeps":
So annoying but soooo true. Sleep is precious and babies sleep patterns are unpredictable.
Although...As I type away my own baby is sound asleep and I really should be too. Hmm. Maybe I should make a new post called 'Listen to your own advice and stop blogging'?


Enjoy the quiet time whilst you can



9- Crying is normal:
We've all been there. Some more than others but it's totally normal, you have just birthed an actual human for Gods sake. That in itself is pretty crazy. Sometimes you will cry due to your hormones and other times you will be tired, frustrated and over whelmed but just cry it out and vent.
So when did I cry?
First vaccinations Check!
Because the baby wouldn't sleep? Check!
Cried because they were crying? Check!
Cried because I was sick of crying? Double check!


10- Take each day as it comes:
Every day will be different, some will be good and some will honestly be pretty crap but the next day is different and then you see that gummy smile and it makes it all worth while again.




                     

Do you have any advice on how you survived the first few months? I would love to hear from you!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Big & Little - Two Peas In A Pod


Sometimes when I look at my Little Love he is exactly like my Big Love.

I see so many things in Little that make him just like Big. I hope that he grows up to be as sociable, funny and charming as Big. Then one day he will be a great man, just like Big.

They are my two peas in a pod.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Happy Half Birthday - The 6 month update

This week marked Little Spencer Duncan's half birthday. A whole 6 months have passed since I met my little love. Can you believe it?! I certainly can't.

My past few days have been spent staring at him in wonder that I created something so amazing and how quickly the days have gone. It is amazing that in even just 6 small months how much your life can change.



Those gnashers are well and truely through now


Weight
This heavy little guy is now bang on 9kg (19.8lbs) - quite the chunk!

Health
Thankfully since the two bottom teeth popped through a couple of weeks ago we have had a break from the pain, grumpiness and insane chewing. Once those toothy pegs cut through the gum it was like immediate relief. Phew!

Relaxing in the morning sunshine



Development
Spencer is a very active and alert little boy. As always, he is desperate to be standing upright or jumping. He has insane strength in his legs for such a young baby. This is helped by spending time in his Jumperoo and in his new baby walker and can now stand unaided as long as we are holding him for balance. Unless it's sleeping time he does not want to lie down.

We have been helping him to sit upright, he is still pretty wobbly and doesn't last long before he falls to the side but with a few more weeks of practice I'm hoping that we have it mastered.

Exercising his voice is one of his new passions and likes to be quite vocal chatting away to us, just like the picture below. 





Sleep
Thankfully Spencer still loves his sleep, I pray that this continues.
Morning naps are generally 40 minutes to an hour long and in the afternoon 1-2 hours nap.

Bed time is at 7.30pm by the latest as he just can't stay awake any longer. We will then dream feed at 11pm and from there he will sleep right through until 6am.


Social
This is one smiley, happy boy! He loves to interact with people and make eye contact. Recently he has been alot more aware of what Penny and Steven Kitten are upto and tries to make his way to them or screams for them to come to him.

By watching us he is starting to mimic what we do with blowing raspberries and making noises. He is very alert and aware of what is going on around him.





Food & Diet
Now at 6 months old he is eating 3 pureed meals a day, through his own choice! Milk just isn't filling him up enough to curb the hunger which was making him very grumpy. He will have his meals plus 4-5 bottles of milk through the day for vitamins and hydration.

During meal times in his high chair I will give him finger food to chew on to get used to the textures and flavors. He won't eat these but likes to play with them and try putting them in his mouth. Some foods that he likes to chew on are sliced cucumber, carrot sticks and toast.

This month his favorite food is pureed apples and still maintains a strong dislike for blueberries.



Routine
This little guy loves a routine and some structure in his day - he must get that from me!

We found our routine naturally by following the signs he gave us when he was tired and hungry. In a day I know that he will always get up from 6am onwards, through the day he will have two naps and will go down for bed by 7.30pm. It is not strict and to the minute but by sticking to this loosely (give or take 15-30 minutes) helps me to have a happy and well rested little boy.




Clothes
He is officially in his 6-9 month clothes. I have bought him a few new bits and bobs mainly from Zara Baby and Carters.

The shops here follow the UK seasons - which is ridiculous as we don't have the same climates - and soon their stock will be full of heavy materials, woolen jumpers and winter jackets. Soon I'll start buying clothes ahead of time for when Spencer is bigger and still needs summer clothes.




Likes
Like a little Meercat, he LOVES to be upright and see what is going on.

He very much enjoys being outdoors to see all the colors and feel the wind in his face. Hopefully the weather improves very soon and we can head outdoors more. It is still at least 40 degrees every day so we can't venture outdoors for long at a time.

Playing rough, being thrown up in the air and hanging upside down are sure ways to get a giggle. The way he throws himself around clearly shows us that he is not a delicate little flower. This boy likes rough and tumble!



Dislikes
Elongated noises.... Making a "Boo" noise is fine but if you keep the noise going like "Boooooooooo" he starts to get upset. Have you ever heard a baby getting freaked out by that?!


Milestones
Reaching 6 months old is a huge milestone in itself!

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The next major milestone will be at 1 year old. I hope that time slows down a little and I can keep my baby small for just a while longer. They really do grow up too fast!