Singapore 2016

Singapore has been one of my top cities to visit for as long as I can remember. I always had this image of myself walking around the Marina Bay Sands area and having my picture taken in front of the Merlion. However, when my husband and I decided we wanted to plan a trip somewhere this year, Singapore was far from our minds. We have a long list of places we want to check off over the course of our lifetime and we placed our priority on France, Spain or Morocco. Turns out, we couldn't get our visas ready in time for either destination so we racked our brains for more options and came up with Malaysia (which I'll write about in another blog post) and Singapore. We were able to get our visas ready quickly for both countries and without much planning, off we were to a part of the world we weren't expecting to visit for a long time!



We arrived in Singapore quite late at night and we were really exhausted so we decided to go to bed and wake up bright and early the next morning. We only had three days there and a long list of places to see so I was really worried that we wouldn't be able to fit everything in. We were also worried about the weather, and by we I mean mostly me. The forecast was predicting rain for the entirety of our stay and I couldn't bear the thought of our trip going to waste because of rain. There was actually one night a week or so before our trip where I couldn't fall asleep because I was so worried about what the weather would be like! I'm embarrassed to admit all this now because thankfully the weather cooperated with us the whole time we were there.



When we first arrived we were overwhelmed by two things - the humidity, and how clean the city was. We had heard lots of people say that Singapore is hot but coming from Dubai we weren't expecting much of anything but when we got there we realized they were not joking. The humidity levels were incredibly high and even stifling at certain points but we tried to ignore it as much as we could so that it didn't get in the way of our sightseeing. If you are planning a trip to Singapore, make sure to keep the weather in mind. Pack light, airy clothes and little to no makeup because you cant even fathom putting anything on your face with how hot and humid it is. Another thing to keep in mind is that the weather doesn't change at all during the year. It consistently stays hot and humid so it doesn't make a difference what time of year you plan your trip.






Before arriving, my husband and I had made an itinerary that was composed of the following places
1) Marina Bay Sands
2) Gardens by the Bay
3) Little India
4) China Town
5) Arab Street
6) Haji Lane
7) CHIJMES
8) The Raffles Hotel










I can luckily say that we were able to visit all of the places on our list, some of them even multiple times. We used the metro to get to and from everywhere. We always prefer to take public transportation where ever we go because it saves money, and it gives a more authentic experience of the city you are visiting. This post is just an over view of our trip so I wont get into the details of each place we visited (if you'd like more information about a certain place on our list feel free to ask in the comments or send me an email!). However, I will say that our top three favorite places from the list were Haji Lane, The Raffles Hotel, and CHIJMES. We actually had breakfast on Arab Street, right across from Haji Lane all three days while we were there. While I don't remember the exact name of the shop, it was a casual place that served the most amazing anda - parhatas we have ever tasted in our lives. My husband and I were joking that if we lived in Singapore we would have breakfast there every single day. Not only was it delicious, it was incredibly reasonable as well. You'll definitely notice this place if you're on Arab Street because its quite bustling and always packed. We felt really lucky that we came across it while we were there.

There are a few other things to note about Singapore as well. They're not joking when they say they have really strict laws so do be sure to familiarize yourself with them before you arrive. Things that may be second nature to us like chewing gum or jaywalking (come on, admit it, we've all done it before) hold heavy fines and even a risk of jail time in Singapore. As with any country you visit it's important to respect their rules and customs so make sure to read up. After all, they don't call Singapore a fine city for nothing ;) Other than that, our trip to Singapore definitely exceeded our expectations. While we were expecting a typical expat city, we found a hub of culture, history and modernization all in one.






The Perfect Weekend


It's not often that we get to experience a perfect weekend. We all make plans for the weekend thinking this one is going to be better than the one before but by the time Sunday night rolls around I'm always left wishing I had done something differently like fitting in more errands or getting more sleep. I had made no particular plans for last weekend and it turned to be one of my best weekends ever. I woke at my usual 6:30 am (thanks biological clock). Luckily for me my husband is also an early riser so I don't have to worry about waking him up in the mornings. I made a cup of tea for us and I finally flipped though my magazines that had been pilling up for weeks. The morning light streaming in from the window onto our bed was so gorgeous that I couldn't help but take a photo. I spent the rest of the morning catching up on my reading and by mid afternoon I got out of my lazy mode to bake some banana bread. Banana bread is my absolute favorite thing to bake! I can never get over how good it makes the house smell. After snacking on some bread we decided to head out to The Beach for a late lunch. I finally got a chance to wear my new bracelet that I bought at the Souk in Muscat (it's the gold coin one!). All of these combined to make such a relaxing day which is such a nice change from our normally fast paced life. It was amazing not to have to think about work or errands and it put me in such a great state of mind for the upcoming week. This was by far the best weekend I've spent in quite a long time. I'd love to know what your definition of a perfect weekend is!

My 5 Favorite Photography Tips





I'm a little embarrassed by how long it's taken me to get this blog post up. I'd actually had it written and queued up for weeks but between work, preparing for my trip to Pakistan(!!!), technical difficulties on my blog and attempting to take care of my home it's been a struggle to sit down and actually publish it. I finally had a few spared minutes today and managed to make that collage you see up there. Anyways, enough my rambling. Let's get back to the actual post. One of the questions I most frequently get asked most frequently is how do I take and edit my pictures. I find this question quite flattering because I'm far from an expert. To be honest my husband helps me out with photography a lot and by helping I mean he takes a large chunk of my pictures for me. I do like to take credit for the creative aspects though! I think we make quite a productive team with his technical skills and my creative compositions. It's all about the balance after all. There are a couple of things I've learned along the way that have helped me out tremendously when I do take my pictures. Most of our pictures are taken with our Canon 70D that my husband and I impulsively splurged on before our trip to Turkey. It's actually turned out to be our favorite purchase ever. Our camera has allowed us to really learn and experiment photography and take it one step above iPhone pictures. The tips I'll be sharing today apply to all cameras, both iPhones and DSLR's. (I'm working on a separate post just for DSLR's!) I hope these tips answer the questions that so many of you have. If not please leave me a comment below!

1. Use Natural Light

Unless you have extensive knowledge of your dslr and lenses it can be impossible to take good pictures under artificial light. Light bulbs tend to cast a harsh yellow or blue shadow on pictures resulting in a lack luster photograph. Natural light on the other hand provides a natural glow to pictures that make for a gorgeous photograph. Don't be afraid to experiment with different types of natural light. Play with shadows, harsh light, dull light etc to see how they impact your pictures. The only way you will learn what light works best for your taste is to experiment. I prefer the bright light that shines through my apartment in the afternoon. This sometimes causes delays for me if I don't get home in time to shoot my pictures but I would rather wait until the next day to get a great photo than to take a photo in light I don't love.

2. Composition

When it comes to aesthetically pleasing photographs, composition is key. Whether you're taking a flat flay, food photo, or nature shot, if you don't compose your shot in a way that's pleasing to the eye it won't look good on camera. Play around with your props, objects, whatever it may be to find the shot that looks best. Explore different angles and settings to find what works best. I often take 20 different shots of the same thing before I find a composition that I love.

3. Don't Drastically Edit

Chances are if you've taken a great photograph you won't need to edit it drastically. When I first started taking pictures I would saturate them until they turned neon. For some reason strange reason I thought they looked best that way but I've slowly come to realize that when it comes to editing, less is actually more. Now, I like my pictures to have a natural look so I hardly ever use filters or editing tools on them. For me filters are a hit or miss, sometimes they can transport a photo into another realm but most of the time they make a picture look discolored (not in a good way), grainy, and distorted. My favorite tools to use for editing pictures are the tools available on Instagram itself which allow you adjust saturation, brightness, shadows etc. I find that these tools make the best impact on pictures. You'd be surprised at what a difference increasing saturation or brightness can make on an image!

4. Taking Straight Photos

One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to pictures are when they are crooked. Crooked pictures throw off the entire balance of a picture. It's best to make sure that you're holding the camera straight when you're shooting. This is very easy to do if you have a phone camera but it can take a little time to master if you're using a dslr because they tend to be more bulky. Luckily there are a number of apps you can use to straighten a picture my favorite of which, surprise, surprise is the Instagram editing tools. The best part of the straitening tool is that not only can you use it to straighten a picture horizontally, you can also pull the photo in different directions (not sure if that makes sense!). But trust me, it makes a huge difference especially if you've tilted the camera up to take photos.

5. The Rule of Thirds

This rule goes along with composition but it's so important that it deserves its explanation. The rule of third is when the composition of your picture is divided into thirds, either horizontally or vertically. This means that the subject of your image falls along one of the thirds. This rule is hands down one of the easiest ways to create an interesting composition in your photo. Rather than having the subject in the middle, if the subject lies along one of the thirds it will create interest in your photo and draw the eye to the subject automatically. I use this rule in almost all of my pictures by having at least one of the subjects of my photo fall along the third lines. You can either imagine the lines in your head when taking the picture or you can use the grid function on your iPhone camera to see where the lines fall. 

I hope these tips are helpful! I will be doing another set of tips that are specifically for dslr's very soon!

Longing for Fall in Dubai



One of the things that I knew I would miss the most after moving to Dubai was Fall back home. New England has one of the most beautiful Fall season's in the world. For 21 years I got to watch the leaves turn to all shades of crimson, yellow, and orange. They would line the streets as I walked and I was always on a hunt to scout out the most vibrant leaves. I would pick them up and bring them home with me, placing them on my desk to look at while I did my work. During Fall my dad would always take me on a long drive through the countryside so that we could take in the beauty together. I never realized how much I would miss this beautiful time of the year after I moved to Dubai. The months of September and October are hot here but they provide the perfect opportunity to visit the beach. Just recently I've noticed a slight breeze rippling through the trees here early in the morning when I first wake up. It's nothing close to the sweater weather we have back home though. Aside from being incredibly scenic, Fall in my opinion is one the season where you can be most stylish. If pairing cozy sweaters with jeans and boots before you have to top them off with layers of outwear isn't the best of both worlds, I don't know what is. I have a stack of sweaters here that I brought with me from America just in case it cooled down enough to wear them. I've been staring at them every time I open my closet imagining the accessories I'd pair them with if I could. For now I'll just have to hope that the winter here is cool enough for me to wear them at least once!

Tom and Serg: Bringing Hispter Back to Dubai

This plum, peach, and lime juice is possibly the best thing I've ever tasted.

I think my title for this blog post a little misleading. Tom and Serg, the ultra - hip, incredibly cool, local producing serving cafe that's opened up in Al Qouz of all places has introduced hipster to Dubai rather than bringing it back. I know hipster has garnered a bit of a negative connotation lately because it leads people to think of entitled millennials but in the context of Tom and Serg, hipster is a very good thing. Tom and Serg opened up their cafe in what had originally been a warehouse in one of the most industrial areas of Dubai. While this isn't unusual in places like Brooklyn and LA, it was revolutionary for Dubai where good food is related with opulence and luxury. Tom and Serg is changing the way that people think about food in Dubai. By opening up in an unusual area, creating a selective yet impressive menu and showing that good culinary experience don't have to be luxurious, Tom and Serg has made a mark in the Dubai food scene.

The seared tuna tacos are perfection.
 
A restaurant can't get by with a cool idea, it has to have good food to back it up and Tom and Serg doesn't fail to measure up. The menu  is kept limited but each item has been crafted carefully by Tom and Serg (the owners) themselves. My husband and I first discovered this place a few months ago after hearing raving reviews about it on Zomato and Instagram. We decided to try it and we were blown away. It's become our favorite spot for brunch, early morning breakfasts and everything in between. We've made it our goal to try every item on the menu. So far we've covered their seared tuna tacos, scrambled eggs (best we've had in Dubai!), salted caramel french toast, Moroccan chicken salad, and berry granola. It's kind of sad that I remember every dish that we've tried there but it goes to show how good the food actually is. Oh, and did I mention they serve Valrhona hot chocolate? Because they do. If that's not reason alone to try this place then I don't know what is! Next time you're looking for a place to brunch be sure to give Tom and Serg a try because you won't regret it.

*This post was not sponsored and all opinions expressed are mine, and mine only.

Wanderlust in Muscat



I should start off this post by saying that my husband and I are both afflicted with a serious case of wanderlust and never waste an opportunity to travel. After hearing that we would have 4 days off for Eid we wanted to plan a trip somewhere that would be easy to get to and small enough to explore in a few days.

We finally decided on Muscat, the capital city of Oman. Muscat certainly isn’t a destination that’s on the top of many people’s travel lists but we wanted to see what it had to offer.




We left around noon on Eid day unsure of what to expect. Although we had made a detailed list of places to see there’s always a sense of anticipation when travelling to a new country for the first time.

By the time we arrived at our hotel we were exhausted from our drive; five hours with very little to see along the way except for the occasional house and car repair shops. The drive made us nervous for what to expect when we got there but as soon as we arrived at our hotel we were relieved.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn – Al Seeb and I can’t recommend it enough. Not only was it reasonably priced, the service, facilities, and rooms were amazing!

We were greeted with mocktails and warm hand towels which were a welcomed relief after our long drive. When we got up to our room we decided to stay in, order room service, rest up and prepare for a day of exploration ahead.



The next day we were up bright and early ready to take on Muscat! We got ready, had breakfast, and headed out to our first destination which was Mattrah Souq. Souqs are one of my favorite things about Middle Eastern cities and I couldn’t wait to explore Mattrah.

It was about a 20 minute drive from where we were staying. Since we didn’t have Wi-Fi in Muscat we were worried about finding our way around but with the help of the boards on the road we were able to figure out directions relatively easily.

Mattrah Souq holds the same charm that are found in traditional souqs. Small shops were filled to the brim with colorful trinkets of all kinds. There were bright pashminas, jewelry, and sparkly keepsakes everywhere we looked. The prices were high though, even more expensive that the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul so we skipped the shopping and headed straight to the sultan’s palace.



By this point in the day the weather had begun to get extremely hot and humid. We walked around the exteriors of the palace which are aligned with gorgeous marble corridors. Right next to it was a beautiful wall filled with bright pink begonias. Despite the heat we couldn’t help to stop and take some pictures there.

After finishing up at the palace our next stop was D’arcy’s Kitchen, Muscat’s most famous restaurant. We were so excited to try this place after reading such rave reviews about it online. When we left the palace we thought we would be able to locate the restaurant relatively easily but this was not the case. We got very, very lost and it took us about 2 hours to get there because every time we asked for directions we were pointed in a different direction.



When we finally arrived at D’arcy’s we were taken aback at how cute the interior was. It felt like walking into a British Tea Room. The service was friendly and quick and we were very pleased with the food. We’d highly recommend it to anyone visiting Muscat. After D’arcy’s we headed back to the area around the Souq, watched the sunset and called it a night.

The next day we explored an area of the city called Qurum Beach. This was easily our favorite part of the city. There were palm trees, gorgeous turquoise waters, and white cafes lining the streets. We spent some time on the beach but the humid weather made it very difficult to walk around. We then made a quick stop at the Opera House which was gorgeous.

After that it was time to head back home already. Muscat was the perfect getaway for us. 2 days are more than enough to see everything this quaint, laid back and charming city has to offer!







This post was originally featured on http://blog.lifeofmyheart.com.au

Muscat Part 1


Over the Eid Holidays my husband and I decided to take a weekend trip to Muscat, the capital city of Oman. Just a 5 hour drive from Dubai it was the perfect option for a quick trip. We left around noon and got there around 7:30 because of traffic and some pit stops along the way. By the time we arrived at our hotel we were too exhausted to go anywhere. We decided to call it an early night and woke up bright and early the next morning ready to explore the city. Our first stop was the Sultan's Palace. We were allowed to go inside so we walked around the outer premises for a bit and came across this gorgeous wall of *bougainvilleas. It was so incredibly hot outside at this point of the day but we couldn't resist the chance for a little photo op. The pink begonias were such a striking contrast to the brick wall behind it. Petals from the flowers had fallen below and lined the walkway. It was all so gorgeous. Even though every city has something unique about it, I always find that the smallest details like a wall of flowers or petals on the ground are what make a city special. Capturing these shots was definitely worth standing outside in the hot sun!








*Shout out to my best friend Jamie for telling me that these flowers are actually bougainvilleas and not begonias as was originally stated!