working on Christmas

Working on Christmas day?

working on Christmas

Sorry for the lack of updates. Everyday, I promised myself to write just after I finish this work load but the time I finish the work load is only a few minutes before 6 pm when I needed to leave and go home. A few minutes to write a blog post when you’re mind is already fogged and thinking of only the commute and walk home and dinner? Yeah, that sort gets you nothing.

The plan to blog after work is a bad idea after all.

So now I’m going to wake up earlier and blog first before I dive to the depths of my work desk. I will surface again at sundown.

The thing is, Christmas is coming. Right, the merriest of holidays. Truth is, I have been working every year on Christmas day (December 25th). It is not a holiday here in Dubai, it’s a Muslim country after all. Same case in non-Christian Japan where we previously lived before relocating here. Christmas in the Philippines (where I was born and grew up)? The word festive would be an understatement. We start our Christmas countdown in September (no kidding). We stay up late on Christmas eve and eat at midnight when the clock strikes 12 midnight and the date changes. We have fireworks outside. I was in for a shock on my first Christmas in Japan because, nothing happens outside on Christmas night in Japan.

Related post: Christmas in Dubai: What’s it like?

This year, my seventh Christmas in Dubai, I want to be home on the 25th so I have been working double time so I can make my boss say yes to a day off on Christmas day. Thus the lack of energy to post a blog at sundown.

Top photo credit by Huffington Post

What have you all been up to? Are you done with your Christmas shopping? Because I have not started at all – who wants to freak out with me?

Welcome, two-day weekend at last!

relax

I have a personal win: starting next week, I will be having TWO days off every week! After almost seven years of having only Fridays as off from work, I am so happy with this news. This is definitely something I have been praying for, for a long time now!

Most of Dubai expats have Fridays and Saturdays off (even schools have these two days as weekend) but some unfortunate souls like myself only have one full day off, Friday.

It’s nice to have that one extra day, a sort of recovery day for when we go out and get tired on Fridays. As a mom working full time, I am just so thrilled to be able to spend one more extra day with my kids.

Thank God for answered prayers, even if it took seven years!

*****

Speaking of win

The year 2013 is almost coming to an end. Can we just collectively scratch our heads and ask ourselves, “where did the time go?” I know, just when I perfected writing “2013” instead of “2012”, another new year begins. Time flies, it’s scary sometimes.

I had set up some goals at the start of the year: keeping fit (more on that in another post), spending time with my children and saving. We are a family who eat out about once a week and it’s good to know we can do that while still save money. How? By using The Entertainer vouchers! They’re fab 2 for 1 deals for restaurants we love and I highly recommend it for all, especially for families.

I’m happy to announce that two people will be saving more in 2014 – Congratulations to Mona and Insiya for winning the mobile version of The Entertainer 2014!

Thank you for everyone who joined the contest!

Top photo credit

5 Reasons why we hired a house help

kitchen sink

We have a live-in house help.

I am not afraid or ashamed to admit this because I am not a supermom who can do everything and keep my sanity: work, kids and a less-cluttered house.  She takes care of my son when I am out working. She helps me run the house so everyone is well fed and happy.

We are happy. Actually happier here than we were in Japan!

She is not related to us by blood but our children loves her and we treat her like family. My son is very attached to her (since she started working for us when he was only 2 months old, he is turned 2 years a few days ago) making me feel very secure I am leaving him in safe, loving hands while I work 6 days a week.

Being able to hire a live-in house help (I don’t like the term “maid”) is one of the reasons we prefer to live in the UAE.

Of course, if you’re an expat and doing very well without a house help, then great. No need to judge. We do what works for each of us. You have your reasons and here’s our reasons why we hired a live-in house help.

1. Less exhausted moms make better mothers.

I remember when we were living in Japan. We were working parents juggling career and taking care of a small child. Sure Japan offers probably one of the best daycare services to working parents but at the end of the day, I was coming home alone with my daughter, tired from my full day at work and having to face the dilemma of the mess we left in the morning, what to cook for dinner, the laundry and the other sights I did not want to see.

Japan is a work-centered society. I guess no one have thought of that when they tell me, “why did you leave? Japan is a great place!”

It’s a beautiful place, yes but a work-centered society focuses on, what else but work. Company workers ( “salaryman“) work long hours. I was part of that society before I got out and accepted a contract job after having my daughter. The contract job still demanded I sit on my desk until 6 pm. My husband is worse, he is not home until 10 or 11 pm.

To cut the story short, I did almost everything alone simply because my husband worked long hours. I was constantly tired and wasn’t able to bask in that glow moms have when they’re with their children. I felt robotic – I am able to feed, bathe, take care of my child but I wasn’t really enjoying being a mom to the fullest because I am tired and the next day’s schedule of cooking, cleaning, etc constantly looms at the back of my head.

Photo credit

We were not really thriving well, just ‘getting by’, one day at a time.

Here in Dubai, I feel very fulfilled I am able to spend time with my children more because someone is there to take care of the other chores. Finally I am able to enjoy this thing called motherhood all over again (my son is very lucky to have a mom who can give her full attention to him when I get home from work), catching up on time lost with my daughter.

My children runs to meet me at the door when I come home and I hug them back without thinking about anything else but them. No doubt, I am a better mother now.

2. Tired wives make crappy partners.

I’ll tell you how our life was when we were in Japan. I finish work at 6 pm, drive to pickup Pristine from daycare, sometimes make a trip to the grocery store, come home and cook dinner with her at my hips, feed and bath her and read books in bed by 8:30 pm.

There is no resident elf or any magical creature to do the laundry, the mess we left in the morning or the dirty plates piling in the sink. No cat to lick the used frying pan clean, either.

Most of the time, I doze off while making my daughter sleep until I hear my husband come through the door at about 10-11 pm. I crawl out of bed (literally as we are sleeping on the tatami floor!) to the kitchen. We look at each other and begin to pick up the dishes, clean the floor, put the laundry in the machine, iron clothes, prepare our little girl’s things for the next day.

The husband sits down to eat his dinner then we’ll both sit down to watch the news while folding laundry. It’s silent except for the TV. There are plenty of times when we were too tired to even initiate a discussion.

More like: tired wives become angry tigers?

Photo credit

You know what happens when you’re both tired? Little things make you snap like it’s PMS every single day. I mentioned about us both working, juggling career and taking care of a young child. But not just that, our relationship was up in the air as well.

Now, I am more relaxed, less anxious about the small stuff. I can enjoy longer and slower dinners with my spouse and listen to his talks fully because I’m less tired. Our relationship is better now.

3. It creates jobs.

Our house help is a single mom, who raised two (now grownup) kids but still has to provide them for their emergency needs, wish to give something nice for their birthdays and Christmas and more importantly, save for her old age. Job is scarce in the Philippines (her home country) and you’ll see women leaving their children and families to work abroad.

Benjamin and his nanny

These ladies need jobs to sustain them and in Dubai, there is that demand. I think so many children have gotten through college through their moms who work as house helps or nannies here.

4. Having someone as backup.

According to this article, Why do so many  of the UAE’s expat families rely on live-in help? by long time Dubai expat Annabel Kantaria,

Having a live-in helper isn’t just about having your ironing done or your floors polished and your children looked after while you loll about in the spa. It’s about having a backup.

My husband works shorter hours here in Dubai compared to when were in Japan but he works odd hours. He has night shifts that end at midnight and he mostly works on Fridays when I am off leaving me becoming like a single parent most of the time.

I need a hand on situations like when I need to attend school events for my older child and it’s difficult to take an overactive toddler, attend an event myself, occasional dinner dates with my spouse (we never had this in Japan!) or simply I need someone to take care of the baby and run the house when I fall sick.

mom sick

* In Japan, if you’re child has even the slightest fever, you will be called to pick him/her up immediately. They won’t watch your sick child for you until you finish your work timing.

5. It’s nice to come home to a clean house.

Try to go home to a filthy house after a long, tiring day from work (and there’s no dinner). Cluttered home = cluttered mind. Enough said.

Though because our house help’s main responsibility is our little boy, we do not expect her to clean the house perfectly. Just to keep it less cluttered, throw the garbage and keep the kitchen clean, most of all.

So those are our reasons. Hire a help, don’t hire a help – we all have different circumstances, find the balance of what makes you happy and go for it.

If it’s logistically possible in the country you live and you are comfortable with someone non-family living in with you (or coming in to clean or help out a few times per week), willing to pay the minimum wage or more and treat your house help with respect and dignity then I’d say why  not – outsource the household chores and spend more time with your children or your spouse.

For me, there is no need to feel guilty about hiring a house help if it helps you keep your sanity and be a better parent to your children because since when did asking for a better quality life a bad thing?

Next up: How to legally hire a maid (this is the proper term used here) in Dubai

Top photo credit

Beach time

Back to the everyday grind

happy happy

Hello again, friends! Sorry for the long blog hiatus – we had a few days of holidays for the Islamic celebration of Eid Al-Adha. Holidays would mean I am at home and when I am at home, it’s not a holiday. You know what I mean?

I had 4 days of off from work and with the husband having odd hours of work schedule for this busy season of shopping (he works at a mall), it’s just me and the kids. It’s a pity he has to work until 3 am. I could not imagine being able to do the same!

Anyway, the children are just too happy to be able to finally go out and play. Just feel the fresh grass under their little feet.

feet on grass

Or bask in the sun.

bask in the sun

Those simple joys.

We also went to the beach so we woke up early on the first day of Eid. Actually, someone was really excited and slept with her swimming costume on! We left the house at 8:00 am, even then I thought we were already ‘late’. This is not a regular Friday (our off here) but the first day of Eid holidays and ALL will be headed to the beach now that the Dubai weather is entering gorgeous on the thermometer. Jumeirah Beach Park opens at 8 am but at 8:30 when we arrived, there were already 6 or 7 vehicles queuing to enter the park.

run run at jbp

The children are just too happy to be roaming around free and they can run as much as they can.

And when we got to the beach? They don’t want to ever come out, especially Benjamin!

Beach time

We had a great family time at the beach and at the park, completely avoided the crowded malls, that were open for 24 hours, by the way for the two days of Eid. Now it’s back to work, school, traffic and our daily grind. When is the next long vacation?

*****

Lastly, so sorry for waiting! The winner of the $50 towards a custom hand-drawn watercolor giveaway from Noomiedoodles is…entry #24 (drawn at random by Rafflecopter): Elizabeth H.! Congratulations, Elizabeth. Enjoy your prize! And thank you everyone for entering.

dubai airport

Discrimination at Dubai airport

dubai airport

Thanks everyone who left kind messages about the passing of my beloved uncle. I entertained myself lately by doing a blog housekeeping – you know, reviewing what’s on my drafts folder, etc and I saw this one I didn’t publish.

*****

This post is inspired by a blog post from blogger Mezba who commented in my discriminated by watchman post. She wrote an amazing article about her recent visit to Dubai that included her first hand experience of racial discrimination right in the airport.

Mezba wasn’t the subject of the discrimination though (she only witnessed).

Then I remembered the time when I was once. I arrived in Dubai in October 1, 2006 from Japan . My present employers  had invited me to come over to Dubai, free flight tickets and 3 days hotel accommodation so they can interview me. They wanted to fly me here so I can see the place so when the interview goes well, I’ll have an idea what Dubai is and if it’s ok to live here.

(Honestly, I didn’t think of coming here but the free tickets and free tour won me over. I was like, heck even if I don’t get the job, at least I can say that I’ve been to Dubai!)

After a 16 hour flight (it wasn’t direct – the plane hopped from Nagoya, Japan to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Bangkok, Bangkok to New Delhi and then finally to Dubai) I arrived really tired. I walked to the direction of “Passport Control” (Immigration) because as a Japanese passport holder, I don’t need a visa to enter Dubai as a tourist. There was no need for me to collect a tourist visa, usually deposited at a certain counter inside the airport.

* There’s a Visa Collection Section where hundreds of people are queuing to get their visa copies deposited by their employers, friends or relatives.

A big burly Arab man, an airport personnel of course blocked my way and in big voice said, “Hey, Filipini! (they use the term for people from the Philippines sometimes thinking it’s correct like Iraqi or Irani) GO to the visa section, GO! Not allowed to come up to Passport Control without visa, GO!”

He pointed to the visa control section with his big arms and stern face.

As for me, who has the energy to fight after that long, tiring flight? I took out my red passport and showed it to him, with the “Japan” in front. His expression changed in a matter of milliseconds.

The big burly arms and hands pointing to the Visa Collection Section changed directions to the escalator leading to the Passport Control (Immigration), palms open and welcoming.

“Sorry. This way, Madame. Welcome to Dubai.”

In case you’re curious – I didn’t react at all and just went on my way. I was tired and moreover, I couldn’t really blame the guy for assuming I have a Philippine passport (I look very Filipino). But then, is that right? Would you always and readily assume a dark colored person is from Africa? Or a person with small eyes from China (my husband gets this A LOT)? I didn’t make it a big deal but some people might be really offended. I wish airport personnel would be more professional in this matter but then again, racism and racial discrimination is alive and well here – in the everyday job ads, for example. Sadly, discrimination is a fact of life in Dubai.

What would you do if you were in my place?

Top photo credit

Getting our UAE visas in 2007

Sponsoring husband and children in the UAE

The usual expat family scenario is this: the husband gets a job assignment in Dubai and the wife (“trailing spouse”) and children join the husband to start their new life in Dubai. The husband’s visa will be sponsored by his employer and in turn, he will sponsor the visa of his family members.

However, some cases are different – like ours.

We came here because of the job offer I received. In some expat families, the spouse with the employment permit arrives in Dubai first and make the necessary arrangements to settle (find a house, car, school etc) before calling in the other family members.

I didn’t want to come here alone. (More like, I couldn’t sleep at night knowing my small child is miles and miles away)

My husband and then 3-year old daughter came together with me as tourists. I had an employment permit. I worked, my husband was the “trailing spouse” who stayed at home to reconnect with his daughter and made lovely bentos for me everyday.

Getting our UAE visas in 2007

This was taken in 2007, right after we got our UAE visas 

In cases like this, the husband could look for a job immediately before his tourist visa expires 30 days after arrival and extendable for another 30 days but it wasn’t an option for us that time: we have yet to find a school for our daughter as well as someone to take care of her after school hours. He can’t go around looking for a job with a three year old child in tow. We didn’t have much time so I had to sponsor him first (and our daughter).

I get asked for questions like this: How do you go about sponsoring your husband in the UAE?

The thing is – being a Muslim country where it’s regarded that the men should be the ‘head of the family’, not the women, not all women can stand as a sponsor for their family members, the Dubai General Department for Residency and Foreigners Affairs requires that “the wife shall be an engineer, or doctor or a teacher”.  If the woman works in other than the above listed professions, she needs to make a petition to the department to be exempted from this requirement, and the immigration department will decide on this request and pass its resolution of acceptance or rejection. In case of acceptance, the basic salary in this case shall be Dhs 10,000 or Dhs 9,000 plus accommodation. (Reference)

We got our UAE visas – mine first at the end of February 2007. Though I had an employment permit, I need to undergo medical tests (as all workers here do) before my passport gets stamped with residence (not to be confused with permanent residence visas in other countries as “Residence” status in the UAE is tied with your job. You lose your job and you only have 30 days either to find another or exit the country.). I needed to get my residence status first before I can sponsor family members.

Time was running out of their tourist visa.

I was so scared they’d have to fly out of the country and come back again with a new tourist visa (Japan passport holders get automatic tourist visas on arrival). That time, my husband knows very little English and Pristine (then 3) wasn’t very comfortable without me.

Luckily, we got their visas at the nick of time.

*The husband got his ‘wife’s visa’ replaced with his own residence (employment) visa after my mom came to stay with us and he finally went out and got a job, 4 months after we arrived.

Do you have any UAE visa questions? I’ll do my best to answer them, shoot me a comment below if you have.

Benjamin and me

Last working day before my vacation!

Today, I shut down my PC at work at 7:30 pm. I can’t believe I spent an hour and a half of overtime on my last day of work – before my vacation starts. If you’re new to this blog, you might want to know that we expat workers here in Dubai get 30 days annual leave with pay + return flights for “home”. It’s one of those wonderful things about living and working in the UAE.

We work long hours, at least most of us do. I only have whole day of Friday and afternoon of Saturday off. I work 47.5 hours a week. Some people work longer. (Others are lucky to have 2 whole days for their weekends…so when they come online on Twitter at the start of the week to whine their 2 days off weren’t enough, I really want to punch my computer screen)

I’ve waited for this for so long. We’ve not had a vacation since 2009. That’s FOUR long years. Some of my work colleagues are quick to point out, “but you had a 3 months break after you gave birth!” Dude, when you have a small baby, it’s not a vacation. At all. I wish you become a woman and give birth in your next life!

I need some air – a respite from the somewhat hamster-in-a-wheel day to day living.

Also – I’ve been struggling with my “other life” – the faithful blogger, the avid street/food/sky/whatever-strikes-my-fancy photographer, the Twitter addict, that friend who never fails to answer emails within 5 minutes from receiving it (unless I’m asleep!), the one who’s always online. The life I am happier with.

Work has been hectic lately and I feel I’m burned out to do anything else.

When I come home, I come home to a toddler running towards me, one hand already under my shirt once I scoop him up. Twenty months after delivery, I am still breastfeeding – I’m getting exhausted with that as well. But when you see this face? You will not have the nerve to not give him what he wants.

Benjamin and me

Don’t get me wrong, I love breastfeeding and won’t have it any other way but while it looks easy breezy, it’s not. You are not the owner of your body anymore. Be prepared to become a human pacifier!

Anyway, I am looking forward to our vacation although full of worries (in another blog post!). I’m trying to stay positive – after all, isn’t it a big deal to wake up in the morning not thinking about going to work for 30 days?

Chai

Dubai is a haven for Indian food lovers

chai tea spices

This morning, I took out a pair of skinny jeans and attempted to put it on. My legs negotiated through the panel of cloth, I nervously closed the buttons and checked my breathing.

Ok, I can still breathe!

I’ve not worn something like this for about two years but don’t be shocked. I’ve not become skinny overnight, the jeans is just…stretchy. Blergh.

But someone in my house said, “Oh my, poor jeans. It’s screaming for help!”

I’ll not disclose who said that to maintain world peace.

I wouldn’t be surprised if some of my clothes won’t fit me soon. We’ve been to an Indian restaurant three times in a span of 6 days. THREE carb loaded, rich Indian food in less than a week! My fat deposits are already reacting before you could even finish reading that sentence.

Fact is, I am married to someone who LOVES to eat out. Eating out is his vice. In fact, he eats out several times a week due to his work nature and schedule. And he eats everything and anything his heart desires. He doesn’t think about the amount of carbs or fat. He doesn’t blink when he orders a tall latte with sugar or a huge ice cream shake at Coldstone Creamery.

One day he said he missed to eat butter chicken, so we went. Next, he wanted paneer tikka, off to the nearby Indian restaurant we went. Last night, he was craving Murgh Malai Kabab – boneless chicken pieces marinated in yoghurt and other tangy spices so we went to try out Gazebo Restaurant at Deira City Center.

These were the most tender and tasty chicken kabab we have ever tasted!

Gazebo menu

That is just part of what he ordered. We had Malai Kofta – round balls of mashed potato with paneer (cottage cheese) and spinach, cooked in a mixtures of onion and cashew nut gravy.

Then the breads! Oh the Indian breads – plain naan, butter naan, parathas, rotis! I can say no to other breads but I close my eyes and say a little diet prayer when a piping hot, fluffy naan is in front of me.

naan

See?

I always have sweet lassi – it’s a mixture of milk, yoghurt and sugar with added spices like cardamom. It’s a great refreshing finish to the rich, spicy-ish food (we always order less spicy). It comes in plain and mango flavor.

plain and mango sweet lassi

My husband loves warm masala tea (chai) after his feast of Indian food. His face paints a look of a happy, contented man as he sips the black tea brewed with spices and milk. It is said that a cup of Chai gives a wonderful sense of warmth and has a soothing effect. No wonder!

Chai

We have deep, deep love for Indian food that we find ourselves asking, “what will we ever do when we leave Dubai and settle in a place where there’s no Indian restaurant?”

So while we’re here, we plan to enjoy the varieties of Indian food available.

Good for the husband, he can eat all he wants without thinking of the fate of his trousers the next day. I am in the losing end because I swear I just sniff the bread and gain weight!

OUR FAVORITE GO TO INDIAN RESTAURANTS:

1. Kamat Restaurant (Vegetarian only)
Several locations across Dubai and Sharjah (We frequently visit their branch in Qusais, near where we live)

2. Gazebo Restaurant
Several locations across Dubai and Sharjah (We went to the one in Deira City Centre Mall)

3. Aramana Restaurant – in Qusais, near Kamat Restaurant

4. Options by Sanjeev Kapoor
Two locations – one at the World Trade Center and the other at Movenpick Hotel Deira in Salahuddin Street.

Read: My review of Options by Sanjeev Kapoor, (Movenpick Deira branch)

5. Shamiana at Deira City Center Food Court and other food courts  – their tandoori chicken is a must try!

Do you live in Dubai? What are the other Indian restaurants you think is worth giving up my skinny jeans for?

Ben

Countdown to vacation starts now!

In three more weeks, I won’t be sitting at work and counting the hours to 6pm or swim through piles of paper. No more running around in the morning to catch the train or bus. If the little boy allows, I might even sleep beyond 7am.

‘Might’ is a big word, though.

We will be leaving Dubai for a while for a long-awaited vacation. It’s been 4 years since we pressed  that temporary pause button of break-neck pace Dubai life and hop on the plane to Japan.

This was taken at Dubai Airport in 2009. Pristine was only 5 and a half years old and we had no baby #2 yet. It feels so long ago.

Pristine is looking forward to it the most. She LOVES to travel. She always offers to hold my hand during takeoff when I feel my stomachs turn.

Pristine in the plane

She’s a very eager traveler, always on the lookout of our blankets on the plane, making sure everyone is comfortable especially mom. I can already imagine our future trips together. She will be a great travel partner as she is very relaxed and flexible during trips. I never had any difficulties traveling with Pristine (except the time we pretended to be smarty pants and did not bring a stroller on our Europe trip in 2006 – our arms almost fell off carrying her around, asleep and heavily jet lagged from the 9 hours time difference!).

Other than that, she is a travel rock star.

We miss Japan. The food. The menu boards at the street cafes.

street cafe menu board in Tokyo

I miss our hiking trails in the mountains of Nagano. The fresh air. The green surroundings.

Hiking trail in Nagano

The apples. I could be bias but Japan has got to be the place with the best apples in the world. Not that I’ve been to all places in the world. Or tasted all the apples in the world.

Apple farm in Nagano

Most of all, we miss Kono bachan, my husband’s grandmother whom we really looked forward to meeting after four years.

With Kono bachan

Unfortunately, we are too late. She passed away in her sleep last March 11. It’s sad we can no longer hug her and see her smile. Losing her was the first time we felt how tough it is to lose a loved one while living abroad, far away from them.

Meanwhile, on our coming trip, we have a new member of the family joining us: enter Benjamin, the 20 month old unstoppable toddler.

Ben

Right now, I’m not going to entertain thoughts like, “I might be tired even before my vacation starts!” or “How will I keep him still in the plane” or Google search things like, “How to fly with a toddler and keep your sanity” or things like that.

Like his big sister, I am hopeful baby Ben is a travel rock star. I am hopeful.

Kerrygold butter at Lulu's Hypermarket

Fabulous Finds at Lulu’s Hypermarket

Lulu’s Hypermarket – undoubtly the best place to buy groceries in Dubai. And I’m not even paid to say that. Lulu’s tops the list of Dubai’s or Sharjah’s most affordable shopping that when you shop at say, Spinneys or Waitrose, you’ll smack yourself ridiculous when you get your bill, “damn, why didn’t I go to Lulu’s!”

We go to the Lulu’s branch in Qusais. The store caters to the huge Indian population so when you’re there, you might think you’ve been transported to India…except that there are Filipino ladies manning all the cash registers and the Nepali’s packing your groceries.

Recently, Lulu’s is trying to reach out to other shoppers other than the traditional customers who frequent there by selling products you would only normally find in posh-er grocery stores.

Here are my recent interesting finds:

There was a Mango Mania 2013 event going on last Friday – with a very catchy: “More than 100 varieties of delicious mangoes from around the world”.

BAM! You know me and my incurable addiction to mangoes. I was excited!

Mangoes at Lulu's Hypermarket

Would you believe, these mangoes looks so much alike but they are different varieties!

Mangoes at Lulu's Hypermarket

I was actually tempted to buy one of each variety.

Mangoes at Lulu's Hypermarket

When it’s mango season in India, I am always in trouble. It’s like I’m on a stocking expedition everyday, experimenting on a variety with the aim to try it all!

So far, my favorites are Alphonso and Badami. Then there’s this variety from Thailand which is pricey. I have to give up my other vices for that (chocolates, duh).

Meanwhile, at the baby’s section, I saw this, way down the rack:

Gripe Water at Lulu's Hypermarket

Gripewater for colic! Where was this when I was feeling so helpless colic with Benjamin?

Another great find: Ella’s Organic squished fruit smoothies that Ben loves so much.

Ella's at Lulu's Hypermarket

These are a few dirhams more expensive at Spinneys but only AED6.75 (US$1.8) at Lulu’s! I know what I’m going to bring on our long flight to Japan next month.

Next is what you won’t expect to find in grocery stores here: MOCHI!

Mochi is Japanese rice cake made of mochigome, a short-grain Japonica glutinous rice. The rice is pounded into paste and molded into the desired shape, often with sweet fillings. The ones sold in Lulu’s are green tea, red bean, peanut, durian(!) and black sesame. We first found it during the Singaporean Festival event but glad they continued to sell it now.

Next, I found a butter that tastes like…real deal butter.

Kerrygold butter at Lulu's Hypermarket

There are a lot of other interesting stuff at Lulu’s lately: Gluten free items, Onken natural biopot yogurt (way cheaper), etc, etc!

TIP: The best times to shop at Lulu’s is early mornings, especially on a weekend (Friday/Saturday here). I often leave the house before 9am because that is the only way you can maneuver your shopping cart without bumping on anyone or you can have your fruits/veggies weighed or getting fresh grated coconut without having to endure the cue like you’re in Disneyland!

Once I finish my grocery shopping and come out of the store at around 11am, it’s mayhem! And the roads just outside of Lulu’s? Traffic, traffic, traffic! All roads lead to Lulu’s on the weekend near noon time and Thursday night and all other nights beyond 8pm!