I have a special little happy dance that I reserve solely for news that one of my favourite food bloggers is releasing a cookbook. I already have Ree Drummond's The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl, which I absolutely love: it's as colourful and quirky as the author herself and the recipes, especially that cheese olive bread I whip up whenever we have friends over in the evenings, are gold. Now, there are more books to add to my collection: Deb Perelman's The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, named after that warm and wonderful Smitten Kitchen food blog, has 105 new recipes, funny personal stories and a lay-flat binding so the book will stay open on your kitchen counter – genius. Perelman is fearless, cooking away in her tiny New York City kitchen, creating delicious and approachable recipes that prove, as she says, that "there are no bad cooks, just bad recipes". That, as well as What Katie Ate: Recipes and Other Bits and Pieces by the blogger Katie Quinn Davies and Dinner: A Love Story by blogger Jenny Rosenstrach are must-haves on a home cook's shelf and the anecdotes and observations, packed into the little stories that go with the recipes, make for some great bedtime reading. Make sure you check out their respective blogs, too.
* Hala Khalaf
The Blonde’s shampoo
It is a fact that I am in the minority, at least when it comes to my hair. Amid the hundreds of bottles of shampoos and conditioners that populate shelves, there are options for dry, curly, frizzy, oily but they all coat my super-fine, super-blonde hair in something heavy that leaves it looking dull and lifeless. It was a fate I had resigned myself to until I came across The Blonde.
In the handmade, natural cosmetics store Lush – which to my delight now has several branches in the UAE – I found a slightly lumpy, soap-like disc. Made with camomile flowers, lemon juice and something called Limonene – a pale liquid that smells like lemons, I was ensured by the enthusiastic employee that this solid shampoo was made for people with hair just like mine. Although it took some getting used to – I had to make a lather as I would with soap, by rubbing it on my hair – the effects were great. My hair was light and shiny and I didn’t have to wash it again after only a day. At Dh60 for a 55g bar that lasts for at least three months, it was also value for money. I would advise all fellow blondes to make the switch to solids.
* Anna Seaman
Blue Bonnet protein powder
I’ve always been sceptical of those brash-looking containers of protein powder sold at local shops, but it wasn’t until I sought the health advice of Dr Heather Eade, a naturopathic doctor at The Dubai Mall Medical Clinic, that I stopped lying to myself that they were in any way good for me. She confirmed what I suspected – that while they may have protein, which is good, most commercial brands also come with disturbing amounts of sugar and unnecessary chemicals that outweigh any of the benefits. She recommended Blue Bonnet 100% Whey Protein Isolate Powder, which they just happened to sell at the very well-stocked Supercare Pharmacy in the mall’s basement. A 2.2 pound cannister is not cheap at Dh290 (neither are the other, less healthy brands) but you can be sure that the whey isolate is sourced from grass-fed New Zealand cows, the powder offers only natural flavours and is sugar, corn and gluten-free. And after doing a little research, I realised how lucky I was to be able to buy it here: Dubai is the only location in the world outside the US where it is sold. Visit www.bluebonnetnutrition.com or www.super-care.ae for more information.
* Ann Marie McQueen
Bought it, love it, can’t live without it
Every so often we stumble across an item that was so worth it, we want to tell everyone about it.
Maria Sharapova Air Bacara Ballet Flat
I've never paid much attention to Maria Sharapova as a tennis player or a fashion designer. Generally, I veer away from people who get into fashion after they are famous. But maybe I should change my mind about that. After reading an online testimonial to the Air Bacara Ballet Flat Sharapova designed for Cole Haan, I felt as though I had to have a pair but that Dh495 might be a bit steep for such a shoe. Then I noticed the supporting role they played in one of my favourite movies of 2012 – Jennifer Lawrence's character, a would-be dancer, wears them throughout Silver Linings Playbook – and I had to check them out. It was a trip to The Dubai Mall, where I slid my feet into a size 39 at the Cole Haan store and marvelled, that closed the deal. These flats have style, particularly in the form of lacing at the heel. They come in snappy colours, including several glitter-covered varieties (I settled for tango red since they were sold out of both matte and shiny black, which the shop assistant told me happens a lot) and are versatile: they would look equally good with a work dress or a pair of jeans. And the best part? They are both comfortable and offer support, which is rare for a flat.
* Ann Marie McQueen