Thursday, June 18, 2015

Music Streaming with Deezer

We've come a long way! From good ol' cassettes to burning playlists on CDs to music on iPods and now, we've really arrived in the digital age with music streaming. (I swear I'm not that old)

Seriously though, I honestly can't remember the last time I downloaded a song! I haven't found the  need to - I usually listen to the radio in the car so I can hear some new tracks and when I'm on my laptop, I stream music on Youtube which is quite the pain but I've powered through. I survived and thrived on Spotify when I was living in NYC but unfortunately, it does not work in this region unless you have a Premium subscription.

BUT just recently, I discovered Deezer and I'm a happy camper once again! Deezer is a music streaming service available (yes, legally available) in the UAE (and other countries)! I've been using the service for about two weeks now and have to say - it's pretty great.


So here's the lowdown - I'm currently on the free plan which means ads and being able to play them on only one platform at a time, both of which are no biggie IMO. They do also have a paid Premium+ version ($9.99/month) which has no ads, unlimited plays across platforms and being able to access your music offline as well. It's available on web, PC/Mac, iOS, Android, Windows and Blackberry.

They have some cool features like 'Flow' which suggests music based on your current favorites and 'Mixes' which are genre based playlists. You can also make your little playlists and here's my favorite part - you can choose to have people collaborate on your playlists! Fun right? I was even able to import my Spotify playlists quite easily using this website!


The library is quite impressive - I've been able to find all of the music that I listen to including the Bollywood tracks even. The interface is also quite easy to use which is definitely a bonus. So, I completely recommend giving Deezer a go if you're looking for a music streaming option - it's very similar to Spotify if you've used them before.

Here's a little summer playlist of songs I've had on loop for the last few weeks, you'll get a 30-sec preview if you're a not a Deezer member.



What are some of your favorite tracks right now? Let me know in the comments below! :)

Mona xo

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Staycation: Anantara the Palm

Who doesn't love a little break? I know what you're thinking - I was just in Turkey. BUT I feel like when you travel to a new place, you're constantly on the move trying to cover everything possible, planning everything to the T with a serious FOMO cloud over your head. Is this just me?

This is exactly why a staycation is my number one way to just RELAX followed very closely by a spa day. My most recent need to unwind led me to Anantara The Palm Resort and Spa for a weekend escape. Now, fair warning, this post is going to have way too many adjectives because this place was so god damn wonderful.


I jumpstarted my staycay by switching up my regular ride - I was packed off on a little tuk-tuk to check out the resort and man, just the tour had me straight into my holiday mode (I mean staycation mode). They have a whole bunch of things to do and places to eat which I'll get into in a bit - stay with me.

Once we entered the lane which led to my room, it really felt like I was transported to some part of Thailand (in my head, this is what Thailand looks like).



The cheese on my french fries was this gorgeous room! I had the premier room which had direct access to the simply divine lagoon that I spent so many (MANY) hours floating in. I was there around mid April and the weather just made this experience even more heavenly than it already was.


So after I managed to drag myself out of the lagoon, I went around exploring the resort. If you're the active kind at resorts, they have a gym, tennis courts, a watersports hut and even a kids club. While I didn't try out any of the activities (saying that I was lazing is an understatement), it's safe to say you're sorted if you feeling adventurous. More up my alley was the Anantara Spa but sadly they were closed for renovations at the time. They also have the resort staple - a lovely infinity pool along with a private beach.

And last but not the least, no staycay is complete without some good food - lazing can really bring out your appetite (teehee). I demolished the lovely breakfast at Crescendo but otherwise, sticking to my staycay theme, I thoroughly enjoyed some delish room service.

But if you feel like venturing out of your room and into the wilderness that is the resort, you're spoilt for choice between their Asian restaurant Mekong, Ozzie steakhouse Bushman's Restaurant and Bar (they even serve Kangaroo meat) and their Mediterranean option The Beach House


So if you're looking for your next mini getaway, I cannot recommend Anantara the Palm enough. I know I definitely did not want to leave and I absolutely can't wait to go back there.


This post is giving me serious staycation blues - any recommendations for my next one? Tweet me @MonaGir and leave a comment below :)

Mona xo

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Nighttime Skincare Routine

I've been getting quite a few compliments on my skin lately and those are just the best kind of compliments, am I right? Tell anyone their skin looks great and you're in!

I've been painstakingly following a strict skincare routine over the last few months, so it's good to know that it's paying off. My skin was acting up in all sorts of ways and these products have been helping me nurse it back to health.

It's pretty basic stuff, I have kept it short and simple because that's the only way I can make sure I do it every night and not laze out of it. Keep in mind, I have combination skin which is quite prone to acne and pigmentation.

So here goes: presenting my current nighttime skincare routine! 

Step 1 - Cleanser

I start off my trusty Bioderma Sensibio H20 Cleanser. What timing - I just finished my previous bottle a few days ago and this landed up in my Bioderma Glambox this month! 

I like this cleanser a lot - it's good with sensitive skin, does a great job with makeup removal and the big plus is that it's not at all sticky. My only qualm with this product is that sometimes if you're wearing heavy eye makeup, it takes a little longer to get everything off completely but it gets the job done!

Available in all pharmacies across the UAE. AED 35 for 100 ml.
I also found it online here.

Step 2 - Toner

I follow that up with Herbline Essentials Cucumber and Rose Water Skin Tonic. Doesn't the product already just sound so wonderful? I'm in love with quite a few of their products but let's talk about this one for now.

This tonic is so soothing, it's like a mini-spa for your face at the end of the day. It's 100% natural, smells delicious and cools down your skin beautifully. Love, love, love.

Available in all pharmacies across the UAE. AED 105 for 120 ml.
I also found in online here.

Step 3 - Serum



Step 3 is the one and only Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate. I know I'm probably way late to this party but seriously.. what is this magical elixir? I put a few drops of this on my face at night and I wake up with my skin in a good mood. This serum is super hydrating and so thus I usually skip the moisturizing step (if you noticed)

It has solved so many of my problems - pigmentation, scars, dullness - you name it. It's a one stop shop for for anyone looking to repair their skin. I have the 50ml bottle at the mo which will easily last me five months as you really to use only a few drops every night. So if you're a little iffy about the price tag, remember that it's going to last you A WHILE.

Available in Kiehl's stores in Dubai Mall & Mercato, Harvey Nichols and Bloomingdales. 
AED 321 for 50 ml.

Step 4 - Eye cream



So, until recently, I didn't understand what the big deal was behind using an eye cream. Doesn't your moisturizer cover your under-eye needs or whatever? But as always, you read one too many beauty blogs (story of my life) and there I was buying the Kiehl's Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado.

And of course, it works! The cream is quite thick with a slight green tinge (owing to the avocado) and it takes a while for it to absorb into the skin. So, allot absorption time if you plan to wear this during the day. 

You feel a burst of coolness under your eyes the minute you put it on which is a welcome surprise and overall, the skin under my eyes is now nicely hydrated and also brightened up, thanks to this one. Note that it is recommended for younger age groups as it doesn't have any anti-aging properties. 

Available in Kiehl's stores in Dubai Mall & Mercato, Harvey Nichols and Bloomingdales. 
AED 150 for 28 ml.


And then I go to sleep! Let me know your night time routine and if there are any other awesome products you recommend.

Mona xo

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Pub Quiz Roundup

I'm a BIG BIG (BIG) fan of pub quizzes. What's not to love - it's the perfect marriage of fun + competition + food & drinks, all of which are totally up my alley.

If you're not familiar with the pub quiz concept - JUST GO TO ONE ALREADY! :) Okay alright, this is how it works - your willing friends/family and you head to one of these places on a quiz night, get some food & drinks, answer some trivia, get into some friendly competitive arguments (or more), have fun and if you're good - win some prizes!

I've been to my share of pub quizzes in Dubai and thought I'd share some of my favorites. For the love of quizzes, here we go!

Sundays - The Stables 

This has to be one of the harder quizzes I've been to but nevertheless, entertaining! They give out prizes each round such as dinner or a bottle of wine etc and a final cash prize as well. You also get to keep Winston LeQuiz (the dinosaur mascot) with you if you win any round. If that's not enough for you to try this quiz, I don't know what is.

The Stables, Sheikh Zayed Road
Free entry. 7.30 PM onwards. 

Other quizzes on Sunday night: Girders at JA Ocean View Hotel, 7.30 PM onwards.

Mondays - McGettigans DWTC

Fun quiz - you can win brunch vouchers every week and take part in the finale quiz every month to win an iPad. They have some interesting rounds which they keep switching up - we once had a 'where in the world' round in which we were presented with names of airports and had to guess the country to which it belonged, proved more challenging that you would imagine it to be!

McGettigans, Dubai World Trade Centre
Free entry. 8 PM onwards. 

Other quizzes on Monday night: Carters at Wafi Pyramids or UBK at Movenpick JLT, both 8 PM onwards

Tuesdays - Fibber Magee's

This is my favorite-st quiz of them all - great atmospherem the quiz itself is so much fun and one of the easier ones in town. Apart from the usual rounds such as general knowledge and music, they also have a round where you have to guess movie posters and a craft round where either you are presented with clay or some sort of art supplies and have to make something related to a theme.

Some of our 'interesting' attempts at the craft round - themes were St. Patricks and gifts for Obama
An all around good time and it's ladies night on Tuesday, so ladies get 3 drink coupons for the night! It gets quite busy, so it's a good idea to get there before 7.30 PM to get a table.

Fibber Magee's, Sheikh Zayed Road
Free entry. 8.30 PM onwards.

Other quizzes on Tuesday night: McGettigans JLT, 8 PM onwards

Wednesday - The Underground

Hosted by Danny C and Ross MacDonald from Radio 1, this quiz is a toughie. The time we were there, it was quite sports heavy and we ended up crashing and burning quite a bit. However, it is the quiz for those who like a challenge and some great prizes such as brunch and more up for grabs!

The Underground, Al Habtoor Grand
Free entry. 8 PM onwards.

Other quizzes on Wednesday: Double Decker at Al Murooj Rotana, 8 PM onwards

And that brings me to the end of this roundup. So if you're looking to do something different on a weekday than just go to the movies or the mall, head down to one of these and have some fun. If you are a fellow pub quizzer, let me know if there's any I should try out!

Mona xo

Thursday, April 30, 2015

April App Favorites

Swackett (Free, Web, iOs and Android)

Swackett is a weather app which keeps it interesting by showing you not just the regular weather info but also dressing up a 'Peep' in suggested clothing based on the readings. I'm traveling to Turkey tomorrow (eek!) and have been using this app to figure what I need to pack! Especially perfect for people who travel.

http://www.swackett.com/s2/ Image source: Venus Buzz

Riff (Free, iOs and Android)

Riff is an app created by Facebook which allows for collaborative chain videos to be made with friends. So, you make a video and give it a topic or a hashtag, it will show up for public and your Facebook friends on Riff will get a notification. They can then add another video to yours and from there, their friends can add on as well and it keeps going that way. Imagine a Snapchat story with many different collaborators, you get Riff. You can watch chain videos from around the world as well.

I like it, think it'll work great for birthday/holiday wishes, events and even just general fun videos!

http://newsroom.fb.com/news/2015/04/riff-make-videos-with-friends/
  Image source: Business Insider

Hooks (Free, iOs)

Hooks is so simple and so beautiful. The basic and only function of the app is to provide notifications. You can pick whatever you would like to notified about - whether it's a new TV episode, sports scores, stocks, when a new music album comes out from your favorite artist, horoscopes, films etc - and it will notify you. No more missing out on stuff or looking it up every few days, hurray!

Image source: Content Base

DocuSign (Free, Web, iOs and Android)

DocuSign allows you to draw your signature freehand on your phone/tablet, insert it into a document
send it off to whomsoever it may concern. No more faxing, printing, scanning and all that other stuff. You can also send documents to other people to sign using the app. For someone like me who is rarely at a desk or even with access to a printer, this is a life saver! 

https://www.docusign.com/
 Image source: Torontoism

PackPoint (Free, iOs and Android)

Another travel app favorite - PackPoint basically generates a packing list based on activities and length of your travel. I'm all for making my own lists but packing lists are so exhaustive! This makes life so much easier and also makes sure I don't forget anything (which always happens with my lists). I really like the interface as well, very smooth and cute.

If you would like more flexibility in making your lists, try me PackMeApp (Android) or Pack the Bag (iOs) - it allows you to pick items from categories that you would like to add on your list thus making it easier than making your list from scratch.

http://www.packpnt.com/
  Image source: Next Web

And that's a wrap. As mentioned, I'm off to Turkey tomorrow for a week and safe to say, I'm pumped! If you have any Turkey tips for me and also new app recommendations, let me know in the comments below or tweet me @MonaGir. You can also follow me on Instagram to see pictures from my trip!

Mona xo

Monday, April 20, 2015

You know it's summer in the UAE when..

Tis' been a while! I spent the last few weeks working on a TV commercial and thus the unintentional blog hiatus. Anyway, I'm back and I come bearing bad news.. the summer has returned.

While the situation is not so painful as yet, we all know it's only the calm before the storm. So, as a follow up to my 'You know it's winter in the UAE when..' post, here's my take on when you know it's summer in the UAE (cringe)

1. You don't need to go to the beach to get a tan

 

2. You want to shower twice a day (with scalding hot water from cold water tap)

 

3. School's out! 

 

4. It's all melted errthing - lip balms, chocolate, face and more. 

 

5. Your car is a burn hazard - be it your door, steering wheel, gear or leather seats (good luck)

 

6. The need for H2o is so real, you even enjoy the occasional water sprinkler.

 

7. Guarantee you see lots of these.

 

8. And last but not the least, the humidity. Dubai becomes everyone's very own steam and sauna.

Enjoy the next few precious days till real summer gets here - stay hydrated, sunscreened and all that good stuff. What means summer in the UAE for you?

Leave a comment below or tweet me @MonaGir!

Mona xo

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Scoopi Café

Ice cream cravings are truly the most dangerous and so, a particularly strong one led me straight to try out the new ice cream place on the block, Scoopi Cafe on Jumeirah Beach Road. 


They had some interesting gourmet flavors on display such as Medjool Date and Pina Colada along with the regulars such as Creamy Peanut Butter, Tropical Coconut and Mocha Espresso.

I decided to go for it king size and try out their Belgian Waffle topped with Madagascar Vanilla and Italian Nutella scoops which was further topped off with organic maple syrup (let's call it a cheat week worth of calories).

So, here's the deal: you choose your flavor and then they make you a fresh scoop by using liquid nitrogen to freeze the ice cream. Why? This produces smaller ice crystals which makes the ice cream more smooth and flavorful. This process takes about a minute per scoop.


This was my first time trying ice cream prepared with liquid nitrogen and I don't think I can enjoy normal ice cream ever again. The textures of both scoops were so creamy and delicious - the way it was prepared made a world of a difference. Plus the combination of the warm waffles and maple syrup with THIS ice cream was perfection.


Cons - I wasn't a big fan of the presentation - on paper plates with plastic cutlery - but this is not a deal-breaker for me. The flavor of the ice cream itself wasn't anything to write home about, it's the texture that made it so god damn wonderful.

If ice cream is not your thing (I'm sorry, we can't be friends), they have frozen yogurt, sorbet and handcrafted chocolates on offer. Scoopi is also famous for its 'Black Diamond' scoop - priced at AED 2999, it's made with Madagascar Vanilla ice cream, world's most expensive Iranian saffron, slices of black truffle and sprinkled with edible gold. To top it off, the scoop is served in a Versace cup and spoon which you can keep.


Mona xo

Scoopi Cafe
Jumeirah Beach Road (opposite De La Mer Spa)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/scoopicafe

 
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