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Picture Perfect – The Outtakes

February 2, 2016

Escapism. Blogs can be interesting and informative platforms but many also use it as a form of escapism. They want to visualise a different world, learn from it and feel like they are with you in that exact moment doing what you are doing.

This is my motivation to think up fresh ideas to show you the world I live in through my eyes and my camera lens.

Recently on a trip to Wadi Qurai my adventure buddy, Lucy, commented on the extreme lengths I go to just to try and capture a photo worthy to be on the blog page. It amused me to see the photos Lucy took of me whilst I’m in my creative mood clambering around with my camera.

Hauling my ass up to the highest rocks for the best vantage point, teetering on the edge of a huge drop and lying belly down in the mud – all things I do just to try and get that great shot. Sometimes it’s not worth the effort but when I get that one great shot then I know it is worth it.

My photography is amateur at best and I’m learning but I can hold my head up high and tell everyone that my content is honest and raw. That is the most important thing for me. You won’t catch me copying photos from Google and passing them off as my own and I won’t churn out posts just for quick hits. I prefer to put the effort into my blog posts to make them genuine, fun things to read and visualise.

If I get more dirty from attempting to capture the perfect photo rather than the activity itself that is ok, I’m sticking to what I love and having fun in the process.

I hope to have more adventure pictures for you soon,

Heather x

Expat Life, Family Life

Merry Christmas 2015

December 24, 2015

Snuggled under a blanket with the logs crackling on the fire, twinkling Christmas lights and the smell of a real pine tree and festive baking fills the air.

Just joking.

This is my reality- It’s Christmas Eve, 26 degrees and not a cloud in the sky so no chance of a white Christmas. I’m perched on the edge of a scratchy sofa as my horror child takes a five minute break from destroying everything in sight to watch Minions. Again. I’m taking the opportunity to sneak onto the laptop and get some stuff done and the only smell in the air is something unpleasant wafting from his diaper. I guess that is his Christmas gift to Mama.

By my own OCD Christmas standards I am so unprepared. There is not a single light, decoration or even a tree in the Duncan House. But this year, for us, I think that is ok. I’m a lot more relaxed about this than I ever thought I would be.

We weren’t sure if Colin would be here at all or if he would be called to work, that is still a possibility but for now he is here with us and we are thankful for that.
The reason for the lack of decorations – With two dogs, two cats and a whirlwind of a toddler a tree probably wouldn’t last long. Thankfully Spencer is still oblivious to the Christmas mania so we can get away with a quiet festive season for one last year and I promise I’ll do better next year when he is more aware of it.

I couldn’t let this lovely season pass without a couple of photos, decorating a palm tree and a sweet festive jumper.

001 Palm Christmas Tree

This Christmas Day we plan on a nice, low key day hopefully spent laughing and eating with friends enjoying their company rather than panicking about the ‘perfect’ day and everything that goes with it. The only thing I will insist on is a family photo, more for the sake of memories to look back on. I can hear Colin moaning already 🙂

001 Christmas Jumper 1

Being away from our loved ones and our own traditions is especially hard at this time of year. I wish we could snap our fingers and be with our families but sadly this year it just isn’t possible.

Wherever you are this festive season I wish you all the best,

Heather x

PS- Apologies for all the errors and rambling in this post, his attention span is wearing off and I have a toddler hanging over my shoulder.

Adventure Time, Expat Life, Family Life

Life Lately – Winter 2015

December 18, 2015

Life has been busy lately making me a very neglectful Blogger.

The past couple of months has brought cooler winter weather, visitors from afar and exhausting days of gym training. But we are all healthy and happy together and I’m back with the round up of Life Lately.

My lovely Poppa flew into Muscat to visit recently so we managed to spend some quality time together and enjoy all the nice vacation things that I often forget to do when day to day life takes over. We ate in some great new places, visited the beach for sunset, spent mornings at the pool and generally just relaxed which is a very rare thing for both of us.

001 Pop visits

001 Spencer Nov 2015

001 Collage with Dad

After a long slog of a summer the arrival of the winter weather is definitely something to celebrate. For me every day is busy as I attempt to cram in as many outdoor activities as possible to make the most of it.

001 Nov hikes

001 Bausher wadi

001 Rockclimbing

Myself and Spencer flew Abu Dhabi for a couple of days to watch Colin play in an ice hockey tournament for the Oman Timberwolves.

001 Fly to AD

Spencer really loves to hang out at the rink, heckle players and bang on the glass so this was a fun weekend for him with plenty of games to watch.

001 AD tournament

He even had a holiday romance with a Dutch girl and fell madly in love. Spencer of course, not Colin.

001 Spencer in love

Several times a week I’m still training at Elite Gym in preparation for an upcoming fitness challenge in January. With under a month to go we are pushing hard to be race ready in time.

001 Kicking

With the festive season right around the corner I have only just started the Christmas preparations. This year will be a small scale Christmas celebration spent at home in Muscat and with friends. But to all our friends and family back in Scotland reading this, we miss you and sorry we can’t be there!

Thanks for sticking with me through my Blogging lull! I aim to be back very soon with more exciting adventure posts.

Heather x

Expat Life

Misconceptions of an Expat Wife

October 19, 2015

From the outside looking in my life probably screams stereotypical “Expat Wife” – Yes, I have a ring on my finger and the baby seat in my 4×4 – But don’t always judge a book by it’s cover.

It’s ridiculous but I hate being called an “Expat Wife”. I am an Expat and I am a Wife but I hate the stereotype that goes with it. Whilst many women are content fighting for their spot in the social hierarchy of obnoxious spoilt bitches, we aren’t all like that!

There are so many misconceptions about the Wife Life;

I am rich – Lets blow that out the water straight away! Life is comfortable but we are not rich, far from it. Like everyone else we have bills to pay then a mortgage, nursery fees, financial commitments, groceries etc. And what is left after all that goes towards savings for a future that we can’t even predict.

I am a lady of leisure – Just because I’m not in a 9 – 5 job doesn’t mean that my life is worth anything less than those collecting their salary. Many wives would LOVE to work but we can’t due to visa regulations and red tape in our host country.
Instead I take on the role of home maker. Unfortunately for me that involves longer working hours, 7 days a week, less social interaction and hugely dedcuted salary compared to those in employment.

I’m arrogant – If you jump the queue or block my way whilst I’m wrestling with my toddler who just wants to leave, I will say something. If I see your child being physically aggressive towards my child, I will say something. If you charge me more money purely because I’m white, I’ll say something. If you blatantly talk about me in a language you know I do not understand, I will say something.
It is called manners and if you use yours, I’ll use mine.

All I want to do is spend money- Spa treatments, Shop till you drop, Expensive champagne. Yeah right!! My husband works his ass to provide for us, he works long hours and frequently travels away from home – buying myself a new handbag or shoes won’t stop the loneliness or help when I’m up in the night with a sick child. If I ever thought to fritter away our money with such disregard I would be packed on a one way flight back home.

I have the best life- This is mostly true, I do have a blessed life. But always remember that you only see what I show you – I don’t often show the downside side to my life because I don’t want people to feel bad or only remember the bad things. You don’t see me when I cry, I don’t post when I’ve been harassed and no one hears how lonely this “Wife Life” life can really be.

So please, don’t judge us all in the same category just because we are married to a man who works hard for his family. Some of us actually want to be more than the spoilt rich bitch stereotype.

Until next time,

Heather x

Expat Life, Family Life

A Day In Luxury – Al Bustan Palace

October 15, 2015

Exploring Wadi’s, picnics on deserted beaches, hiking cliff top trails – Every time my brother, Graham, comes to town I bombard him with crazy adventure plans. He’s seen some of the most amazing sights in Oman so for his fourth trip to the Sultanate I wanted to arrange something special, and a little different, for him.

With luxury in mind it really doesn’t get better than the Al Bustan Palace. They don’t call it a ‘Palace’ for nothing! From the moment you arrive to the moment you leave you are treated like royalty – This is exactly what I had in mind.

With little Spencer joining us too we booked the “Palatial Day Experience” which would be perfect for us as we can use the facilites for the whole day and also have a hotel room to nap, relax and freshen up.

The day rooms have a balcony that open directly onto the Lagoon pool, this was the view from our room. At this point Graham looks pretty delighted, I think I’m earning some awesome sister points right here!

001 Room with a view

My little water baby, Spencer, wastes no time in getting into his swimming gear and jumping into the pool.
This is such a convinent set up when you have the kids, you can relax on your balcony lounger whilst they swim and know that they are safe and happy. Well, that’s the general idea but Spencer has his own ideas which involved plastic boats, crocodiles, elephants, a football. Soon we had that swanky pool looking like his personal play area.

001 Poolside Room

We spent a wonderful morning playing in the lagoon pool and had no intentions of moving until our tummies told us that it was time for food.

For lunch we relaxed in the shade of the pool side restaurant, Blu. Spencer ordered from the kids menu and as you can see he very much enjoyed his Fish (Hammour) fingers.

001 Spencer Lunch

With a belly full of good food Graham retired to the room for an afternoon siesta – always the sign of a good day in my book – whilst me and Spencer headed off to explore the grounds.

I was wishing that Spencer might drift peacefully off to sleep in the stroller but he was too excited as he chatted away to every single bird we passed and pointed at boats on the beach.

001 Al Bustan grounds

001 Al Bustan beach

Not one wink of sleep for this cheeky boy so we head back to wake up Uncle Graham and show him the way to the infinity pool.

001 Spencer Hat

Standing next to the infinity pool it looks like a scene from a glossy holiday brochure. This is paradise!

001 Infinity pool

After a morning in the intense Oman sun we were very grateful for the shade of palm trees as we played in the pool for the final hours of day light.

001 Pool with Mum

The best Uncle!

001 Pool with Gee

001 Spencer pool day

Making memories together is so important, especially when we live so far apart. It was a fantastic and memorable day at the Al Bustan and a lovely way to treat my brother for coming so far to see us.

Now I have raised the bar, how can I out-do this for his next visit to Oman?!

Heather x

Expat Life

What To Wear In Oman

September 12, 2015

“I’m travelling/moving to Oman, what should I wear?”

This is the question that I am asked most from all the emails I receive.

Many women, especially coming from the Western world, are nervous about how to dress and what to pack – don’t worry! Most of us have all had the same panic at some point – I have lived in Oman 3 years and only now do I feel more comfortable in my own style. At times it really has been trial and error.

There is no specific dress code handed out at the airport for new arrivals, though that would be a great idea, there are some simple steps to follow if you want to be respectful of local culture and tradition whilst still feeling cool, comfortable and ladylike. My aim is show you that dressing with respect (covering up for most of us) and dressing well doesn’t have to be frumpy and dated.

001 Midi skirt collage

Foreigners are generally made to feel very welcome in Oman. Through the years the Omani people are becoming more Westernised in some ways but this is still a very traditional – and in many ways conservative – country. Old attitudes run deep. Most local women you will meet will adhere to the Islamic Dress Code. As guests we do not have to follow this dress code but we shouldn’t completely ignore it. Don’t be that ignorant Expat that we all cringe at and the locals hate, it’s not cute.

In a nutshell – Don’t flaunt yourself in public. Dress modestly – keep your chest, shoulders and legs (from the knee up) covered.

We see signs at the hypermarkets and malls advising us on how to dress for good reason. These are places packed with people with different attitudes and backgrounds, people from the Interior and remote areas don’t often see Western woman never mind share their love for teeny tiny shorts. You can be seriously offending some people and attracting all the wrong attention from others. Be realistic – Men will stare at you, that is just what they do, but don’t give them a reason to want more from you.

0 Hypermarket sign border

We live in the 6th hottest country in the world, there is a good fact for you, It can get incredibly hot and humid so the natural reaction is to strip off. Sadly when out and about in the town that just isn’t possible. You are sweaty. Yep we know, we are all feeling the heat too.

Strapless dresses, Spaghetti strap tops and Daisy Duke shorts and a big NO as they are showing off such big chunks of skin all at once and would definitely be considered indecent.
You need clothes that cover you enough but still loose and cool. Layers are important. That way you can cover up in public but then it’s easy to whip off a layer once you get into your own personal space of car or home. Jeans are not always comfortable in the heat so consider loose cotton trousers/pants, patterned leggings (that are not see through you bend over), maxi & midi skirts. On top it is good to invest in some loose blouses, blazers etc.

001 Coral maxi collage

On a general day for me I am running errands around town, working from coffee shops, nursery run and popping to get groceries etc, I find it easy to wear easy flowing clothes like maxi dresses, midi skirts, leggings, and then sometimes jeans. On the top I’ll usually have a tank top, because it’s easy, and then layer something on top of that. Usually a scarf, a light weight cardigan or a blazer. It can also adds a pop of colour to your outfit and make it more interesting.

Scarves and pashminas will become your trusted friends! It’s always a good idea to keep a spare in the car or your hand bag incase you are caught out with situations – surely these things don’t just happen to me – like your car breaking down or the police stop you. It is such an easy way to cover yourself up and go about your business without any hassle and adding even more clothes.

001 Scarves

This leopard maxi is double lined, no see through dilemmas, it is floaty to stay cool but still ladylike. The denim/jean jacket is a good layer worn for coverage and easy to take off when needed.

001 Leopard collage

Okay, let me be straight with you. Bikinis, shorts, tank tops, summer dresses – Yes I still wear them and you will see by my other blog pictures that I am quite relaxed about it BUT I do try to wear these in the right places and the right company. (If you are new in Oman you will soon find the places where you feel more comfortable – Usually by the hotel pool and beaches where more Expats hang out).

001 Oman clothes collage

Something I’ve realised now when buying clothes – You need your clothes to be a good quality to survive a summer season. You will probably only get one wear out of each item before it is drenched in sweat and needs to be washed again. This combined with the hard water quickly takes it’s toll on the material.

Who said dressing with respect had to be boring? Show your style with accessories rather than more skin. It can be trendy and demure without attracting all the wrong attention.

001 WTW necklaces

You will at times see people who are completely ignoring all advice and wearing whatever crazy clothes they want. Don’t copy their example. Just concentrate on yourself and stay classy and decent.

Hopefully this post can help some of you who are worried about how to dress appropriately and give you some outfit inspiration. Please feel free to share this post with any women you know that are travelling to Oman and the Middle East.

So get those bags packed and don’t stress yourself out too much, Oman is a wonderful place to be.

Heather x

Adventure Time, Expat Life

Al Sawadi Tower

September 6, 2015

Standing tall and proud above the bay is the tower of Al Sawadi.

Al Sawadi has been a destination on my to-do list for a long time, Located around 50 minutes drive from Muscat, past Barka, it is easily accessible for the masses and doesn’t take a whole day of travel. In my previous adventure post, read here, I had mentioned that we planned to visit the previous week but the tides were unfavourable – when you read this post you will understand the importance of getting the tides right.

Parking at the beach car park the plan was to wade across the bay to the near by island to visit the tower of Al Sawadi. We loaded ourselves up with the essentials – Water, Camera, Dry bag, Shoes and sun cream etc..

As we left the car park in the late afternoon it was still low tide which gave us a window of a couple of hours to cross and get back safely before the channel would be too deep for us (we are both competent swimmers but always be safe, the currents are very strong) This is a good website to check tide times, click here.

Arriving on the peaceful island we headed for the stairs and began the steep incline – Great cardio in the sunshine! I was feeling very thankful that I had remembered to bring shoes with me as these steps were incredibly hot after a whole day in the baking sun.

001 Sawadi Stairs

The climb to the top is steep and hard going in the heat but the view from the top is so worth the effort. There are plenty of resting points along the way to stop and enjoy the beautiful coastal scenery.

001 Sawadi Scenery

Unfortunately on the way to the tower we seemed to attract 4 creepy young men who followed us all the way from the beach to the top of the rock. I don’t have many pictures of the tower itself because these guys were lingering in every shot and I didn’t want to give them a reason to try and engage us further.

These situations really annoy me because I’m certain that the guys would not behave like this if we had a male friend with us, they seem to think two girls on their own means it’s fair game. They are probably too dumb to understand that it can be an intimidating experience to be followed and outnumbered on an island where there is no one else around – This can happen anywhere in the world but always be aware of your surroundings and let people know where you are going and when you will be back. Better to be safe than sorry.

Eventually, after about 45 minutes of pursuit and annoyance, they got bored and realised that these two chicks were not going to take any sh*t from them without a fight and made their retreat.

001 Sawadi Tower close up

001 Tower Arches

In the picture below I have marked the car park where we set off from with the yellow star to show how far and high we travelled to reach the pinnacle.

001 Sawadi look to car park

After a rest in the shade and plenty of water we started the descent back down enjoying the ocean breeze to cool us,

001 Sawadi descent

Wading back across the channel the water level was up to our waists, deeper at some points. Although we could stand and the ocean looked peaceful the under current was strong and could easily take you off guard.

Back on the mainland we moved to a semi quiet piece of beach, well as quiet as a coastal town in Oman gets at sunset HA Ha!, to relax and cool down in the ocean as we watched the sun set over Al Sawadi.

This is another example of a great adventure in Oman that doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Life doesn’t have to be about expensive brunches and fancy clothes – I’m pretty happy in my shorts with a backpack climbing up a big ass rock somewhere 🙂

Any suggestions of places I should explore next?

Heather x

Expat Life, Family Life

Three Years

September 3, 2015

Three years ago to this date I landed in a foreign land to begin a new life.

It was sink or swim.

I’m not sure if I am celebrating three years in Oman itself or three years of surviving away from the home nest. Either way, today feels like a reason to celebrate. I didn’t sink, I swam and I’m still swimming.

For those who have never made the daunting leap from “home” and everything you have ever known then it probably doesn’t sound that exciting to you, in the grand scheme of life what is three years anyway?
But for those who have made such a drastic life change they may be able to relate, every month and year that goes by is a success – You haven’t failed and you haven’t run home crying. You’ve got this.

01 Sur heart hands

The past three years have been so crazy, weird, wonderful and given us so many oppertunites we would never have had otherwise.

I would love to know what the next step is for us but only time will tell. All I can hope is that for every year that passes we can embrace it and make the most of these crazy adventures in life.

Heather x

Expat Life, Family Life

Flying Alone With A Toddler

July 31, 2015

When I think back to my previous post ‘Flying alone with a baby’ I laugh at just how easy it was travelling with a baby in comparison to a toddler. Travelling is now a whole different game.

Babies might scream and need extra cuddles and soothing but at least they can’t run away from you at the gate or slap you in the face during a security brisk.
Toddlers are tricky little creatures. Their lives are completely ruled by their emotions ranging from sweet and kissy to full scale meltdown because Mummy wouldn’t let him eat a dog poop. Yep, that one really happened.

Travelling with a small child is never easy, especially when you are doing it alone. With some planning and preparation you can make things so much easier for yourself. If you are facing the same anxiety here are my top 5 tips on surviving a flight with a toddler;

1- Pack Light
What do you really need to take with you? Pack as light as possible. Well, as light as you can with that tantrum time bomb who may need their favourite comfort teddy, possibly some toy cars or, like my child, a vast buffet of finger foods and nibbles to keep him occupied and full. A hungry, tired and angry kid is a bad combo. I packed tubs with Cheerios, Croissant, Grapes, Cheese cubes, Bread sticks but the real winner for us was a juicy apple. He loved chomping on it and it amused for at least 45 minutes.

Outward I travelled through the airport with a stroller which was a waste of time as he wouldn’t sit in it at all, it’s only use was to hold my hand bag as I chased him. In the end I had to put on his reigns so he could walk himself and in the other hand I pushed the burden of a stroller. The stroller was quickly sold in the UK and we travelled back without it, so much easier. Moral of the story – don’t take it if you won’t need it.

Remember that anything you pack then YOU will have to carry. Don’t load yourself down like a pack horse. Keep it to light essentials.

001 Spence plane apple

2- Clothes and Spares
In preparation for the night flight I dressed Spencer in some super cute Pjamas, it’s harder for people to be mad at a cute looking kid, right? I also wanted him to be comfortable and feel like it was bed time. Bring a change of spare clothes, nappies and extra wipes just incase of any blow outs and spit ups as travelling can do funny things to their little bodies.

It can be handy to have an extra tshirt or scarf for yourself incase of spilt milk, drinks, smeared chocolate, vomit etc.

001 Spence jammas

3- Do anything to keep them busy
My kid isn’t the kind to sit still and watch a movie so that rules out my ideas from pre-baby days of read a book then watch a movie and before I know it we have arrived. Distant memories.
In the airport and on the runway we spotted planes, helicopters, trucks and Nee-Naw’s (fire engines) which was like a little boys dream!
After we had sampled everything from our snacks packed we then we put Cheerios from one tub into the neck of a water bottle so he had to concentrate and had to stay still. We also read books, the inflight magazine and played with a mini drawing set.
Friends had suggested to take lots of small toys wrapped in paper to unwrap them at different points of the journey. This was too fussy for me and I ran out of time but for some kids it’s a great idea.
Try singing songs, drawing sets, getting some baby friendly apps for your phone and taking a new book full of fun pictures.

IMG_3151

4- In the airport, Let them run
Away from the main busy areas airports have plenty of space to let the little rascals loose and burn off some of that pent up energy. After being confined for so long on the plane they are unlikely to want to go in a stroller. Unless your child is an angel, then lucky you! Hopefully in the end they will tire themselves out enough to be calm before you board your connecting flight.

001 Spence airport connection

5- Keep calm, Breathe and Smile
Your kid might make this hard for you but as long as you are doing your best to soothe and control them then you have every right to give the other passengers the stares right back. Kids are kids after all. I kept telling myself that this is only a few hours of my life to get through, once I arrive my family will be waiting for us. Deep breaths always help.

You will survive this (Shhh, it also helps to have a small wine from the drinks trolley) and you will feel a great sense of achievement once you have landed at the other end.

IMG_3148

Good Luck! Let me know if you have any suggestions of how to keep toddlers busy.

Adventure Time, Expat Life

Nakhal Fort

May 14, 2015

If you are looking for something to do this weekend then I would highly recommend the new refurbished Nakhal Fort. It has been rejuvenated both inside and out inkeeping with the traditional features and maintaining the Omani heritage.

Located 120km from Muscat in the town of Nakhal it is easy to reach and a nice trip for all the family, well the ones that can climb stairs anyway. I stopped in to visit the fort on my way back from Wadi Abyad. It was very FORT-unate that I was close by..

Built on top of an irregular rock it gives the fort height above all the surrounding landscape making it the perfect vantage point for oncoming intruders.

01 Nakhal 1

Of course it’s a fort built on a rock from hundreds of years ago – expect plenty stairs as you head off to explore what is inside. Your quads will be getting a good work out!

Located around the perimeter walls are Portuguese canons from years gone by. You can pick up the canon ball to feel the huge weight of it.

01 Nakhal 5

01 Nakhal 2

Peering through the wall.

01 Nakhal 3

01 Nakhal 8

The several different rooms are historically decorated with guns, cooking wears, trinkets and colourful cushions making it more interesting and hands on than many forts around. (This is very trusting and wouldn’t happen in the UK without someone stealing something as a souvenir to take home..)

One of the very interesting rooms to explore is the jail area but I’ll leave you to find that one on your own.

01 Nakhal 6

01 Nakhal 10

01 Nakhal 9

Reaching the top after all those stairs you can get a fabulous view of the land around.

01 Nakhal 76

01 Nakhal 4

Previously I had heard that the entry fee is 500 baisa. We didn’t pay anything to enter, nor did we see anywhere to pay so we strolled right in. The only thing that let it down was that there were no information points of pamphlets dotted around regarding the history of the place, we just had to use our imaginations and Google when we got home..

The word on the street is that there is a goat auction there every Friday morning. That might be something worth checking out with the kids….get it?!….ha ha.

This is definitely the grandest and most impressive fort I’ve found so far, better than Nizwa, so I’m sure I’ll see it again soon with my stream of winter visitors.

01 Nakhal 11


How to get to Nakhal Fort;

Leaving Muscat city on the highway to Dubai, once you are at Barka take the turn off for Road 13 to Nakhal, After 30kms of pretty straight boring road you will reach the town. Follow the road through the town and take a left at the large roundabout (currently covered in fake grass). The fort is at the end of this road on the right. You can’t miss it.

GPS coordinates; N23.23’41” E57.49’46”