One of the quirks of the UAE culinary scene is that delectable Michelin-starred treats are easier to find than a simple cup of coffee. The situation has become so bad that I have resigned myself to a life of instant caffeine - I'm sorry, I can't bring myself to even call it coffee.
Hence my journey to Dubai's Brunetti takes on an almost otherworldly experience. After a two-hour journey, I join other Abu Dhabi caffeine pilgrims to Dubai Mall to sample a fresh cup of finely brewed coffee.
The trained baristas there know what they are doing, consistently creating life-affirming espressos and finely balanced lattes. The wide cake selection offers a lot of opportunities to indulge the sweet tooth. The custard-filled doughnuts are my favourite. The only downside is that the cafe is located beside the indoor aquarium, with all its camera-flashing hubbub.
* Saeed Saeed
The other day I was in Dubai Healthcare City and had time to kill, so went in search of a cafe where I could while away an hour. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much at the food court.
Then I entered the Circle Cafe, tucked away in the left-hand corner, and was immediately impressed. The room is modern, inviting and full of light, with comfy white chairs and a grey stone floor. There's a large, white bookcase filled with knick-knacks on one side and bright, framed posters adorning the walls. To add to the homey feel, a farmhouse-style wooden table scattered with board games and magazines takes centre stage.
The menu is filled with healthy items: substantial salads and filled bagels or whole-wheat wraps. The banana and yogurt that I ordered was blended to order, and the sweet potato fries, bagel chips with labneh dip and mixed vegetables with hummus all made for interesting sides.
As an additional boon, they provide free Wi-Fi. Head to Al Rafi 64, Dubai Healthcare City.
* Emily Shardlow
I wish someone would point my husband in the direction of Erica Sara Designs - and soon. He won't manage to place his order and get it delivered to the UAE in time for Valentine's Day on Thursday, but I wouldn't mind waiting a few extra days for a gift as personal and as meaningful as a simple piece of jewellery engraved with a personal note from him.
I'm particularly enamoured of the design-your-own charm necklaces: round discs of either sterling silver or gold engraved with a design or note of my choosing - or, in this case, my husband's. Something from the Love Note collection, from US$78 to $118 (Dh286 to Dh433) each, would inevitably become a cherished keepsake. The design's timeless elegance lies in its simplicity. It's a thoughtful gift, however you look at it. Visit www.ericasaradesigns.com
* Hala Khalaf
Although I've never met Leo Babauta, I think about the San Francisco-based father of six a lot because I am addicted to his calm little email newsletter Zen Habits.
More than a year after subscribing, I drop anything I'm doing the moment one of his semi-regular missives lands in my inbox. The gist of Babauta's philosophy is summed up nicely in an Anthony Trollope quote he sent out the other day: "A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules."
Basically, Babauta believes that while we all want to change for the better, most of us fail to get anywhere due to unrealistic expectations of ourselves. And so his method involves focusing on little goals, and not more than one at a time: exercise for 10 minutes a day, add just one healthy food to your diet and learn to enjoy it, de-clutter one drawer at a time, start making a cup of tea each afternoon and doing nothing but drinking it - that sort of thing.
We rush through life, buy too many things we can't afford and don't really even want and fail to appreciate what's right in front of us. As a result, we box ourselves in miserable corners we don't know how to get out of, Babauta argues.
When it comes to attempting the art of Zen productivity, I'll take it from the guy who lost 60 pounds by savouring his food, homeschools his kids, has no debt, keeps two blogs, has written six books (without fussing to copyright any of it) and appears to live on little more than air and happiness.
* Ann Marie McQueen