We review the items, places and services that we stumble across in our daily lives and can't help but wax lyrical about, they're that great.
What we're loving: Muffins, camera bags, day-cation and lip balm
Skinny Genie muffins
When I was at a train station back in the UK last month, I popped into a coffee shop chain and was shocked by what I saw. Unlike the UAE, the nutritional information for their sandwiches, pastries and cakes is on display and the results made for sobering reading. Even the healthy/low fat offerings contained far more calories and a much higher fat content than I'd imagined. Which is why I was intrigued to try a muffin from the new Dubai bakery Skinny Genie's range. Located in Al Quoz, Skinny Genie bakes gluten-free muffins, biscuits and cakes using largely organic ingredients, without refined sugar and preservatives. Their products also contain low levels of fat and sodium. I tried the cranberry, barberry, lemon and sunflower seed muffins - one of many interesting flavours (next up apple, chia seeds and cinnamon) - and it was lovely; extremely light (particularly considering it was gluten free) and really tasty. The company offer a catering and delivery service; for more information or to place an order 800-SKINNY. Visit www.skinny-genie.com for the full menu.
* Emily Shardlow
Attention camera buffs
An ONA camera bag is now officially topping my online shopping list. Think about it: these days, people carry their cameras everywhere — to playgrounds, on vacations, to candlelit restaurants. With the arrival of my first baby, my camera has actually become an extension of myself, and I'm sick of squeezing it into an already packed diaper bag. "I loathed carrying a camera bag that was clunky and distracting," says Tracy, founder of ONA. "To avoid looking like a tourist, I even tried stuffing my camera into a regular bag...and my camera ended up with the nicks and scratches to prove it." I can relate. Tracy created camera bags that are both gorgeous and functional, and I want one. It's a pricey purchase - their Chelsea camera bag (my favourite) retails at around $369 (Dh1,355) but hey, didn't someone, somewhere say that 2013 is about treating yourself? Check out www.onabags.com and protect that beloved DSLR of yours.
* Hala Khalaf
Getaway for a day
One of the best parts of living in the UAE is having guests - without them, being so far from home would be a whole lot harder. Having been the length and breadth of the country, from the Western Region to RAK, there are few places I haven't been or things I haven't seen in the seven emirates. However, time and again I go back to one little spot, the Ajman Kempinski, tucked away at the end of the Corniche and sat on the Indian Ocean. It's like stepping back in time: both Ajman and the hotel have a sense of rustic simplicity, away from the hustle and bustle of the big cities. The beach barbecue at Zanzi-bar makes this spot my favourite day-cation, close enough to escape for the day with the benefit of going home to my own bed. Guests love it, as they see a quieter side of the country while relaxing on my favourite beach in a spot more like the tropics. The barbecue starts at Dh90, and beach access costs Dh100 during the week and Dh150 at the weekends. For more information, visit www.kempinski.com or call 06 714 5555.
* Melanie Swan
Bought it, Love it, Can't Live Without it
I have always been obsessed with lip balm and get regularly irritated by those semi-regular articles that claim you can't be addicted to it. With 20-plus years of daily use, I am living proof. Long past trying to kick my habit, I have tried many, many varieties over the years and while there have been many winners - good old petroleum jelly remains a simple favourite - last year I picked up a plain black-and-white tube of Kiehl's Lip Balm #1 and it has since become a staple. It offers just the right amount of sunscreen - although it's just sun protection factor 4, my lips have never burned while wearing it - and at 15 millilitres, is so tiny it fits in even the snuggest of pockets. Kiehl's use of naturally-derived products is one of the company's claims to fame. And while it's definitely not cheap, one small application lasts for much of the day and one tube for several months. And for me, that's totally worth it. Kiehl's Lip Balm #1 costs Dh50 per tube and is available at Bloomingdale's, The Dubai Mall.
* Ann Marie McQueen