Sophia Molly: Seven Month Update

Friday, 21 October 2016

Seven months old, can you believe it?! My 'baby' is now more than half a year old and continues to astound me every day.

This month Sophia has liked...

Swimming, both in her trainer seat and tucked under my (or daddy's) arms. She loves to splash with her hands in the water, and has even started to move herself into a tummy-down position and make little doggy-paddle movements with her arms. Super cute!

Pulling herself up into a standing position, and attempting to walk when we hold her under her arms. We've got a strong little lady on our hands.

Eating three whole meals a day! It was obvious from quite early on in the weaning process that Sophia was going to love her food. There hasn't been a single thing that we've offered her so far that she hasn't eaten (even the lemon slice we offered her the other day - see below!). I've been following her lead with regards to the amount of food I'm giving her and frequency of her meals and she's moved up from one meal a day to three in quite a short space of time. This has meant far more solids and a lot less time on the boob this month and I'm praying that my supply isn't going to be affected too much!

Spending some time on the beach, where she spent 50% of the time shoveling fistfuls of sand into her mouth, and the other 50% of the time splashing in the sea.

Nursery Update

Sophia now attends Twyla Nursery three days a week, which is just down the road from us on The Pearl. Because she spends a considerable amount of her time there, and because it is becoming her favourite place to be in the whole world, I think her exploits at nursery deserve a special monthly update all of their own.

This month, Sophia has enjoyed meeting Danielle, the new teacher of her class, Cheeky Chicks. She's super fun and has led some great activities for the babies - including sensory play with balls and water, and having fun with a beach ball in the 'Outside Den'. Sophia couldn't stop giggling when the ball was bounced up and down in front of her!

Her favourite thing of all however, is spending time with her best baby blogger buddy, Naomi Moon (a.k.a. my friend Karen from Clumsy Chic's little girl). They're inseparable!

Keep an eye on the blog over the next few days, because I'll soon be posting Sophia's full nursery story, including why we chose the nursery we did, and how we've found the transition so far.

This month Sophia has disliked...

That slice of lemon that we casually passed her so that we could watch her reaction (bad parents!)...although, much to our surprise she still ended up eating it all!

Breast feeding during the day. There are too many distractions and solid food is far more interesting so she only really wants to feed properly at night these days. Every two hours if she can. Lucky mummy.

Having her nappy changed, being dressed or anything that requires staying still for more than five seconds!

Sleeping anywhere other than our bed. We try to keep her in the Chicco Next2Me, but now that she's mobile it's inevitable that by the end of the night she'll end up in our bed. And forget transitioning her to her own room! That's a battle for another month when we are all a bit less tired and have more energy to attempt such a big change.

This month's firsts:

First time attending Twyla three days a week.

First time eating meat and eggs.

First time drinking properly from her sippy cup.

First brunch, first kiss and first time being led astray by her Doha Aunties!!!

(Thanks to the lovely Flying Food Ninja for these last few photos). 

We have a lot lined up for next month already, so let's see what fun her eighth month brings!

Let's Talk About... Intercontinental Doha The City

Sunday, 16 October 2016

If, like me, you enjoy food and you crave variety, there is only one hotel in Doha that you need to be visiting at the moment to get your fix. Intercontinental Doha The City houses some of my favourite restaurants in Qatar, and every single one of them is serving up something special this month. Here's a rundown of some of the best of the offers - but be quick because there are only a matter of days left to get involved in a few of them!

1. Hwang

Filipino Food Fiesta, 4-25 October 2016

Mabuhay! Don't Hwang about because the chic and refined setting of the hotel's Pan-Asian restaurant, Hwang, is hosting a fiesta for all of the senses which ends on the 25th of this month. Chef Michelle Adrillana (a well-known and super-talented chef as well as inspirational woman in all aspects of life...seriously, have a conversation with her if you can and you'll see what I mean) has been flown in from the Philippines especially for the occasion, curating a menu which has taken traditional street food style dishes and made them accessible to those of us that have never tasted Filipino food before (me!), as well as providing a trip down memory lane for anyone that is familiar with the cuisine. I devoured every course, enjoying the new and unusual flavours, and lapped up the back story behind every dish.

Stand-out dishes: The Kwek Kwek (Deep fried, battered quail eggs with a sharp, sweet dipping sauce), Pansit Guisado (noodles with vegetables, chicken and seafood) and legendary Halo Halo (preserved fruits mixed up with mung beans, tapioca, milk and ice).

Also, don't forget the Yum Cha Brunch which takes you on a culinary adventure of South-East Asia every Friday from 12pm - 4pm for only QAR 228 (QAR 338 including house beverages, and 448 for premium beverages).

2. Prime

Cheese and Vino Nights, every Tuesday 6 - 11pm  

Since I first arrived in Doha, Prime has been one of my favourite steak restaurants in the city, not only because of the range and quality of the meat that's served, but because of the passion that's evident in the chef's selection of melt-in-the-mouth cuts from around the world, along with well-seasoned accompaniments which serve to enhance rather than distract from the steak on your plate. I didn't think it could get much better - that was, until the restaurant raised the steaks by introducing Cheese and Vino Tuesdays. And sweet cheesus, the range is good!

The low-down: QAR 129 for all you can eat cheese from the cheese bar; QAR 199 for all you can eat cheese plus three glasses of wine.

Also, don't forget 'Soiree EntrecĂ´te' on Wednesdays, where for QAR 250, unlimited 'cooked to order' steak plus a choice of sides, salads and signature sauces can be enjoyed amongst groups of friends or family. And dessert is thrown in too!

3. The Square

Me, You & Shrimp, every Wednesday 6 - 11pm

From the kitchens of this family-friendly restaurant come some of the most creative concepts that I have seen in this city, and 'Me, You and Shrimp' is no different. Presented with a plethora of different shrimp dishes to choose from, I was reminded of the scene in Forrest Gump where Bubba is describing his shrimp farm back home: "Shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it..There's shrimp kebobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo...". Basically, if you're a shellfish fan then this is shrimply the best way to spend a Wednesday evening in Doha: sitting back and enjoying some hardcore prawn.

The low-down: QAR 195 for all you can eat shrimp; QAR 295 including selected beverages.

Taste of Arabia, every Saturday 12 - 3pm

Drawing on colours, spices and flavours from across the Gulf region, Taste of Arabia offers a wide ranging buffet of authentic-tasting dishes with a few surprising twists. From shawarma to butter chicken, and a dessert table heaving with Arabic sweets, it's incredibly easy to get curried away and eat far more than you originally intended, so stretchy pants are a must. 

Stand-out dish: The chicken shawarma wrap, freshly made to order in front of you (including the flatbread itself) which is warm, aromatic and delicately flavoured...and had me coming back for more.

Also, don't forget the restaurant's Italian theme nights every Tuesday, and their fun 'Bar Squared' brunch on a Friday.

4. The Lobby Lounge

Pink Afternoon Tea, all of October 3 - 5pm

In honour of "Pink October", the international breast cancer awareness month, the hotel is serving a pink-themed afternoon tea in their Lobby Lounge, including a selection of innovative savoury bites (think hummus eclairs and smoked salmon on pumpernickel tartine) and pretty-as-a-picture sweets. The perfect place to come and indulge the bulge; for once it will do wonders for your conscience.

Stand-out item: the absolutely mind-blowing pink raspberry eclairs.

Also, don't forget the other promotions that the hotel is putting on for Pink October, including the 'Pink Bar Squared Brunch' on the 21st October and Strata's 'Pink Wednesdays' where everyone who attends is in with a chance of winning a designer handbag.

It's been a busy month so far for the Intercontinental Doha The City, and I've spent many an evening in this wonderful hotel. And I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm going back again on Wednesday. It's getting a bit embarrassing now, I feel like I'm starting to know the staff there better than some of my own neighbours...


Intercontinental Doha The City, West Bay | 800 100 610

Follow Your Sunshine was a guest at Intercontinental Doha The City for several of the above promotions, but as always all views are my own.

Doha's Best Child-Friendly Brunch: Superhero Picnic at The Lagoon, Ritz Carlton

Monday, 10 October 2016

It's not an easy task to make a Doha brunch stand out amidst the plethora of options available to the hungry diners (and drinkers) that take to the city's hotels on a Friday afternoon, but earlier this year the Ritz Carlton rose to the challenge and launched the highly original and innovative Picnic Brunch. Combining table service with live cooking stations dotted around the hotel's bright and breezy spaces, including their pretty garden verandah, the brunch ticked all of the boxes for groups of friends and families alike.

Now, six months down the line, and the hotel has surprised us again with the launch of their monthly Superhero Picnic Brunch which falls on the last Friday of every month. 

With a Marvel comic-inspired atmosphere, waiting staff dressed in character and touches of the theme everywhere you look (including fun twists to the food itself!), the thought and creativity that has been put into every aspect of the brunch is apparent. This isn't just somewhere to come to eat and drink until you can't move, this brunch is all about the fun you can have along the way.

It is extremely rare to find a brunch in Doha that is almost exclusively catered to children, while remaining appealing to the adults too, but I think that the Ritz Carlton has got the balance just about right. While children in fancy dress enjoy the bouncy castle, face painting and numerous real-life superheroes roaming about the place, the adults (also in fancy dress if the mood takes you!) can take advantage of the great range of food and drink on offer.

Highlights include the tasty starters which are preset on your table, especially the Fantastic Four Atchara with Green Papaya Salad...

The Giant Hulk Smash Hotdogs, made to order by Spiderman no less...

The Dragon Ball Dim Sum...

The tender, melt in the mouth braised lamb shank, which makes up part of the 'Avenger's Table' selection of main courses which are delivered to you at your seat when you've had your fill of the pre-set starters...

And the dessert platter, which is again brought to your table and includes a delicious banana dessert which is cleverly disguised as a hotdog.

In fact, this brunch does desserts pretty well, and the dessert buffet is full to heaving with delicious-looking treats. This might be a brunch to reconsider if you're trying to watch the waistline.

Sophia and I had come to The Lagoon with my good friend Donna and her son Lachie (a.k.a. Ryder from Paw Patrol), who was delighted to see all of his heroes together in one place (and even more delighted when mummy treated him by allowing him to have two desserts at once, one in each hand!).

Sophia on the other hand, was a little nonplussed by the superheroes...

But LOVED the bright colours and fun atmosphere as well as the balloon animals and building blocks in the kid's play area.

By the time that Batman served me my tea at the end of the afternoon, both babies were completely wiped out and more than ready for a long nap to sleep off all of the excitement (and sugar).

And as a mummy, there isn't a better mark of a successful day than that!

The details:

The Lagoon, Ritz Carlton Hotel, PO Box 23400, West Bay Lagoon, Doha
+974 4484 8000

Picnic Brunch: Every Friday, 12:30-4:00pm
Superhero Picnic Brunch: Last Friday of every month, 12:30-4:00pm
Price: QAR 249 with soft beverages; QAR 349 with selected house beverages; QAR 99 for children aged 5-12.

Best of the rest

Marsa Malaz Kempinski: The Little League Brunch

Starting last Saturday with the theme 'Princes and Princesses', the Marsa Malaz has introduced a rotational set of child friendly brunches, which continues on the 15th October with 'Heroes & Villains' followed by, 'Adventureland' and 'Sports Superstars'. Games and activities will include a thematic photo booth, crowns and chef hats, story telling, a bouncy castle, cupcake academy and burger & hotdog creation. And the adults amongst us will be pleased to hear that all of the usual delectable spread put on by the Sawa chefs will still be available.

Radisson Blu Friday Brunch

With music, cartoon characters in fancy dress, a face painting station and children's corner, the Radisson Blu is a great choice for those looking for a slightly cheaper option for Friday brunch for all the family.

Which is your favourite family-friendly brunch in Doha?

We were guests of the Ritz Carlton on this occasion, but as always all views are my own.

24 Hours at Home on The Pearl Qatar

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Today marked the first day that the UCI World Road Championships came to Qatar, and more specifically to our little island home of The Pearl, and people have been discussing the upheaval that the associated road closures would cause for weeks. It got me thinking about how this actually wouldn't be the worst place in the world to be stranded.

So today (even though our entry to and exit from the island was closed for a matter of hours, and there were water shuttles ferrying people backwards and forwards to the mainland during this time anyway), Mr Sunshine and I decided to stay put and spend a full 24 hours making the most of the 400 hectares of shops, restaurants and leisure facilities that we have right here on our doorstep.

I'm glad we did, because it was one of the best Saturdays we have spent as a family for a long time.


7:45am: Wake up to Sophia clambering from her Chicco Next2Me into our bed, climbing on top of me and dribbling on my face. Place her in between Mr Sunshine and me, and try to get a bit more shut eye until she becomes too wriggly and I'm forced to get up.

9:00am: Mr Sunshine tidies up the apartment while I take a 'turbo shower' (one which lasts no more than the 3 minutes it takes for Sophia to realise that she's playing with her toys alone and starts crawling to find us), and then we all sit round the dining table for our pre-breakfast, Mr S and I with a cup of tea and Sophia with some lumps of banana and blueberries (nearly all of which end up on the floor).

10:00am: After cleaning Sophia up, packing our bags, leaving the house, remembering we've forgotten at least five vital items, going back to the apartment, misplacing the keys, unpacking and repacking the bags again, finding the keys and eventually getting back outside, we head to our favourite place on The Pearl for breakfast: Eggspectation.

11:30am: Sophia falls asleep in her pushchair so we enjoy a bit of adult time by...ahem, wandering through Megapolis and playing on a couple of the arcades, before grabbing an icecream at Camille's.


12:00pm: As we wander back towards home, we have the usual argument debate about where to go for lunch. Run through our usual list of favourite restaurants, ponder whether to go to Shakespeare & Co so that we can stay close to home in case Sophia wakes up and needs a feed, remember that there's a whole host of restaurants offering discounts during the cycling, and finally alight on an old-time favourite: Megu.

2:00pm: Leave Megu feeling like we could probably never eat another morsel, torment myself by popping into Elie Saab to have another look at a dress I am lusting over but will never be able to afford and then head home for what we hope will be a full family food-induced nap, which really turns into Sophia clambering all over us in bed for the second time that day.

2:45pm: Leave the house once more and take one of the golf buggies by Tower Eleven into pretty Qanat Quartier.

3:00pm: Grab two fresh coconuts from Evergreen Organics and discuss how drinking coconut water definitely cancels out the double portions of eggs and pancakes we had for breakfast.

3:30pm: Arrive at Qanat Quartier beach. Spend half the time trying to prevent Sophia from putting fistfuls of sand into her mouth and half the time laughing at her delighted face as we splash in the sea. Watch the sun set over the pastel houses.

5:00pm: Slowly amble home while Sophia sleeps in the baby carrier.


6:00pm: I start Sophia's bed time routine while Mr Sunshine orders takeaway from Dean & David. We reason that when you have a day filled with as much food as we've had, you might as well continue as you started.

7:45pm: Finally collapse on the sofa with two (slightly cold) green curries. Consider putting a film on but our eyelids are already beginning to droop.

8:30pm: Step out onto the balcony and look at the view before us. Think about how lucky we are to live where we do.

9:10pm: Go to check on the baby and trip over a stray hair dryer en-route to her cot, making a terrible racket in the process and waking her up. Curse under my breath. Instantly forget all feelings of peace and goodwill. Tell Mr Sunshine that it's his turn, and head to my laptop to reply to some emails.

10:15pm: Return to the bedroom to find Sophia on Mr Sunshine's chest on the edge of the bed and both of them fast asleep. Try to take a few photos without the flash on, but eventually give up and climb in next to them, taking advantage of having a full three quarters of the bed in which to starfish. Remember that feeling I had on the balcony earlier this evening. It's good to be home.

My Top 20 Hotel Rooms of All Time

Monday, 3 October 2016

When you are looking for a home away from home while travelling, what you discover when you reach your hotel room is incredibly important. From the quality of the fixtures and fittings, to the aesthetics of your surroundings and the view when you look out of your window, it's the little details which have the potential to make your stay a memorable one. With all of this in mind, here are my top twenty hotel rooms of all time.

1. Best City View

The first thing I do when I enter a hotel room is rush to the window to look at the view, and I remember the one at Raffles, Dubai completely taking my breath away. The Dubai skyline, with the gargantuan Burj Khalifa dominating the view, is iconic, and I am struggling to believe that there is a better place in the whole of the city to view it from than the balcony of our suite.

2. Best Ocean View

Just outside our room at the Monastero Santa Rosa was the most beautiful sun deck, to which Mr Sunshine and I retired in the evening to watch the world go by, a glass of Prosecco in hand. It was almost impossible for us to tear ourselves away from the view before us - can you see why?!

3. Best Iconic View

We had a very mixed experience during our stay at the Hotel Marincanto on the Amalfi Coast (so much so that I haven't been able to bring myself to write about it yet!), but one thing that both Mr Sunshine and I firmly agreed upon following our stay was that the view over the recognisable pastel houses of Positano was utterly breathtaking.

4. Best Sunset View

Back in Summer 2014, Mr Sunshine and I set out on a month-long tour of the US. Our first stop was The Intercontinental, Miami, and we arrived just in time to watch the most beautiful sunset over the roofs and skyscrapers of the city. It felt like a very fitting beginning to the trip!

5. Most Generous Gifts

We began our honeymoon last year with a stay at the Gran Melia, Rome where we were quite literally showered with congratulatory gifts from the hotel. Every day, we would return from exploring the city to find new cakes/sweets/chocolate covered strawberries had been laid out for us, with yet another bottle of Prosecco. The nicest touch however, were the thoughtful and thought-provoking hand-written notes and quotes which accompanied them, signed by the Red Glove Department.

6. Best In-Room Amenities

From the laptop and flat screen TV, to the state of the art coffee machine and L'Occitane bath goodies, our bedroom at Casa Angelina in Praiano on the Amalfi Coast had it all. If it wasn't for the views beckoning us from our balcony, I'm not sure we would have left our room at all!

7. Best Original Features

Can you imagine my glee when I discovered that there were original tiles on the floor of our room in the family-run 18th Century Palazzo that is Le Sirenuse?! I had to take several footfies before I let Mr Sunshine lay his suitcase on the floor! There will be a blog post to follow on this stunning hotel in due course.

8. Best Room Service

I can't remember enjoying a breakfast quite as much as the one we ordered to our room a The Conrad St James, London. I was newly pregnant, not feeling too great and craving something stodgy but healthy. Snuggled in the Egyptian cotton sheets, my new husband at my side, eating this sumptuous feast was about as good as life could get in that moment.

9. Comfiest Bed

We arrived at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, Muscat absolutely shattered following an overnight flight, and were delighted to find that the bed could have comfortably slept six. What's more, it had one of those mattresses that you slowly siiiink into...and never want to leave. But we only had 48 hours there, so unfortunately we did.

10. Best Bath

I have always had a 'thing' for a stand-alone rolltop bath, but my absolute favourite bath of all time in a hotel room was actually a bog-standard rectangular one at The Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort & Spa ...OK it wasn't completely bog-standard because there were steps up to it, and shutters next to it which opened up into the bedroom so that I could chat to Mr S while lounging in my deep, warm bubble bath. Bliss!

11. Best Decor

I haven't encountered many hotels quite like The Ampersand in London, which has a 'theme' running throughout the whole of its interior. Astronomical, botanical, architectural, geometric and ornithological motifs adorn the walls of each room, and they are matched in quirkiness by the brightly-coloured soft furnishings and pretty monochrome bathrooms.

12. Best Pool Access

I loved everything about Anantara, The Palm, Dubai but the best thing about it was that rooms on the ground floor had balconies which led straight out into the enormous natural lagoon-style pools which cover the resort, meaning that you could literally roll straight out of bed and into the azure water in the morning!

13. Best Furnishings

The Nomad, New York City is housed in a turn of the century Beaux-Arts building which has been sympathetically renovated with interiors by French designer Jacques Garcia. The attention to detail extends to the fittings and furnishings which are all of a classic, timeless style. Each room has its own hand-selected, richly textured and custom-designed furniture and original artwork.

14. Most Mod Cons

From the mobile phone we had access to for the entirety of our stay, to the in-built entertainment system, with separate volume controls for the bedroom and bathroom, there wasn't much that Hotel Indigo Kensington hadn't thought of to make our stay as easy and relaxing as possible.

15. Best Music Player

One of my most memorable moments in a hotel room was curling up on our bed in The Redbury, Miami with a book, Mr Sunshine by my side listening to records on the stunning Crosley record player while a storm raged outside. It doesn't get much more romantic than that!

16. Most Modern Interiors

I love the style and sophistication of the rooms in The Mondrian, London which also reflect the quirky, arty nature of its location on the Southbank. Award-winning designer Tom Dixon has made his mark, and the rooms combine functionality with unique design items such as the drip wall painting and Tom's signature wingback chair.

17. Best Use of Space

I don't think I've ever stayed in a suite so cleverly laid out than the one at the Grand Hyatt, Doha.
There was a large living room, study area, bedroom, dressing room and marble-clad bathroom, as well as an expansive balcony, all of which were interlinked with one another in a fairly compact space, which was not only homely but also super convenient to navigate.

18. Best Renovation

Formerly the site of Whitbred & Co, Britain's first purpose-built mass production brewery, the original building of The Montcalm at the Brewery, London dates back to 1750 and has been renovated to a high standard to produce incredibly luxurious yet cosy rooms with some original features.

19.  Most Eco-Friendly

The individual cottages connected by winding pathways which house the rooms and suites of Cinnamon Lodge, Habarana, Sri Lanka are not only ISO certified but also award winning for their green credentials. The energy-efficient and naturally-constructed spaces feel completely at one with the 37 acres, 2000 trees and small farm which make up the grounds of this stunning Lodge.

20. Best for All-Round Luxury

In the four years that we have been together, Mr Sunshine and I have stayed in more luxury hotels than we could count on both of our hands, but the rooms in one of them stands out above all the others for their timeless elegance, Middle Eastern-inspired touches and luxurious attention to detail. The St Regis Hotel, Doha is one of a kind, offering a 24/7 butler service to fulfill your every need; stunning panoramic sea views; a multitude of different lighting options to create the mood you desire; 42 inch flat screen TVs (plus an additional one in the bathroom); an in-built sound and entertainment system; marbled bathroom with deep bathtub and separate rain shower and a comfortable lounge/working space in every room. Plus, nothing says luxury quite like a velvet drape hanging over your king sized bed!

I look forward to adding to this list next year following our trip to Bali where we are planning to stay in a few more of the world's most luxurious hotels, including Alila Villas Uluwatu and The Oberoi. I can't wait to find out which unique features can be found in the hotel rooms here!

What's been your favourite find in a hotel room?

I am posting this as part of the monthly travel link-up with Emma, Angie and co-host Aftab @ Fresh and Fearless - this month the theme is the most interesting thing you've discovered in a hotel room or accommodation. Join in before the 7th October!