Mumma D's baby shower

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Sometime earlier this year, as we were well into Springtime and it was starting to heat up in the desert, our little Doha group of friends received some very big, very exciting news. Although you couldn't tell to look at her yet, our friend Donna was pregnant!

Fast forward seven months, and Don has blossomed into the most beeaaaautiful, glowing mother to be who is so excited about the future. Some people are just made to be mummies, don't you think?!

Not a cankle in sight.

With less than two months to go, a few of us decided it was about time we held a baby shower to celebrate the birth of the wee Scottish wean (or Wayne, as he/she is more affectionately known), and put our heads together to come up with a plan. I was more than happy with my designated role as Games Master.

I was excited to try and replicate a hilarious game called 'What's In The Nappy?' that we'd played at my sister in law's baby shower. Let me tell you about how it's done.

Buy six or seven famous, well-known chocolate bars (Doha people, all of these were purchased from Carrefour)...

And a packet of nappies...

Chop each chocolate bar into small chunks, and place the chunks of each into a separate nappy. Weird I know, but bear with me!

Melt each ON A LOW HEAT for a very short time in the microwave (don't, like I did, put it on full power for a whole minute and set the nappy and therefore your microwave on fire, set off all the fire alarms in your entire building, and have a frantic visit from facilities management asking if everyone is OK - we were, thanks for asking).

If the above does happen, then find an alternative method for melting your chocolate bars.

Tadaaaa! They are ready. I have never been so proud at seeing such a disgusting mess in a nappy before. I will pick up the details of the rest of the game in due course...

Armed with my mucky (but beautiful smelling) nappies, I headed over to Hayley's to finish the rest of our preparations. She'd found a Mary Berry scone recipe online and we were excited to get stuck in.

Almost literally - that dough was like poster glue!

We didn't have quite the required implements, but we were creative in our approach...

I think Mary would have been proud of our intuition and dedication to the cause.

Surprisingly, once we'd cut them out with a random glass we'd found in the cupboard, they actually ended up looking OK! 

And we were delighted that they stayed in one piece in the oven!

When the others arrived, we tucked into the lovely spread that Hayley had put on for us all.

Supped on the delightful drinks organised by sommelier Sara.

And nibbled on a scone or three (DELIGHTFUL in case you were wondering - Hayls and I will be taking orders in due course).

After some a lot of chatting...

I read out some questions which daddy Gary had answered the day before, and Donna had to guess what he had said (biggest take away is that Gary is changing ALL the nappies!). Hayley read out a special message from Donna's mum who was sad not to be there that day.

And then it was back to those nappies.

I split the group into two teams, and passed them a nappy one by one, explaining that the aim of the game is to guess what's inside. However, there was one snag - you are not allowed to touch it, you can only use smell and taste.

Some very serious examinations ensued.

And some got up close and personal.

A very fun game, if you can stomach it.

Next up, we got out our baby photos and had a guess at who was who.

There were some delightful cutie pies in our midst!

And then my favourite part of the afternoon. Present time.

Don pulled cute little outfit after cute little outfit out of the gift bags the girls had brought along.

And I think more than a few of us started to feel a little broody!

Another brilliant and exciting day with very lovely ladies, albeit a little different from our last big celebration.

We all can't wait to meet the teeny addition to our Doha family that is due to arrive in late January

Now I'm going to get back to perusing the baby section of Debenhams online.

Weekly wonderings 1

Friday, 28 November 2014

In a slight departure from my 'Weekly Wanderings' post, I have decided to write about my 'Weekly Wonderings' this week. I've been in quite a reflective mood, and as a result, what's been in my head has probably been far more interesting than where I have been!

As yesterday was Thanksgiving, it is not surprising that my mind turned to all the things I'm currently thankful for - which revived my appreciation for some of the everyday things I would usually take for granted, such as a cup of tea under a blanket on my balcony, a good old catch-up on Skype with my younger brother and starting the preparations for my friend Donna's baby shower this weekend. It also got me thinking how far I've come since this time last year - when I was without a job and wondering where life would take me next!

Us desert dwellers have also been thankful for the rain this week as the skies opened up for the first time since April - a sign that winter is well and truly upon us. I'm sure a few fervent prayers from the Emir helped things on their way.

Rich and I headed to the cinema earlier in the week to watch the new Hunger Games film (much as I found with the books, this one is a little more disappointing than the last two) and we were reminded just how different the cinema experience is out here in the Middle East. It made me think about the extent to which culture is a factor in determining your behaviour. It's not uncommon out here for people to talk the whole way through the film, to answer their phones and even bring young children in with them (Rich had to complain to the manager this last time as a baby cried the whole way through the film and it was so difficult to concentrate - us Brits much prefer absolute silence it seems!). As a result, the cinema feels like less of a treat and more of a 'come along because there's nothing better to do' kind of an experience. At the Novo Cinema just down the road from us on The Pearl, they even have a valet service at the door so you can simply rock up 2 minutes before the film is about to begin without much pre-planning or thought.

Just a few days later, my question about culture and behaviour was answered - according to this research that was released this week, due to cultural differences, the work and life habits of Qataris and expats are extremely different in all kinds of ways.

On Tuesday, a friend I hadn't seen in a while came round to my flat for a catch-up, and she asked for my advice on starting a blog. I was unhesitating in my enthusiasm - blogging is absolutely the best new 'hobby' I've ever taken up, and it's starting to open up so many opportunities for me. But it did make me realise that there are many different reasons that people decide to start blogging in the first place. I read a great article summarising 15 of these reasons recently which I think anyone considering setting up a blog (or even people who are a bit further into their blogging journey) should read to give them the impetus they need to get going.

Sharing blog ideas and talking about life as an expat with my friend got me thinking about how important it is for us to be there for each other out here, in a place that can sometimes feel like quite an unforgiving environment. I have seen so much written recently about the need for women to be more supportive of each other rather than pulling each other apart - from Reese Witherspoon sticking up for Renee Zellweger following all the abuse she has received about the recent change to her looks, to this excellent article from Anastasia which questions why women can't simply get along. It's clear that some strong women are fighting back against this nasty trend of degrading other women for your own gain. For all you bloggers that have received cutting comments from other women, this article from the Blogging ME team should make you feel less alone.

I finished my working week on a positive note, having started to organise a very exciting business trip (more on this in due course!) and looking forward to a weekend full of fun in front of me.

What's got you thinking this week?

Bordeaux night at The Ritz

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Two years ago, Rich and I went on holiday to the southwest coast of France and while we were there, we hopped on a wine tasting tour around Bordeaux and the Saint Emilion region. We left the UK as wine novices, and returned as complete wine snobs bores, who actually knew (and, I'm ashamed to say, even maybe cared a little!) about previously foreign wine concepts like tannins, vintage and clarity.

Now, I am very happy to report that this snobbishness has worn off a bit over time (i.e. we've totally forgotten what we were taught in France). However, one fact remains. We both agree that Bordeaux wine is the dog's whatsits.

So when we heard there was a Bordeaux tasting evening taking place in the private dining room in one of our favourite restaurants, La Mer at The Ritz Carlton on a Friday evening, we quickly signed ourselves up.

We were about 50 minutes late to arrive at the hotel for various work and traffic-related reasons, so we hot-footed it up to the 23rd floor and poured into the room to find a small group of people waiting patiently around the large, grand dining table in the middle of the room. Several apologies and introductions later, and we ready to begin.

The experienced sommeliers poured us each two glasses of white wine; a Sauvignon Blanc and a Sauvignon-Semillon blend, and we took some time studying the colour and smell before we were allowed to taste. Both were light and refreshing, and as a red wine drinker, I was pleasantly surprised. We scribbled some notes on our little wine tasting sheets, and I think I wrote something along the lines of 'quite nice for a white wine' under one of these. Very technical and informative I'm sure you'll agree!

After each tasting session, waiters came in with a pairing dish to complement the wine (our sommelier was very careful to point out that food ALWAYS complements the wine, not the other way around - of course!).

First, delicate scallop carpaccio with grapefruit and sea foam to pair with the Sauvignon Blanc

And steamed Asparagus with grated frozen smoked salmon (very novel!) to match the blend.

As each dish was placed in front of us, La Mer's new Canadian chef came out to describe it, how it was put together and why it would go perfectly with the wine in front of us. A really nice, personal touch and one that really helped us to appreciate the beautiful food (and the wine!) all the more.

He has been working in Doha for the Ritz Carlton for three months now, and has brought his extensive experience and experimental cooking style to La Mer to shake things up a little - and we were acting as guinea pigs for a few of his new creations that night. We were more than happy to oblige.

Wine number three was a crisp rosé

Paired with fois gras, croissant, kumquat and red berry jam. Sounds like a strange concoction, but the mix of sweet and savoury, coupled with the sweet wine worked perfectly.

Then came my favourite dish of the night. We had moved onto the reds, and a wine that Rich and I had bought before, a tangy Saint Emilion, and the waiters started to bring out little porcelain dishes with lids on. And what a treat awaited us inside!

The most perfectly cooked, round and plump egg yolk ravioli.

The waiters came around and poured a rich jus over each of our dishes.

And then we tucked into the yummy, runny, eggy, mushroomy goodness.

We were quite a few glasses down by this point. This wasn't the 'dribble of wine in the bottom of the glass, swill it around in your mouth and spit it into a bucket' kind of a tasting. Oh no. It was more, drink the big glass of wine in front of you. If you like it, someone will come round and top you up until all the bottles have gone. Which was much more up our street. 

As a result, inevitably, we'd got chatting to most of the people round the table by the time the second red made its rounds. And they were absolutely lovely. All of them had been in Doha for six years or more, so they had lots of helpful tips and expat experiences to share with us relative newbies. 

It was around the point that the lamb was brought out that things started to get a little blurry.

And by the time my second glass of red was poured, we were all pretty merry.

I did remember to capture a snap of my favourite wine of the night however, the Chateau Saint Remy. Doha people, all of these wines can be found in the QDC and this one is particularly recommended - it's full bodied and interesting, and tastes great with red meat.

Something similar to this duck maybe...

I don't think I'll ever taste anything quite like this duck (cooked three ways) again. Tender duck breast sitting on duck ragu, with crispy pieces of duck crackling...Enough to send anybody quackers (went there).

I was intrigued when they brought out the next wine, in the strangest looking decanter I had ever seen.

And it was in a special decanter for a reason. This was far and away everybody in the room's favourite wine - and as soon as it had passed their lips, they all got busy taking snaps to remind them what to stock up on on their next visit to QDC.

Rich loved it too, and paid particular attention when the sommelier came round to explain the colour.

No pictures of the bottle this time I'm afraid (I was too busy taking photos of everyone enjoying the wine), but it is called Chateau Malescasse, Cru Bourgeois. Try it, it'll make you as happy as this:

Then we were brought the most tender steak I've ever had, coupled with the best onion ring I'll ever taste, on a bed of caramelised shallots, and somehow the wine tasted even better.

The night ended with a sweet dessert wine...

A tasting sheet filled with scribbles...

And the most unusual pudding I have ever tasted - fois grois ice cream sandwiched between two biscuits.

Don't judge it until you go to La Mer and try it (we're assured it will be on the set menu in due course). You are likely to be very pleasantly surprised!

We took some time to thank the waiting staff

And chefs

All of whom had been meticulous, attentive, knowledgeable and kind.

And said a final cheers to great food, great wine and excellent company.

If you're a little bored-o (sorry, I couldn't help myself) in Doha and fancy trying something new, then check out the La Mer monthly wine tastings from around the world (see TimeOut Doha for dates and times).