Guest Post: Surviving Finland

Monday, 30 March 2015

Hi my name is Kirsty and I’m currently in charge of a little corner of the interweb called Effortlessly ExcessiveI’d like to class myself as a serious blogger but when you’re sharing stories about baking a cake for your guinea pigs and setting your vaj on fire, I’m not sure how well I fall into that category, (and here’s you thinking you were in for something civilised today. I’m sorry guys!)

Like Polly, I've lived the sunshine dream in what is affectionately called, ‘The Sandpit.’ Qatar was my home for 18 months until I jumped ship and stumbled head-first into a very snowy and blisteringly cold Finland. A year on, I’m still wondering what the hell I was thinking.

As an ode to Finland, (and to throw a bit of contrast out there on Follow Your Sunshine) I thought I would dish out some snippets of wisdom if you will. My top tips for surviving the cold and coming out the other side a living, breathing, and most importantly sane human being. Let’s hop to it shall we?

1. Embrace the fact that you’re going to look shit for at least a month or two of the year. When the temperature is hovering around a brisk -18 degrees, your skinny jeans and leather jacket just aren't going to cut it. I own a coat made out of goose and thermal knickers that would give Bridget Jones a run for her money… and that’s saying something. That being said, it has its perks. No need to fear the bad hair day as a woolly hat is essential uniform and most people can’t actually see you as they've likely developed a layer of permafrost over their corneas anyway. Fabulous.

2. Any hobby is better than no hobby. When going outside requires more layers than a Tesco’s lasagna, the key is to find joy in staying at home and indulging in your latest hobby. Be it knitting, cross-stitching, playing the ukulele, nothing is off the table when it comes to beating the Winter blues. Blogging is an escape for me and one that has definitely kept my face from appearing on a Channel 4 documentary, surrounded by cats and handcuffed to my psych nurse.

3. Best served steaming. A piping hot cup of tea/coffee/hot chocolate/vodka is your new BFF. Nothing melts my heart quite like a minty hot chocolate with half a can of whipped cream and sprinkles. You can always burn those extra calories off skiing later *ahem*

4. Speaking of drink. Nothing quite warms the cockles like a large, several large G&Ts with a slice and ice. 10 points to Gryffindor if you can scale a flight of steps knee-deep in snow, in your heels. Speaking from experience here, it can be done!

5. Fairy lights are your best friend. Remember, the key to surviving a cold, dark Winter is to surround yourself with happy things. I've yet to meet anyone who can resist the lure of twinkling lights, garnishing every available surface like a sprinkling of merriment – or that’s how I sold it to my other half anyway.

If you've made it this far and I haven’t managed to scare you away, then hats off to you! You can delve a little deeper into the madness that is living the Finnish expat life, over on my blog. I also occasionally try to do the sensible blogger thing and post about beauty and fashion too.

Massive thanks again to Polly for opening her doors to me and making me feel at home. She’s a fabulous host – I regret that our paths never crossed in Doha as I’m sure we’d have had a blast! Keep on shining girl! 


Hahaha (still laughing at the vaj on fire story!). Thank you for this fantastically funny Bear Grylls-esque post Kirsty. I think this will help the Brits, Americans and Northern Europeans amongst us to survive the Baltic winters of the Northern hemisphere a little better, and it has even, dare I say it, made me a little envious of your anti-follow-your-sunshine life (an excuse to cover up bed head with a hat every day? YES PLEASE!). For all of you that are new to Effortlessly Excessive, you should head on over to Kirsty's blog here without delay. It's pretty to look at, full of useful fashion and beauty tips, but the best thing about it? Kirsty isn't afraid to speak her mind and her honest posts on life and occasional rants have had me doubled over in stitches on more than one occasion. Wish we could have met in Doha Kirsty!

Weekly Ponderings 11

Friday, 27 March 2015

This week I was excited about...

The Qatar International Food Festival returning to Doha for four days of foodie heaven in the Museum of Islamic Art Park. I spent an evening there on the first day, trawling the stalls with a few friends and stuffing my face until I felt sick. I attempted to return again yesterday for an event with the Marsa Malaz Kempinski, but unfortunately the Doha traffic wasn't playing ball! If you are yet to head over there, there are still a few hours left to rectify this - here's a little taster of what you can expect!

This week I was reminded...

How FLIPPING DELIGHTED I always am about returning home to the land of green fields and rain. This time it's mainly because I'm going to be a bridesmaid at my bestest friend's wedding (where I will no doubt weep bucket loads of tears into my champagne), because I get to stroke the brand new baby bumps of two of my other best friends at the same time (while weeping some more), because I'm finally meeting some of the lovely blogger types that have inspired me so much (hopefully will hold in the weeping at this point) and because I get to see my awesome family. In between I must remember the other purpose of the trip - to finalise all of our wedding arrangements and buy our rings!

This week I appreciated...

The sunshine on the marina.

Stuffing my face (again) at several restaurants on The Pearl (for a summary of my favourite of these, head over here).

Watching some fast-paced football on the beach in the sun as the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2015 qualifiers came to town. It's a hard job, but somebody has to do it!

A photo posted by Follow Your Sunshine (@polbag) on

Quote of the week...

What is the best thing you did this week? I hope it's been sunny where you are!

Guest Post: Recipe - Salted Chocolate Espresso Cookies

Thursday, 26 March 2015

So these might just be the best chocolate cookies I've ever made. And I don't say this lightly. I'm a girl who loves chocolate, coffee and anything salted-caramel related. So when I found these on Pinterest, I knew it was something I just had to make!

Go on, I dare you. They really are as good as they sound. 

You'll need:

1 cup of dark chocolate
6 tablespoons of slightly salted butter
2 tablespoons of instant espresso
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup of white sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup of plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt + extra for sprinkling

Melt all of the chocolate, apart from a couple of squares, butter and espresso in the microwave or over a bain marie until it's all melted and deliciously oozy. Set it aside to cool a little.

Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl until they've combined and started to turn pale. Then add the chocolate mixture and give it a quick whisk.

Add your flour, baking powder and salt into the bowl and fold until all the flour has combined. Make sure there are no hidden pockets of flour! 

Then break up the remaining squares of chocolate into small chips and pop them into your mixture.

Your mixture should be fairly thick, but not completely a dough ball.

Spoon it out onto cling film, cover the mixture and roll into a long sausage shape. Pop it in the freezer for about half an hour until it's firm but not frozen! Heat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius. 

Then cut cookie shaped discs about 2 cm thick, roll them slightly so that they're a little curved and pop them on a prelined baking sheet. Make sure they're spread out otherwise you'll end up with a single cookie. On second thoughts... Maybe that isn't such a bad idea!

Bake them for about 10 minutes until firm and deliciously gooey. Then sprinkle with a little salt whilst they're still warm. 

Serve with a big cup of coffee and a friend (preferably with a side of good gossip!).

I've not looked back since making them. I'm a real fan of cookies, and of baking, but I really do think these are the best I've made! Perfect whether you're just looking for a Sunday baking session, or whether you're baking for the office. Word of advice: no cookie will ever compare again!

Thank you, Lauren for this mouth watering recipe! It's my first ever recipe post on Follow Your Sunshine, and it's certainly whet my appetite for more. I can't wait to get baking! Lauren is a student currently studying abroad in Rennes, France while packing in plenty of trips home to the UK and embarking on travels abroad. She writes a fun and informative travel, recipe and lifestyle blog called The Lifestyle Diaries. Head on over to say hello!

6 Unmissable Restaurants at The Pearl, Qatar

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Apart from the family-friendly walkways and the glitzy-glamour of the marina, the one thing that's certain about my little island home, The Pearl, is that its restaurants are some of Doha's finest.

And yet some of these eateries, due to their tucked away locations and less established set of long-term clientele, remain undiscovered by many. In an effort to try to rectify this, allow me to take you on a little foodie tour of my home, and my top 6 unmissable restaurants of the island.

We start slap bang in the centre of Porto Arabia, right outside my flat. The sun's shining of course (as it always does on The Pearl)

And the boats are looking inviting...but there's no time to stop and stare. I'm starving!

1. Tse Yang

Traverse the grand steps at the back of Tower 6, and you come to a set of beautiful wooden intricately-carved Arabic-style archways.

Which lead to a pretty bell tower, and the restaurant, Tse Yang.

Peep at the view through the thick walls of this castle-like setting

And chill out on the comfy sofas as the breeze flows in through open windows while you are served an (alcohol-free) aperitif.

Once you've ordered, enjoy the panoramic views over the marina.

And explore the beautiful space of the indoor-outdoor terrace.

If you have kids, they might enjoy a little play in the rickshaw.

(Some adults might too).

Don't miss: the fruit smoothies.

Chicken buns

Stir fried scallops.

Singaporean style vermicilli with chicken and shrimp

Or pan-seared Angus beef with Enoki mushrooms.

2. Megu

Just next door is the Japanese restaurant, Megu. With its stunningly-high ceilings, beautiful and delicate food and private elevator, this place oozes luxury. Sit inside and enjoy a long and decadent lunch.

Or head out onto the terrace for a romantic evening meal under the stars.

For a full review, head over here.

3. Pampano

A little further down the island, towards 1 Porto Arabia sits one of our favourite restaurants in the whole of Doha. Pampano is a rare thing in the restaurant world - combining fine dining with a relaxed and cheerful ambience.

When HDC invited Rich and I to dine with them at the end of last year, we were hugely grateful for their introduction to this comfortable and friendly home away from home, where we will be returning again and again in years to come.

Don't miss: their tasty guacamole with strawberry and pomegranate.

The more-ish home-made nachos with delectable spicy dips.

The sizzling iron skillet chicken fajitas, straight from the oven.

The famous Mariscada.

And my favourites: fresh, crispy fried Churros and delicious banana cheesecake (which we were very kindly gifted to try on our last visit as it wasn't yet on the menu...I hope it is now!).

4. Anima Lounge

Head in the opposite direction now, trot over the bridge and past Spinneys, and you'll eventually come to what I call the 'cool' part of the island (mainly because my good friend Nicky, the coolest chick I know lives here).

In fact, Nicky was the first person to introduce me to this place over a gossip and one of their killer health-busting smoothies. With its neon swirly lighting, 'out there' art and ever-changing quirky exhibition space next door, Anima is fun and light hearted.

With serious food.

Don't miss: their killer sandwiches.

Their hearty pastas and healthy salads.

Or their new gluten-free offerings.

We head away from the marina now, to the area around the new development of Medina Centrale, a little square which joins Porto Arabia to the lesser-developed Viva Bahriya.

5. Big Bear Cafe

You can't walk into the square without noticing this quirky cafe-come-showroom.

Set up principally so that the owner can show off his impressive collection of hogs..

This place has got the warehouse-chic vibe down to a T.

Apart from breakfasts, burgers and salads are the only thing on the menu.

Luckily, both are pretty good.

Guess who had the burger?!

6. Mado

If you wander back out of the square, you almost immediately come across Mado, the Turkish dessert restaurant of the century (my words).

A fitting place for me to leave you, as we sit back in the sunshine of the marina and watch the world go by

While chomping on tasty layers of Turkish icecream which are so think that a knife and fork and a lot of elbow grease is required.

Where's your favourite place to dine at The Pearl?

Don't forget to use #diningatthepearl when you Instagram the shiz out of your food while you're here!