6 ways to cheer yourself up when you're having a bad week

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

This week has been a shocker in every way imaginable. There's a huge reorganisation going on at work, I've had a few issues with my health, I haven't been sleeping too well, wedmin has proven to be a real headache and I've felt massively homesick following ten perfect days back in the UK and a lovely weekend in Oman.

If this wasn't enough, the devastating news of the earthquake that hit Nepal on Saturday completely rocked me, not least because I've been working closely with some of the local communities there. Right now though, there is little more that I can personally do other than help any way I can with the fundraising effort at work, and donate myself.* Which means that there's been nothing else for it other than to pick myself up out of my funk and just get on with things.

And here is how I've managed it. It's a pretty simple formula really, and I hope it works for you too!

1. Go for a walk in some green space

It's been scientifically proven that spending time with nature is good for the heart and soul. When green grass and trees are combined with a brisk walk to get the endorphins pumping, not even the most miserable amongst us can remain in a grump for long.

Even in the centre of the city of Doha, which is slap bang in the middle of the Arabian Desert, Rich and I managed to seek out a patch of green to have a good stomp around on Saturday.

2. Put on some happy music and dance

Rich and I have been choosing our wedding music this week, which has meant plenty of crooning and bopping along to upbeat classics such as N-Sync's "Bye Bye Bye". If you ever meet Rich, ask him to show you his fist-pump move to the chorus of this song. That alone will bring you out of any bad mood you might be experiencing.

(And in case you were wondering, we are not just playing boyband hits from the Noughties at this wedding...let's just say, the playlist is 'eclectic').

3. Look ahead to the fun times

Can you remember the last time that you had absolutely nothing fun to look forward to at all? No, me neither. It might be a celebration such as a birthday or wedding, a holiday or reunion with an old friend. It might be something as simple as a meal in a restaurant you love or a day off work. Whatever it is, throw yourself into it. Plot and plan and live that moment until it comes. And as soon as it has passed, look forward to the next one.

While wedding planning has been a complete pain in the ... this week, little things like our invitations arriving have made it all feel so real and exciting! And for just a while I forgot about everything else.

4. Talk to people you love and who love you

Yesterday I got home from work, plonked down on the sofa and cried. After a few minutes of feeling utterly sorry for myself, I picked up my phone, texted my four bridesmaids and offloaded everything I was feeling. Within 40 seconds, I was feeling a lot better. Ten minutes later, I was wondering what the hell I was so upset about in the first place. There are certain people in your life that just 'get' you and somehow manage to cheer you up with just a few supportive words (and terrible jokes). Hang on to these people. You're going to need them.

5. Hang out with someone who makes you LOL

For me, this person always has been, and always will be Rich. I don't think I've ever met someone who can make me laugh from right in the pit of my stomach, so that it actually hurts before. Take earlier in the supermarket. I was carefully assessing the sponges in the homeware section (as you do), and Rich came up behind me with two huge, what can only be described as buckets of Nutella, and said "These should last us about a week!"  (also, did I mention his dancing?!).

6. Have a bit of 'me time'

Paint your nails, run a bath, read a book, do whatever makes you feel completely relaxed and happy just being you.

Look after you so that you can get back to looking after everyone else around you. Because if you're anything like me then that is what makes you happiest of all.

(NB. if all above fails then there is always wine).

*If you feel a bit helpless and would like to donate a little bit to help in the wake of the terrible tragedy in Nepal, then Lou has included some great charities that you can go through at the end of this post. I would also recommend Mercy Corps in Nepal who I have worked alongside for 18 months now and who are highly skilled at this kind of emergency response. Did you know that just 50 GBP can provide food and water for a family of 5 for an entire month?!

Weekly Ponderings 15

Friday, 24 April 2015

This week I was excited about...

A surprise birthday weekend away for Mr Sunshine-to-be to...(drumroll)... Oman! You can read all about the hotel we stayed at here and there will be another post about all the other things we got up to in Muscat next week. Here are the highlights:

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

This week I was reminded...

How beautiful our world is as photos of stunning landscapes flooded social media on Earth Day. Some of my favourites were these pictures of the earth from space, provided by NASA.

This week I appreciated...

Some chilled evenings with my man

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

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

A not so chilled evening with friends, watching Mark Ronson DJ until 3am in the beautiful gardens of the Sheraton Doha next to the Persian Gulf.

Writing another guest post - this time for The Lifestyle Diaries. Taking over someone else's blog for the day can be a lot of fun, and I urge all of you bloggers to give it a go at some point!

Quote of the week...

Have a sunny weekend wherever you are!

FYS Guest Post: My Top 'Follow Your Sunshine' Travel Destinations

Thursday, 23 April 2015

I've written another guest post - this time for the lovely Lauren from The Lifestyle Diaries. I'm talking about my favourite sunshiny travel destinations...you know, those places that just seem to be sunny aaaallll the time (so unfair!). There's a varied collection of recommendations, including useful further reading on each location, so head on over here for a read, and say hello to Lauren while you're there!

6 Ways To Get Involved In The Doha Blogging Community

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

If putting yourself out there for the world to judge by deciding to write a blog wasn't daunting enough, starting to blog in a country with a relatively under-established blogging scene can be completely and utterly terrifying.

Are people going to read what you're writing? And if they do, are they going to care enough about what you're saying to stick around? Are brands going to take an interest and value your input? Are there any other like-minded bloggers out there that are sharing the same experiences who might be able to offer some advice and support? These are some of the questions I asked myself when I first started my blogging journey in my little adopted country of Qatar 18 months ago.

Luckily for all of us Qatar bloggers (and yes, you'll be surprised, there are many!), there are several different ways to become a part of the blogging community these days - or even to build your own. It's just that like every opportunity out here, you have to be a little bit proactive in searching for it and brave enough to get involved.

Here are my top six community-building opportunities for bloggers in Doha, and all of the details that you need to get started. Good luck!

1. Blogging ME

When I first started reading Kirsty's hilarious anecdotes and ogling at Sarah's beautiful posts many months ago, I had no idea that these brilliant bloggers were hatching a plan to launch BloggingME: the first blogging agency of its kind in the Middle East. At the beginning of the year, I attended their inaugural meet-up at the Four Seasons Doha following their first blogging workshop where I met some fantastic bloggers who have since gone on to become really good friends and form part of my great blogging-related support network out here.

There are soo many benefits to getting involved in this network, but I will leave it to the agency's founders themselves to tell you a bit more about what BloggingME offers and how you can join in (and please ignore the blurry video, Kirsty's camera didn't want to play ball!).

For more info, head to the website here, or find them on social media here.

2. Food Bloggers Qatar

If food is your particular niche, you're in luck, because the wonderful Doaa has founded Food Bloggers Qatar to bring all Doha-based foodie bloggers together on one platform. We had a great meet-up (again at Il Teatro in the Four Seasons) a few months ago, where great food was eaten, analysed and widely photographed, stories were shared and prizes awarded.

There are plans afoot for more meet-ups in the future, and there will be other opportunities to get involved through the website so if you have a food blog, keep your ear to the ground!

In the meantime, connect with the lovely Doaa on her website here and follow the network on social media here.

3. Zomato

Even if you're not a food blogger, if you enjoy a good restaurant then I think you should all sign up to Zomato. Launched in 2008, the platform has rapidly expanded to cover 22 countries, lists over a million restaurants, and has been successful in helping people to discover great places to eat, promoting the food culture of particular cities and building foodie communities.

For bloggers, it provides an opportunity to network with like-minded food-minded individuals and to raise your visibility in the blogging arena. The new "spoonback" feature is an excellent SEO tool, blogger contests increase community engagement and Zomato profile widgets can be added to your blog following each review (or as a side bar widget) in order to engage your followers further. Furthermore, Zomato can create user profiles for bloggers, which (after obtaining written permission from you of course!) they will automatically upload all reviews from the past six months to for other Zomato users to browse at their pleasure.

With regular opportunities to meet with fellow foodies (our last one was just a couple of weeks ago, kindly hosted by Eatopia Qatar), I don't see any reason for you to delay in signing up!

Check out the platform here or say hello to the very approachable country manager, Haytham on social media here.

4. Guest Posting

The benefits of guest posting are numerous: you build relationships with other bloggers or organisations by adding value to their online space, you introduce yourself to new audiences and raise awareness of who you are and your own particular blogger 'brand'.

Today I was sad to learn that Funky Qatar Blog, the platform for which I have been guest blogging for a while is up for sale on Flippa. Rachel, the website's owner and a very impressive blogging entrepreneur has moved back to the UK and is looking for someone more locally based to run with it going forwards. However, there are many other platforms in Qatar that might be interested in a guest post from you. For instance, the online and print magazine, Ahlan has become much more interested in receiving content from bloggers recently. Or why not try curating a social media platform such as We Are Qatar for a week, or guest posting on a friend's blog, as I am doing on Dream Days.

5. PRs

PRs in Doha aren't as proactive at reaching out to bloggers as they are in cities with more established blogging scenes such as Dubai. However, don't let this put you off. The vast majority of the ladies and gents working in the PR and Marketing industry in Qatar are incredibly friendly and approachable, and what's more, they are very open to being approached by bloggers and interested in how you might help them out.
If a PR does approach you, make sure you listen carefully to what they are asking of you, and don't accept anything that compromises your integrity, or what your blog is all about...and always disclose any freebies at the end of your post!

A great way to contact Marketing bods in Doha is to reach out via social media. A DM on Twitter can go a long way!

Excuse the gormless face...I am mid-sentence in the video!

6. Say yes!

Last but not least, this is the best piece of advice I can give you for growing your blogging community in Doha. There are lots of opportunities out there to meet new people and experience new things - you've just got to be willing and ready to get stuck in!

If an event crops up or an invitation comes your way - whether it's within your particular blogging 'niche' or not, try to make an effort to go along and check it out. Fashion shows, new season launches, menu tastings, food festivals, new restaurant openings, concerts, cultural events...you never know who you're going to meet while you're there and what benefit they might be to your blogging community in the future.

I'd love to hear from all of you Doha bloggers out there! Are there any other ways to get involved in the blogging community out here that I've missed? How do you meet other bloggers? Have you got involved in any of the activities above?

Review: A Lux Birthday Surprise at the Shangri-La, Muscat

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

I'm a big believer in pulling out all of the stops for a birthday. Particularly if that birthday happens to be a rather large milestone. On April 17th, it was Mr Sunshine-to-be's thirtieth, and naturally the first thing I thought of to surprise him with was a little trip overseas.

I poured over blog posts and websites, Lonely Planets and travel magazines, until I eventually alighted on a beautiful country just an hour away from our home in Qatar, and a rather fabulous hotel. When the day arrived, I packed our bags, teased him with cards and hints, and eventually, just as the suspense was about to get too much, as we boarded our flight, I announced his surprise.

Welcome to the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa, Muscat, in the Sultinate of Oman. Or, the view from our balcony at sunrise to be precise.

True to form, Mr S-to-be had insisted on working on his birthday, so we had taken a late night flight to Oman and landed just as the sun was just beginning to peep it's way over the horizon. Following the road that weaved itself in and out of Muscat, and later along a dug-out channel through the majestic mountains, our friendly Omani taxi driver described the sights in front of us as we went.
At reception, we were warmly welcomed, told that they were expecting us, and taken directly to our room where we had just enough time to admire the gorgeous cake left out for Rich...

Before passing out in a bed which could have comfortably slept six.

Now Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah resort is not just one hotel, but three luxury five star hotels, set within a 124 acre haven along the turquoise waters of the Sea of Oman. 

The palatial Al Husn ("The Castle") sits majestically on the cliffs looking out over the other two hotels, and carries an air of mystique and exclusivity.

Al Waha, to the other side of the resort, is more open, family-friendly and relaxed, with several pools at its centre, which merge to form a serene oasis in the Omani desert.


Last but not least, Al Bandar, where we were staying, sits proudly in the centre, surrounded by beautiful gardens with pretty water features.
Mr S-to-be's favourite water feature? The lazy river of course! In fact, he enjoyed lazing about on it so much that he declared it the best feature of the entire hotel!
Everyone knows that this is the most sensible way to get into a rubber ring...

In front of the hotel is Circles Pool Bar and a lawn of sun loungers facing the gorgeous natural beach; a place so serene that turtles have chosen it as a prime location to lay their eggs. We picked a spot close to the sand to wile away our first morning and early afternoon, with a lazy late lunch (which was catch of the day - lovely, firm Hammour SMOTHERED in garlic).

The sun was beating down by this point, and we retreated to one of the many pools to cool off.

Mr Sunshine-to-be found the perfect shady spot from which to check the football scores...

While I got my swim on.

Around tea time, we dried off, headed back over the lazy river...

And wandered over to Chi Spa. We had a date with a couple of masseuses. 

Having arrived forty minutes early, we went our separate ways to enjoy the single-sex facilities until we were called for our couple's massage. 

Both Mr S-to-be and I agreed that the rain shower, and bubble seat Jacuzzi were two of the best spa facilities we had ever been lucky enough to sample!
I met my man in a tranquil little room at the side of a courtyard, where he was in a rather blissed-out state.

One hour of hard kneading later, and we emerged, feeling light as a feather, into the early evening sunshine. We picked out the perfect spot to see out the last of the rays before dinner.


For dinner, I had booked us a spot at the resort's famous seafood restaurant on the sea front.

Bait Al Bahr is known for its super-fresh fish...

Mussels and champagne...

And romantic setting overlooking the waters of the Sea of Oman.

I loved the rustic and yet perfectly presented look and feel of the food, which was a gourmet experience from start to finish.
The tempura prawns were meaty and filling, and were accompanied by a seaweed salad which tasted fresh and slightly salty. It was perfectly fitting for our location. 

The scallops with basil jelly and jam were sweet, tasty and interesting, but a little overdone for our liking.

But the main courses were the real stars of the evening. Fresh fish which we had picked out from the counter, with spring vegetables and a rather garlic-y sauce which I discarded in favour of being able to taste what I was eating. By this point, we were beginning to realise that the Omanis love their garlic, which was fine in moderation, but I was starting to find it a little overpowering (not to mention the protestation of my table mate who was going to have to endure my stinky company for the rest of the evening).
Anyway, back to the fish. I opted for the Omani speciality of Sharry, and Rich went for the Koeffer. Neither of us had tried these fish before and we weren't disappointed. The fillets were firm, yet delicate, expertly seasoned, and beautifully grilled to perfection.

With a glass of red in hand, I was one happy lady.
Meal over, we were asked if we would like to move to a seat tucked away in a quiet corner, where a special table had been laid out for us.

The waiters had cottoned on to the fact that it was Mr S-to-be's birthday and brought over champagne and cake to celebrate! Such a lovely surprise, which was fully appreciated by us both (I actually knocked over my wine in excitement at this point! Whoops).

Full of sugar and bubbly, we were ready to do what we do best. Explore.

On the roof above the restaurant we found the gorgeous BAB Bar.

After surveying the views over the resort from this excellent vantage point, we reentered the hotel and took a turn around the impressive lobby, which is resplendent in its traditional and rather opulent Dhofari style.

Through the lobby, towards the long corridors that make up the belly of the hotel, you are greeted by a fantastic silvery floor to ceiling chandelier to light the way.

And an ornate winding staircase of contrasting marble and carpet, with wrought iron banisters to guide you down.

Intricately carved archways welcome you on your route through to corridor after corridor.

And huge mirrors reflect the space and light (and are just too enticing to pass by without a quick snap).

Eventually, we found our way home, cooled our tired feet off in the bathtub and headed to bed.

It was another day, and having slept through breakfast the day before, we weren't willing to pass up on sampling the delights of Al Tanoor for a second day running.

We hopped downstairs to the bright and airy dining space of the restaurant.

It was another hotel breakfast spread which couldn't disappoint.

I particularly enjoyed the fluffy American pancakes, which I ate on the semi-covered terrace outside in the sunshine.

And then all too soon, it was time to wave goodbye to our relaxing time at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah. We stepped out of the huge doors and breathed in that mountain view one more time.

It was time to explore Muscat! But that's another blog post.

Have you been to Oman, or stayed in a Shangri-La hotel before? I'd love to hear about your experiences.