2016: My Year In Review

Saturday, 31 December 2016

No matter what you're doing in life, I think it's important to look back on each year as it passes and reflect on your highs and lows, your various successes and even those awful things you'd rather bury and forget. It's the only way to move on and grow, and to decide which resolutions to take with you into the new year.

I went through this exercise last year after having one of the best years of my life. But it's pretty clear that this year has trumped it ten times over (no prizes for guessing why!).

My Top Highlights

*That moment at 7.24pm on Friday 18th March (after rather a bumpy ride and a few hairy moments), when my pride and joy, Sophia Molly Byles joined us in the world. Life was never quite the same again!

*Watching her daddy hold her for the first time, and seeing the tenderness in his eyes.

*Walking through our front door with her for the first time, and feeling like a proper family at last.

*The first time she latched onto my breast and drank. The first time she smiled, sat up and crawled. The first time she gave me a proper cuddle. The first time she looked at me and said 'Mama'. The first time I looked at her and realised she was rapidly acquiring her own little personality, that she was fierce and there would be no stopping her in life.

*Our first time traveling as a family.

*The first time she met her relatives back in the UK.

*Her first Christmas.

And many, many more...

Yes, when you have a child, all of your highlights in life are no longer your own, and I wouldn't change it for the world.

2016 in Numbers

1: The number of major surgeries I had this year
1: The number of publications I wrote for. I became the new food columnist for OhLaLa Magazine out here in the Middle East!
2: The number of events I spoke at
1: The number of years of marriage Mr Sunshine and I celebrated
9: The number of months I took off work, first for maternity leave then unpaid leave
3: The number of trips we've taken to the UAE
3: The number of times we've flown home to the UK
2: The number of weddings we've been to
3: The number of my best friends that gave birth
57: The number of blog posts I wrote
19: The number of baby-related blog posts I wrote
36: The (approximate) number of blog events I attended
793: The number of Instagram photos I posted
72,738: The number of Instagram likes I received
24: The number of new friends I made this year through blogging and being a mummy
200: The (approximate) number of sleepless nights I had
365: The number of days I was genuinely happy to be alive (cheesy but oh-so true!)

My 10 most popular posts of 2016

20 Things I've Learned Since Becoming A Mummy
Doha's Most Child-Friendly Brunch: Superhero Picnic at The Lagoon, Ritz Carlton
24 Hours at Home on The Pearl, Qatar
My Top 20 Hotel Rooms of All Time
6 Reasons to Choose Zengo for Your Next Doha Date Night
Introducing Baby Sunshine: Sophia's Birth Story
New Mum's Christmas Gift List and Baby Gift Registry
A Luxurious Family Stay at the Four Seasons Hotel, Doha
Our Nursery Choice And Journey: Twyla Nursery, The Pearl Qatar
4 Doha Date Ideas

What This Year Taught Me:

- Having a baby is the most humbling, exhausting, beautiful, difficult, joy-filled, stress-inducing thing anyone could ever do and I bloody love it!

- Family is everything

- I have a lot of resources in me that I didn't know I had (even at 3am in the morning)

- The little things that life that used to stress me out and get me down suddenly just don't matter any more.

- You CAN get through a day on only 30 minutes sleep and half a Kitkat

What's Next?

Tomorrow is a big day for me because I will be returning to work after 9 months of being a full-time mummy. I haven't allowed myself to think about it much up until now because it's just too painful, but I'm sure that as soon as I'm behind that desk, I'll remember why it is that I chose to do what I do. My focus over the next few weeks will be on keeping myself as busy as possible during working hours so that I'm not constantly thinking of Sophia all the time! Let's see how that goes...

In February we are returning to the UK for my younger brother's wedding in York, when we will also squeeze in some very belated Christmas celebrations and present-swapping with our families.

March marks Sophia's first birthday and I'm already hatching plans for a big celebration with all of her friends.

Then after that, we will be heading off on some exciting travels around the world (look out for tomorrow's blog post on this!) and spending some quality time together as a family in between work commitments, writing for OhLaLa and hopefully hosting a few more events in 2017 too.

For Sophia, it's back to Twyla Nursery from Sunday through to Thursday while I'm at work, but I'll be back with her by 2pm every day and I'm hoping to enrol us in a couple of mummy & baby classes to keep her stimulated (and help to tire us all out before bed time!).

Apart from that, who knows?! It's hard to plan too much when you have a baby in your life, but then that's part of the adventure of parenting I suppose. One thing that I know for sure is that it's going to be a hell of a lot of fun.

Thanks for following along with my very sporadic, unpredictable posting this year! I would love to say that I will knuckle down to a more regular and predictable blogging schedule in 2017, but between work commitments and looking after Sophia I'm not going to even pretend that that's possible. However, I do really hope that you'll stick around and keep reading. I have a couple of collaborations and new projects up my sleeve for the coming year that will hopefully keep things interesting and a bit different too.

As always, thanks for all of your comments, shares, emails, feedback, likes and support. I really appreciate each and every one of them. Wishing you and your family all the best for a healthy and happy 2017!


Interview With A Mummy Blogger: Milly Naomi

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Back in the days when I was still able to wear underwired bras, and nothing was more exciting than 'boys', I attended an all girls grammar school in Chelmsford, Essex which had (and still has) a reputation for turning out over-achievers. There seems to be at least one politician / CEO / best selling author in each year group (and the stories I could tell you about some of the things we got up to could make a best-selling book in themselves). One of my classmates at the time was the happy-go-lucky, ever-smiling Milly, who brightened up even the dreariest of 9am German lessons.

Fast forward several years (thirteen actually, but who's counting?!) and Milly is now a popular beauty, baby and lifestyle blogger with six years-worth of blogging over at Milly Naomi to her name. Having worked with collaborations with world class brands ranging from Lancôme and Clarins, to Mac and YSL, I caught up with her on a recent trip back to the UK over a cuppa to ask her just how she manages to balance being a full time blogger with being a hands-on mum to her gorgeous baby, Florence. Several hours (and lots of giggles) later, here's some of what she had to say...

Up until Florence came along, Milly Naomi (formerly Pearls & Poodles) was largely a beauty blog with snippets of lifestyle. How has your focus changed since you became a mum?

I think my blog has developed and evolved very organically as I have grown and matured over the years. My interests and the way I wanted to present my blog has shifted so it was very natural then when Florence came along and I became a mum, I wanted the focus to reflect my new life and new job! I still very much enjoy my beauty and love writing reviews so I still keep this up but also enjoy sharing the other snippets of my life - Florence, her development and milestones, the highs and lows of motherhood and general snippets of our new life together. 

Which other mummy bloggers have inspired you along the way?

Oh there are quite a few other mummy bloggers and YouTubers who I have avidly followed ever since I found out I was pregnant. I adore Laura Byrne (Belles Boutique), Mrs Meldrum, Liza Prideaux, Ysis Lorenna, Hannah Maggs, Lucie and the Bump, Rhiannon Ashlee and the brilliantly funny Ruth from A Model Recommends. These ladies keep it real, are down to earth and always there on the end of a tweet to reassure you on those tough days.

What are your top tips for mums that work from home like you do?

I have found that it is imperative to plan your workload and never over-commit yourself to campaigns that you worry you may not be able to complete on time. The beauty of these babies are their complete unpredictability so even though I know I might get an 1 - 2 hours a day to myself whilst Florence naps, this is not always guaranteed so I plan for the worst case scenario! But when you do get that precious window of time - be focused, turn off any distractions, knuckle down (and drink lots of tea!) Also it is important to ask for help if you need it - don't be afraid to ask Nan or a friend to take baby out to the park for an hour if you need to get something done. Working from home is such a luxury but I am still a mum first and foremost, and then my blog work fits in around that.

What's your favourite mum moment or memory to date?

I have been blessed with so many lovely memories, I wish I could just bottle them all and relive them time and time again. I think when Florence first gave me a proper hug my heart just melted. One of those proper, tight, round-the-neck nuzzles. It was blissful!

What has surprised you the most about motherhood?

You could have had the hardest day ever with your baby - they could have fought all their naps, refused the perfectly sliced carrot sticks and parsnip mush you've prepared, cried all the way home in the back of the car and been sick on that freshly ironed outfit but the moment you lay them down at night and close the door...you miss them. You cannot wait to see them again and, come the morning, you will love them even more than you did the day before. A mother's love really is unconditional.

What's the hardest thing about being a mum?

Before I had Florence, when I heard people say that being a Mum is the hardest job in the world, I struggled to visualise just how looking after this tiny little tot could be that challenging. But boy oh boy, I now get it! I think one of the hardest things is how I can't be very spontaneous anymore and anything I want to do on my own has to be planned like a military operation. I can't just go off and have my hair done, go to the gym or meet a friend in the evening for a drink without plenty of notice, lots of planning and jiggling of plans to ensure little F is going to be ok for food, not miss her nap and I'm close by in case I need to rush home. 

If you had to make three wishes for Florence's future, what would they be?

All I ever wish for for Florence is for her to be completely happy in herself, feel supported in every decision she makes and to love cake just as much as her mum does!

What are your top 3 must-haves for busy mums?

My three top must-haves would include a baby carrier - I have found this invaluable to get jobs done whilst handsfree. A jumperoo to keep baby contained and entertained for at least five minutes whilst you get those household jobs done. A thermal travel mug as I never seem to have the chance to just sit down and drink a hot cup of tea in between removing Florence from the fireplace or climbing up the stairs.

What's your favourite mum-related blog post to date and why?

One of my favourite and most well-received mum-related blog posts has to be this one on my breastfeeding journey. Never did I realise that something supposedly so natural could be so hard, emotional, exhausting and distressing. I wanted to share my experience in the hope that any other new or soon-to-be mums found reassurance in my story and that with perseverance and the right help, it can become the most natural thing in the world. 

If you could give one piece of advice to other aspiring mummy bloggers out there, what would it be?

I would say just go for it but don't put too much pressure on yourself. You are already doing an amazing, life-consuming job bringing up your little one. But if you love to write and fancy documenting your life, record those special milestones and keep a little memento to show your baby when they grow up, then it can be a great thing to embark on and is a valuable way to escape in the evenings and have some you time. 

You can read more about Milly's motherhood journey, as well as beauty reviews and lifestyle snippets over at www.millynaomi.com.
Photo credits: Katherine Ashdown

Sophia Molly: Eight Month Update

Thursday, 15 December 2016

This update comes a little later than planned due to it being 'busy season' in Qatar, and our little girl is actually much closer to nine months than eight. However, I promised myself I wouldn't miss an update and too much has happened this month to let it slip by without a mention so here we go...

This month Sophia has liked...

Enjoying a family-friendly staycation at the Four Seasons Doha, where she had fun exploring the Ambassador Suite, splashing in the pools and eating her body weight in Elements breakfast!

Moving around holding onto a table or stationary object while standing up. It's not going to be too long now before she's walking!

Having visits from her granny and grandpa, who both spoil her rotten!

Listening to music at nursery and Theatre Tots, and clapping along to the beat.

Helping mummy and daddy to put up the Christmas tree (and then bit by bit helping to tear it down again!)


Nursery update

Sophia has continued to thrive at Twyla Nursery this month. She still flaps her arms with excitement when she enters the building in the morning, and loves looking around at all the older children playing.

She has demonstrated her strong-willed nature and bravery by crawling down the tunnel in her classroom before all of the boys did, and although she is sometimes a bit tentative about getting messy during sensory play, it doesn't take her long before she gets stuck in. Her class teacher has shown us some gorgeous paintings she has created using her hands and feet, and I can't wait to get them up on the wall in the kitchen!

November's nursery theme was animals, and Sophia got the opportunity to meet a cat and a tortoise that came to visit from Qatar Animal Welfare Society (QAWS). I love that the nursery is opening up so many opportunities to these children that they wouldn't otherwise have.

This month Sophia has disliked...

The transition to her own room and own cot. Sleeping in between mummy and daddy in their big bed is much cosier.


This month's firsts...

First time saying 'Mama' (me!) and 'Baba' (daddy). Yes, I cried.

First two teeth (on the bottom).

First time riding in the child seat of the trolley while out shopping.

First time being left with a babysitter (my good friend Hayley). And no, she didn't stay asleep for her!

It has been another full month which has slipped by in the blink of an eye and I'm finding it difficult to believe that she's only a few days from being three quarters of a year old! We have lots planned already for this coming month, including a quick hop overseas for a quick pre-Christmas mini-break, as well as some exciting festivities lined up for the day itself. I hope you'll follow along!

The 12 Days of Christmas in Doha Restaurants

Monday, 5 December 2016

It's Chriiiiistmaaaas! In the words of one of my all-time heroes (Buddy from Elf), "son of a nutcracker!" - how is it December already?! Time to put up those trees, write your Christmas list, bake some mince pies and start ticking off the things you are going to do to celebrate the festive season.

Top of our list this year has been a visit to all of the restaurants that we neglected to visit in 2016 (because ummm, where did 2016 go?!) and also a trip to those that are offering special promotions this season - there is nothing like a festive treat to get you into the spirit of things after all!

Doha's hotels and restaurants have pulled out all of the stops this year to appeal to a variety of different tastes, creating an exciting array of innovative culinary experiences, so the foodies amongst us really are spoilt for choice. To make it a little easier for you, here is my pick of the restaurants that I think you should visit before the twelve days of Christmas are up.

25/12/16. On the first day of Christmas my true love sent me to...

Al Jawhara Ballroom at InterContinental Doha the City for their Christmas Day Brunch! If you're looking for a lavish affair on Christmas Day (and let's face it, who isn't?), complete with turkey with all of the trimmings as well as activities to keep the little ones in the holiday spirit, then this is my pick of Doha's Christmas Day offerings this year. My family will be gorging on our Christmas dinners here, so I hope to see you there!

(For those of you that are celebrating from home, they offer a turkey takeaway menu too).

26/12/16. On the second day of Christmas my true love sent me to...

Opal by Gordon Ramsay at the St Regis Doha for Monday's Burger Night. With a choice of a tender, melt in the mouth Wagyu Beef Burger, spicy Lamb Burger with Harissa sauce or a cheesy Chili Dog, you also get chips on the side and a choice of alcoholic tipple for only 100QAR. Plus you can add a dessert (I recommend the sticky toffee pudding - probably the best in Doha!) for an added 30QAR.

Don't forget to collect your Green Collection card at the end of the meal to add to your Winter Collection set and receive money off your next meal, as well as be in with a chance of winning a two night stay in the St Regis' presidential suite! Find out more here.

27/12/16. On the third day of Christmas my true love sent me to...

Sabah w Masa on The Pearl for a light and casual Lebanese lunch. Don't miss: the Fattoush salad, Homos Bayrouti (traditional hummous with the addition of parsley, tomato, garlic and chilli), Lahme Beajine (basically minced beef cooked with aromatic spices on a pizza base) or the Bayd Jebneh (eggs which have been baked in a bread casket). Everything is made from fresh ingredients, and screams authenticity.

28/12/16. On the fourth day of Christmas my true love sent me to...

Saffron Lounge in Katara to check out what Michelin starred Chef Vineet Bhatia is serving up to Doha diners. And trust me, it is special.

I was invited along to meet the chef himself for a very special afternoon of #bloggingwithchefvineet recently, where he performed a live cooking demonstration for some of Qatar's food bloggers. By the end of it all, I was in awe - it takes an incredible talent to combine simple, clean ingredients to create a refined dish with immense flavour, but he's mastered it. Lovers of Indian cuisine, this restaurant is not to be missed.

29/12/16. On the fifth day of Christmas my true love sent me to...

Elements at the Four Seasons Hotel to try out the new menu they launched this Winter. As expected, it is absolutely sublime, but the real stand-out items on offer are the dumplings. Elements' dedicated dumpling chef who hails from China has combined delicate flavours and clever techniques to create some of the best Dim Sum and steamed buns that Doha has seen to date (their Express Lunch Menu is an absolute steal at 85 QAR for two courses and 95 QAR for three too).

30/12/16. On the sixth day of Christmas my true love sent me to...

Gourmet House at Kempinski Residences and Suites with six of my best friends for their Ladies Afternoon Tea. The quaint and perfectly-polished afternoon teas for two people also come with a free designer cake if you order three of them - and when you see how wonderful these cakes are, you are going to want to ring all of the ladies you know to get them to join you!

31/12/16. On the seventh day of Christmas my true love sent me to...

Kempinski Residences and Suites again, but this time up to the 41st floor to Zengo, for a New Year's Eve celebration like no other in Doha. A five course Pan-Asian tasting menu including 15 different dishes, with unrivalled views of the city from the highest restaurant in West Bay, with the party continuing into the night in Z Lounge next door? Yes please!

01/01/17. On the eighth day of Christmas my true love sent me to...

Cactus Senshi for a New Years Day post-party recovery lunch. Starting a new year is all about embracing new experiences right? Well it doesn't get more unusual than Arabic and Japanese fusion food, with a dash of Mexican in the mix too. This might sound a little too out there for some, but if you trust my reviews then believe me when I say that the sushi is fresh and delicious, the flavours original and creative...and it actually works!

02/01/17. On the ninth day of Christmas my true love sent me to...

Le Vesuvio in Katara for a delicious and (dare I say it) legendary pizza. Of course, you must head there before the 17th December first for their Classic vs. Gastronomic Pizza promotion, which includes an appetiser, pizza, dessert and mocktail for only QAR 95, but once you have decided whether you prefer the deep flavour and soft dough of the Gastronomic pizza, or the thin and crispy base of the Classic Pizza, you must return to order your choice of preference again...and again...

03/01/17. On the tenth day of Christmas my true love sent me to...

Teatro at City Centre Rotana for a plush date night. Dark furniture, low lighting and elegant decor combine to create one of Doha's most romantic settings in which to share a meal with that special somebody. Just make sure you leave some time to enjoy a tipple at the well-stocked bar beforehand.

04/01/17. On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love sent me to...

Nando's to try out their new vegetarian menu. Yes, you read that right! The famous chicken joint has branched out into the world of vegetarianism, and they've done it in style. Think Paneer and Vegetable Espetata, and Paneer and Watermelon Skewers drenched in their delicious and unique Peri Peri sauce. There's also a Quinoa Salad for those of you that aren't a fan of such zingy flavour combinations.

05/01/17. On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent me to...

Nobu at the Four Seasons, because there really isn't a better restaurant in Doha to round off this very special season. That famous black cod, the sumptuous sushi selection, those steamed beef buns... everything on Chef Nobu Matshuhisa's reverred menu is about sophistication and style.

Yes, sophistication and style - that's exactly how I'd like to start my 2017 please. But somehow I have a feeling that potty training and toddler tantrums will be more my bag. Bring it on!

I was a guest for the above meals and promotions but as always all views are my own.

20 Things I've Learned Since Becoming a Mummy

Thursday, 1 December 2016

I've now been a mummy for eight months. Two thirds of a year, I can't believe it!! It might not seem like that long, but I've learned a hell of a lot in a short space of time. Some of these things hit me on day one, sitting there in the hospital with my new precious bundle in my arms. Others I've struggled to learn gradually over time. But one thing's for sure, I'm a lot more wise (and far more tired!) than I've ever been before.

Here's what motherhood's taught me so far:

1. Whoever and whatever you were before is now secondary to what you are now: a mother. This makes you feel a little bit invincible. You might be the most successful female politician since Maggie Thatcher, but when you're asked how you're going to tackle an issue, the first thing that will run through your head will be, "I'M A MOTHER, I'M MORE THAN QUALIFIED TO DO ANYTHING YOU THROW AT ME! BRING IT ON!"

2. Travel, once a pleasurable past time, has become a laborious, tiring and admin-heavy task, which involves lugging your bodyweight in supplies around with you wherever you go. Forget sunbathing with a book; instead this time will be spent struggling to prevent your child from shoveling half the beach into their mouth. You'll need to brush up on your best miming skills to try to locate the item that is vital to your child's existence in a foreign supermarket because you left it at home/on the plane/in a service station's toilets. Then you'll need another holiday to recover from the holiday you've just had as soon as you return home.

3. Sleep, once a pleasurable past time, has become a treat which you enjoy only on very rare occasions, a handful of times a year, when all of the moons in the Milky Way align.

4. Speaking of sleep, back in the day if you were awake at 4 AM you'd usually be found clutching a kebab and high fiving the postman as you totter down the street after an excellent night. Nowadays if you are awake at 4 AM, you can be found pulling your hair out and muttering expletives under your breath after one of the worst nights of your life eveeerrrrr (yes, those sleepless nights also tend to turn you into a bit of a drama queen). The only thing you have in common with your former 4 AM self is the fact that you're so out of it that you can barely remember your own name.

5. You will never visit the toilet alone again.

6. Say goodbye to your memory. You will constantly find yourself turning up to things on the wrong day, and at the wrong time...and sometimes in the wrong place too. But remembering things is so overrated, and forgetting exactly what you're supposed to be doing at any point in time keeps life interesting! Who needs to remember names, faces, shopping lists or their brother's birthday anyway?

7. Sex. See sleep.

8. Boobs are no longer sexy; they're leaking, life-sustaining, achey, weird-looking mammary glands that your teething child abuses on a daily basis. Oh, and these days a supportive bra won't be enough to help them to defy gravity; a forklift truck is required to keep them looking perky.

9. While we're on the subject of feeding, people will judge you if you breastfeed, and if you bottle feed. But then they will also judge you if you send your child to nursery, and if you keep them at home. They will judge you if you wean them at four months and if you decide to wait until seven. They will judge you if you go back to work and if you're a stay at home mum. There is nothing like becoming a parent to make everyone suddenly believe they are sitting on a jury, but you just need to ignore them and do what is right for you and your child.

10. Baby clothes cost more than your average monthly mortgage and you'll need the vigilance of a Russian spy to replace them in time to keep up with your baby's rapid growth.Yet somehow they'll still have a bigger and better wardrobe than you have ever had.

11. No matter how good you are at holding it together, you will still turn into a weeping mess when your baby has their first jabs.

12. There are hundreds of Smug Mums (I like to call them 'Smums') on the internet, posting on forum boards about how their baby crawled at three months, and posting photos on Facebook of newborns with milestone cards which say they slept through the night for the first time at three days old, but I can guarantee you that even these mums cry into their mugs of tea on a semi-regular basis too. You can't buy into the filtered reality you see online.

13. Colic, reflux, teething, sleep regressions...these phases are lumped together in a category I like to call 'The Shits', because well, they are supremely shit. But it's important to remember that they are just phases, and they pass. They always pass.

14. Speaking of passing shits, you will rapidly become a poo expert, and you'll soon find that your parental conversations turn to the topic on a regular basis. From green to brown to orange and even slightly purple, you'll come to know exactly what the precise colour (and texture) means with regards to your child's health. It's now completely acceptable to sniff another person's bottom in public. It's also perfectly acceptable to ask them out loud in the supermarket if that was a poo or just a fart.

15. You'll start to notice pregnant women and babies a lot more, and will be heard muttering, "Why is EVERYONE I know having children these days?!" You'll appreciate other people's babies, but secretly inside you will *know* that yours is the cutest. You're still patiently waiting for the day that the child modelling agency calls you to say that your perfect little cherub has been head-hunted for a new campaign.

16. Multi-tasking isn't just an impressive skill, it is now necessary to life. Changing a nappy with one hand whilst on the phone booking a doctor's appointment and singing 'Baa Baa Black Sheep'? Absolute doddle.

17. Your mummy friends suddenly become the most amazing, strong and independent women you have ever met. You constantly ask yourself how on earth they are managing to get out of the house after a handful of hours' sleep; how they manage to go back to work after a few months; how they are still going to the gym / baking brownies / taking up crocheting. Then suddenly you realise you're doing just as well as them in your own way and give yourself a huge pat on the back.

18. No matter how bad your day has been, or how little you have slept the night before, one smile from your baby, one 'Mama' or one cuddle, and everything is alright again.

19. You have never felt so fulfilled, so proud, so goddamn content in your entire life. You sing more, you laugh more, everyone probably thinks you're going a little crazy. But you created a human being, and they're amazing. You're a bit amazing for doing it too. See point 1.

20. Nothing will ever be the same again. And you wouldn't change a thing.

Mummies, what have you learned that I've missed?

For those of you that are still pregnant, check out '20 Ways To Cope With Pregnancy In Your Third Trimester'

A Luxurious Family Stay At The Four Seasons Hotel, Doha

Monday, 28 November 2016

When you have a baby, it is a very rare occasion when every member of the family gets a chance to relax, unwind and have fun at the same time. One parent at least is usually on edge, making sure that the baby is safe and content and I can guarantee that at any one moment in time, at least two of the three of us will be absolutely, utterly exhausted. So when the Four Seasons Hotel here in Doha invited us along for a family-friendly, luxury staycation the other weekend, we jumped at the chance. My mind was already beside the pool, mocktail in hand, one eye on Mr Sunshine and Baby Sunshine frolicking in the water in front of me.

So was reality as blissful as I had imagined it to be? Read on to find out...

The Room

We were staying in the Ambassador Suite, which included a spacious living and dining room, bedroom with queen-sized bed, dressing room, marbled bathroom and two Juliette balconies overlooking the sweeping curve of the Corniche below, and out to the tranquil waters of the Persian Gulf.

In the bedroom, a cot had been set up at our request, and we discovered some useful baby supplies on the night stand, along with the cutest little Four Seasons-embossed baby slippers!

These thoughtful touches extended to the provisions we found in the living area, including munchies for mum and dad...

But more importantly, two pots of freshly puréed baby food, complete with spoon and bibs for the little one. As it was nearing lunch time by the time we'd checked in and finished exploring, Sophia was getting hungry so we didn't hesitate in tucking right in.

For the duration of our stay, we kept the large double doors between the bedroom and living room open, and Sophia enjoyed crawling around and exploring the expansive, sun-filled space...

And playing on the large, squishy bed...

I made the most of the Crabtree & Evelyn products that I found in the bathroom by taking long, hot showers and a soak in the deep bathtub...

And Mr Sunshine flicked between the football on TV, and the magazines on display.

It wasn't long before we all felt completely relaxed and at home.

The Pool & Beach Area

The pools at the Four Seasons are some of my favourites in Doha, as they are shaped like natural-looking lagoons surrounded by palm trees, flowers and foliage, making you feel as though you've stumbled upon a tropical paradise.

There are waterfalls and jacuzzis, a warm children's pool and even cave-like pools hidden at various levels amongst the rocks.

The sunloungers are plentiful, and you can choose between sitting in the sunshine, or beneath one of the shaded cabanas.

A hop, step and a jump away lies a large and sweeping beach, with fine white sand and a Maldives-like vibe.

Several blissful hours were spent nipping between our sun loungers, the sand and the pools, and our happy baby didn't stop giggling the whole time that we were there! Not only did we all have an incredibly fun afternoon, but I was even able to fit in a bit of sunbathing, which for a busy mum like me, is almost unheard of. Huge thanks to Mr Sunshine for keeping Sophia entertained while I relaxed!

Here's an aerial shot of the hotel's grounds, as seen from our balcony. Can you spot Sophia and me?!

The Spa

Not only did I manage to enjoy the sun, but I also got the chance to nip away for a quick treatment while we were there. It was my first in almost nine months, so I was buzzing with excitement as I entered the doors of the spa.

The Four Seasons Spa is housed within its own three-storey building, offering a wide range of health and wellness therapies inside each of its 11 treatment rooms, and the hydrotherapy facilities are some of the most impressive I've seen.

I was there however, for the ninety minute Biologique Recherche facial, a treatment which encorporates a comprehensive computerised skin assessment which allows the beautician to customise your facial using techniques and products that are best-suited to your individual skincare needs.

Two dreamy hours later, I left feeling rejeuvenated, with plump skin which hadn't glowed in that way since the early days of my pregnancy.

The Food

Breakfast is held in Elements, which long-time readers will know is one of my favourite Doha restaurants. Having never visited at this hour, however, I was taken aback by the enormous range of breakfast options available.

Live stations are dotted about the restaurant, and nothing is impossible for the kind waiting staff, who fetched and carried dishes, moved tables and customised our order to make sure everything was just right for us and Sophia.

The end result was a table with a view and laden with goodies, from a Full English breakfast, pastries and fruit smoothies, to Dim Sum and even Dosa. For once, all three of us sat in silence as we sat back to enjoy our food.

Lunch on both days that we were there came courtesy of the Pool Grill, which we initially enjoyed beside the pool on our sun loungers. Salted and crisp calamari; delicate, flakey salmon; and sushi and salads that tasted fresh and delicious were consumed at a rate of knots.

In fact, Sophia enjoyed her food so much that she proceeded to shovel several fistfuls into her mouth at once, inevitably making quite a mess...

So the next day we opted for a more civilised sit-down lunch at the Pool Grill's pretty terrace which looks out over the beach.

The pizza was stunning, but the star of the show was the tender steak, which the knife sliced through like butter and which practically melted in the mouth.

Dinner was held at the restaurant's acclaimed Italian, Il Teatro, and having not had a proper date night for several weeks, we were pretty excited about this one.

Chef Marco Alotti heads up a kitchen of talented chefs whose passion is evident in every morsel of food.

We selected as broadly as we could from the menu, which has been newly revised for the Winter, and sat back to enjoy the warm breeze on the terrace while Sophia snoozed in her pram and we devoured everything that was placed in front of us. Each dish was perfectly executed, but the real stand-outs included the flavourful amuse bouche; the earthy scallops with crisp pollenta chips; the delicately-truffled tortellini with moreish pecorino cheese sauce which demanded to be mopped up with the bread left in the bread basket; and the Chilean Seabass, which had been cooked to perfection with a soft and silky texture which paired beautifully with the slightly sweet and perfectly-seasoned sauce.

The Service

From the moment we set foot in the hotel, the service we encountered was incomparable. Some might think that this is a given in any luxury five star hotel, but in all of our travels, there have only been a handful occasions where the service has been faultless, and our experience at the Four Seasons was one of them.

We were welcomed to the pool and restaurants by name. The staff were considerate and courteous, without appearing over-bearing.  Most importantly, they were welcoming and friendly to Sophia, accepting of her mess(!) and kind and thoughtful in everything they did to make us all feel relaxed and well-catered for.

The Verdict

From the incredibly thoughtful provisions that were left for us in our room, to the stunning surroundings and world class food, everything about our stay at the Four Seasons was both luxurious and relaxing. I was surprised that a luxury brand was able to make us feel so at home and comfortable, and even more surprised by the family-friendly touches that permeated everything we did and saw. Would I change anything? Well, everyone knows that I am a sucker for a cup of tea, so I could say that some fresh milk in the fridge in our room would have been lovely. I could also tell you that the bath towels could have been slightly bigger. But then it would be obvious to you all that I was desperately scraping the barrel for some 'constructive feedback'.

In short, everything we experienced during our staycation was a delight.

After we had returned home that night, Sophia slept longer and more soundly than she had ever slept. She had enjoyed herself so much that she'd completely worn herself out.

Four Seasons Doha, you can be sure that I'll be booking in our next staycation very soon!

The Details

Four Seasons Hotel, The Corniche, Doha | (+974) 4494 8888

To read more in my Doha Staycation series, head here.

We were guests of the Four Seasons Hotel this time, but as always all views are my own