Monday, 14 April 2014

A second helping of A Cup of Jo

Can I just reiterate how much I am IN LOVE with this website?  Jo Goddard has everything on her blog - food, fashion, design and kids.  I never get around to reading it as much as I like, but I am trying to check up on her posts at least a few times a week now.  In particular I have found some amazing recipes on here.  I urge everyone to check out A Cup of Jo as soon as you can!


A scrummy mummy indulgence

As any enthusiastic cook who has children at home will know, finding the time to actually create any meals beyond the bog standard can be quite tricky.  With my first born, he would happily sit playing with toys whilst I chopped and cooked away, but now having two makes it a whole different ball game.  My cooking has to be done while child number 2 is asleep - which coincides with when child 1 has returned from nursery, so which means he is either playing on his own with no 1 on 1 time with me or plonked in front of the telly.  I thought that not working would give me more time to create lavish meals but the time I actually get to do this means that something else important has to give.

So I was super happy when approached at the school gates a few months ago by another mum who had started up her own business: 2.5hrs in a morning where your child is looked after whilst you prepare 3 main meals to take home for you and your husband, all done within nursery hours and no cleaning up to do after all the cooking.  No-one ignored.  And some uninterrupted adult conversation over a cup of tea.  Book me in!

Clair was looking (as we all are) for something to do with her time now that both of her children were of school/nursery age.  But she didn't want to work full time away from home.  So she started up the Scrummy Mummies Healthy Cooking Club. You can choose from morning sessions with childcare or evening sessions.  Plus there are also 3 week courses.

I decided to come along to a morning session - as I don't have the luxury of childcare for my littlest one at home, that was the class that caught my eye - having him looked after and a few hours 'off' to myself!  So I turn up at 9.15 on a tuesday morning and firstly got him relaxed into the creche - Clair's sitting room.  The childminders were lovely and as soon as my child was distracted with a toy I took off into the kitchen (he still has separation anxiety at 1.5yrs so I have to bolt while I can!).  The mums (there were 4 of us) all had a quick chat and donned our aprons whilst sipping tea.  Clair showed us the recipes that we were cooking for the day - Beef Panaeng, Cannelloni and Couscous Crusted Salmon.

The ingredients for each dish were all ready to go in individual crates, the utensils all readily available, and each step for each dish was printed on notecards and divided into 'immediate', 'after 30mins' and 'after 1hr' piles.  I love cooking and I think I am a pretty organised cook, but I really admired Clair for being able to dissect each recipe like that - and to do it every week!  So to work we went, dividing up chores and working through the meals.  There was the usual banter on swapping baby advice, who has a great new recipe/time saving tip and wondering whose baby that was crying through the closed kitchen door (definitely mine I could hear as he was swinging off the baby gate a few times!).  Clair was really good with assuring us that no baby had (yet) cried for more than a few mins of a class and it was true our day.  Sure, there were a few intervals of piercing screams from I think all of them, but the childminder popped her head around the door and checked on nap/food options and reassured us all that everything was fine.

At the end of the session, around 11.30am we started to pack up the dishes.  We each went home with 2 couscous crusted salmon fillets with a tomato and olive vinaigrette, 2 portions of beef panaeng, and 2 containers (8 rolls) of baked cannelloni - all packaged with lovely branded labels detailing cooking/freezing instructions.  So 6 meals and 2.5hrs to myself for £50.  Not bad at all.  I can't wait to go along again is all I can say!


Sunday, 2 March 2014

Is lather, rinse, repeat out the window?

A quick entry for today - how many of you out there lather, rinse and repeat?  Not me, I've never done the whole shampooing twice routine - one shampoo round then onto the conditioner.

But NOW I've heard about this new craze that is completely throwing our hair washing routine into a spin.  Condition FIRST, then shampoo.  Crazy, I know, but after reading this article on the daily mail site, I wanted to give it a go. It's recommended for finer hair that tends to feel quite heavy after just one day post-wash.  So today, I've put in a conditioning mask for a minute or so, washed out, then shampooed.  My hair didn't feel as great as it normally would when I stepped out of the shower, and I was worried the experiment would have me back in the shower re-washing.  But after I had combed my hair and started blow drying, my hair was feeling far less tangled and lighter - it was bouncing up at the roots with very little paddle brush intervention and the ends of my hair were looking much smoother too, and overall much shinier locks.  So - this may be a keeper routine in the de Yong household!  Let's see how my hair is looking tomorrow…..

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Youngblood cosmetics

I recently went on a Hen's weekend in the beautiful cotswolds and as part of our celebrations we had a makeup lesson on how to do smokey eyes.  The makeup artist instructing us, Michelle Brooks, was absolutely lovely and a calm amongst the storm of 10 girls getting tipsy and laughing at themselves doing smokey eyes for the first time!

Michelle introduced us to a fantastic brand of makeup called Youngblood, a mineral based line that I hadn't heard of before.  I asked Michelle for tips on foundation as my current one was about to run out and I wanted to try something new. I think so much about what I put into my body, and the products I use for my skincare, but I didn't really give my makeup a second thought.  It's something that I slap on every day of my life pretty much - why wouldn't I want something more natural?  Youngblood is based on finely ground minerals, contains a natural sun protectant and provides great coverage.  It also doesn't give you that white faced look you get in photos from when you are wearing any other foundations/bases that have titanium dioxide as their active ingredient.  The foundation and powder glided on and left my skin feeling like satin.  I was quick to purchase what Michelle had used on me, and have been loving my products ever since!


Thursday, 23 January 2014

An inspirational find - The Wellness Warrior

Whilst undertaking all my recent research into how to live better, eat wiser and relax a bit more, I started looking into smoothie recipes in preparation for the arrival of my new baby, a magimix blender.  I stumbled across a website called The Wellness Warrior. When signing up to the daily newsletters you get access to a fantastic e-book called the 'Green Mo Revolution' which is full of fantastic green smoothie ideas.

I then started reading through the site, and discovered what a real inspiration that the creator, Jess Ainscough is.  A fellow aussie, Jess was diagnosed with a rare cancer at just 22, and had to completely turn her life around to survive.  She has now found her voice in sharing her story with others and travels around Australia sharing her tips on healthy living, cleansing, etc., has her own tv channel and a recipe book.  Her story is inspirational and I just love everything she covers.  I urge you to go check her out.  I will leave you with one of Jess's parting comments:

''Your life is worth treasuring.  Your body is worth nourishing. 
And we need you here.  Alive and kicking''


Wednesday, 9 October 2013

A blissful half hour of mid-week peace at the Monocle Cafe

I love Marylebone.  The wonderful shops, cute little cafes and great Sunday Farmers Markets. Not to mention, it is home to the place that I had my first job in London, the legendary La Fromagerie, so it will always hold a special place in my heart.

So a lovely friend of mine sent me a message a few months back simply saying 'Review Please' with a link to The Monocle Cafe.  So I looked it up, read all about it - and have taken far too long to actually get there, considering how close it is.  So this week I promised myself I would go.  And today was the day.  I dropped off the biggest child at school, then headed on in to Marylebone, the youngest thankfully falling asleep en route, therefore allowing me a peaceful half hour at least being able to enjoy finally achieving this goal!

And so I arrived at the Monocle Cafe.  Nestled in amongst a bridal store and antique showroom, this trendy little cafe was everything I expected.  Petite, beautiful earthy design, and still buzzing enough for a mid morning on a Wednesday.  I promptly inspected the cake cabinet and ordered a Lanka cheesecake and a Flat White, and took the paper under my arm to enjoy sitting outside on the pavement (something you rarely get to enjoy with a crawler and toddler around).

My plate arrived and I was instantly impressed.  Something that I really feel London establishments fail to do is impress with service and presentation.  So far, so good.  Not only was I in trendy surrounds, but my order was presented with speed, and in style.  A gorgeous tray encased my cheesecake (itself on an impressive plate), the perfect temperature flat white, a branded wet wipe and my requested glass of tap water which came as a carafe of minted liquid.  How simple these few touches are - and yet so memorable, so impressive.  The water presentation alone I would have given top marks for had I just been reviewing that!

So I sat and enjoyed the moments of child-free silence. Then I took a wander inside.  This cafe is famous for cataloging all the suppliers used in the creation of the cafe - the floors, crockery, coffee - you name it.  Hasami ceramics, the red oak counter lit by Ebolicht pendants, bar stools from Aussies One/Third, Lanka cakes, Fabrique Bakery pastries and Allpress coffee beans - just to name a few.  The aesthetics of the cafe have been described as a cross between a 'Japanese Sushi Bar and Swedish Sauna House'.  I've never been to the latter, but I can certainly feel the japanese air, particularly in the way the lunch menu items are presented in photographs, numbered, on the counter wall.

Up the back of the cafe lies a TV room all darkened with comfy sofas, and a downstairs hang out for the overflowing lunch crowds.  I certainly did enjoy my morning tea here, and cannot wait to come back and try it again one lunch, in particular to taste test their grilled cheese sandwich.


Friday, 2 August 2013

Ibiza - my new love

I have just come back from the most amazing holiday.  Ibiza.  An island that for years I kept thinking I was past my prime for - you know, all the 20-something year olds head on over for a long weekend (or even one night - the flight schedules certainly cater for it) to party their butts off and recover back home.  But I missed that boat, and then had kids and thought it just wasn't going to happen unless parents came over and babysit for a weekend whilst hubby and I took off and relived our youth.

But then all our friends who HAD been there in their prime had kids.  And took them back for a different style of vacation. And then for the past few years the marketing has taken off trying to sell Ibiza to this new market of the 'ageing ravers'.  And all the great feedback is true - Ibiza really is an island with two faces.

We headed out for a week and rented an amazing apartment in Cala Tarida. With a pool (adult and paddling), tennis court, private garden and one of the best beaches on the island just a few minutes walk away we were in paradise. The kids loved it immediately. To be an Australian living in London and not being able to jump in and out of the pool a few times a day always seems unnatural, so we were all in heaven.   Our local beach Cala Tarida was amazing - long stretches of sand, clear water, numerous bars and topless chics for the hubby to perve on.

We still managed to have a 'pretend we are young and still really stylish and not married/have kids' night out at Ushuaia Hotel for David Guetta's 'F*** me I'm Famous' set which was amazing.  Dancing around a hotel garden/pool with thousands of others in the sunset was brilliant - and David Guetta was outstanding.  Everything else was pretty much relaxation/food focused - so here are my pics of great finds from our time away...

Destino Bar in San Jose - quite literally the best tapas I have ever eaten.  This above was just our second course - meatballs, grilled peppers, chorizo, beans, chicken wings, prawns and braised beef just to name a few dishes.  I'm hungry now...

Ibiza Old Town (Dalt Vila) at Sunset - such a magical place with musicians walking around, tables lining the pavement on every main street.  So lovely.  And great to do the historical walk around during the day too to catch panoramic glimpses of Eivissa and the harbour.

The Jockey Club on Salinas - great breakfast in a wall-less restaurant right on Salinas Beach.  Great food, super child friendly and a very cool beach.  Pumping in the late afternoon with great tunes and food/cocktails served to your sun lounger.

The amazing Cala Bassa - stunning, stunning beach. Incredibly calm and crystal clear waters with a tree-lined backdrop housing a great Beach Club with numerous restaurants, massage beds and sun loungers.  Perfection.

The Fish Shack - an incredible find.  Literally a restaurant with a sheet of tin and umbrellas for a roof. It doesn't really even have a name - I think it was just given this one! You get offered a choice of fish caught that day - all served grilled, with the same sides of potatoes and salad.  No website, no address really as it is on a rocky edge surrounded by nude bathers off the beaten track.  So happy we found it.