an ode to beauty therapists (and two of my favourites)

Every time I think about it, I wonder how beauty therapists get into it. I mean, they deal with other people’s bodies, doing things for people that they either can’t or don’t want to do for themselves. And they do it with such poise and grace most of the time. These lovely ladies treat our weird, hairy, scaly bodies as though they are works of art, and really, I think it’s amazing.

I mean, I’ve encountered a different type of beauty therapist. There was one lady who made me feel like the scum of the earth. She gave me a Hollywood bikini wax, no matter what I’d asked for, and never exchanged one word with me. But, she was incredibly quick, efficient and painless, so I probably saw her monthly for about a year… until she startled embezzling money from the business, and they went under (it does not pay to be a mean girl).

But my most recent beauty heroes are two ladies I’ve met at two of my favourite beauty establishments. I’m no beauty blogger, nor can I really be bothered about most beauty things, but visits to both of these ladies always makes my day and I’m happy to give them my money.

Koko at Rouge Day Spa

Koko (far left in this photo) is a gem. I’ve been seeing Koko at Rouge since I moved to Kenilworth about 4 years ago, and she is just unfailingly lovely. Personable, interesting, interested and completely professional. She waxes like a whizz, massages like a pro, and makes your nails look the best they ever have. I mean, all the ladies I’ve met at Rouge are lovely, but Koko is my favourite (and this weekend, she’s getting married!) She waxed my legs when I was too pregnant to reached them, and listened to me complain about pregnancy, motherhood, entrepreneurship and so much other stuff. Really, she’s like a beauty therapist and a counsellor in one (yes, I’m a talker, what gave you that idea?)

Chrystal at Lavish Aesthetics

Chrystal is a very new discovery for me. My sister and her friend had long recommended her, but I was quite happy at Rouge and hadn’t any need for a new place to spend money. Then, my sister booked me in for her Women’s Day facial special, and now she has my heart. I’ve only had 2-3 facials in my nearly 33 years, and most of them were either pointless or crap, frankly.

Well, Chrystal has completely changed my opinion on facials. She’s knowledgeable, intelligent, observant and funny. She likes science fiction and fantasy books, and can talk about anything. More importantly, she handles my postpartum dry/flaky/messy skin and treats it like gold, and her no-nonsense attitude has me facing up to all sorts of skin issues I’d been avoiding. My face looks better than it has in years, and I’ve hardly slept through the night for a full week for the last 3 years (so that’s saying something!) She’s a qualified cosmetic scientist and somatologist, and her massage is a force to be reckoned with. One visit to Chrystal will have you going back again (that’s a blessing and a curse!)

A good beauty therapist deals with your bodily yuck and makes you feel like gold while doing it, and these two lovely ladies do just that. So here’s to them!

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one cup homemade granola

So, I asked on Twitter this morning if you want my homemade granola recipe, and the response was good, so here goes. I tried MANY different recipes before settling on this, and it’s really more of a method than a hard-and-fast recipe, which I think is easier and more flexible anyway.

INGREDIENTS

One cup each:

  • Oats – old-fashioned/rolled (not instant)
  • Coconut – flaked, desiccated, ground
  • Nuts & seeds (roughly chopped, if large) – whatever you have or that strikes your fancy
  • Dried fruit (roughly chopped, if large) – again, whatever you like

1/3 to 1/2 a cup:

  • Coconut oil
  • Honey (or other liquid sweetener)

And:

  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Optional:

  • A sprinkle of protein powder
  • A spoon of cocoa/cacao
  • 1 tsp vanilla

METHOD

  1. Preheat your oven to about 150ºC. This is a low-and-slow recipe, don’t be tempted to turn the heat up to speed things up (I did once, and it wasn’t pretty). If your oven has the option to choose the element, choose the bottom one, and turn off the fan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, measure out your dry ingredients (except the fruit) and mix them up.
  3. Melt the coconut oil and honey so they are both liquid (I do it in the microwave, but you do you).
  4. Pour the melted oil and honey in and mix it up. You’re looking for a slightly sticky consistency, and for all the mixture to be covered. If it’s not yet covered, melt a little more and mix that it until you get your desired consistency.
  5. Add the salt into the mix now, to keep it from being far too sweet, and add your cinnamon. If you are using any of the optional ingredients, now’s your moment.
  6. Pour into a dish* and pop it into the oven. Take it out every 15-20 minutes to stir and check the colour.
  7. Add in the dried fruit when you are about 10 minutes from done – just sprinkle them on top and stir into the mixture.
  8. After about 30-45 minutes or so, it should be sticky, clumping up and golden – that’s when I take it out.
  9. Keep stirring it while it cools – the less often you do so, the larger the clumps (and the more likely it will be to stick to your dish)

We eat this with our morning fruit and yoghurt for breakfast, and I sometimes have a little bowl with some milk as a snack. It lasts for about a week in an airtight container kept on the counter (I don’t know if it lasts longer than that, because we always finish it within a week).

* Now, I’ve found the dish is important. Most recipes I found recommended using a cookie/sheet pan, and I found that dried my granola out too much, making it dry crunchy, instead of a sticky/chewy crunchy, which I prefer. So I use a ceramic baking dish for mine, but you may do as you please.

let’s be kinder to ourselves, ok?

It’s so funny, sometimes it feels as though the whole world (or at least MY whole world) leans towards a kind of “group-think” and everything you see, say, hear and read leads you towards the same conclusions.

I work for myself now, and it can get pretty quiet at home on my own, so podcasts have become my officemates. Last week, I was listening to some TED talks while I ate my lunch and this one from Jennifer Senior came up. It crystallised something I’d been thinking for quite a while, and gave shape to my thoughts in a way that I struggled to articulate for myself.

Jennifer speaks about the difficulty of ensuring happiness for our kids, and how it’s a very lofty goal that really only came about in the last 20-30 years. How, in previous generations, the emphasis was different – on children as working members of the family, on the importance of productivity and kindness as markers of healthy children. She says we should think about teaching our children how to be kind, thoughtful of others, productive members of society, and hope that happiness comes as a by-product of being a good person, rather than from some level of self-excellence.

Then this morning, I read Belinda’s blog post on Imperfect Parenting, and that was when the “group-think” feeling hit. Belinda mentions her friend who dropped the ball on pajama day at school, how her kids were the only ones there in their usual clothes. She goes on to mention that she drops the ball on a weekly basis. Except I don’t think that’s fair.

Honestly, I’m 32 now, and I still have a fairly clear recollection of my childhood. I remember packed lunches and bathtime with my younger sister (we were kids, and it was fun.) But I don’t remember the times that the ball was dropped. There was less of an emphasis on this almost unattainable level of “perfect parenting” that we seem to want to reach now.

What I do, clearly, remember from growing up is when my parents – no, my dad, especially after he started single parenting – lost his shit when the ball was dropped. How he blamed everyone except himself (a personality trait that still exists today). And it is that that I will do my hardest to avoid.

I think what I’m trying to say is, we’ll all be happier – kids and parents, hell, people in general – if we relax the reigns a bit. If we try to be kinder to each other and kinder to ourselves. If we value kindness over other things, and try to teach acceptance, kindness and tolerance to out kids through the example we set with ourselves.

So although I am only 2 years into this parenting thing, I’m trying my hardest to be gentler on myself. Kinder to myself, and if the toddler lives on Flings one weekend, well, we’ll try to fit some veggies in next week. If I forget to pack something into his bag, it’s not the end of the world. There’s a lot of stuff to remember these days, and expecting yourself to keep track of everything is unrealistic. But getting mad with yourself or your child because you forgot something? Well, that’s just silly.

Let’s be kinder, ok?

winter-warmer chicken keema (ready in 30 minutes)

I’ve already mentioned that sometimes it’s hard for me to find time (and energy) to cook, and I know that’s a common problem, because I see it on Twitter all the time. It’s hard enough when you’re a full time working woman, who is primarily responsible for coming up with food in the evening (whether you’re single or in a relationship). Throw a baby or a toddler into the mix? And it’s 100 times harder.

So I’m starting a record of quick, easy to execute dishes that are comforting for a cold winter night, but don’t take hours and hours of cooking. Even one of my go-to dishes during summer, the grain bowl, takes too long to put together when I want to eat before 8.30pm (and the toddler just WON’T LET ME GO). And I’m lucky, I work from home, so I can (sometimes) get it together to put dinner on before my boy comes home from daycare, but we aren’t all that lucky.

This was dinner last night, and it was quick, easy and tasty. Yes, I’m big into Indian flavours at the moment – spices like turmeric, cinnamon and masala make sense in winter because they are warming and tasty, but they’re also good for boosting your immune system and keeping you healthy, so it’s a win-win.

Chicken-Keema-5

Chicken Keema (or a way of using chicken mince that isn’t meatballs) – link to original recipe here, which is where I took the pic from too.

INGREDIENTS
500g chicken mince (or pork)
2 tsp oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2-3 green chilies, chopped fine (I used jalapeños)
1 inch piece of fresh turmeric, finely minced (optional, my addition)
1 inch piece of ginger, finely minced(optional, my addition)
1 large garlic clove, finely minced(optional, my addition)
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp red chili powder or chilli flakes
1 tsp garam masala
4 tomatoes, diced (I used a tin of chopped Italian tomatoes, as I had no fresh)
Salt to taste
½ tsp black pepper
2-4 tbsp Greek yoghurt (optional, my addition)
1 cup frozen peas (optional, my addition)
1 cup broccoli and cauliflower florets (optional, my addition)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large, deep frying pan, heat oil. Once warm, add onions and chilies and sauté until onion is softened. Then add in the ginger, fresh turmeric and garlic, if using, and fry until fragrant.
  2. Add chicken mince and mix. Cook on medium low heat until chicken is cooked through (chicken will turn white)
  3. Now add all the spices and stir, until the spices are integrated and slightly toasted. Then add the tomatoes, fresh or canned
  4. Cook for good 20-25 minutes or until the liquid is completely cooked off. Keep stirring it in between. Traditionally, this is a fair dry curry, more about the mince and spices than the sauce, but I wanted it to be more saucy, so once most of the tomato had cooked off, I added in a few spoonfuls of Greek yoghurt for some saucy creaminess.
  5. The original dish also entirely lacked vegetables, and I wanted some, so I tossed in some frozen peas, and sautéed some broccoli and cauliflower in a pan, then threw them in at the end. If I’d been using my brain, I’d have added frozen broccoli and cauliflower straight into the curry, which would have saved on dishes and time, so do that rather.
  6. Serve over rice or with naan.

ready-in-30 minutes red lentil dhal

{Image from Jamie’s recipe – you don’t want to see mine photographed}

So, I’ve been in a bit of a funk around cooking lately. My darling toddler has been extra clingy with me, specifically, and wants me to finish his bedtime routine off every evening. That takes 20 minutes out of my dinner making time (if we are going to eat before 9pm, and maybe, just maybe, squeeze in an hour of Masterchef!) All the normal things I make are ±45 minutes, and I’ve just not had time or been much in the mood for them.

A few weeks (or maybe months?) ago, I came across this recipe for red lentil dhal on Jamie Oliver’s site. After watching Save with Jamie last year (I also have the book), I have new respect for this guy, and my current funk persuaded me to follow the recipe (something I usually don’t do). It was amazing! Simple, quick and easy, and I’ve made it roughly once a week since that first time. It’s spiced without being spicy, though you could easily build the heat, and everyone from my lovely and fussy sister to my picky toddler loves it. It’s warm, comforting and the perfect thing to tuck into after a long day.

I have (OF COURSE) freestyled with it a bit, and I have to say, I think mine are improvements, not just tinkering for the sake of it. Make the recipe as stated in the link, but add in these things to take it to another level:

Extra ingredients:

  • 1 can coconut cream
  • 1/2 -1 tsp fenugreek
  • 1 tsp ground cumin

Optional ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas or 200-300g protein, like chicken breast or mini fillets
  • 1-2 diced carrots
  • 1/5 – 1 cup frozen peas

Method:

  1. When you’re cooking the lentils, I add in 2-2.5 cups of water to start*, then bring to the boil, skimming off any scum that rises to the top.
    • *My lentil cooking ratio is 1:2, so 1.5 cups lentils to 3 cups liquid, which I divide here between water and coconut cream, for a richer, tastier result.
  2. Then, when the initial liquid as cooked off and they are looking a bit dry, but not quite cooked yet, I add ± half a can of coconut cream, and cook until soft and porridgey.
  3. I never remember to buy cumin seeds, so I skip that step, and just add ground cumin to the onion/chillies mixture, along with some fenugreek, and a few lumps of asafoetida (which I picked up at Faithful to Nature ages ago, but which they don’t stock anymore). The asafoetida adds another onion-garlic flavour, and the other spices just add to the depth of flavour, instead of letting the turmeric run rampant.
  4. I cook the onion mixture at a fairly high heat for colour and caramelisation, but when it gets too dry, I splash in some more of the coconut cream.
  5. When the lentils are cooked, add them into the onion mixture, and cook until it is the desired temperature.
  6. If you are adding chicken or something that needs to be cooked, cut it into small, bite size pieces, and add it into the onion mixture, then finish cooking when you’ve integrated the lentils. If you’re adding chickpeas, just toss them in sometime towards the end, as they are cooked and will only need to be warmed through.
  7. You can also dice up some carrot, or toss some peas in, if you want to up the veggie ante, which I’ve done a few times.

Serve over basmati rice in a bowl, and eat with a spoon.