Thursday, 3 April 2014

Fifteen London - A great place to eat. With #Cbias the expert bloggers' network

I had a fabulous night out at Jamie Oliver's FIFTEEN last night. The London branch, near Old Street. The original one that opened in 2002.

The food was a taste explosion in my mouth and no wonder. This is what it says on their website:

Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen is a restaurant and bar near Old Street in Islington, London. We cook elegant, rustic, honest food that flicks your senses from classic, nostalgic flavours to new, inspired dishes cooked by super-skilled young minds. With a buzzing cocktail bar and a kitchen led by Jamie’s good friend Jon Rotheram, this is modern British dining at its best.

I've been a member of Collective Bias / Social Fabric since last year.  Being a member of #Cbias has quite literally made me a better blogger. They are the reason my photography has got better. They're the reason I invested in a new camera June last year. It's an exclusive members only network but it's about to grow. Significantly! We can look to the States for what is possible!

So when #Cbias said they were having a "family dinner" last night, there wasn't anything that was going to stop me being there.

We started with a meeting, so that we could chat, and see what the future plans are. We were then treated to a tour of the Mars London's offices:

I've worked in London all my life, but never in an office as funky as that one!

What I couldn't help but notice was the Samsung "machines" that are about to go instore:

Mars London is a Shopper Marketing Agency. This is what it says on their site: they "consistently create and implement powerful campaigns that directly influence shoppers' behaviour".

The highlight of the night, in addition to meeting Matt and Jo, was our night out at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen. Wow, what a taste explosion. My favourite things were the quail, the eggs and the polenta cake.


The food and the service were both fabulous. Only trouble was, me and my big mouth, put my foot in it. I told the waitress that we were all on Twitter. She then told her Manager, and it kind of ruined the vibe. They were a little "tense" after that. I really regretted opening my gob, but I blame it on the wine. I won't be doing THAT again, as they were so much more relaxed, smiley and normal until I declared that we were all on social media. Ah well lesson learned. The only other odd thing was that all of the waitresses and waiters (if you are eating upstairs) make you go a long route to the loos (passed all of the downstairs diners), yet quite happily let you come back up the short route (there's a staircase "back passage" that goes straight to the loos but they quite literally blocked our path).

We had a set menu, which normally I would not be a fan of, but it was refreshing to have the choice taken out of my hands. It also meant I got to try things I wouldn't normally, which is a good thing. The food was plentiful, on sharing platters, that never seemed to run out, apart from when I had the last 2 eggs (could not get enough of them) and I polished off the shortbread as I was the only one who wanted coffee. To all those who said "it will keep me awake all night" - it did! Yawn!

I had quite a few large glasses of white wine and am hungover today. Aaron missed me a lot last night, but this morning, he was 100% a Daddy's boy. He really rubbed my nose in it that they bonded last night. He's been getting more and more a Daddy's boy in the last few weeks. I think he loves the play fighting and the rough and tumble. Plus, Daddy is a lot calmer if he falls or hurts himself. It's lovely to see the huge Dad and son bond that happens when Aaron's old enough to play football and have full on conversations with his Dad - incredibly cute to watch.

This was our set menu, so you can understand why I was so happy with it:
The ONLY thing I did not like was the Watercress Rotolo Pasta. It just tasted too heavy on the watercress. Don't get me wrong if I was on a detox I would have loved it, but it didn't go with how indulgent everything else tasted.

WHAT a good night though. Had such a laugh with Helen and Michelle, who I got to travel to the station with too. I've met both of those ladies several times, so it was also great getting to know two new lovely ladies: Chloe and Sarah. I saw Lilinha too fleetingly but gave her a brief hug. Of course, we ALL chatted to our "boss" Jo who was looking VERY glamorous after a photo shoot earlier that day. Even though Fifteen was the highlight of the night, it was FABULOUS listening to Matt and Jo talk about Collective Bias from 1600 to 1800, before we went to dinner. Seeing the PowerPoint slides took me right back, in an instant, to my "work" days and it was exciting using that business side of my brain again even if it was only to listen and digest what I was hearing. Exciting plans ahead! Indeed!

If there is anyone I have forgotten, then I blame it on the hangover. Urrggggh.

Liska xxx

P.S. LOOK at the work Jamie does with unemployed young people (a real topical problem of our times/our generation) and be inspired:


Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Maw Broon's Kitchen Review - ideal gifts for a Mother's Kitchen

I was one very lucky Mother this Mother's Day, and got lots of goodies including a bag full of delights from Maw Broon!

I got a Jute Shopper bag full to the brim of amazing stuff.

It's the tins rather than the food itself that made a great first impression. I am, like a lot of ladies big into stationery (like Nickie) but another love of mine is tins, although I haven't explored it much so only have a few but I fell in love with these babies.

Above is the Shortbread tin. It is not much bigger than my palm spread out, but it'll look great on display in my kitchen. As you can see it has a plentiful supply of shortbread inside, which I will be trying in the coming days. The attention to detail on these products is superb, with one side of the tin explaining the history of the Broon tartan!

I can't find MY shortbread tin on their website but there is this cylindrical one: Maw Broon shortbread tin.

My favourite item in the shopper bag is the hilarious cookery book:
It manages to be a serious resource, whilst being incredibly tongue in cheek too. It would be a great gift for a new mum, who is worried about her cookery skills. I absolutely adore the illustrations! I can't find it on the Maw Broon website but it is on Amazon here: Cooking with Bairns. It has some real family favourites in there like eggy bread, and even tells you in minute detail how to make hot chocolate. Let's face it, not everyone knows how to. Yet our lives would be so much better if everyone did. Here's how:

There are jokes throughout the book, like:

"What did the metric alien say?
Take me to your litre!"

Boom boom!

Seriously though, there is some good info in there, like all of the weights and measures conversions.

For this next one, I need to get me a big teapot but I so so will!

The attention to detail and quality that is present on all of the products was present on the packaging too, as it all came in a Maw Broon Jute Shopper. What I loved about that was the special touch of the tartan down the side. Look:

As you can see I also got a pack of Caramel Shortcakes, a tin of Fudge and a tin of Tea. Full or empty these tins will be treasured.

So if you have a Granny, Aunt, or friend, who loves their kitchen, who also loves mementos or collectibles, I think in Maw Broon you would find them the perfect gift. Something a bit unusual and classy! I know these items are gifts that have really impressed me.

Disclosure: I was sent these Maw Broon Home and Kitchen items for a Mother's Day treat review. Yes, I am late in writing this post #SlapsOwnWrist and #SitsOnTheNaughtyStep with a #StashOfShortbread ;-)

Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Spring Menu Food Art Challenge #CostaFoodFun for Costa Coffee

It's no surprise that our #CostaFoodFun delivery meant that we had visitors from "out of this world" given that all of the treats tasted out of this world!

However, the minute our Dinosaur heard that aliens had flown in, he used the HUGE jammy biscuits, carrots and apple, to make a bicycle and despite the rain, he headed for the hills. Except, with this being the #CostaFoodFun world of food art, the hills were made of Hot Cross Buns!

Little did we know that Aliens were the least of our worries. All of our toys had come alive since our #CostaFoodFun #FoodArt delivery (you know the way they do in Doc McStuffins), and, with one of the jammy biscuits being unaccounted for, the Queen in our lego mini-figs set, had a little plot all of her own:

Luckily, the farmyard gingerbread biscuits brought some fun and light-heartedness to the house. Once the carrot/apple bicycle was broken up sacrificed to accompany Friday's afternoon tea and coffee (I had my BFF and her son over):

... the farmyard gingerbread pig grabbed the carrot-bike scraps and made himself a scooter, with curtain rings for wheels. His body was a rather rushed carving out of a stale heel of bread. #FoodArt with a cupboard knob for a belly button (Aaron questioned this addition, but it seemed a good idea at the time) :-0

Bread for clouds, baked beans to read "Costa", a jelly sweet for the sun, dry pasta for rays, the cupcake case from Costa's Easter Chocolate Crunch as her hat, some of Aaron's mini Easter Eggs (from our friend Fiona) as hat decor, sausages for pig body and cow "legs" and Costa's New Belgian Chocolate Jaffa as the "cow" tum and tail :-)

Costa, the UK’s favourite coffee shop, launched its limited-edition Spring menu, available in all UK stores since 27th February 2014 until 30th April 2014.

This post is entered into a competition, that 10 lucky bloggers have participated in. There is a LARGE (just like the biscuits) Costa Gift Card up for grabs for the successful #CostaFoodFun winner...

How Very Beautiful is Capel Manor

My Aaron is SUCH an outdoors boy. Perfect candidate for #CountryKids. Not a swing or slide in sight at Capel Manor, but give him the great outdoors and he is 100% content!

Saturday 29th March 2014 SUNNY

We had glorious sunshine yesterday, no jackets required and we spent it at Capel Manor!

Saturday 29th March 2014 SUNNY

Joining in with Country Kids:

 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Thanks Vodafone for Breathing Life Back Into my Samsung Galaxy Ace Phone Camera

I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias, Samsung and Vodafone.

Samsung Galaxy Ace

Truth be told we are a bit of a Samsung family; me with my Galaxy Ace Samsung smart phone and the husband with whichever Samsung it is he has. We also have a beautiful Samsung Smart TV. There are certain brands which you build up a loyalty to. I have a few in my life and Samsung's definitely one of them.

Once you get a "smart" phone you never look back really, especially as a blogger, as it suddenly means you can be a social media Goddess even whilst on the run (alas haven't been one of them for a long time). Once a smartphone is part of your life gone are the days of only being on Twitter whilst at home at the laptop. Gone are the days of missing a convo while in the kitchen putting on the kettle... I used to run a successful linky called Mumentum, and we used to have many a chat running on Twitter. Those were the days pre-smartphone and I'd always miss a lively bit if I left the room. Thankfully they were also the days (I think if memory serves me right) when Aaron would be breastfeeding on my lap, so being tied to the sofa was no problem as it gave me laptop time.

When I chose my Samsung smart phone (it was Summer 2011 I think) I spent over an hour in the shop and my priority at the time was that it could take good photos. I was delighted with my choice. This post about Table Table's Ultimate Sharing Sundae was very popular (1,062 views and that was back in 2012 when my blog wasn't nearly as successful as it is now - now you know why so many parent bloggers become food bloggers as that is where the stats are) and shows what the phone's camera can do! See, mouth watering right:
Table Table Restaurant
What is amazing about the camera phone is that it creates the above quality of photo without creating a large file size (hence my old memory card having 7k photos on it) ... amazing! My camera takes great photos but they are like 3MB each! Whereas the camera phone photos are like 10% of that yet as above, still more than adequate for tweeting and blogging.

When you have a camera on your phone you can take nutty spontaneous photos like this to tweet out immediately:

#mobywrap still works at nearly 13 months.

But then boom, my memory card got full, and worse still BOOM, the photo shop I took it to, who said they could burn a disc for me, encountered an error when trying to do so. They knew burning the disc would take a while so sent me and Aaron to Sainsburys, but when I returned, it was to disappointment. I have kept my memory card on the dining table ever since - it has a precious 7k photos on it!!!!!!!!! Which equates to a whole heap of precious memories! One day I need to sort it out, as I can't say goodbye to all of the awesome photos on there. One whole holiday in Ireland is captured on there for example. I remember before Aaron discovered you tube his favourite thing by far was to scroll through the photos on my phone.

That's another thing, when you are out and about you can show phone photos to people when discussing something, but that's alot less likely with your camera, as chances are, you've already deleted them and downloaded them, to make space for more given their large file size.

I used to be one of those people who took photos with the phone and/or the camera! It gives GREAT flexibility when the camera memory card is full, or worse still the camera is not charged, if you have a camera phone with you! Choosing phone obviously, if wanting to do picture messages or to Tweet them (alas, no memory card in phone has meant I have not "live" tweeted a pic since JANUARY 2013)!

We were in an amazing park the other day and Aaron and Daddy were climbing on these walls covered in graffiti. The camera wasn't charged, so I used my Sony Bloggie. When showing them to Aaron in the car on the way home, being unfamiliar with it, he deleted them all by mistake.

It's sad, as I used to be able to run G+, Twitter, Facebook and photos on my phone when I had a functioning memory card...... 

You're not really an attractive proposition at a blogging event if you are not live tweeting whilst there. I felt a bit daft at the Tesco finest* event and the Wagamama event when all of my peers were tweeting out photos and I wasn't. Same last year when I was at BritMums Live and Mumsnet Blogfest. You are a bit more present though, if you are not busy tweeting, so that was my comfort.

Off I went Sunday to Vodafone to get a memory card to breathe life back into my phone!

Little did I know they wouldn't have any in stock. Despite working in retail throughout my career (my last few roles in Head Office environments) I have never been a person to phone ahead to check that the shop has what I want in stock. Lesson learned now though.

Enfield Town

The only preparation I did was to go on the site to find my nearest Vodafone store

Despite not having what I wanted in store the staff member who served me was incredibly helpful and showed me the memory cards online, assuring me that their site was transactional. The minute I arrived home I ordered it before even putting on the kettle. An 8GB pre-formatted plug and play micro SD card for my phone!

It arrived Tuesday, but alas I did not hear the door, so had to contact their courier DPD to request an a.m. delivery today. They were incredibly helpful and rescued me! It arrived at 08:30 this morning :-) It's beautifully packaged:

Memory Card for Samsung Galaxy Ace Phone

Just discovered that you can download here a user manual for the Samsung Galaxy Ace and it says:

› Format the memory cardFormatting your memory card on a PC may cause incompatibilities with your device. Format the memory card only on the device.
That above is clearly what caused the problem with my previous memory card and is why she could not burn a disc for me, as I had put the card in my computer to view phone photos (I think to tweet them) once I no longer could as the memory card was full!

Thankfully the Vodafone one is "plug and play" ready to go, and already formatted. I will be very careful with THIS one and will not put it in my computer!

It did indeed plug and play and within a matter of seconds I was installing twitter on my phone (welcome back!) followed closely by Google+. I am not currently in the mood to have Facebook on my phone. These were my 1st two excited PHONE tweets:

tweeting on phone

So the next time I have insomnia (which thankfully isn't too often) I will be back to middle of the night tweeting like the old days. That used to be my most fun time on Twitter as you would discover who else was also still awake. There'd be no "Mum" tweets in your timeline, but the second you would send one, you'd get at least 4-5 replies from other Mums delighted that they weren't the only one still awake. That was one of the things I missed the most about Twitter when I no longer had it on my phone. Hopefully it'll be great craic being armed and dangerous with my new memory'd up phone (being a dinosaur of a phone - nearly 3 years is a LONG time in phone years) as the internal memory (without a memory card) is shite on my phone. It will suffice for now though. I am a happy girl but why did it take me so long!?? It took doing this #CollectiveBias shop for me to sort my life out!

It was great today getting back to my old habit of taking spontaneous photos on the phone:

It looks like Aaron is scooting towards that moody sky! Love it!

Today I have discovered via that Samsung user manual (linked to above) that my phone can cope with a 32 GB card so I think that may be what I get next time. Truth be told my Samsung Galaxy Ace is a bit of a dinosaur and this "shop" has taught me that there are many flashier versions now on the market:

But...... as a stay at home mum I am currently frugal and on a tight budget so as soon as I had spent 24 months paying for my phone via a monthly contract, I called my network last Summer and asked to go Sim only. Yes it means I did not get a "free" upgrade but it means my bill is only 6.50 GBP a month (it's been nearly a year and I do NOT regulary go over, so including VAT my monthly bill is normally under 10 pounds). You see, nearly 3 years on and I still love my Samsung (even more now today with its new lease of life) I don't currently feel the need for an upgrade. I say that less sincerely having today seen what is available - I will keep that wish on the long finger for now... But, thanks to Aaron watching You Tube on my phone, it does get taken through its paces, so it is only a matter of time!

I can probably list on one hand how many phones I have had since my first one in 1996. First I was a Motorola girl, then it was Nokia all the way, to today where I am strictly a Samsung girl. I find my Samsung incredibly intuitive to use. It's my first touch screen phone and that was easier to get used to than I expected. Scary at first and totally normal within days!