sink or swim

All over the country you’ll find Mothers On Steroids.  Rushing her poor little darlings this way and that in some over-charged effort to make them THE BEST at everything.  Meanwhile, there are mothers like me who try not to be like them.  Of course it’s harder than it sounds.  A musical instrument is not negotiable in our house.  And the same applies to a regular game of football (non-gender-specific).  Add to the mix a keen ballerina and the schools’ tra-la-la choirs and – hey presto – we’re drowning our Smalls with to-dos.

And that’s before I’ve come to the pool-safe rant.

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Every child should be pool-safe.  And once they’re able to swim, a beautiful front crawl wouldn’t go amis.

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this pic just makes me laugh SO much…

I’d even go as far as saying that swimming is a life skill.  When I think back to the lowest/trickiest times in my life, I’ve had a good old plough though the water to help me see the wood from the trees, alleviate the stress and clear my head.

Seeing as we don’t seem to be able to fit swimming lessons into our term time madness, I signed up the Smalls for a crash course week at our local Virgin Active at the O2 Finchley Road.  Each morning last week they had a 30 minute lesson with Gez, quite the best swim teacher in this town.

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Gez – one of the swim instructors at Virgin Active in the 02 centre, Finchley Road

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Gez taught Mini to swim aged 3 and she has swum on and off since then in shared lessons and his squads.

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Years of glue ear, grommets and ear infections have prevented Small from learning to swim and now, aged 8, he is better than pool-safe but tends to swim more like a tadpole than a boy.

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Each day all 3 of us were in the pool between 9-10am.

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By the end of the week, Mini had butterfly, tumble-turns and racing dives mastered.

And Small was doing a pretty swish front crawl up and down the 25m pool.

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To sign up for a Summer half-term crash course at Virgin Active, email Seyedeh 

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the Smalls are wearing Sunuva swimwear

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freedom of paint with Cass Art

IMG_4323An artist  I am NOT.  But I do love mucking around with paints, brushes, pens and some really thick white paper.  It’s the feeling I get, you see, each time I start something new.  A blank piece of paper which could end up being anything at all – so it doesn’t seem to matter if the results are good or not.  It’s about that starting-from-scratch pleasure.

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Anyway, there were proper squeals of delight when Cass Art expressed interest in sponsoring Life of Yablon this month… and the squeals weren’t just from the Smalls.  We often meander up to Hampstead with the sole intention of beefing up our ever-increasing art supply cupboard.

paint brushes at Cass Art

paint brushes at Cass Art

Cass Art are having a bit of a watercolour season at the moment so Mini and I swung by last week to learn a little more about is one of the most versatile forms of paint.  Ailish Sullivan – one of the team (all the staff are artists) – was on hand to patiently take us through the basics.  As I said, I am not an artist, and need all the help and assistance I can get!

our watercolour session at Cass Art in Hampstead

our watercolour session at Cass Art in Hampstead

Here are my top 5 tips:

  1. draw a simple design in pencil first, before the paper is too wet and soggy.
  2. tape down your watercolour paper if you don’t want it to buckle.
  3. make sure your brush isn’t too wet – Cass Art’s sable brushes are my favourites.
  4. if the colour seems too strong on the paper, you can always add some more water with your brush and dilute the effect.
  5. try sprinkling a little salt on a big wash of colour to see a special effect. 
freedom of watercolour

freedom of watercolour

Ailish was keen to set me a challenge for the month.  Presenting me with a huge pad of 50 watercolour sheets and a box  of Winsor & Newton Artists’ watercolour paints, the Cass Art team have asked me to paint a picture a day during April.  So far I’m on track (see my instagram feed for some egs) but I’d love to see your pretty pictures too… Why don’t you have a go and tag @cassartlondon and @lifeofyablon on Instagram so that we can gee each other along?

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And… if you’re lacking in a few supplies, you can pop into your local Cass Art shop or  shop online. I’m also running a competition for free goodies with Cass Art that you can enter here.

This post has been written in association with Cass Art but my artwork and views are all utterly genuine.

 

 

 

 

 

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COMPETITION: win a watercolour prize worth over £200 with Cass Art

I’m busting for you all to come and join me, brush in hand, as I take part in the #MakeASplash Cass Art Watercolour Challenge this month (you can read more about my paint mission here).

a set of Winsor & Newton Artists’ Water Colours

a set of Winsor & Newton Artists’ Water Colours

an A4 Cass Art Jumbo Watercolour Gummed Pad

an A4 Cass Art Jumbo Watercolour Gummed Pad

And to help you along, the vibrant gang at Cass Art has given us some watercolour goodie treats (see above!).

Yes, one VERY lucky reader will win an A4 Cass Art Jumbo Watercolour Gummed Pad and a Winsor & Newton Artists’ Water Colour Lightweight Metal Box 24 Half Pan Set in this Cass Art/Life of Yablon prize draw.

All you have to do is click here and enter your details.  Competition closes Wed 30th April.

Don’t forget we’re all about making a splash – so experiment, be creative and learn as you go.  There’s no wrong or bad as ALL colour is good!  So, get painting and let me know how you get on!

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Restaurant review: Barnyard

Barnyard, Charlotte St, W1

Barnyard, Charlotte St, W1

Just about everything describing Barnyard, the latest opening in London, W1, appealed.  Home-cooking, no booking, small plates (for Smalls), wings-waffles-shakes, a properly rusty interior to photograph and the name Ollie Dabbous.  I was sold – and seeing as we’re mid-Easter holiday, I knew just the plus-ones to join me.

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Of course the no-booking policy CAN be an issue.  Mid shift I hear the queue is up to 3 hours long but the trick is simple.  We turned up 10 mins before the lunch shift kicked off and were only joined by a handful of others with the same cunning idea.

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This is Ollie Dabbous’ latest, only spitting distance from his initial venture which is probably the hottest restaurant in town.  But don’t expect the same precision; this is a fuss-free food zone.

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freesia on the front decking… all about those details…

Chef Joseph Woodland, ex of Launceston Place and The Square, offers a menu of small plates (utilitarian enamel ones) grouped together by food type: pig, cow, beef, eggs, vegetables and sides (mostly £5-£8).  We had 2 x cauliflower cheese, 2 x chips, 1 x cob (divided into 2) and a roast beef on toast with warm horseradish buttermilk.

our waiter suggested cutting the corn into 2 for the Smalls..

our waiter suggested cutting the corn into 2 for the Smalls

chips and cauliflower

chips and cauliflower on utilitarian crockery

my roast beef on toast with warm horseradish buttermilk at Barnyard

my perfectly rare roast beef on toast with warm horseradish buttermilk at Barnyard

All of which arrived within 6 minutes of sitting down (according to Small who had his stop watch on standby).

shakes at Barnyard come with or without something stronger...

shakes at Barnyard come with or without something stronger…

The drinks are fun too. Shakes (with or without a slug of something stronger), homemade lemonade and a bottle of Dandelion and Burdock.

Surrounded by those Charlotte St. advertising types, I set about trying to explain the world of commercialism to my fellow reviewers .   ‘I know, I know’, Mini chimed.  ‘They sell things to us that we don’t really want’.

look at the way Small is holding his knife.  I give up!

look at the way Small is holding his knife. I give up!

Sadly none of us had any room for the popcorn ice cream with smoked fudge sauce.  However much the menu was selling it to us.

We were done within an hour.  Easily.  Which is perfect when you’re with work colleagues and Smalls alike.

Barnyard  18 Charlotte Street W1

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