In the kitchen// Miso Paste

DSC_1142Apart from cutting up onions and placing them around the house, which I mentioned in the last Parent Hood post, another way we fought this season’s superbug was with the mighty strength of soups! Honestly, I don’t know why it took me so long to bring soups into my weekly cooking routine. They are easy to make, require very little time and are extremely good for you whether you’re suffering from a sore throat or not. I love traditional Cyprus soups such as avgolemono and  trahana but I find a good old-fashioned vegetable soup is by far the best option when your body is desperate to fight off an infection. Usually, all I do is cut up a bunch of vegetables, there are no rules perhaps only focusing on bringing various colours to the mix and then I add water. Salt, pepper, lemon, oil and anything else is added later according to personal taste.

However, lately I have been adding something else to the mix. Hardly a kitchen staple but with so many benefits, miso has made its way into my pantry and it won’t be leaving any time soon. I am constantly searching for new ways to use miso but for now it is being served in vegetable soups, giving them an extra healthy kick.

So what is miso? It is a traditional Asian condiment made by grinding beans and/or grains into a paste and allowing it to ferment. Fermentation, which takes place due to a yeast mold known as koji, is allowed to happen for days or even years. This also causes various colour changes. Overall miso has a salty taste; the type I use also includes brown rice, another popular variety. Honestly there is so much to say about this superfood, I couldn’t do it justice in one post.

Here’s a short list of miso benefits:

– Can reduce risks of cancer

– It strengthens the immune system

– It is antiviral.

– It is high in antioxidants so it can prevent aging.

– It is full of nutrients and beneficial bacteria.

You can read more about the benefits of miso here.

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Just add to boiling water! That’s all you have to do!

This box of four sachets can be found at Alpha Mega and I’m guessing perhaps at health food shops.

 

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How to love and care for your curly hair

DSC_0418For years I hated my curly hair. I know ‘hate’ is a strong word but that was exactly how I felt growing up. I would straighten it, cut it, tie it up and use a ridiculous amount of hair products to control my wild mane, to tame the beast. Obviously nothing worked mainly because no one bothered to explain how curly hair requires very special treatment. And back then (!), finding information on matters such as these was no easy task. Being a first child, followed by five more, my parents (bless them) had very little time for my hair problems and absolutely no means to help, anyway. As if having to deal with school, growing breasts, acne and boys wasn’t bad enough, there I was worrying about my hair. And when I say ‘worry’, I mean tears, tantrums, pleads to God to change my hair and give me smooth, straight, frizz-free tresses.Tragic and sad, I know. But also very common among curly-haired girls and most importantly, totally avoidable.

10 years ago, I found a hairdresser who specialises in curly hair. Christo took one look at me when I walked into his salon and promised me a complete makeover. He rid me of the bronze colour I had, chopped off the majority of my damaged ends and taught me how to style my hair. That moment was a turning point in my life. I finally found the confidence to be who I am, exactly how I am.

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With Christo and my ‘new hair’ I took part in hair shows and was lucky enough to experience a professional photo shoot in NEW YORK, Manhattan, which is where Christo is based. I will never forget walking around SoHo where people, mostly women, would pop out of shop doors to say how much they loved my hair. What a boost for my confidence and what a change!

Some time after Georgie was born, Christo closed his shop in Nicosia. While I loved and depended on Curlisto products, I needed to find a way to survive the change. It took me two years to perfect my hair routine and I am finally ready to share my knowledge, tips and advice to living with curly hair.

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Here’s a step by step of my hair care method, which I follow twice a week.

1. This is the most important step, a life-changing one. A couple of hours before I’m ready to wash my hair, I melt some coconut oil and drench my hair in it. I have tried this on dry hair and damp hair and I find the latter works better. This is a messy process, I won’t lie but totally worth it.I change my clothes and lay an old towel on the floor before I begin. You can definitely leave the oil on overnight (use a pillowcase you wouldn’t mind staining) and wash it off in the morning but that does not work for me because I like to take my time. I leave the oil on for two to three hours. You can find coconut oil at supermarkets and health food stores.

2. Wash you hair with shampoo and conditioner. If you’re tempted to skip the shampoo after applying the oil, don’t! Your hair will be oily and that’s not a good look. What we’re looking for is shiny and soft. I have heard that many women with dry and curly hair tend to avoid shampoo as it can have a drying effect, which is very true. As a rule of thumb, you should look for a shampoo with water as the first ingredient. Lately I have been using Keratinology’s Sunsilk for dry hair.

3. Never wash your hair with hot water. I love hot water but it is very bad for your hair and scalp so try warm water so you don’t strip your hair of its most-needed moisture.

4. Use a wide-toothed comb, not a brush! NEVER EVER brush your hair with a brush! Use a comb. And NEVER EVER comb when your hair is dry because it will literally break.I always comb my hair in the shower after I have applied conditioner, which I leave on while I wash my body. For the past two years I have been using Kiehl’s Olive conditioner. As much as I absolutely love it, I have ALOT of hair and this 200 ml bottle won’t even last me a month. I would be the happiest person on earth if Kiehl’s ever produced this conditioner in a bigger bottle. It really is amazing and worth the money if you have dry hair.

5. Just before I exit the shower, I always wash my hair with cold water. Yes, this can be torture during the winter months but you really should incorporate it into your hair washing routine. Hot water can cause frizz, dry and brittle hair but a cold rinse will seal the moisture in your hair and make it shine.

6. No to towels. Yes to t-shirts. This is something I learnt about a few months ago and it has changed so much about my hair. Towels can cause friction to your hair which means frizz. You don’t want frizz. You want smooth hair so make sure you wrap your hair in an old t-shirt.

7. Don’t let your hair dry too much before applying styling products.Apply to wet hair. Intercosmo Il Magnifico is a product I purchase from my hairdresser’s (call 99-926613 to order a bottle) and it is truly magnificent. It features 10 benefits including damage repair, frizz control, heat protection, it offers shine and prevents split ends. I spray this on my hair before applying anything else. Then, depending on time, mood and availability, I use John Frieda’s Frizz Ease Unwinding Curls Calming Creme or Serum and I am always faithful to Kiehl’s Heat Protective Silk Straightening Cream. I do not use the latter to protect against heat because I rarely apply heat to my dry hair however, I find it has the right texture to control yet benefit my curls.

8. I will linger a bit more on the styling part because I want to share another awesome tip I picked up from Christo. Section your hair when styling. Don’t just apply products to the top of your hair. Treat the bottom, middle and top part separately and concentrate on the ends which have a tendency to dry out.

9. Now, leave it alone! Don’t touch! Touching causes frizz. If you must blow-dry, try to avoid the ends and do it for as little time as possible. Also if you have tight curls you are not fond of, you can wait for your hair to dry, not completely, and then twirl and tie it or braid it. I do this before I go to bed and my curls loosen up by the morning.

10. Voila!

 

 

 

Shampoo and John Frieda products can be found at Alpha Mega supermarkets while a Kiehl’s store can be found in Debenhams and at Larnaca airport. 

 

The Parent Hood// 11

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1. I love Frances McDormand. After watching this short clip of her speaking about aging, I admire her even more.

2. Inspiration for the modern mama. 

3. I WILL make this macrame curtain soon. The step-by-step instructions are fantastic and make it look so easy.

4. Ready packaged fruit, veg and pre-washed bags of salad may be a time-saver but are they as healthy as we think? 

5. Flu season: Oh how I loathe thee! It’s been two weeks and we’re still fighting the remains of this year’s super bug. However I have discovered a very effective way of ridding a nasty cough. ONIONS! In the link, you’ll find a number of health benefits onions have but the one I really want you to try is this: Cut an onion and place it in a bowl next to your bed. Both my husband and I were truly amazed when it actually worked for Georgie. Not a single cough all night! You can also place the onion in warm water.

How to encourage kids to dress themselves

DSC_1170Our mornings have become much easier since Georgie started dressing himself. At 4 years old, it’s obvious he’s ready. Also, ‘No mama! I can do it! Don’t help me!’ was a clear indication.

If your child is at the stage of seeking his or her independence then you’ll probably know that in the beginning  the whole process can actually take longer! It’s a trying time, waiting patiently as they study their pants, shoving their legs in the wrong hole and then putting their trousers over their head. You feel like yanking the clothes away and doing it yourself but you don’t need me to tell you that is wrong.

Instead, make some time -not in the morning- to show your child how to dress properly. Lay everything on the floor, unfold socks and spread out t-shirts. Explain what they need to do first and last, encourage them and show them trust. Then tell them you will lay their clothes out every night – they can chose what they want to wear, if possible- and expect them to be fully-dressed before breakfast. Georgie went one step further a couple of weeks ago when he knocked on our bedroom door one morning and presented himself dressed, combed (!) and with his school bag on his back. ‘Ready mummy!’

TIP: At school, Georgie was taught how to put his coat on. This is so easy and fun for young ones. Place the open coat on the floor, face up, with the hoodie or neck being nearest to his body. Have him kneel down, place his arms through the sleeves, then stand up and raise his arms to the ceiling. The coat will flip and land on his back. You can imagine the looks we get when he does this in the middle of a restaurant.

TIP: It is easier for kids to figure out which is the front and back of a t-shirt if there’s some sort of design on the front. While I love stripes, they can be confusing to Georgie. I also tell him to look at the position of labels if they exist.

TIP: I find that socks with coloured heels are massively helpful.

Above all, be patient and praise your child even if that is for putting on one sock.

 

 

The making of Soutzoukos: A series of photos

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DSC_0306siousioukos2Taken five months ago during a family visit to the village of Handria, in the Pitsilia area, where a friend’s parents live, these photos depict the making of soutzouko, a favourite traditional sweet.

Watching the process and even pulling my sleeves up to have a go was an amazing experience. Traditions and village gatherings such as these were never part of my childhood since none of my grandparents lived in Cyprus, so I adore them and find them fascinating.

On the day, neighbours, friends and relatives flocked together, around a cauldron, taking turns dipping strings of threaded almonds in boiling hot creamy sauce, which is made from boiled grape juice, flour and flavoured with rosewater, cinnamon and mastic. The thick sausage-like sweet is then hung from a metal coat hanger and left to dry.

Waiting… That part was the hardest.

Do you like soutzoukos? Did you know how it is made?

 

 

The last image was taken from the website of Letymbou village.