In this month’s edition of ‘Getting together with…’ we’re catching up with expert Pinterest coach, mother, and Portmeirion #GetTogether ambassador, Jen Stanbrook.
Keep reading as we chat to Jen about life as a full-time blogger, balancing family life and catering for different tastes at the dinner table.
Hi Jen – thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Tell us a little bit about yourself… we’d love to know more about you.
So, I grew up in a small place called Hereford which everyone associates with rural living, but I lived in the city. My parents and sister still live there so we visit regularly, and it’s where me and my husband got married 16 years ago. I have two daughters now, both young teens so life is very interesting, and we now live in Nottingham – a great city with so much going on, we love it! As a full-time blogger I’ve been working for myself for seven years, mainly based at home but in the last year have found the isolation of working alone too much. I now seek out company at coffee shops, coworking offices and freelancer mornings. It’s been my lifesaver and I’ve met so many inspiring entrepreneurs and small businesses in this time. I write Love Chic Living – a top UK home interiors blog, Style Brief, a lifestyle site for 40+ women and jenstanbrook.com, my Pinterest coaching website and blog. It’s full on!
You’re very busy! What does a typical day look like?
Once I get the girls off on the school bus I either head to the gym for an hour or get stuck into working straight away. I make a point of getting dressed (it’s so easy to write whilst in your pjs!) and often head out to a gathering or a workspace so I’m not alone. I usually have blog posts to work on for my collaborations, 1-1 Pinterest coaching clients, social media posts and emails to tackle. If I’ve got styling to do in the house, I’ll stay in for a period and get as much done as I can in one go. I usually factor in a coffee or lunch meet up at least once a week with a like-minded friend too to help break up the week.
What meal do you associate with your childhood?
It must be our Sunday roast. We were quite a traditional family in terms of eating; it was mostly meat and two veg, so we had lots of stews, casseroles and roasts. Sunday was the time where we could spend longer eating and socialising, but we always sat together pretty much every day.
How has having the girls changed your dining habits as a family?
When they were little, the girls ate together and us adults would eat later, then as they grew older, we found we could eat together more often. Now they are teens they have pretty busy social lives, and as one is a vegan, we tend to eat individually in the week (my husband isn’t in until early evening, so I usually eat with him). Then at the weekend we make a point of all sitting down together for at least one meal, if not two.
What’s your favourite thing to cook for your loved ones when you do all sit down together to eat?
Right now, if I can make one thing that the whole family will eat, that is my dream meal! Having one vegan and one restricted eater, mealtimes can be varied, but if there’s a staple dish we all love that can be adapted for the vegan diet, that’s my favourite. Apple crumble for example is loved by everyone and easy to modify so that’s always a winner.
Apple crumble is always a good choice! What is your idea of a perfect get together with friends and family?
Every year my husband’s family host a pre-Christmas get together – they live all over the UK, so this is the one time of year we see everyone. It’s a wonderful get together full of fabulous food, lots of vibrant chat and an exchange of gifts. We all bring a few dishes for the buffet so it’s a gorgeous selection of meats, fish, salads and stunning desserts. It lasts for 6 hours and then we depart – usually with very full tummies.
And what is your go-to recipe when hosting a get together?
That’s my Mary Berry Chocolate Roulade. I started making it years ago when I did a Professional Cooks course and whilst it looks difficult, it’s actually quite simple. And of course, it tastes delicious. I make it regularly, particularly for Christmas and New Year gatherings, and it freezes well too.
That sounds delicious. If you had to choose, who would you pick as your top celebrity dinner guest?
Oh, that’s an easy one – Rob Lowe! I’ve loved him since the brat pack days (yes, I’m an 80s girl) and he’s the funniest, wittiest guy, I think he’d be a hoot as a dinner guest.
And finally, what is your top-tip for hosting a successful get together?
Well I start with the styling. Make your table look eye catching – add a centrepiece and use a colour scheme. Then, it’s about having easy to eat food, plenty of it, and the right mix of drinks. Ensure your guests feel relaxed, introduce them to each other if they’re strangers and give them something to chat about. Be organised. Have your dishes already prepped so you don’t spend too much time in the kitchen and can spend it, instead, with your guests.
Thank you for reading our latest ‘Getting together with…’ instalment with Jen Stanbrook. Be sure to tune in next month as we host a new guest and enjoy more stories of tabletop dining.