Youthful window dressing trends for the young and young at heart

Window dressing has the ability to make a room look complete, it’s the ultimate finishing touch that adds warmth, character, texture, and colour. I live on a farm in the beautiful Franschhoek valley – I know, I am incredibly blessed! And with the mother of all storms raging outside today, I am reminded of a stormy day that we moved into a renovated farmhouse nearly 5 years ago. I can’t believe that I didn’t document that process, but there was so much going on then that it really just didn’t cross my mind. The one thing that I vividly remember, was that we didn’t have any curtains in the large open plan living and dining room and how cold and clinical the room seemed. I only realized how window dressing adds to a room when I finally got round to installing beautiful, airy linen sheers 2 years later. Window dressing can be a lot of fun too and with Youth Day on the 16th, Finishing Touches explores the latest trends in window decor for the young and young at heart.

Jewel Tones

Pop Sugar

Window treatments in jewel tones add brilliant colour to a space. Colours like amethyst and turquoise, emerald and ruby, are popular mixed with soft metallic like platinum or brushed nickel. Use 2 colours together for extra punch.

Let the light in

Interior Housing

One trend that has always been and will probably always be a classic, is using window treatments that allow a lot of natural light into the room. Use simple panels of sheer fabrics or roller blinds to add warmth to the room but still let light through. They make a great room divider too!

Add some fun

Urban Outfitters

Who says curtains have to be so serious? Try these pom-pom curtains for some fun in your room. Installed on a decorative metal pole, they are sure to become a talking point. You can even add baubles in different colours if you want to be really adventurous!

Natural Elements

Recycle Art & Completely Coastal & John Lewis

Natural materials give you the opportunity to bring nature indoors. It’s all about nature-inspired and eco-friendly materials and designs. It’s no longer just a trend, but more of a conscious lifestyle and design choice. Bamboo blinds layered with simple sheer linen panels create an elegant yet earthy simplicity in any space. If bamboo blinds are not for you, why not consider a natural wood pole or clip-on rod to add that natural touch to your room? You can also get really creative with twine and sisal rope to add beautiful natural textures to your window dressing.

 window dressing

Metallics

It’s the Golden Age for warm metallics like copper and rose gold: it’s shiny, it’s warm and it’s gloriously beautiful. This metal is both modern and rustic; industrial-looking while retaining its organic roots. Use these warm metals liberally in your interior with curtain poles draped with soft pinks and blush. Or to add a bit of masculinity to an otherwise feminine palette, choose midnight blue or moody greys.

window dressing

Stainless Steel

Not just a favourite for appliances anymore, stainless steel is making its way throughout the home. To incorporate this trend into your window treatments, use stainless steel and other metallic curtain rods through eyelet panels to create a simple, unadorned look.

Savvy Showers

Beautiful Matters

Did you know that you can add a standard curtain to the outside of your shower curtain? You don’t have to be bound by shower curtain designs anymore. Just hang a plain waterproof shower curtain on the inside and add the curtain of your choice outside. Clever, isn’t it?

New Neutrals

1001 block

Charcoal and slate are the new neutrals and blend beautifully with metallic trends. Finishing Touches has a variety of products in slate grey to add to your home’s palette. This darker neutral frames a window elegantly and adds a more sophisticated look to a room. And if you want to update boring old curtain with slate, why not just ombre-dip them? Click here for the tutorial!

These hot trends for 2017 are so versatile that you can incorporate them in any interior – whether you are aiming to show your sophisticated or your youthful side.

Happy Window Dressing!

 

 

How to get paid for blog posts

When I announced in 2013 that I was to become a full-time blogger, my friends’ and family’s first reaction was “Awesome!” and the second – inevitable – one was: “How are you going to make money?”. So I have, through sheer willpower and stubborn determination, been figuring that out for 4 years. I then decided to write about that so that other would-be brave souls, wanting to make their mark in the digital world, won’t have to. “How do you start to get paid for blog posts?” I get that a lot. The answer is simple really: build it, and they will come. Kind of.

Here’s my step-by-step for building that credibility, getting noticed, and getting paid.

Create the content first to create credibility

I will always remember my first sponsored post. It was a post for Dettol in which I created the Dettol Duck. It wasn’t really a DIY post, it was supposed to be just a product review, but that didn’t stop me! 3.5 years later, my kids STILL love Dettol Duck. My photography wasn’t great, but the post was authentic and the client was happy. And it put money in the bank! You can see from the images that this was still when my blog was called Playing House – the rebrand happened about 5 months later. I have deleted many of the old posts that I initially wrote for my first blog, but this one is special to me because it reminds me that perseverance paid off.

What you can’t see though, is that before Dettol Duck happened, I had also created around 25 posts for various other brands without being compensated. What that did, was create a portfolio of work that PR companies and other brands were able to look through to get an idea of my style. You won’t go to an interview without a portfolio or a CV, and that is exactly what your blog is. It’s your body of work, so build it.

Introduce yourself

In most cases, PR companies are contracted to deal with bloggers. I have spoken with the marketing managers of brands who wouldn’t even give me time to finish my pitch and then got long-term sponsorships from that same brand through a PR company. So how do the PR companies know about you? A good friend in PR told me, if you’re worth knowing, the PR companies will know about you. But that shouldn’t stop you from introducing yourself.

In 2015 I found a list of PR companies in the country and contacted them 1 by 1. Seriously. I don’t remember where I got the list, but here is a similar one. I copied the file into excel and made notes as I went. Even if a company didn’t seem to be relevant, I contacted them anyway because you never know who their clients are. A prime example: Bosch was a huge sponsor for Homeology when we wrote our book, and their PR company is a specialist in the mining industry or something. So if I though that wasn’t relevant, we wouldn’t have had that sponsorship.

1 by 1, I sent out emails to each of these companies, introducing myself and attaching my rate card. At that stage, my traffic was really little, maybe only a few thousand page views per month. But I put myself out there anyway. I spent a couple of weeks and contacted around 800 companies. The response rate was 3%, so I only heard back from 24 companies. But that meant that I was now on the radar of 24 companies that didn’t know I existed before. It’s also important to know that those replies didn’t mean I got work from those companies – not immediately anyway. They just replied, thanking me for my email and saying that they will contact me should something come up. Even though it’s now more than 2 years later, it’s too soon to say how much work came from it – I am still being contacted by PR companies every week.

Unashamed Self Promotion: a stealth tactic

I know, this doesn’t come naturally to most people. But if you’re a blogger and you work for yourself, no-one else is going to do that for you.

I’ve created a technique called brand shadowing and I do this regularly with big brands that I love and admire. I start to create a content series for them out of my own, including their brand links as if it were a sponsored post. Then when I share it on social media, I tag them. They usually interact and share it with their followers as well, so if anything you’ll get nice traffic from it. The interesting thing about this tactic is that it hardly ever works in the way you might expect. That brand is getting promoted, beautiful and engaging content for free, so why would they now all of a sudden start to pay you for it? But by constantly tagging a brand in a series of posts, you are alerting their competitors and adjacent niches to your presence. They see what you’re doing for Brand A, and they definitely want that as well. See how that works? Clever, isn’t it? This is a long-term tactic, so make sure that you really love the brand you are shadowing and that you’ll be able to keep it up for a while. And if you later lose interest and you stop with the content flow, they might even contact you and offer to pay to keep it up 😉

I still sometimes do posts for product only. But ultimately, product doesn’t pay my bills and when I calculate the hours that I spend on an unpaid promotion, it actually costs me a fortune in writing and marketing time. In the beginning, however, you should do anything to work up to that first paid-for post.

If a tree falls in a forest, and no-one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

This is true of blogs as well. In the sea of content that is the internet, if people don’t know about your blog, then what you write on it won’t matter. So do whatever you have to do to get yourself out there.

Happy blogging!

Feature image background from Shutterstock

Avo Ciabatta Burger with Mustard Butter

Today’s recipe is really more just a food assembly suggestion than a recipe. I picked up my Boschenbox from Boschendal farm last week, and in it was the most delicious burger patties. These Angus beef patties are perfectly marbled and utterly delicious! We had burgers on Friday night already, so when Saturday rolled by and I had to start thinking about dinner, I had an idea: why not combine the crusty ciabatta with the patties? One thing led to another and before I knew it, we were having a late afternoon picnic, eating Avo Ciabatta Burgers with Mustard Butter in the perfect autumn air.

A

AVO CIABATTA BURGERS WITH MUSTARD BUTTER

Ingredients (makes 4):

  • 4 x Angus Beef patties
  • 1x Ciabatta loaf, thickly sliced
  • 2x Ripe Avos
  • 4 tbs Salted butter
  • 4 tbs Whole-grain mustard
  • Olive oil
  • Chopped chives to garnish

Method:

  1. Grill the patties on the fire. You can make it in the pan as well, but they really are so much better with a bit of smokiness in them! If you want to be really clever, you can reshape your patties to fit the slices of ciabatta before you cook them.
  2. Use a fork to mash the avo, and then season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Mix the mustard and butter, and spread liberally over the slices of ciabatta.
  4. Cut the patties into strips (unless you reshaped them first!) and place on the buttered ciabatta slices.
  5. Cover with avo, and garnish with chopped chives and olive oil.

I served it with a very basic pickled beetroot and mixed leaf salad, sprinkled with goat’s milk feta. Basic but a firm favourite!

This dish pairs beautifully with Raka Anchorage – another favourite!

Happy Cooking!

The mother of all pink ombré cake (s) with butter icing and roses

I am the first person to tell you that I am not really the baker in the family. And I am not being modest – many people who have eaten my creations will attest. While I firmly believe it has A LOT to do with my oven (hear my cry for help, Smeg!), I will take responsibility for my inability. So imagine my surprise when I managed to put together this beautiful pink ombré cake for Mother’s Day!

I found the recipe to this delicious beauty in the latest Ideas Magazine. This recipe for cake is different to what I’ve made before, and I couldn’t believe how incredibly moist it was. To be honest, I thought I had screwed it up (she said, while glaring accusingly in the direction of the oven) because I had to bake it much longer than the recipe said and then I was afraid it was going to be too dry. But it is gorgeous and delicious!

pink ombré cake with roses

The original recipe made these gorgeous little cakes decorated with roses. But not being able to take direction well – which is why my baking career never took off, I suspect – I decided to bake them in 3 22cm round tins and make 1 big layered cake with roses and Michaelmas daisies. The icing is simple butter icing with a dash of vanilla.

RECIPE FOR OMBRE CAKE WITH BUTTER ICING AND ROSES

INGREDIENTS

For each cake layer:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 140g cake flower
  • 7.5ml baking powder
  • A few drops of pink food colouring (add more drops to layers 2 and 3 for the ombré effect)
  • 125ml warm milk
  • 65ml melted butter

For the butter icing:

  • 150g soft butter
  • 450g icing sugar
  • A dash of vanilla essence
  • Boiling water

For the decoration:

  • Seasonal flowers
  • Edible sprinkles

METHOD

Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF

Prepare your cake tins by lining them with baking paper and buttering the surface.

Instructions for the cake layers:

  • Beat the eggs and caster sugar with an electric mixer until it’s light and fluffy.
  • Sieve the cake flower and baking powder over the egg mixture and blend until just incorporated – do not over-mix.
  • Add a few drops of food colouring to the warm milk.
  • Add the coloured milk and melted butter to the egg mixture and blend well.
  • Pour the batter  into one of the prepared cake tins
  • Repeat the steps for 2 more layers, remember to add more food colouring layers two and three.
  • Place the cake tins in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or test the layers with a fork – if there is no batter stuck the fork the cake is ready!
  • Let the layers cool down for 10 minutes before you remove them from the cake tins.

Instructions for the icing:

  • Make the butter icing by mixing soft butter, a few drops of vanilla and icing sugar together.
  • Add a small amount of boiling water to the icing to give it a smooth consistency.

Instructions for assembly:

  • Place the darkest layer on a cake stand, or plate of your choice, then spread butter icing on top of the cake.
  • Place the medium coloured layer on top of the icing, spread icing on top, and repeat the process until there are no layers left.
  • After the layers are assembled make sure that the top layer of icing is smooth, before decorating.
  • Take flowers from your garden (or bought), lightly rinse and dry them, then arrange them on top of the cake.
  • Add fun edible sprinkles, we used sugar hearts, but you can go for chocolate sprinkles or silvery balls – it’s completely up to you.
  • Give yourself a pat on the back – you’re done!

pink ombré cake with roses

One clever trick from Ideas is to use straws that are heated over a flame and pinched at the bottom to make closed-end tubes. You push them into the cake and put the flowers into them, to prevent the flowers from touching the cake. I’m pretty sure that roses are fine, but some flowers may have sap that seeps into the cake – not what you want at your tea party!

pink ombré cake with roses

Everyone knows that cake is best served with bubbly. A deliciously crisp Perdeberg Winery Chenin Blanc MCC with some pretty hibiscus flowers in the glass did the trick!

Happy Baking!

 

Beef Chuck Roast and Barley Risotto with Radish and Swiss Chard

When I picked up my Boschenbox from Boschendal farm last week, I was a little bit stumped: because someone complained about the recipes that usually accompanied the box, these will no longer be supplied, which left me with beef chuck, Swiss chard and radishes that I had no idea what to do with.

To be honest, while I enjoy cooking, I don’t know too much about it. I didn’t even know WHAT beef chuck was, aside from a delicious-looking piece of meat in a net (I could also blame it on the fact that English is my second language, but I don’t know what it is in Afrikaans either!)

So after a bit of research, I found that chuck is cooked in much the same way as the delicious beef shin I made last week. To be fair, when you cook anything in red wine for long enough, it’s bound to be delicious! I stuck with that recipe, popped the beef in the oven, and proceeded to figure out what I can do with radishes and Swiss chard. And THAT, my friends, is the real find of the day!

I know radishes as a raw ingredient in salads that, with the right knife skills, can be fashioned into a tiny, red-rimmed flower – if that’s your kind of thing. I had no idea that you could cook them and how delicious they are!

I also didn’t know that you could use barley to make a risotto. I love rice, and anything to do with rice, but having been on a fairly low-carb diet for more than 3 years now, we don’t eat it much. So this hearty bowl of goodness is a great alternative if you’re watching carbs: white rice has 81g of carbs per 100g, while pearl barley has only 28g. (source) Making this dish is a little bit time-intensive, but it is SO worth it. I am going to experiment with a few more barley risotto options this winter, so watch this space for more!

This recipe is NOT my own, but I made it with a small variation and it is delicious, so I am happy to share it. If you want the original from Sarah Copeland, here is it! I made this as a side dish with the beef, but it makes a delicious vegetarian meal on its own as well.

Barley Risotto with Swiss Chard and Radishes

Ingredients: serves 4 as a side dish or 2 main meals

  • 4 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup pearl barley, rinsed
  • 8 to 10 small radishes
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, stemmed and torn into large pieces
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Couple of sprigs of thyme

Method:

  1. Bring the stock to simmer in a saucepan, and then reduce the heat to keep it warm.
  2. Heat the butter in another saucepan, and add the barley. Stir to coat it in the melted butter, toasting it lightly.
  3. Add 2 cups of stock and bring to boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer until most of the stock has been absorbed. Keep stirring at this point!
  4. Add the radishes and the remaining stock, 1/2 cup at a time. Keep stirring until the barley and radishes and tender.
  5. Add the torn Swiss chard and stir until it is wilted.
  6. Add in a teaspoon full of thyme while stirring, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Dish and serve (with a robust red wine, of course!)

Happy Cooking!

Putting together the ultimate home office – with discount code and a giveaway!

One of the unintended consequences that the internet brought about, was the creation of an entirely new workforce: highly skilled, highly experienced people who choose to work from home. There is no need to sit in traffic to go to the office anymore – you can join the meeting via Skype or Google Hangouts from halfway around the world, and get your work done in your own time, in your own home. But that does mean that the once nice-to-have study, has become a must-have home office. Thankfully, the home office need not be an entire dedicated room – unless you have space, of course! Here’s how to put together the ultimate home office: functional, high-tech, practical and above all, gorgeous!

House and Home

Start with the basics

A desk, a chair, an internet connection and a laptop – that’s pretty much what you’re going to need to get yourself going. Some jobs don’t even need a computer in the traditional sense – a phone or tablet works equally well. But don’t think within the confines of old-school offices: depending on what it is that you do, you can set up office anywhere in the house – or outside of it! During our sweltering summer months, I work on the patio next to the pool!

Set yourself up for success

Domino

Ensure that you have all the necessities within arm’s reach: phone, charger, notebooks, stationary. If you need to have a pin board for visual stimulus, install a simple cork board in front of your desk to pin notes and inspiration to.

Wireless Freedom

No-one wants to see your cables hang out! Avoid them all together and keep your desk area neat and tidy by going wireless where you can.

ENTER OUR SUDIO WIRELESS EARPHONE GIVEAWAY!

You can WIN a pair of Sudio Vasa Blå Wireless earphones and a marble phone case to the value of R1,800. Click here to enter!

Sudio

These beautiful Vasa Blå wireless headphones by Sudio will ensure that you have no disturbing background noises on your next conference call. They can pair with any Bluetooth device, lasts for 8 hours and come in 4 colours: white, black, blue and pink – all with beautiful rose gold detailing. They also come with a pretty leather pouch to make sure that they are safely tucked away when not in use. This is a must-have accessory for any work-from-home aficionado!

To help get your wireless office set up, order your Sudio Vasa Blå wireless headphones HERE and use HOMEOLOGY15 when checking out to receive a 15% discount on your order!

A wireless printer is another must. This ensures that all home-workers can be connected to the printer from where they’re working, without the need for cumbersome cables.

Lighting

The Zoe Report

Ah, so important – especially if you live in a region with significantly reduced daylight hours in winter, or if you tend to work late at night. General lighting is sufficient to light the room, but if you value your eyes, make sure that you have a desk lamp to light your direct work space. Something with a cool colour lamp (tends to be more white than yellow) will help you to be more efficient. This is also useful for video calls to prevent you from looking like you’re sitting in a closet.

Shelving & Storage

My Scandinavian Home

Even if you run a paperless operation, there are always some things that need storage. Make use of the area underneath your desk as well as overhead to maximize space. A pedestal underneath a desk is a great way to add simple storage to a trestle desk or ledge, and a standard narrow bookshelf turned horizontally is an inexpensive way to create storage above your desk.

Green things up

Domino

Just because you’re stuck inside doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate nature! Add some greenery to your desk with an indoor plant to help with air purification. Read this article for ideas on which plants can work in your space.

Personalise it and have some fun!

Domino

It is your space after all, so do what you have to do to energize yourself. Add some bright colours, photos and prints to remind yourself WHY you’re doing this!

Happy Decorating!

Budget Bathroom Make-Over in Dramatic Black and White

Bathrooms tend to be smaller spaces, and because popular belief states that darker colours are not suitable for small spaces, we tend to steer clear. But a dark colour in a small area can have quite the opposite effect, creating depth and space. And while black is not the most obvious colour choice for a bathroom, this project shows that black can have an amazing effect. Here’s a look at my small family bathroom make-over.

budget bathroom make-over

This the kids’ bathroom in our old farmhouse. It had a few things going for it: a black-and-white vinyl floor, exposed ceiling beams, a freestanding Victorian-style bath and a sash window. The basic workbench-turned-vanity unit had a few scuff marks, but other than that everything was in pretty good shape. But the room lacked personality and all the white started to feel washed out and boring. This is a bathroom that is used every day and I decided it was definitely time for an update!

There were the 4 things on my to-do list:

  • I wanted to add some traditional details to the walls
  • The white needed to go
  • A feature wall had to be created
  • The bath had to be used as a shower as well

STEP 1: ADD SOME DETAILS

My first step was to add the dado rail and frame the window with a wide timber trim. This makes such a big difference already that everything after that was just a bonus! As with anything involving timber, it’s important to measure twice and cut once. Use a mitre box to get the corners right and acrylic sealant to fix the trims to the walls.

STEP 2: PAINT IT BLACK!

Next came the painting. Black and white is the ultimate classic colour combination, and because the floor and bath were already in those colours, it was an easy – although brave! – choice. I used a water-based enamel on the walls so that they are rich and with a bit of light-reflecting gloss. That helps to bounce light around the room. For the woodwork and untiled areas below the dado, I used a flat white acrylic paint. A black skirting prevents scuff marks against the white when the floors are being washed.

STEP 3: ADD A FEATURE

By adding 2 simple wooden shelves to the wall, I was able to create a striking focal wall on what would otherwise just be a large expanse of black. The shelves break the monotony, and the hanging kokedama adds some lush greenery.

I used 2 pieces of timber and painted them in the same white water based enamel as the woodwork. And because the wall was already a glossy black, I knew that I would be able to get away with very inexpensive L-brackets to keep the shelving up. No need for expensive floating shelves! To get a really smooth finish on the shelves, use 360 grit sandpaper between coats.

STEP 4: ADD A SHOWER IN THE BATH

 

Turning the bath into a bath / shower, was a bit of a challenge. I didn’t want to do any plumbing, so I had to look for a handheld shower unit that would be able to connect to the existing taps.

TIP: if your shower hose isn’t long enough, get 2 and connect them in the middle to create a longer one!

I fixed the curved shower curtain rail to the exposed beams. This took a bit of adjustment to the track, but the fixings are just so much stronger that way. If you have a timber ceiling, fixing anywhere on the ceiling works well. But where you have a plaster board ceiling, especially in a bathroom where moisture and steam can potentially soften the ceiling boards, fixing to a rigid structure is essential.

budget bathroom make-over

I reinstalled the existing chrome towel rails on the opposite side of the bath, so that they will be within easy reach.  Soft aqua and white towels add a little bit of colour to an otherwise monochromatic palette.

budget bathroom make-over

Instead of reinstalling the old hand towel rail, I made 3 personalized towel hooks so that each boy could have their own hand towel as well. I used a porcelain pen to write my boys’ initials on porcelain drawer knobs.

budget bathroom make-over

After baking them in the oven the fix the writing, I fitted them to the wall: first, install wall plugs at the right positions. Next, screw the end of the knob screw into the back of the knob. Then you cut off the screw head using a pair of pliers, and then screw the open end into the wall plug. Black and white ribbon stitched to each towel, makes them easy to hang up.

budget bathroom make-over

The little crystal chandelier and large silver-framed mirror add a sophisticated touch to the space. And because the mirror is so big, it completely opens up the room and helps to distribute the light coming in from the window.

budget bathroom make-over

budget bathroom make-over

A few extra details on the shelves, and my bathroom is done!

BEFORE

budget bathroom make-over

AFTER

Happy Decorating!

THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY CREATED FOR KNOBS.CO

 

Beef Shin in Red Wine with Rainbow Carrots

It’s time for my weekly Boschenbox meal from the Boschendal Deli! This week, there was the most amazing Angus beef shin in the box. It’s not a cut that I am familiar with – I have never bought it before! – but I am always up for a challenge. It’s one of the least expensive cuts you can get, and my goodness, I was pleasantly surprised! This dish is beautifully rich and because of the long cooking time, it’s extremely tender as well.

beef shin

Beef Shin in Red Wine with Rainbow Carrots

 

Ingredients:

  • 1kg Beef Shin
  • 25g Rosemary
  • 500g Rainbow Carrots, whole
  • 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 cups red wine (and glass to enjoy while you’re cooking of course!)
  • salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160ºC.
  2. Put the shin, herbs, wine and stock in a casserole dish, and cook for 4 hours. Make sure that the dish has a tight-fitting lid, or cover with 2 layers of foil. This will prevent all the juices from evaporating!
  3. After 4 hours, add the carrots and carrots, and put back in the oven for another hour. Make sure that you baste the meat and veggies every 15 minutes, keeping the dish covered in the oven.
  4. Serve!

beef shin

These rainbow carrots are just gorgeous – and so sweet! The kids love them because the purple ones make the tongues purple as well!

This dish pairs beautifully with a Boschendal 1685 Shiraz.

As a side dish, you can try this easy Pak Choi with Aubergine.

beef shin

Ingredients:

  • 300g Pak Choi
  • Good glug of olive oil
  • 1 Clove of garlic, finely diced
  • 100g Aubergine, thinly sliced
  • 1tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • Lemon Thyme

Method:

  1. Grill the aubergine slices on a pre-heated griddle pan. Set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a pan, add the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the pak choi and sauteé until cooked.
  4. Add the cooked aubergine, dash with a little balsamic and sprinkle over some lemon thyme.

beef shin

Serve with fresh rye to soak up all the juices. Or for a more hearty meal, you can also add rice or potato mash.

beef shin

I look forward to sharing next week’s box with you!

Happy Cooking!

How to make delicious terracotta pot chocolate muffins

Terracotta is one of the hottest trends right now. It’s in everything from floors and walls to accessories and kitchenware. I love terracotta, it’s got an amazing natural look to it and it pairs incredibly well with warm colours like quartz and coral, as well as cooler hues like aqua and turquoise. But I have to admit that I have never tried my hand at baking with this ancient clay, so when Kari sent me this delicious recipe for terracotta pot chocolate muffins that use little terracotta garden pots as baking moulds, I couldn’t resist! It’s really cute and different, and will work equally well for a tea party and a dinner party. Pair these pretty pots with some crisp white linen and greenery and you’ll have a beautiful table as well as a stunning desert.

But don’t take it from me, here’s what Kari says:

This is literally the BEST chocolate cupcake recipe ever! I have shared it with so many people and they all come back telling me that they never knew it would be so easy to bake these delicious treats. The secret however is the NoMU cacao powder which takes your baking to the next level!

terracotta cupcakes

I purchased the little terracotta pots from Builders Warehouse. I then added the little food flags that you can download here. They were actually created for Christmas, but can be used all year round.

BEST chocolate cupcake recipe ever

terracotta cupcakes

(makes 18 standard sized cupcakes)

Ingredients:

  • 225g unsalted, softened butter
  • 225g castor sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 4 heaped tbsp

terracotta cupcakes

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celcius
  2. Place 18 paper baking cases in a muffin pan or alternatively use small terracotta pots lined with greaseproof baking paper
  3. Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and pale
  4. Spoon the mixture into the cases
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes
  6. Cool for 5 minutes before serving

These delicious muffins are best enjoyed with a glass of milk on a cold winter’s day and can be served with a dollop of cream or berry compote on the side. Dipping them in caramel is a treat for the little ones.

terracotta cupcakes

Images by Melanie Wessels Photography

Happy Baking!

We’ll be featuring a few more of Kari’s recipes in the coming weeks, so make sure that you check back regularly! g

What happens when you don’t have time to blog

The last 6 weeks have been particularly hectic, and I have not had time to post as much as I would have liked. The irony, of course, is that I get clients through my blog, but once the workload reaches critical mass, I don’t have enough time to write on my blog. That old catch-22! It’s a great problem to have, and I am not unaware of how lucky I am to be a full-time professional blogger. But finding that balance between creating new and exciting content for myself, even if the posts are not paid for, and creating new and exciting content for other platforms, that’s where the blogger’s challenge lie.

So here’s what happened in a nutshell: I have published a few successful guest posts on another website, which meant that my traffic sky-rocketed and my credibility rose. So suddenly, I have marketing klout. That means more and more brands would like me to produce content for them, either on Homeology, or for their own platforms.

A few years ago, when I did research on how to be a pro-blogger, all that the research emphasized the importance of guest blogging. Did I listen? No! But it wasn’t because I didn’t WANT to listen. I just couldn’t figure out how you produce content for your own platform and then produce unique content for another platform without getting paid for either.

So let me share a big secret about guest blogging:

If you’re going to write FREE guest posts, the trick is to find a platform that allows you to publish content that already exists on your blog, AND they allow you link back to that content in order to drive traffic your way. So you write the first half of your post, and then they have to click through to your website to read the rest. Simple, right?! And it does exist, you just need to go look for it!

Once you’ve established credibility, then you will get the chance to create paid guest posts, where you write as yourself AND get paid to do it. But first, you’ll need to create traffic to your blog.

In this post last year, my income looked like this:

Under “Content”, I put paid guest post as well as ghost writing.

Now, 6 months later, it looks like this:

  • 47% Ghost Blogging: writing blog posts for other blogs, under their name.
  • 24% Guest Blogging: writing posts for other blogs, under my own name.
  • 20% Blog: paid content on my own blog, both blog posts and banner ads*
  • 9% Ebooks: books that I write for clients, under their name.

So things are looking VERY different from what they did a few months ago. If anything, I am streamlining my business and becoming more specific about what I work on. In the last 8 weeks, there have been only 11 posts published on Homeology. I created 7 of them and the other 4 were by guest bloggers on my site. Out of those 11, 7 were sponsored posts for clients. And on top of that, we created 33 blog posts for other blogs all around the world – and they were all paid for by clients.

While it’s important to keep content on your own blog fresh and new, you have to be realistic about where your income is coming from. And while I am working on getting that paid percentage on my own blog higher, I am just really grateful that I get to blog and get paid to do it – whether it’s on my own site, or someone else’s.

I’d love to get feedback on this post – and if there any aspiring bloggers out there who want more info, don’t hesitate to contact me!

Happy Blogging!

*Just a quick note on banner ads again. I have ALWAYS been against them, but I am happy to put a client’s add in the side bar if they regularly commission a post. Only then!

Background images in this post is from Shutterstock.

 

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