Back to the blog (and the book behind it!)

It’s taken me a while to find the time to get back to writing. Also finding the inspiration – sometimes you wonder if the blogging is worth it, are you creating something worthwhile? Do you have what it takes to build your blog the right way? If there is a right way…

So I was in the library the other day, and a book caught my eye. BORN TO BLOG * by Mark W Schaefer and Stanford A Smith. I wanted to feel like I was ‘Born to Blog’ – like blogging came naturally, so I picked up this book, and here I am blogging again. I have plenty of books at home about writing a better thesis (and I have to say these were incredibly important to my writing process) but nothing specifically about my new chosen medium of blogging.

What did I learn?

A lot – but more than anything I felt completely encouraged in my blogging – the premise of this book, as the authors put it, is that ‘anyone – with a little coaching – can blog’ (p5). The ‘blog skills quiz’ provided by the authors is fantastic, and helps you to discover what kind of a blogger you are – so I am a ‘teacher’ followed by a ‘curator’ – makes sense, I do like writing ‘how to’ kind of posts! I learnt that keeping it simple with blogging is okay – Schaefer and Smith reassure the reader that ‘the most effective blogs are managed using minimal guidelines and straightforward objectives’ (p83). Phew. I know I am one for making things more complex than they need to be! In terms of turning your blog into a business, the authors also encourage readers to ‘give away your best’ (104). I find this a really helpful reminder – and definitely on my music blog I do a lot of this. Also, they encourage the reader not to hurry to monetise their blog (p124). Funnily enough, I find this tip incredibly liberating – I can just worry about building my blog for now, and let the business side grow slowly over time. Definitely helps me prioritise my thoughts, and focus mostly on the writing for now.

There is plenty more in this book for anyone who wants to build their blog, whether for business or personal reasons – like creating a content calendar, what kinds of content you could create, choosing a platform, using social media, and more. The stories of bloggers and their blogs which are interspersed throughout are also very encouraging, and gave me the sense that yes, I could blog too!

Highly recommended for all bloggers out there!

 

*Please note this is an affiliate link


Malaysian curry

This might seem like an obvious kind of dinner to post about, but before I met my husband, I had no idea about making curry like this. To me, curry was all about dahl, vegetables, chickpeas and the like (Indian is probably my favourite cuisine in fact).

The curry described below is a straightforward kind of meal to make, using sauce from a tin. Doesn’t sound so appetising…but it’s pretty tasty.

Ingredients:
Tofu (I often use the Soyco Japanese Tofu sold in the supermarket), cut into small pieces
1-2 eggplants, cut into cubes
1-2 sweet potatoes, cut into large cubes
Several tomatoes
Buk choy/ green beans/ other green vegetables, chopped
Yeoh’s curry sauce
Rice to serve with

Put the rice on pretty early, as this recipe is very quick to make!

Fry the eggplant lightly – then I put a bit of water in the bottom of the saucepan to cook it a bit more before other ingredients are added.

Mix in the sweet potato, cook a little further.

After about 5 minutes, pour in the tin of sauce, and maybe a tin’s worth of water. Stir in the tomatoes. Bring it all up to a good heat and then simmer for around 10 minutes.

Malaysian curry
Add in the green vegetables on top of the curry mix, and then cook for around another 10 minutes or so, tossing in the tofu in for the last few of these minutes, just to warm it. See how cooked the sweet potatoes are, then use that as a guide as to when to turn the stove off.

Serve the curry over the rice (of course).

There you go. Fussy eater version of this dinner = rice, plain tofu, plain vegetables with a taste or two of the curry (if and when requested)!


Weekend Places: Garden world

I’ve been meaning to write the next in my ‘Things to do on the weekend’ series for a while. Finally, here it is. We’ve been spending a lot of time at nurseries lately, and there is one which is my favourite: Gardenworld in Braeside. So here’s a post about the fun things we like about this nursery, and why it’s a great place to visit for those in the outer eastern suburbs.

Flowers 3Gardenworld 2Peacock and cyclamen

  Firstly, the range is huge! We have been looking for some particular kinds of proteas lately, and not many places we checked had the kinds we were after, but Gardenworld had heaps! The only difficulty was choosing. We ended up with a trolley full of susaras and pink creams, and now we’re looking forward to their colourful blooms in our garden next Autumn and Winter.

Gumboots
Anyway, the plants are gorgeous and plentiful, and there are homewares, succulents, pots…all kinds of things.

And…dinosaurs! Lots of fun for kids (although the giraffe
was our daughter’s favourite on our last trip). But the best nursery fun (for toddlers) would have to be jumping up and down…in muddy puddles…so do bring gumboots…

Finally, the cafe – it’s fantastic, with a variety of sweet and savoury options, and they make a good babycino!

Babycino     Gardenworld cafe      Cakes


One vegetarian and two pies

Everyone has ideas about what motherhood might be like before it happens to them; hopes, fears, dreams…Once upon a time I imagined a busy kitchen, a lot of cooking and lots more happy eating. We have the first two, but it’s taken me more time to achieve the third. We have one vegetarian in the house (me), and two who eat meat (one of whom is a typically fussy toddler, so plain foods all the way!) The offshoot of all of this is that every planned meal, apart from a few favorite vegetarian dishes which we all eat, comprises two similar dishes, one without meat, one with, and a deconstructed version for the fussy eater, which all get cooked at the same time. And which require a minimum of meat handling…something I really, really dislike! So here is the first post in my recipe series: one vegetarian and two pies, the first being an adapted vegetarian crumble-turned-pie and the second, a more traditional chicken and mushroom pie (which I have never tasted, but gets the thumbs up every time!)

Vegetarian sweet potato pie

The original recipe which I have based mine on can be found on BBC’s Good food website. The crumble topping is delicious, but I don’t have time for it normally, and I’ve left out celeriac, as that is often missing from my local supermarket’s shelves. I always start all the chopping from this pie first, given there is so much to do!

Ingredients

  • 1-2 leeks
  • 2-3 small sweet potatoes
  • 1 potato
  • 1-2 carrots
  • Vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon of flour
  • 200ml crème frâiche
  • 1-2 spoonfuls of mustard (I use whole grain)
  • Frozen peas or other mixed vegetables
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (and egg to glaze)

Slice up the leeks, dice the potatoes and carrots. Take the puff pastry out to thaw.

Cooking sweet potatoes and leeks

Put them all in a large saucepan, cover with stock. Bring to boil, then simmer until tender. I always go too far at this point – you don’t want the vegetables to be too mushy, but it’s not the end of the world if they are! While the vegetables cook, I normally start with the chicken pie (well that’s probably why I overdo the vegetables…)

Okay, when vegetables are done, I scoop out the excess stock, so there’s just a little bit to help make the sauce. Mix in the crème frâiche, mustard to taste (not too much for me) and flour. And then the frozen vegetables for a bit of extra green.

Spoon it all into a lightly oiled casserole dish, and place the puff pastry lid on top. Don’t forget to make a hole for the steam to come out! Glaze with beaten egg and place in oven at around 200 deg celsuis for 30 minutes, or until pastry is crispy and golden brown.

Wow, writing that recipe has made me hungry. Okay here’s the second one:

Chicken and mushroom pie

Ingredients 

  • 1 leek or onion
  • Around 300g diced chicken
  • Several handfuls button mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Vegetable stock
  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry (and egg to glaze)

Put the chicken in a saucepan, and cover with water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through. Once cooked, I get a fork and shred the chicken just a little bit more.

Moe leeks!
In the meantime, slice up the mushrooms, and onion or leek.

Sauté the leek and mushrooms until nicely done, then add in the chicken, and stock and flour, just so there is enough liquid for the pie.

Line the base of an oiled casserole dish with one sheet of pastry. Place the chicken and mushroom filling in, and put another piece of pastry on the top. Again, don’t forget to make a hole in the top and glaze with the egg (it’s not the end of the world if you don’t do this, but it just gives the pie crust a nice glow). And then into the oven, 200 deg celsius for 30 minutes.

Two pies

 

Chicken triangle

For the fussy eater, some of the chicken gets cooked in puff pastry. Eventually I am sure she will eat some of what we are having…eventually!



Potatoes, paints and butterflies

Ok, crayons and play dough have been in use for a long time now in our house. Sticker books are pretty popular too. But paints are a new level of artiness for us!

The first time I tried out our new (non-toxic) paints with my daughter, she really just wanted to watch me paint. And still, I was amazed how quickly paint got transferred to objects which were not the paper. And, in the same vein, it has taken me several times painting to remember that yes, I actually need a smock too – even when using the paint with water books!

By the second time the paints came out, I had more of a programme in mind: what we could do, and an idea on how to use the paints. Most of these ideas are pretty basic, and things which you may have tried in primary school many years ago, like me. Nonetheless, it did take a bit of remembering for me to come up with this little list!

  1. Finger painting / hand printing – I resisted this initially, because of the mess, but it was less messy than I imagined. Finger painting didn’t really produce much of an exciting result, but the hand prints in different colours looked pretty nice!
  2. Potato printing – I remember this activity from my school days (mainly because it was one of the few times I forgot to bring my smock into art). At home, we just cut a potato in half and did some nice coloured stamping with that. Of course you can make shapes, but the potato can be pretty slippery to hold, and not so good for those with sensitive skin.
  3. Butterflies – Dot some nice, colourful splotches on one side of the paper and fold it over – and voila, there’s your butterfly. Was reminded of this activity on a tv show the other day!

So three really simple ideas – things you probably remember from your early  days, but maybe, like me, had forgotten about!

Enjoy your painting!


Weekend Places: Wheelers Hill Farmers’ Market

I have read a lot of blogs about fun places to visit with babies and small children, and they’re great. We all know little kids are not the best at sitting down and behaving in a quiet and orderly manner when out and about. So I am starting my weekend series of fun places to go on the weekend, toddler in tow, with a particular focus on locations further from the CBD, where there is room for kids to run, or something to keep them engaged and entertained!

First in the series is the Wheelers Hill Farmers Market. We have been a couple of times now, and it’s a fun, relaxed and small market, held in Jell’s Park on the third Saturday of each month. We love the fresh strawberries, and are totally addicted now to Sally McNally’s chutney – haven’t found another as good!

Grab lunch and a coffee; and there’s plenty of room for running around on the green hills behind the stalls!

 


Books in review

I love reading with my daughter, and most of the time she enjoys it too!

I’ve spent a lot of time looking for great reading material online for us, and thought I would share a few of our favourite items here. There are many lift-the-flap style books here, and a couple of books with absolutely fabulous music.

The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton

This book may not have helped me to get my little one to sleep, but the fun rhythms and amusing illustrations are quite winning. The length of the sentences is just right – not too short, not too long!

Rumble in the Jungle by Giles Andreae, Illustrated by David Wojtowycz

Again, another title which features wonderful rhyme and illustrations, all about jungle animals – a great subject for nearly any little kid! The opening two pages of this book are our favourite: all the animals almost hidden away behind the leaves, with the odd trunk, paw or tail escaping the greenery. These pages alone have caused much excitement and hours of amusement!

The Nutcracker by Susanna Davidson, Illustrated by Anna Luraschi

A lovely version of E. T. A. Hoffmann’s classic Christmas tale for little readers. We have spent many happy hours with this book. The musician in me loves the sound bites from Tchaikovsky’s score; they are of decent length and have an amazing (and unexpected!) orchestral depth and colour – no half-baked harmonizations or anything of that kind here. Just really lovely illustrations and sounds.

Little Children’s Music Book by Fiona Watt, Illustrated by Elisa Squillace

Another of the Usborne Noisy Books (as is The Nutcracker, above), this lovely book also has wonderful illustrations, accompanying a pleasant story about animals rehearsing music in the forest for a concert. Great for little musicians, or anyone for that matter. Again, while this may be a ‘Noisy Book’ in name, the sound quality is anything but; beautiful, clear sounds of different instruments practising their parts, and then coming together as an ensemble performance in the final pages of the book (the music teacher in me is very happy about introducing the concepts of ‘practice’ and ‘rehearsal’ at this early age!)

Moomin’s Very Big Lift-the-flap Book

Spend a day with the Moomins! This book features Tove Jansson’s unique Moomin family in a series of beautifully coloured and imaginative pages. There are lots of flaps to lift and fun objects – juicy apples, colourful fish and more – to be found beneath.

Meg and Mog Play Hide-and-seek by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski, Illustrated by Jan Pienkowski

Okay, sorry readers, I know this book is not in stock at the moment, but I just wanted to include this link and let you know about it, in case it is available elsewhere, as this book is a real favourite of ours. Meg and Mog take me back to my own childhood – I have memories of library time at school, and my library book bag, and I remember often borrowing Meg and Mog books. This particular book features Meg and Mog, busy in the garden, making spells, playing hide and seek in a castle, and having a tea party with Owl’s friends, to name just a few things!

Spot Goes to School by Eric Hill

Who doesn’t love Spot? We have a few Spot books now, and hopefully this collection will grow! I have just included one Spot book here – his very exciting first day at school! For a lovely article about Spot’s creator, Eric Hill, who passed away last year, click here.

*Please note, this post contains affiliate links (I may receive some income from any sales made through said links). 

 


Welcome to Simply Creative Home

Welcome to my new-look blog, Simply Creative Home!

This blog has been through a few changes since it first came to be; now it exists solely for all the fun, home-related articles and resources which I want to share: book reviews, thoughts on renovating, my experience of being a mum, and trying to keep things organised around the home. Trying being the operative word!

In another part of my life, I write about and play music, and if that is what you are interested in, you can find more here.

In the meantime, please read a few articles, check out the resources section, and get in touch if you would like more information on my writing.

Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Choosing Colours: Simple Steps to Avoid Clashing over your Walls

(by a non-designer, for non-designers)

Are you staring at old, marked walls, and something needs to be done, but you have no idea where to start with colour? That’s where we were last year, when we had moved into our (new-to-us) old home. Somehow the extent of what needed to be fixed, and what needed to be painted, only became clear once we had moved in … Luckily the music room, in its relatively standard off-white colour, had been recently painted, so it didn’t need a major makeover to be useable. But the rest of the house did. Initially we had a number of exposed brick walls, a major legacy from the late 70s, to work out what to do with. Once we had decided to cover these up (and that’s the subject of another post!) then we were free to create with a new, refreshed palette…or were we? I wasn’t too confident with colour choices initially (my husband is much more so, and has a pretty good eye for these things), but I’ve learnt a lot along the way. Here is my list of considerations that would be front of my mind, were we picking colours again in the future!

1. In a hurry to refresh your home? Consider painting your walls in a shade of white/off-white.

After months of deliberation, sometimes it felt like we were never going to get anywhere with choosing a colour – I didn’t have the confidence for bold, colourful strokes, and was afraid of something which would date our renovations, while at the same time my husband wanted to make big, daring changes (think bright red!) However, one afternoon, in a rare magazine-reading moment, I saw one family in ‘Country Style’ describe how they began a quick refurbishment of their home by painting everything in off white. And the pictures were beautiful. You’ll have plenty of chances to add colour with furnishings, pictures etc, so this can be a very good option for sorting out your colour dilemma with speed!

2. Work with what is already inside (and outside) your home!

A couple of things which we needed to consider, when choosing feature walls in particular, were all the hues of the garden you could see from inside the house – we liked the idea of ‘bringing the outside in’ by having some relationship between the inside and outside colours. Other items which needed to be matched when making our choice were the wooden floorboards and the kitchen (which was already in place). Special items of furniture may also further limit the field of colours from which you make your final selection.

3. What feeling do you want to create?

There’s a lot of theory out there on how different coloured rooms affect people. I’m not going into that here in further detail, but do think about how you want to feel in certain spaces of your home, and how certain colours would help or hinder those feelings.

4. Will it date?

Some colour combinations may appear striking and impressive, but can be on the faddish side (grey and neon yellow, I’m looking at you!!!) I do try and think about how I will feel living with colours in a few years’ time.

5. Test it out

Purchase some sample pots and try them out on a sheet of paper, which you can then stick to the wall to ‘try out’ – we painted a few patches of colour straight onto the wall (and had to get them off again too!)

6. Get a colour consultant, or a friend with great taste, to give you a hand in choosing colours

We got a colour consultant in, and while my husband had a pretty good idea of what he wanted by this point in the proceedings, she was very helpful and gave us both new things to think about, and the confidence to go ahead and make our final selections. A third pair of eyes always has the potential to offer a new, refreshed perspective.

Anyway, I hope this article has given you one or two new perspectives to consider in relation to getting new colours on your walls! If you’d like to read more such articles as they become available, please consider subscribing below!