Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The importance of invitations

In case you didn't know, I love me some snail mail and one of the best things to get by mail is an invitation.

Along with bills and letters, invites arrive pretty rarely in my dusty old letter box. It's possible I am just not being invited to all the parties of the season, but let's just pretend that this is not the case.

I love it when the kids get invitations where the kids have tried to do their best handwriting and written out all the names.

For work I have to whip up the words for many an invite and most of mine I admit to being pretty dull. There is a certain level of boring that comes with being professional.


Which is why I am just loving the invitation that I received this week.

It's bright orange, it's funny, it was delivered by the mail lady, it was unexpected.

I don't think I am even going to make it to the event, but the invite alone tells me it is going to be a really really good night.

It even came with a page of magnet words to play around with. The card is on fancy sparkly stock and the graphics are fabulous. Every word has been carefully considered.

It's a truly nifty piece of marketing. (Not all will understand my joy at such a thing)

I already seriously jealous knowing that people will be instagramming every fun detail and I will be home wiping the dishes.

Well done Buderim Ginger.

The right invite can really set the vibe for a function, party or event. This invite has given me some confidence to make my own work ones a bit more creative.

And speaking of invites, here is a not quite so exciting one for you...

I am speaking as part of a panel talking about health blogging. It's true, I am terrified of scary people and their questions, but I am doing it anyway. Come along if you want. Just click the not so exciting invitation which will take you to the bookings page, promise you will not be a scary question askerer.

Do you send invitations? Do you like to receive them?
Will you send me one? Are you going to the Ginger One? Will I meet you at the Health bloggers gig?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

How Potted about Harry Potter Are You? {Giveaway!}

Let me start this with a confession.

I have never read a single Harry Potter book.

But Miss 8 is LOVING them. She didn't start reading them until Immy started talking about them. I wasn't really sure at first that Immy was talking about Harry Potter, she was telling me that she loved the story that Dad told her at bed time but I knew he wasn't reading Harry to her.

Instead Mr H had got sick of making up bed time stories and instead decided to tell Immy the story of Harry Potter, it gave him weeks of bedtime story fodder and eventually they sat and watched the first movie together. Miss 8 then noticed the books in our book shelf and decided to start reading.

The next thing I know she has two new friends at school and is begging for a wand because the three of them are spending every spare moment playing Harry Potter games.

That wand was the first Harry (Hermoine) item to arrive.

Then a friend cleaned out their toy box and gave us another wand (apparently, much better than ours).

Then I had to order a Hermoine cape, which required me to dust off a very unused sewing machine and reduce it from the Adult size small to the children's size small, because who knew that adults are out there buying Hermoine capes on ebay???

I have been begged for Harry Potter chocolate frogs and Harry Potter beans. (Confusion number 2: I am a tight arse and refuse to pay $5 for one chocolate frog or a teeny box of jelly beans).

Can you guess who Miss 8 dressed as for this year's book week?

And which pj's she wants for Christmas?


There is a bit of Potter madness in the house at the moment.

So when I got the email asking if I wanted to giveaway some tickets to the  Potted Potter show, it was an easy answer.

Potted Potter is a comedy act where two actors go through the entire seven books in a couple of hours on stage.

Here is the 70 second trailer to show you what the show is about. I haven't seen it yet so I can't tell you what it's like.


But I DO have tickets to giveaway.

Do you have any Harry Potter fans at your place, perhaps you are one yourself? Would you like to come along?

I have FOUR tickets for the Melbourne Opening Night Show: 

TUESDAY 28 OCTOBER at 7.30pm 
Melbourne Arts Centre, Playhouse. 

To get these four tickets (valued at $310) in your hands, just leave me a comment here on the blog telling me anything at all about Harry Potter. 

Comments open Sunday 28 September and close at 9pm Friday 3 October 2014. 

PLEASE LEAVE ME YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS or Twitter Handle so that I can contact the winner. 

Good Luck

Monday, September 22, 2014

Smell snobs

There are coffee snobs, which I am certainly not. There are also book snobs, which I have sometimes been a little bit guilty of, but in my defence I am mainly a children's book snob. Just adding a few pretty pictures does not make a good kids story and nor does having a lesson in the story...anyhooo, that's a whole other post.

I am guilty of being a smell snob.

I have written of my favourite smell before.

I received a gift in the mail today, a box of all sorts of treats, most will be re-gifted, so I can't show you their faces, just in case you get one in the mail! But this little candle I popped open and whiffed up my nostrils in seconds.


It's also pineapple and coconut so all it really needs is some midori and it would be a green smoothie.
(Don't drink your candles) Prepare your drink, light your candles, make a wish and allow the power of good smells to make you feel good.

I kept this one on the kitchen bench and sniffed it as I walked past all day. It smells like summer days to come, good ones.

Burning decent smelly candles can change your day. It's ok to be a smell snob, I promise.

Have you got a favourite candle?

EAT: Fennel, Eggplant, Pumpkin Tagine

Firstly, we don't actually own a tagine.

Secondly, fennel and eggplant are not vegetables we know what to do with.

To help me get through the week knowing that everyone will be scurvy free I use a fruit and vegetable delivery service.

We get the in season produce rather than selecting what we want to eat, because otherwise I will order the same things every time. This week we had fennel and eggplant that needed to be used and that means I had to think about what to do with them.

I thought really hard about how to cook them.

Then on Saturday morning when I could think no more I had my bright idea.
I told Mr H that we were going to be playing Masterchef for dinner that night and he had two ingredients that he had to use.

He thought about it for 7 seconds. Googled for one second. Played golf for three hours and then cooked this up:

The image is poor, (it's from the SBS website where budgets are low!) but click on it and grab the recipe.

It was fantastic and we will certainly cook it again, it was full of so much flavour. I covered mine in quite a stack of coriander and a little bit of sour cream as I am not quite so good with the tabasco sauce levels that Mr H applied.

Next challenge is bok choy, any ideas? How do you cook your fennel?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Embrace the Odd Shape

Spend any time talking to food producers and you will eventually hear words about the waste that comes from consumers (that's you, the shoppers/buyers) who just refuse to buy odd shaped food.

This is not really a new concept, but it seems to be getting worse. Shoppers won't part with cash for food that is not looking like it came from a photo shoot.

As consumers many of us have become rather pathetic at seeking our fruit and vegetables to all come in a standard shape, colour and size. Our potatoes can't be too big, or too small, the eyes on them can't be too deep. Our apples must be blemish free and not show any signs that they may have actually grown on a tree.

Ever tried to grow carrots? I have and rarely did they grow perfectly straight and never did I get a bunch that looks like the ones I buy, but they were all eaten and tasted perfect.

Perfect looking fruit and vegetables are fine, but nature doesn't follow the factory ways. There are sticks and stones and bugs and birds and sometimes heat or rain which all influence how a plant grows and what it produces.

So here in Australia we are left with TONNES of perfectly good food that no one wants. It also means I can't pick through the spuds for the giant ones when we are having Hot Potato night at our place, because there are none, the supermarkets reject them as too big.

Your kids won't have fun peeling funny looking carrots or eating a giant strawberry one day and a teeny one the next.

I was feeling all annoyed at how I couldn't even choose to buy the odd shaped stuff anymore, all my local fruit and veg shops have gone quite high brow, selling quinoa on the side lines. But then I saw this NSW business with an entire campaign on odd shaped food.


There just might be a future for those foods that don't fit the the criteria of perfect yet.

I have been embracing my own odd shaped frame for some time, now it's time for us all to embrace the odd shaped veggie too, yes?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Inspiring People: David and Ros

To put the kids through university David and Ros Sutton added growing raspberries to their apple farm. But as soon as the youngest one was done, David said he would never go back to the raspberries and the tough hard work they require.

David and Ros also knew that they would need to do something more than just grow their apples for the grocery market, as the profits on fresh fruit has dropped significantly for Australian farmers, the prices were just too low to sustain their farm.

Over the next few years and many many farmers markets and early mornings David and Ros developed their apples into products. Apple juice first, and apple pies, apple syrup, apple cider and even an apple festival.

Their juice is different to commercial juice, firstly in that they don't mix their apple varieties so you can buy the exact apple juice variety that you want. There is also nothing else added in. It's just pure juice.

They opened up a cafe in the farm shed to start selling their juice as the local demand started to grow, that was 13 years ago.

That first year, they sold 500 bottles of juice.

They also opened up a section of the orchard for people to pick their own apples, leaving only the trees they needed for their juice. City folk can drive out, buy a bag and pick their own apples.

Five years later and David and Ros were selling up to ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND bottles of juice, all from their farm shed cafe.

They still do all the picking and juicing and cooking and planting and weeding and marketing and serving themselves. 

When customers drop in to pick up their juice they are also keen for a snack and Ros is now making 40 giant apple pies a week (that's 12,000 kgs of apples per year which David prepares for the pies) plus apple strudel, apple scones, apple pancakes and my favourite, apple cider ice cream.

David researches machinery for them to use on the farm to ensure they can keep progressing, he has vats for ciders and a syrup that if the world knew about it would be in every pantry of every house in the world. Delicious.

Ros now has some help in the kitchen to keep up with the customers rolling down the driveway, especially on weekends. The juice is now in such demand that they now purchase apples off other local farmers to keep up the supply for their juice (giving them a much better price than other traditional buyers).

I asked Ros what the best part of running an apple business was and she says it is meeting all the people that come to the farm and visit, from the international visitors to the locals who return often.

While I was chatting with David and Ros it is clear that their success has come from a few things. The first vitally important reason, was just pure hard work. The second was being knowledgable about the realities of starting a business, David said they factored in the first three years as being tough while they established the new business. I found this inspiring because it is in these tough years that so many people give up, possibly just before they are about to take off. Third and final was they continue to push their product, they could have just stayed with juice and only juice, but as the apple cider market is exploding, they are right there in it. David and Ros have the ability to be flexible and the courage to grow their business into new markets. It would be easy for them to just stick with the juice that they are so well known for.

As I chatted with David outside in the orchard, he just seemed to be planning something else, like a man who just has no time to keep still.

"We had 120 people at my first cider festival in May" he says.

"Next time, I hope to get 250"

And I am pretty sure he will.

Disclaimer: I was taken to the Sutton's apple farm as a part of a bigger trip with Queensland Tourism, but it was the personalities I met that I wanted to share the most. I was not paid to write about the Sutton's. 

This is the first post in a new series I am writing called Surround Yourself  Inspiring People.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Flying Fears

Are you a good flyer?

I am a good flyer.

No, actually I am not so great a flyer.

I don't like small planes.
I don't like helicopters.
I don't like planes that seem to be making a funny noise as we are taking off.
I don't like the take off. That feeling that we might not make it up into the sky.

I prefer an aisle seat, closer to escape, than a window where I can see the waves crashing - did someone say CRASHING?

I don't like bumpy bits where the plane is being wobbled around.

But I love the destinations and I also love flights with inflight entertainment when I might see a new movie or watch a show (which is not happening on this flight right now).

Once I am flying above the clouds I can relax and sleep. I can read a book, eat a meal, write this blog post and eagerly await the landing, the best bit of any flight.

I love that moment when the plane hits the ground with a thud and I don't care if we run off the runway, hit a tree or lose a wheel. At least I am on the ground back where I really really want to be.

Disclaimer: This post was written in the sky as I tried to calm myself during anxiety inducing moments. Solo flying just might not be my thing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Surround yourself with Inspiring people

I recently attended a big conference for people interested in online blogging pursuits and as with all conferences there were a few keynote speakers to inspire, encourage and teach people how to achieve their personal goals, or at least to think about what their goals might be.

One of the messages that I seemed to take away from the three days I attended was pretty simple.

Surround yourself with inspiring people. Be amongst people who are positive thinkers. Enjoy time with the 'I can' rather than the 'I can't' types.

Matthew Michalewicz used the words "Always accumulate knowledge" and suggested you spend time finding the people who can teach you more, show you more, inspire you more.

Being around people who believe in good things and want to see you succeed is a vital part in your long term success whatever your personal or business goals might be.

But just how do you find these people?

I don't know the answer to that bit. I don't know if you just turn up at the library and sit at a table and find them there or maybe you start talking to strangers on the train or in the line at the supermarket? Perhaps they are waiting in their cars at school pick up?

So other than just reducing the number of negative types you hang out with I don't know where these tribes form and go about handing out good words and sharing all their knowledge.

But. I do meet many people that inspire me, who I think do good things, who change career paths or open a business knowing that they could lose everything, but give it a go anyway. Chance takers, doers, and change makers. Smart types, brave types, inspiring to me types.

So in the next few weeks I am going to start sharing some of their stories in the hope that anyone else who is looking to surround themselves with positive people might get something from it.

I hope you enjoy the stories.
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