SEO and backlinks and how to get noticed on the web

When I started out blogging, there were so many things that I had to figure out: how to actually build a website, how to get people to come to that website and how to create content that they would want to engage with and share. Now 6-ish years down the line, I don’t think about these things anymore – I have built up enough content and credibility that by now, that part of the business takes care of itself. Except for the getting-people-to-come-to-the-site part, that won’t ever stop. Readers are the lifeblood of any website: if no-one knows about what you do, no amount of beautifully crafted content is going to make any difference. And THAT is where SEO and backlinks come in.

Let’s first delve into what exactly SEO and backlinks are.

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the way in which a search engine indexes your site. I am not going to go too much into the details of this – you can read more about it from the experts here. Here are a few things you can do to help you land on Google’s first page.

The first thing is to add keywords to your site. Homeology ranks in the top 5 on Google for search terms including “South Africa Blog” combined with any of these keywords: DIY, interior design, home decor, storage or furniture. Not bad! A big shout out to Kari at Lovilee as well on number 4! The top 10, or the first page, is ultimately where you want to be. That way it is much easier for anyone looking for whatever it is you offer, to find you.

To add keywords, you will need to add them to the meta tags of your site’s HTML headers (here is Google’s explanation of how that works). Thankfully for the HTML illiterates like me, there is a plugin for that! Just install the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress (search for it under the plugins on your dashboard). Then work your way through the plugin to create meta tags and keywords for your site. The plugin allows you to custom your snippet (the paragraph under your site’s name on the search engine) as well. Use keywords that represent your content – work with your niche here.

Keywords are essential because you don’t want to show up in search results when someone is looking for something unrelated to you; you want to be there when they are looking for something that you have. SEO is about quantity, but also about quality of traffic coming your way.

And now to make those keywords count, you need to write about them. Set up a writing schedule and stick to it. The Yoast plugin will also be at the bottom of each post automatically. It will challenge you to optimize the content so that Google’s crawlers will start to associate your keywords with your content, and viola! you come out on top – eventually.  The image below shows Yoast at work for this post – you want the keyword to rate green. It is great if readability is green as well. I rarely get out of orange because my sentences are too long! Remember to also check the rating of your title on CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer tool.

Assuming you blog because you’re passionate about it and just can’t help yourself, producing good quality, SEO-optimized and keyword-rich content will be a natural and organic process. You’ll just have to be patient.

That is the old way to get Google to like you and push you to the top. Let’s look at the new way: backlinks.

I have mentioned in a previous post that shameless self-promotion is where it’s at, and that benefits both your marketing and your SEO. Backlinks or inbound links are an amazing way to build your credibility in Google’s virtual eyes. Backlinks basically are when your website’s name is linked back to you on another site. I have about 1500 backlinks at the moment, and some of them are from amazing authority sites like Bizcommunity, Apartment Therapy, Houzz and Design Milk.

There are of course good and bad backlinks, and it is REALLY important to avoid bad backlinks. I feel about Google pretty much the same as I feel about the tax man: I know that they have an important function in society,  I have a deep fear of them and try my best to stay on their good side. I haven’t done too much research on Google’s blacklist, but I hear that it’s brutal and almost impossible to get off it once you’ve been black-listed. Keep things clean and as long as you’re not spamming, you should be fine.

  1. You can build backlinks by commenting on forums or blogs, but that can come close to being spammy. I don’t recommend this as a tactic unless it’s authentic.
  2.  Contact big profile sites and ask if you may be a contributing blogger – that will also enable you to create a bio with a website address.
  3. Social media is really useful for getting your posts out, and if they good people will share them on their own sites.
  4. Just keep creating great, sharable content!

You can see how many backlinks you have by using a platform like Moz. The checking tool is free, but to get into the nitty-gritty details, you’ll have to subscribe.

Blogging is a long-term strategy. So, hone your skills lovingly, stay passionate, keep at it, and you will reap the results.

Happy blogging!

 

Bold Roasted Butternut Soup to warm you up on a winter’s weekend

It’s butternut season and I got a couple of fat ones in my Boschenbox last week. I have a love/hate relationship with butternut: sometimes, I can’t get enough of it and I make it almost every day, and sometimes I really don’t want it anywhere near my plate. I can’t really explain it, but what I have figured out is that I prefer it with warming spices like cinnamon and cloves. To be honest, in winter I prefer anything with cinnamon and cloves! So, here is my recipe for roasted butternut soup (adapted from the amazing New Covent Garden Soup Company – those people can cook soup!!). It’s super easy and though it takes a bit of time to cook, the flavours are just amazing so it’s well worth the effort. It’s the perfect bowl of warm for a cold weekend!

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SOUP

Roasted Butternut Soup

You will need (serves 6):

  • 3 large butternuts, cut in half lengthways and deseeded (you can throw the seeds on your compost heap – they will most likely start to flourish there!)
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • fine cinnamon
  • 1.2 litre of stock (you can use veggie stock, but I prefer the depth that chicken stock adds)
  • 100ml cream
  • 3 tbs pumpkin seeds
  • fine cloves
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  • Preheat your oven to 160ºC
  • Place the butternut halves on a roasting tray. Place 1/2 tbs in each butternut, and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon. Then bake them for about 1 hour. You want them to get really deeply caramelised on top and gooey inside. Remove from the oven when done, and let them cool down.
  • Once the butternuts are cool enough to touch, scoop out the flesh with a spoon and set it aside.
  • Place the stock, remaining butter and butternut pulp in a large thick-based saucepan, and heat to just before boiling point.
  • Use a blend stick to puree the butternut inside the stock, creating a smooth, thick soup.
  • Stir in the cream
  • Season with another sprinkling of cinnamon, a pinch of fine cloves, and salt and pepper to taste.

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SOUP

To serve:

Heat a pan on the stove and add 1/2 tsp of cinnamon powder and the pumpkin seeds. Do not add any oil or butter, you want to dry roast the seeds. Gently roast them for a few of minutes, shaking the pan frequently until they’ve browned and the delicious aromas have developed. Keep an eye on them so that they don’t burn!

Dish the soup into deep bowls, and dress with a swirl of cream and a sprinkling of the cinnamon pumpkin seeds.

Serve with grilled goat’s cheese toast – YUM!

Happy cooking!

 

Dad’s DIY Guide: How To Measure Windows Correctly

In most homes, DIY projects tend come down to Dad over the weekend. But trying to juggle career, family and responsibilities – while doing things with little help except for little curious hands – can be difficult. To help save some time, we’ve put together this handy guide on how to measure windows for blinds, rods and tie backs. (Don’t worry Dad, we won’t tell anyone that you read a manual!) These guidelines are the secret that will help you to choose the right tools for the job and create the perfect window dressing.

You will need these tools:

  • Drill
  • 5mm masonry drill bit
  • Ladder
  • Measuring tape
  • Star-pointed screwdriver, or a star-bit for your drill/driver)
  • Pencil
  • Spirit Level

Home Deco

1. Measuring for Curtain Rods

Measure the inside width of the window. Rods should extend 10-20cm beyond the window on each side. Measure the height according to your existing or new curtain height. Usually, this will also be between 10 – 20cm above the top frame of the window.

Ideas for Creative Home Decor

PRO TIP: If you have really high ceilings, but your windows are not very high, you can install the pole high over the window the help correct the proportions.

how to measure windows

2. Measuring for Tiebacks

Tiebacks should be installed approximately 1 metre from the floor, on the outside edge of the curtain.

3. A note on Finials

Ensure there is enough space for your chosen finial at both ends of the rod. If space is limited, consider an end cap finial instead of something that protrudes.

4. Measuring for Blinds to be installed INSIDE the window recess

Check that nothing is protruding into the recess where the blind will hang (i.e. burglar bars)

  • Measure the inside reveal width
  • Measure the inside reveal drop

Amber Interiors

5. Measuring for Blinds to be installed OUTSIDE the window recess

  • We recommend 10cm overlap on each side of the window
  • We recommend 10cm overlap on the top of the window
  • A blind can comfortably sit on top of a window sill where one is installed. Otherwise, a 10cm overlap on the bottom edge is also advisable.

6. Cut out blinds

  • Measure the width between the tiles
  • Measure the drop of the tile itself
  • Measure the width of the tile itself

Some handy hints when measuring your windows:

  • Always use a metal tape measure as plastic and cloth tapes may stretch. Even 5mm can make the difference between a good fit and a bad one!
  • The saying goes “Measure twice, cut once”. It is definitely advisable to measure more than once. Measure left, middle, right or top, middle, bottom.
  • Also keep in mind that as much as builders try, windows are not always straight and level. For inside a recess, use the smallest measurement, and for outside, the largest.

Finishing Touches can always help you with your installation because they realise that dads also need a break! Just give them the correct measurements you took while using these guidelines above, and they will install your window décor in time and on budget.

It can be our little secret gift to you on Father’s day….

Happy Father’s Day to all those amazing dads out there!

NOTE: this post is sponsored by Finishing Touches.

Infographic elements from Shutterstock.

 

Awesome gifts for the man of moment on Father’s Day

Mother’s Day always gets a lot of attention here at the Bruwery – my lovely husband makes such an effort to make the day extra special. So when Father’s day comes around, I am always really keen to show him the same courtesy. Gifts don’t have to cost money though, so here are 5 gifts that cost, well, almost nothing!

Gift #1: Breakfast, of course! 

My man loves bacon and eggs. And while this is the most traditional of breakfasts, there are numerous ways to jazz things up. Here’s a quick recipe that the kids can make themselves (under supervision if necessary!), ready to serve when Dad wakes up.

Bacon & Egg Cups

Ingredients: (Serves 4)

  • 8 eggs
  • 8 pieces of bacon (Joey will argue that there is only 1 kind of bacon: streaky. Without the fat, it’s just smoked pork.)
  • a handful of grated cheddar cheese
  • Salt & pepper to taste (remember that both the cheese and the bacon is salty, so don’t overdo it!)
  • Paprika
  • Fresh parsley

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  • Grease 8 holes of a muffin pan.
  • Line those holes with a piece of bacon.
  • Break and egg in each lined hole.
  • Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and grated cheese.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, or until the egg is cooked to your liking.

Sprinkle with paprika and chopped parsley, and if you want to be fancy, serve with a dollop of créme fraiche on each egg cup. Goes gloriously well with buttered toast and a cup of steaming hot coffee on the side.

And now for the vouchers! You can download these vouchers HERE and print them at home.

1. Sleep in Voucher

As any parent with young kids will tell you, sleep is something that we said goodbye to in the delivery room. And while our kids are thankfully now at an age when our nights are calm (except when they’re not well), our days start before 6am without fail. This Extra Snooze Time Voucher entitles Dad to a couple of extra hours, while you and the kids prepare breakfast.

2. Massage Voucher

Let the kids jump in and pamper Dad a bit with a foot rub, back rub or neck Massage Voucher. If you plan it well, you might convince them to work the knots out of your neck as well while they’re busy!

3. Movie Night Voucher

A lot of guys really love movies where cars crash after people get shot while jumping off buildings and breaking things. I don’t really see the point in them, but it’s nice to give Dad some guy time with a full-blooded, wild and crazy Action Movie Voucher. Let him choose the Sunday night movie – without guilt or consideration, and if you do not agree with the choice, climb in the bath with a glass of wine and a book while he watches it. Add a bag of his favourite popcorn and a snack to keep him company while he’s indulging.

4. Five Moments of Peace and Quiet Voucher

Everyone needs peace and quiet sometimes, and these Moments of Peace and Quiet Vouchers will give Dad a few hours off when he needs it most. Valid for 1 year, he can choose to spend it whichever way he wants to, even if it is to get out of something he doesn’t feel like doing (like a kiddies birthday party!).

I hope you spoil the Dad in your life this Father’s Day – goodness knows, they deserve it! And remember, Dads like flowers too 😉

Happy Father’s Day!

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 in the latest Ideas Magazine (I am not going to publish the recipe until the book is sold out, so go and get one!). 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

(to follow – for now, you will have to buy Ideas Magazine!)

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!

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