14 ways to boost creativity and find inspiration

These are some of the things I do when I'm stuck, stumped, confused, de-motivated, or just facing some kind of creative block. I thought I'd share them, in case you want to try, too. 

You probably have a hundred more. If so, I'd love to hear them! 

1. Create white space in your life, time in which you are doing nothing, or doing manual non-thinking labour (walking to the tram stop; in the shower; washing up; weeding the garden). Don’t listen to podcasts or music or anything, and let your brain rest and wander without agenda 

2. Seek inspiration: go to a gallery, listen to music, listen to a podcast, read a good book (not a blog, a real book). Social media is good but also prone to trends that we can get sucked into - try to look further afield than the Internet 

3. Take a walk with a camera. Even if you’re not a photographer or creating visual art, looking at things through a camera lens creates a different perspective and helps unlock creativity in your brain for other projects 

4. Get a good night’s sleep. I know, sometimes that's easier said than done, but it’s hard to think creatively when you’re tired

5. Get a second opinion. Ask someone who you admire creatively (and who you trust to be constructive) to look at what you’ve done, and brainstorm ideas or opportunities. OR share what you’ve done on social media and invite feedback (but only if you feel this is a supportive community for you)

6. Try something different. If you usually like to paint, learn a language instead; if you like to write, take a cooking class. It's the creative part of your brain's version of "a change is as good as a holiday"

7. Do it for the joy of it. The pressure of deadlines, income, other peoples’ expectations, can all get in the way of creativity 

8. Get some exercise. Even just walking regularly can help but, according to research, the key word here is regularly

9. Avoid social media distractions. Take a few hours away from your phone every day - maybe even put it in another room. If you can’t help yourself, remove social media apps from your phone

10. Write down your ideas, thoughts and feelings by hand. This prompts “reflective functioning” because it causes you to both feel an experience as you write it down, and then reflect on it, or make sense of it, when you read it back. I don't know why, but this is a lot more powerful when you write rather than type 

11. This idea comes from the Me & Orla "Bloom and Grow" Instagram course. Create a Pinterest board of things that inspire you. Or several boards, if you like. Whenever you come across an image or idea that you like, or that sparks your curiosity, pin it to your board. Then at any time when you are looking for ideas, you can revisit that board for creative inspiration

12. Collaborate - once when I was trying to write a character of an old man, I asked an actor friend of mine to role-play the old man so I could better brainstorm ideas

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13. What else is going on in your life? The stresses and trials of life - children, work, finances, an argument with your spouse... all of these can temporarily block creativity. Be kind to yourself. sleep on it, do what you need to do first. Have faith that inspiration and motivation will return and, when life calms down a little, try one or more of the techniques above

14. Carry a notebook and pen with you everywhere so that when inspiration does strike, you can capture it before it slips away

Alright that's me for now. What do you do to boost creativity and inspiration? 

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Stickers nine ways

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A few months back I announced that I had started illustrating for ethical stationery company Boots Paper. We have been steadily adding more greeting card designs to the collection, and there are many other new products in the wings, but the designs that have me the most excited right now are a series of stickers

I have been painting these for months, and they're finally here, printed onto clear plastic so they kind of work like decals on just about anything. Here are nine ways I've been using my stickers lately, to brighten up my everyday jobs. 

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1. In my garden-jobs diary (I keep a seasonal diary so I don’t forget to mulch or prune or fertilise or sow seeds. This weekend was all about fertilising, pruning and planting) 

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2. On notes left on the 'fridge for my husband, because we both work such long hours we can often go hours without seeing each other for anything more than hello-goodbye conversations 

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3. On messages in mini-envelopes for children (I sometimes pop these mini-envelopes into the normal-sized envelopes I send to the parents, so the kids get their own letters)

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4. On hand-written recipe cards I send to people in the mail 

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5. To decorate my planner and bullet journal 

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6. On my shopping lists (because that makes the lists look pretty but also because the picture draws my eye to the list when it’s on the ‘fridge, and I’m less likely to forget it on my way to the shops) 

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7. Prettying-up gift tags in my snail-mail bundles

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8. To decorate #thousandpostcardproject postcards

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9. In my notebook 

There are even stickers decorating my Macbook right now, though I haven't taken a photograph of them. That was five-year-old Scout's idea, but I do think it's kind of cute. 

How about you? I'd love to know if you have any ideas! 

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Five senses

For your ears:

Image credit: My Open Kitchen

Image credit: My Open Kitchen

The podcast My Open Kitchen. Oh my goodness! I only discovered this podcast very recently, when they (so kindly!) mentioned my blog and #mealsinthemail project in their Top 5 list on Episode 8 of Season 2. After I listened to that episode, I literally went back and listened to every episode of both seasons. The My Open Kitchen podcast is supposedly for primary producers - country growers and makers - but I live in the inner city and I still absolutely adore it. It's about slow-living, food and baking, gardening, and creative ways to connect and communicate through social media. If that sounds up your alley, scroll down the My Open Kitchen podcast and blog to find the show notes for each, which are full of useful links and also enable you to listen in (or of course you can subscribe in the usual ways on Androids and iPhones). Strangely, listening to this podcast has even helped me make my peace with the imminent arrival of spring and summer. Sort of. 

Also, an honourable mention has to go to Sara Tasker's podcast Hashtag Authentic, which re-started this week with Season 2. I included it in a previous podcast roundup, but just had to mention this week's episode, which was an interview with Tara Mohr. I always love Sara's podcast but didn't expect my response to this episode: I was in floods of tears while sorting the socks, and felt like a light came on inside my head about why I had been feeling and behaving certain ways. It's as though I saw things I couldn't un-see, and now I'm super motivated to take action! 


For your eyes: 

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I have two great reads to recommend today. The first is a cookbook by a lovely New Zealand lady with the enviable name of Amber Rose. (I mean seriously? Such a beautiful name!) The book is called The Wholefood Pantry and if you haven't come across it already, I highly recommend it. Basically, Amber takes us through how to make really wholesome, healthy, tasty pantry staples. The kinds of staples that most of us have bought from the shops for decades, but which can be made by hand and packed with so much more nutrition. Soups and broths, yoghurts, spice mixes, ferments, butters and oils, breads, jams... You get the picture! She also helpfully explains the why of using these ingredients and making these staples from hand. 

My second recommendation is Lunch Lady magazine. Probably you've already come across this Australian quarterly beauty but, if not, it is such a wonderful read. I have every issue and look forward to it with ridiculous, childlike excitement. Even the typography and graphics are cheerful and somehow welcoming, like a hug. There are quirky and nutritious family recipes; essays from parents that have made me laugh, or cry, or both; and fun, accessible, family-friendly activities. Like edible garden tips, how to make coloured pasta, a guide to mushroom foraging, and common trail signs used by woodmen and campers. 


For your mouth:

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Of course, that has to be Meals in the Mail right now. As I finally read through all the letters and recipes that people have sent me, my heart just swells. This project is about food but it's about more than food: it's about what that food represents - comfort, love, nostalgia, community... And this project is about mail but it's about more than mail: it's about connections, and travel, and cultures, and art, and the love, care, generosity and permanence of writing things by hand. 

Budget-wise I don't quite know how I'm going to make this book happen in a way that celebrates it the way it should be celebrated. I had counted on 20 to 50 recipes and stories, which I was going to photocopy and bind. Now I have more than 200 recipes and stories, many of them illustrated, as well as the beautiful envelopes they came in. The cost of printing this book is going to be considerable, and I am as short on the time it takes to successfully run a crowd-funding campaign as I am on the cash to just do it myself. However... I am determined to make this happen, and to make it as beautiful as I can see in my mind that it will be. I have my thinking-cap on. Watch this space! 


For your nose:  

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Even the simple act of breathing in deeply, and exhaling fully, is like a mini-meditation. You can feel your body relax. And now for the flavour - take a wiff of these:  

  • Pick a sprig of mint or rosemary and crush it in your hand
  • Coffee in the morning 
  • Stand near the ocean, close your eyes, and inhale
  • Bake bread. I once read a quote somewhere saying that parents of small children should bake a loaf of bread every morning: even if you get nothing else done that entire day, you'll have delicious bread to eat, and the whole house will smell great
  • Bury your nose into an old book
  • Go stand in the garden when it rains
  • Tip-toe into your sleeping kids' rooms before you go to bed, kiss them, and breathe in the smell of their warm hair and skin 

For your hands:

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Have you heard? I've made a downloadable colouring book! 

On the one hand it's a traditional colouring book, the kind you'd turn to for a spot of creative expression, and mindfulness. But what makes it different to most other colouring books out there is that every one of the illustrations is designed as an envelope template, so you can make it and post it off when you've finished. 

The idea is that this colouring book is not just for you, but for the people you care about, who will be surprised, touched and thrilled when they receive your colourful mail-art in the post. 

The downloadable colouring book will be available in October, in time to make and send mail-art for Christmas, Thanksgiving, or any other end-of-year mail you'd like to send. There are 60 illustrations, and the book is available for pre-sale now (currently on special for $17.95, down from $23.95, until Monday 11 September).  

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What to do with the green part of leeks

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Now that's a catchy title, isn't it. A poet I clearly am not! Anyhoo... 

Last week I made my favourite cauliflower and leek soup (with truffle oil - it is SO good. If you'd like the recipe, let me know and I'll share it on here). As always, though, I was left with the tough greens of the leeks, and no idea what to do with them.

But instead of tossing them away as I have in the past, this time I put the greens back into the 'fridge, then put the question to the Instagram community: "I made soup but what can I do with the green parts of the leeks?" 

As it turns out, quite a lot! In case you have the same question, following are some of the tasty suggestions I received. 


Fondue de poireaux (leek fondue)

This was suggested by @ninondanslenclos. She says, "Cut the leeks in small parts and let them simmer with water in a pan at low heat, until the leeks are soft. Also, you might replace some of the water with white wine and/or creme fraiche (French habits). Add salt and pepper depending on your preferences. I would advise to serve with white rice and chicken, or tofu for a veggie version." 

Chicken stock 

Food writer @estelletracy suggested using the green parts of the leeks when making chicken stock. There are loads of recipes for making stock online, this one looked good to me. 

Soup, stew or broth 

Similarly, @__roxana_nicoleta uses the green parts of leeks to flavour all kinds of slow-cooked things, including soup, bone broth, vegetable broth, and stew.

Steamed leaves 

As a simple but tasty-sounding idea, @thetallphotographer says, "The end bits can be tough but the paler bits are lovely steamed with garlic butter." 

Leek, potato & bacon pie

How delicious does this sound? From Denmark, @lineaswonderland shared the following recipe:  

Ingredients: 
Tart bottom (home-made or store-bought) 
3 leeks (or the greens of them) 
A pack of bacon bits
4 eggs
2 dl* cream
800 grams (28 ounces)
salt and pepper

Method:
* Set the oven to 250 degrees Celsius (482 Fahrenheit) 
* Peel the potatoes, cut them into small pieces, and boil them for 10 minutes
* Line the pie-tray with the tart bottom, and poke holes in the bottom with a fork
* Set the tart-bottom in the oven for five minutes
* Cook the bacon (@lineaswonderland suggests doing this in the oven to minimise greasy mess)
* Whip together the eggs and cream, the season with salt and pepper
* Clean, separate and cut the leeks into rings
* Put the bacon, potatoes and leeks into the pie, then pour over the egg and cream mixture
* Bake for 30 minutes  

*dl stands for decilitre. 2 decilitres are equivalent to 200 millilitres, or 6.8 fluid ounces


What do you think? Would you try these? Do you have any recipes or ideas to add to this list? 

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Just one thing (soap nuts)

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A month or two ago I decided to share a semi-regular post about "just one thing" I'm trying to do to lessen my impact on the world around me. Living in a more sustainable and considered manner is important to me, but I'm realistic about how difficult it is to make wholesale changes in life... let alone to drag others along for the ride if they're not on the same page. 

Last time I wrote about our family's adoption of beeswax wraps to replace cling-wrap in our house, and those are still going really well. 

In this post, I wanted to talk about a relatively-new discovery of mine: soap nuts. 

Soap nuts are actually dried berries. They have a very high percentage of saponin, a chemical compound found in a number of plants, and it is great for cleaning. Saponins remove dirt and oil from clothing when used with water (and the soap nuts even lather up like "real soap"). 

So about three months ago, I started to replace the laundry detergent we use with soap nuts. I was keen to find an alternative to our regular laundry detergent, for a number of reasons. (A number of reasons which I managed to make all start with the letter P, because that's how I get my kicks and clearly I need to get out more): 

PERSON: My son Ralph and I both have skin irritations to a number of laundry detergent brands. Apparently this is a common response to two rather toxic ingredients frequently found in laundry detergents: sodium laurel sulphates (used to makes bubbles and foam, but can strip the skin of its moisturising protective barrier); and zeolites (which enhance the lathering effect of laundry detergents, but commonly cause skin irritations). 

PREVENTION: A lot of commercial laundry detergents contain synthetic fragrances. Again, Ralph is prone to allergies, eczema and dermatitis, so avoiding petrochemicals and other nasties in the clothes that wrap him all day long is quite appealing to me. 

PLANET: The high sodium levels and alkaline pH levels in laundry detergents can be toxic to plants and waterways. Also, a number of commercial laundry detergents are tested on animals, and I'm keen to avoid that if at all possible. Soap nuts, on the other hand, are low irritant, not tested on animals (duh), and can be put into the compost after use. 

PRICE: A 500 gram bag of soap nuts cost me less than $30 to buy, and lasts approximately 200 washes. 

The first time I tried soap nuts, I admit to being verrrrry skeptical. It just didn't seem likely that a handful of sticky berries could make an entire load of laundry clean and fresh. So I decided to apply the most stringent test I know: Mr B's Nose. 

If Mr B has a super-power, it is his nose. The man can catch a wiff of something out-of-place in a room or on a person at 20 paces. Admittedly, Mr B is yet to learn how to fully hone his superpower. He's great at detecting smells, but not so great at identifying them. Exhibit A: Mr B walks into the playroom, sniffs the air, and announces "Oh no, I think the cat did a poo in here!" I produce a vase of fresh flowers and ask, "Is this what you smell?" Mr B looks relieved. "Oh yes, that's it."

But I digress. Bearing in mind Mr B's super-nose, I decided to replace our regular laundry detergent with soap nuts, without telling him. When the clothes were dry I inspected them for dirty marks (there were none), and sniffed them (they smelled fresh to me). But the true test was yet to come: I put them away in the drawers, and waited. 

I used the soap nuts to wash our next load of laundry, and the one after that. I washed, and I waited. 

My husband is not famous for holding back, so I knew that if at any stage he caught even the faintest waft of something not-quite-right, he'd complain. He didn't. When, after a month had passed without comment, I confessed my switch to Mr B. The response was a quizzically raised brow, but that was the sum of it. 

Some tips, in case you want to try soap nuts too

I've been using these little guys for about three months now, and here's what I've found: 

  • They're great for general washes, and get out dirt just as well as our laundry detergents. For each load, I put about four or five soap nuts into a little bag (which was supplied when I bought the soap nuts) 
  • I use cold water, and replace the soap nuts every three or four washes. Apparently you'll need to replace them more often if you use warm or hot water
  • They won't remove stains (a non-toxic tip I've learned is to dampen a stain with cold water, then cover it in bicarbonate of soda. Gently rub the bicarb soda paste into the stain, then leave it to soak in overnight. The next morning, rinse away the bicarb and then add the garment to your usual wash)
  • Soap nuts don't have 'whiteners' in them, so if you're looking for that 'light, bright' clean, you'll need to do some extra work. Apparently you can get this with vinegar, citric acid and other non-toxic products, but I haven't tried any of these yet so can't guide you on how they work
  • There are all kinds of other ways to use soap nuts, if you want to start experimenting. On the website for the brand of organic soap nuts that I own, there are recipes to use them to create a multi-purpose cleaner, cleansing bath, jewellery cleaner, shampoo, parasite prevention on plants, pet cleaner, and a hand-washing solution for delicates

So, that's my soap-nut story. How about you. Have you ever tried them? What are your experiences? 

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Thousand postcard project - lately

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Lately in the #thousandpostcardproject, I've been having fun sharing random and sometimes bizarre facts with the people I write to. For example, did you know that Dolly Parton once entered and lost a Dolly Parton look-alike contest? Or that elephants only get two hours of sleep a day? The people I'm sending my postcards to do, now. 

Meanwhile, the nondescript "West's Deluxe Motel" postcard in this collection had me wondering. Why did someone feel the need to mark the date on which they stayed there? (night of 8-9 June, 1968). What happened there? 

Giant trees. Everyone loves giant trees, throughout the ages. Ditto baby bears. 

And that big cow, staring down the barrel of the camera? There is a little printed message on the back of the postcard that says "YOUR TOWN HERE." As though any town in America would be proud to have a picture of a big cow representing their tourist industry. Or maybe it's a bull. Would that make a difference? 

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Dispatch from captivity

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Captain's log: Day Eight of captivity 

Our entire family continues as prisoners of a criminal gang known as The Flu. The gang took Ralph first and, while I was trying to rescue him, they nabbed me too. We were dismayed but not surprised to see Mr B and Scout join us two days later. 

Initially I thought Fever and Sore Throat were the gang leaders, although Fever hasn't been seen for about 24 hours, which is a small relief. He has left us in the unfortunately very capable hands of Cough, Congestion, Headache, Nausea and Fatigue, and they seem to take great delight in torturing us by turns. 

Early on in my captivity I tried escaping via hot drinks made with turmeric, ginger, citrus and raw honey, but Nausea uncovered my plan, and punished me with severity. 

At about Day Three I tried opening all the doors and windows to let fresh air back into the house, in the hopes that it might even blow some of the gang members away. In retaliation, Cough viciously set upon my children, and Sore Throat held a blow-torch to my larynx.  

The continued captivity is weakening my mind along with my body. I spent a week texting my father to see if his birthday present had arrived, only to discover it sitting still-unsent on my work-bench. I tried to do some drawing for my clients, but could not remain upright or hold a pencil for more than 10 minutes at a time. 

When the gang members work together to torment us, it is worst of all. They force us to lie down on couches under blankets, and watch endless back-to-back episodes of My Little Pony on Netflix. The makers of My Little Pony scoured the globe for the world's most boring pre-teen girl, then stole her diary and used it to make a TV show about multi-coloured horses with enormous bug eyes. Watching it is the most appalling form of torture. 

I have been informed by the grocery delivery-man that the apocalypse hasn't happened yet and that the world is still turning outside the four walls of our captivity, but only time will tell if we ever get to see it again for ourselves. 

If you find this, tell my mother I love her. 

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Meals in the Mail - a list and a mystery

During the past few weeks, I have slowly but surely started sorting through all the AMAZING letters I received via my Meals in the Mail project.

If you haven't heard about this, it's a simple art and community project, involving recipes being sent through the mail. It celebrates the stories behind our favourite recipes: the memories they evoke, the emotions they trigger, the traditions they observe, and the connections they represent. And it harks back to hundreds of years of people sharing their favourite recipes with people they care about, through the post. After all, a handwritten favourite recipe slipped in alongside a newsy letter is one of the simplest and most personal gifts to send in the mail.  

When I first launched this project (here), I promised to send a copy of the recipe-collection to everyone who participated. I expected to receive about 10 or 12 recipes, thought 20 would be a very respectable number, and secretly dreamed of having as many as 50. 

As of yesterday, an enormous pile of 209 recipes in almost 200 letters from all over the world had taken over all the available space on my workbench. They arrived in my PO Box with stories of first-love, comfort, nostalgia, family traditions, adventures, and many fond memories forged and shared across the kitchen table. 

In many cases, I was truly flabbergasted by the creativity and generosity of spirit that people put into making the mail they sent me. Thoughtfully decorated envelopes, illustrated recipes, and vulnerable, heartfelt words. 

Themes are starting to emerge, and I'm learning a lot. That brownies are one of the most popular foods for comfort and community... all over the world. That food and young love are frequently intertwined. That recipes are passed through generations and cherished like heirlooms. And that there's a special food and fond memory to go with almost every calendar event or milestone you can think of: Christmas, New Year, birthdays, new babies, graduations... you name it, there's a precious family recipe to commemorate it. 

Now the time has come for me to figure out how to turn all that beautiful mail and delicious food into a wonderful book that all of us will love to browse... and use. The first step is to sort through all the mail and stocktake what I have, to somehow categorise all the recipes, stories and art for the book. 

And that's where you come in. If you sent me a recipe and story, first of all, THANK YOU. Below is a list of all the recipes I have received so far, so if you have been wondering if your letter made it to me, take a look through this list (it is in alphabetical order by first names) to see if you are there. (Also, you can take a sneaky look at some of the recipes in this collection!)

Because this project is so much bigger than I had originally intended, I also need to be a lot more scrupulous in terms of ensuring I have written permission to use your recipes and all the beautiful artwork on your letters.

For this reason, although I hadn't originally asked for it, I'm now seeking some electronic way of contacting you. (This will also help if I need to clarify something in your recipe or story later on). Therefore if you see an asterix (*) next to your name on the list, will you please send me either your email address or Instagram handle? You can email them to me at hello@naomiloves.com

But first, the mystery. 

Did you send the letter in this picture, or do you know the person who did? It is so beautifully and thoughtfully made, but the writer didn't include a name or address. Only that they are from Dublin, Ireland. I would really love to include the recipe but first need to find out who sent it! Any help you could give me would be wonderfully appreciated. 

Onwards to the list (it's a big one!)...  


If you see an asterix (*) next to your name in the list below, please send your email address or Instagram handle to me at hello@naomiloves.com. If you don't see your name, it means your letter hasn't arrived yet. Don't worry! Until I actually start laying out pages, I can still fit it in.

 

*Abigail-USA-Split pea soup

*Alessandra-Austria-Strawberry curd cheese dumplings

*Allison-USA-Bubble Biscuits

Ally-Australia-Chocolate snowball biscuits

*Amanda-USA-Stone-fruit cakes

*Amber-New Zealand -Marmalade & ginger slice

*Amélie-France-Chili sin carne (vegan)

Amy -New Zealand -Honey chocolate pudding

*Ana-Maria-USA-Blueberry buckle

Anastasiya-Russia-Quinoa fresh salad

Andrea-Canada-Spaghetti sauce

*Anette -Germany -Ham ball

*Angela-USA-Chocolate orange truffles

Anne -The Netherlands-Penne with vodka sauce

*Anne Marie-USA-Dutch baby puffy pancakes

Annemarie-The Netherlands-Appelflap

*Annette-USA-Hazelnut torte

*Annette-USA-Buttermilk pancakes

Asher -Australia-Caprese salad

*Barbara-USA-Pineapple casserole

*Bek-Australia-Banana bread

Bekah-Canada -Chicken rice casserole & Chocolate chip cookies

*Bianca -Australia-Vegan crimson velveteen cupcakes

*Brandi -Canada-Chicken

*Brianna-Australia-Soy Sauce Beef

*Camille-USA-Pimiento cheese

Candice-Australia-Pumpkin & pip muffins

Caroline-Australia-Quinoa porridge

*Cassie-New Zealand -Bread

Catherine-Canada-Ginger ale

Cathy-USA-Gazpacho (tomato soup)

*Charlene-USA-Golden-crusted brussel sprouts & Strawberries and cream biscuits

*Charlotte-Australia-Scones

*Charlotte-The Netherlands-Cookies (koekjes)

*Charlyne -UK-Elderflower cordial

*Chelsea-USA-Pork Hash & Guinness bread

*Cheryl-USA-Pound cake

*Cindy-USA-Gluten free scones

*Claire-France-Ratatouille

*Claudia-Germany -Bread rolls

*Constance-USA-Divinity lollies

Deanna-USA-Chili

*Desirée-USA-Sopapilla

*Diane -USA-Cheese Enchiladas

Donna-USA-Tomato pie

Dora-Italy-Chocolate cake

*Elise-Australia-Mock Chicken & Golden Syrup Dumplings

*Elizabeth-USA-Back country pizza

Emilia-Finland-Country cookies

*Emma-USA-Peanut butter cookies

*Estelle-UK-Petit Pot (crème aux oeufs)

*Faith -USA-Guacamole

*Flavia-Brazil-Brigadeiro (chocolate truffle); Beifink; Lemon mousse; Caipirosca

*Gabriela-Brazil-Brazilian Cheesebreads

*Georgina-Australia-French mushrooms  

*Georgina-Australia-Passionfruit and white chocolate cheesecake

*Grace-Singapore-Braised ginger chicken

*Grazia-Italy-Orecchiete con le aime di rapa; & Seppie e pieslli

Harshitha-Australia-Mint/Pndhing Rice

Helen-UK-Lemon Cake

Helene-France-Sunny salad

Imogen-Australia-Fruit cake

*Inez-France-De oliebol

*Ingrid-France-Ice cream pops with granola

*Ioana-Romania-Polenta; Waffle cake; Mosaic roll

*Isabelle-USA-Granola

*Jackie-Canada-Tomato salad

Jaimee-New Zealand -Apple dumplings

*Janae-USA-Chocolate zucchini cake

*Jane-Germany -Cherry Streusel Cake (Kirschstreuselkuchen)

*Jannie-USA-Biscuits (cookies)

*Jean -USA-Indian tacos

*Jenny -Australia-Trifle

*Jessica -Australia -Brownies (caramello)

*JJ -USA-Vegan ice-cream

*Jo-Australia-Fish pie

*Jo -Australia-Pastie

Joanne-Australia-Pineapple upside down cake

*Joanne-USA-Alma's hot dog hors d'oeuvres

*Jodie-USA-Gallette cookies

Jodie -Australia-Chocolate cake

Joelle-Singapore-Jelly hearts; Cantonese egg whites; Smiling sesame balls

*Joy-UK-Victoria scones

*Judith-Australia-Chocolate cake

*Julia-Australia -Fruit cake

Julie-UK-Meat Loaf

*Julie-USA-Crazy Chocolate Cake

*Justine-Australia-Oatmeal slice

Karen-Australia-Muesli

*Karen-USA-Spicy Apple Pancakes

*Kari -USA-Rice casserole

*Kate-Australia -Chicken & corn soup

*Kate-Russia-Mushroom & potato casserole

Katherine-Australia-Greeny goodness soup

*Katherine-USA-Salad dressing

*Kevin-USA-Jezebel Sauce

*Kim -USA-Cranberry apple cake & Danish pastry

*Kimberlee-USA-Raspberry almond shortbread cookies

Kristina-USA-Pasta salad

*Kristy-Australia -Chicken bake

*Laicy-USA-Caramel top rolls

*Lana -USA-Cheese straws

*Laura-Canada-Satay marinade

*Laura-New Zealand -Brownies

*Laura-USA-Chocolate chip cookies

Lee -Australia-Remembrance biscuits

*Lena-Greece-Summer jello

*Levenia (Vena)-USA-Tea cake

*Lindy-Australia-Cheesecake

Linea-Denmark-Brownies

*Liza-Australia-Nutritious Notella Biscuits

*Lorilee-Canada -Portzelky

*Lorraine-UK-Parkin cake

*Luisa-Australia-Gnocci

Mandy-USA-Issan (Thai)-style chicken on a stick

Mandy-USA-Thai cashew chicken

*Marcia-Australia-Sumatran egg curry

*Maria-Australia-Arroz Caldo (Filipino chicken porridge)

Maria-Canada-Greek Koulourakia (sesame cookies)

Mariana-Germany-Königsberger Klopse

Marianne-New Zealand -Kanel bullar (cinnamon buns)

Marianne-New Zealand -Kartoffeln & Quark

Maryann-South Africa-Aleem soup

Maureen-New Zealand -Cheese puffs

Maxi-Germany-Waffles

*Maya-USA-Grilled peaches

Mel-Australia-Chocolate avocado muffins

*Melayna-Canada-Cod with tomatoes & leeks

*Melissa-Australia-Christmas trifle

*Melissa-New Zealand -Sago & Coconut Pudding

*Melissa-USA-Special K Bars

*Melissa-USA-Baked spaghetti; caramel apple dip; and carrot cake

Merilee-USA-Butter cookies

Michaela -USA-Gooseberry apple pie

Mikulcza-Hungary-Scottish butter cookies

Miya-Austria-Brownies (olive oil & sea salt)

*Mrs VG-UK-Impossible pie

*Nance-Myanmar-Cocktail

*Nancy-USA-Funnel cakes

*Nancy-USA-Choc marvel cake

*Nanette-The Netherlands-Brownies

Natasha-Australia-Carrot cake

Nicolé-Germany-Wild salmon & potato casserole

Niki-UK-Sausage casserole

Nivea-USA-Pesto

*Noni-Australia-Flake dessert

Nuala-Australia -Vietnamese spring rolls

Paisley-Canada-Lavender loaf with lemon glaze

*Pam -USA-King Ranch Casserole

Pamela-USA-Zuccini flower casserole

*Pamela -USA-Black bottom cupcakes

*Pen-UK-Sweet potato & chilli soup

Philippa-Australia-Chocolate slice "mudflat"

Pia-Germany -Zitronenkudren (lemoncake) von Oma Helene

Pia-Germany -Honey & walnut cake

*Pippa-Australia-Gingernuts

*Raelyn-New Zealand -Spaghetti with pesto & smoked chicken

*Reagan-Canada-Caesar salad dressing

*Rebekah-USA-Banana bread

*Renee-USA-Shortbread cookies

*Richelle-Canada-Buttermilk biscuits

Romulus-USA-Caramel popovers

*Rossetta-USA-Blueberry banana cheesecake

*Roxane-Cyprus-Apple cake

*Sally -UK-Butterpie

*Sandra-Australia-Weetbix slice

*Sanna-Finland-Shaked cucumbers

*Sara-Austria-Abelones Havrekugler

*Sarah-Australia-Mince porcupines & Lime coconut cheesecake

Sarah-Singapore-Stir fried udon noodles

*Sarah-UK-Rhubarb gin

Sarah-USA-Date Nut Pudding

*Sarah -Australia-Lemon drizzle cake

*Selise-Australia-Dhal

*Sheila-USA-Bosc Martini

Sheila-USA-Pear shrub cocktail

Sherry-Canada-Brownies

*Shirley-USA-Balsamic strawberries

*Shreya -USA-Chingri Macher Malaikari

Sol Anna-Uruguay-Chocolate roll

*Sonya-Australia-Dark Chocolate Brownies with salted caramel

*Susan-USA-Chocolate crinkles & Butterscotch Lace cookies

Suzanne-UK-Courgette & lime cake

Tashana-New Zealand -Lemon drizzle loaf

*Tori-Australia-Cookies

Tori-USA-Vegan strawberry donuts

Tracey-Australia-Tarte tartin

Xin -Singapore-Chicken & mushroom baked rice

*Yam-Spain-Pa amb tomata (bread with tomato)

*Zara-Australia-Hedgehog

Zhao-China-Stir fried tomatoes and eggs

 

Thank you thank you thank you to everyone who has taken part in this project. It has become something extraordinary and very precious to me. 

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Natural cold remedies from the pantry

Last month was pretty much the busiest month I've experienced in my life. I was so busy, I was getting up at five and going to bed at one, or two, or three, every night.

Day after day, night after night, I worked, and rubbed my stinging eyes, and coughed up dust from the renovations that were also going on around me. Mr B start a new job so he also was ridiculously busy. We barely saw each other except to sigh and to say "This life is crazy!" as we passed each other, bleary-eyed, in hallways at dark hours when ordinary people should be sleeping. The house became filthy. I can't even begin to tell you how filthy. 

And, not even remotely surprisingly, I caught a cold that I couldn't shake. 

When the symptoms just wouldn't let up, and I was denied the best remedy of all (sleep!) I put out the word on Instagram to see what other people recommended when it came to natural remedies for sore throats, stuffy noses, sinus headaches and general funkiness.

The advice was so helpful (I'm all better now!), and entirely achievable with a handful of ingredients from the pantry, that I thought I'd share some of the remedies with you, and painted some little illustrations to show them some love. There is nothing toxic in here, and no brand names, just nature's own cold-busters and immunity-boosters. 

@michellecrawford suggested a Turmeric Tonic by Meghan Telpner: juice together ¼ cup of fresh ginger root, ¼ cup fresh turmeric root, one peeled orange, and one peeled lemon. Mix 30ml (1oz) of this mixture together with a cup of hot water. (Keep the rest for later). Stir in raw honey, ghee or coconut oil, and sip. Repeat every two hours.

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@ohmabeldreams suggested a mixture of honey, lemon, and apple-cider vinegar

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@plantivorousrex said sopa de ajo (Spanish garlic soup) was the way to go for a cold-fighting meal. I found this recipe on SBS. 

@plantivorousrex also recommended making an onion poultice to relieve congestion. I found this recipe from Sarah on The Healthy Home Economist: Chop and lightly saute two onions and in a splash of water. The onions should be lightly cooked, but not browned or caramelised. If you want to, add in ¼ cup of grated ginger. Carefully drain the onions (and optional ginger), and spread them out in the middle of a tea-towel. Fold the long sides of the tea-towel over the onions, then fold the ends over that (wrapping it "burrito style," Sarah calls this).

Making sure it is not too hot, place the onion poultice either on your chest, or on the souls of your feet, and leave it there for 20 minutes. Productive coughing should follow. The poultice can be gently reheated in the microwave and reused throughout the day, with a fresh one made every 24 hours or so

@rhibe said to eat raw garlic mixed with honey. "It is rough but always works for me."  Similarly, @justordinaryfolk recommended chopping up a raw garlic clove, then swallowing it down with a drink

@lydiaswildlifeart made hot orange drinks to fight colds: squeeze two oranges in a cup with two teaspoons of honey, then add hot water

@finevandewinkels suggested a mixture of freshly-grated horseradish and honey

Another recipe from @finevandewinkels was a drink made by mixing ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and honey with warm milk 

@beekeep.visitingwildflowers suggested mixing ginger, lemon and honey with a pinch of cayenne pepper. I'm not sure from there how it should be taken, either down in one gulp, or stirred into a hot water drink. Your thoughts? 

@dottyteakettle said "I swear by the curative properties of a powerful veggie thai green curry - hot as you can stand - made with lots of garlic, ginger and chilli." Here is a recipe from Jamie Oliver

@ofsimplicity suggested grating fresh ginger into a cup of tea, or just hot water, and adding a squeeze of lemon

@a.little.adventure shared a mixture that she said was disgusting, but helped: Mix cider vinegar, grated ginger, chopped chilli, garlic, and lemon juice together, then drink as shots

@onething_atatime shared her family's traditional recipe for a cold tonic. "My mum is Sri Lankan... this tonic was from her grandfather and best when drunk at that first tickle in the throat," she advised. Into a dry pan put 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds, three cloves, and a one-inch piece of fresh ginger. Roast them over medium heat until the oils begin to release and the spices become fragrant, but do not burn. Now add another one-inch piece of ginger, this time finely sliced, and about 300 millilitres (just over one cup) of water, and boil vigorously for a minute or two. Strain the tonic into a cup, and add honey to taste. 

If you make a double batch you can top up the spices with boiling water and let them steep for the next time you need them, refreshing each batch about four times with water. The steam vapours are also good for clearing out the nose. 

@nadaelfaham recommended this practise for a sore throat: squeeze a lemon onto a tablespoon of honey without water. Do not swallow it right away, but try to keep it still for two seconds on your throat to make a fine coating. @nadaelfahm also suggested a ginger-lemon infusion - let it cool before adding honey. 

How about you? What is your go-to natural remedy for colds? 

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The Wonderland Postage-Stamp Case

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While I was researching content for my letter-writing and mail-art course, I discovered that Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, was also a bit of a mail fan.

In 1889 he invented "The Wonderland Postage-Stamp Case," a little case with 12 separate pockets in which people could keep stamps of different denominations.

A really simple time-saver I recommend people do is to buy stamps ahead of time, and just keep them at home. First of all, this means you can go to the post office when it is quiet, and avoid all those lines. Also, it means you can be spontaneous, to write and send a letter when you think of it, before the moment passes. Yesterday we had some guests to our place at lunch. So last night after dinner, I quickly wrote thank-you cards to all of them and, because I had my stamps with me at home, the letters are ready to go into the post box this morning with no extra effort from me. 

It seems Mr Carroll had the same idea. He said he invented the stamp case because he was "constantly wanting Stamps of other/ values, for foreign Letters, Parcel Post, &c.,/ and finding it very bothersome to get at the/ kind I wanted in a hurry."

The beautiful little outer-envelope comes with an engraving of Alice holding the Queen's crying baby (not found in the books) but, when you slide the case out, she is now holding the pig. The back of the envelope has an engraving of the Cheshire Cat but when you slide out the case, it begins to disappear. 

"If that doesn’t surprise you, why, I suppose you wouldn’t be surprised if your own Mother-in-law suddenly turned into a Gyroscope!" Carroll says. 

The stamp case was sold with a little booklet called "Eight or Nine Wise Words about Letter Writing." Carroll gets very worked up about the date, insisting that people include the full date at the top of their letters, rather than just the day and month, and (heaven forbid!) never simply write "Wednesday." Apparently only ladies do this (!!), and, "That way madness lies."

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