How to make chocolate olive oil mousse

My protagonist, Kate Spence, makes a batch of these chocolate olive oil mousses in a scene in my new novel (working title Happy Ever After). It’s one of those scenes, you know, the ones where the story changes direction, and these little mousses are partly responsible for that change.

My daughter, who has never read a word I’ve written – and probably never will – nevertheless agrees that these have the power to create a change in direction. They really are that luxuriously good.

The recipe comes from Nigella’s At My Table, but I’ve also experimented with adding some orange rind to the melting chocolate. It makes the finished result a little like a Terry’s chocolate orange.  I’d encourage you to play around with them. I haven’t tried it yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if chilli wouldn’t also work – just a touch, mind you.

These are quick and easy to make, but I’d urge you to make sure that you use the good olive oil in them – you know how you have your cooking olive oil and the one you use for drizzling? It’s the drizzling quality one that you want – just not too peppery. I know, I’m getting picky. You also want to make sure that your chocolate is the good stuff – 70% cocoa solids – and have your eggs at room temperature. Oh, and sea salt flakes – don’t be tempted to use the stuff in your salt shaker.

You need to pop them in the fridge to set for at least 20 minutes, but if you’re making them ahead, it’s best to have them at room temperature to eat. You want them to be smooth, not hard set…if you know what I mean.

Finally, because they’ve got raw egg in them, don’t eat them if you’re pregnant or immune challenged…I’m sure that you know the drill about raw egg.

One last thing – I know I’ve only just finished posting my wellness goals for 2018, but these are quite rich so a little bit really does go a long way…

What you need

150g chopped dark chocolate

100ml extra virgin olive oil

4 large eggs, separated

50g caster sugar

sea salt flakes

What you do with it

Melt the chocolate in the way you normally would. I do it in the microwave at 30-second intervals, but you can also do it over simmering water if that’s the way you normally do it. However you do it, take it off before it’s completely melted and stir until the last of the chocolate is melted. Leave it to cool for about 10 minutes and then stir in the olive oil.

Whisk the egg whites and a pinch of sea salt until you get firm peaks. As old as I am I still love turning the bowl upside down over my head to make sure it doesn’t fall out.

In another bowl whisk the egg yolks, caster sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt until it’s pale and fluffy and almost doubled in size.

Gradually pour the chocolate and olive oil mix into the eggy mix and fold until it’s all combined. Now take 1/3 of the egg white and fold it in. You can smash this about a bit until it’s all smooth, but you’ll need to be gentler with the rest – which you’ll do in two more batches.

Once it’s all folded through and there are no white streaks, spoon it into your ramekins or espresso cups. I also put some into a sherry glass – just so I can have a taste.

 

Salmon Fishcakes

With apologies to my Scottish husband, I’ve long held a belief that the Scots invented whisky to make haggis more palatable – or to make you forget that you’d eaten it. Yes, I know there are plenty of people out there who like haggis – my husband is one of them – but I am not. Regardless of the reason behind it, the Scots do whisky well – in fact, I consider myself just a wee bit of an expert on the subject. The Scots also do salmon – and that’s what this post is about.

Salmon Fishcakes

These are, I think, the best salmon cakes ever. Dead easy to make and seriously good to eat. We had them with some steamed curly kale and a vegetable stock based butter sauce, but they were equally as good the next night (or lunchtime) with a leafy green salad and a dollop of aioli (as above). You could also, if you wanted, posh them up with a creamy noilly prat sauce. You’d definitely need the kale then to cut through the richness.

Anyways, you need equal quantities of salmon fillet and mashed potato. I used 450g of each. The mashed spud is just done the usual way with a little bit of butter and milk. As for the salmon, we’ll be roasting this, so preheat the oven to 230C and grease a roasting tin that’s big enough to hold the salmon fillets. Oh, before I forget, don’t forget to pin-bone the salmon – we’ve all seen that Masterchef episode where a bone has sent someone home. Don’t bother to skin it – it’s easier to do this after it’s been cooked.

Dot about 25g butter over the salmon, drizzle over 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, some salt and pepper and 1 long red chilli that you’ve de-seeded and diced finely. Bake the fish for between 5-8 minutes – you want it to be a little under-cooked in the centre. Once it’s out of the oven, let it stand for 5 minutes and then flake it.

Put the mashed potato into a bowl and stir through 4 tablespoons of finely chopped spring onions (just the white part – I used the green leaves to flavour a chicken stock for the best ever cock-a-leekie soup…but that’s another post entirely), and 3 tablespoons of chopped flatleaf parsley.

Add the fish and mix it through.

Dust your hands with flour and shape the mixture into patties. If you keep them about palm size, you should get 8. I like them a tad smaller than that.

Pop them onto a tray lined with greaseproof paper and freeze for an hour or so – until they are solid enough to handle.

To finish the fishcakes, do what you’d usually do to crumb something – set out some flour in a shallow bowl, a couple of eggs whisked in another, and some panko breadcrumbs in another. Dip in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs. If you want, you can freeze them at this stage. To cook afterwards, you’d need to bake them in a low oven (150C) for about 45mins.

If, however, you’re cooking now, simply fry them in sunflower oil (or whatever you have – just not olive oil) for 4-5 minutes until they’re nicely golden.

Serve with green veg or salad.

It’s a Wrap – January 14, 2018

Ok, the first weekly wrap for the year…and I have a couple of weeks to cover, so without further ado…

What I’m grateful for…

Not being in Sydney for those disgusting 40+ days. I don’t miss them at all. The weather guys have been calling it a heat wave here, but other than yesterday and today (36 today) it’s been in the early 30s.

What I’m reading…

I’m completely out of my genre comfort zone at the moment with a Jack Reacher novel – and I can’t put it down. It’s my first Lee Childs and I don’t think it will be the last…but having read it, I just don’t get the Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher thing.

What I bought…

These fabulous Turkish earrings for $8 from the Sunshine Coast Collective markets this morning.

What I blogged…

Heaps…despite being back in the corporate gig! I got up to date with all my annual goal posts. You’ll find my business plan here, my word for the year here, my wellness goals here, and my creative goals here.

For Thursday’s Lovin’ Life linky I also posted something on self-care and I popped up a recipe for corn and ginger soup…just because.

Over on the Sunny Coast site, there’s something on two new coast foodie offerings – Saltwater and Nguyen Brothers.

What was weird…

This sky last night. It preceded a cracker of a light show.

Where we lunched…

Secrets on the Lake at Lake Baroon – down the back of Montville. Set in a rainforest on a lake – yeah, the name was a bit of a giveaway – it was a few degrees cooler than on the flats. I think it’s to do with all of that green.

Where we breakfasted…

Ok, we’ve been eating out way too much over the past week or so.

On Friday, it was #bennybagels at Hashtag Phresh

 

Yesterday it was avo smash at Winnie in Woombye

and this morning it was pitaya bowls at Winnie’s big brother, Little Boat Espresso at Marcoola.

What’s pitaya? I’m glad you asked. Essentially it’s dragonfruit and is served much like acai is – in a sort of frozen smoothie bowl with granola, fruit (in this case mango, shredded coconut, banana, kiwi, strawberries, apple and oranges). It’s said to have much the same health benefits as acai and is rich in magnesium, antioxidants and a handful of other vitamins.

Plus, it’s PINK…in capital letters…so is yummy and pretty.

What I cooked…

Ok, I’ve been giving the cookbooks a workout of late too. I turned the fabulous corn that we got at the markets last weekend into corn and ginger soup – with more kernels in the freezer for next time. If you’re interested, the recipe is here.

I also made these super easy chocolate olive oil mousses from my new Nigella cookbook. Oh, how I like a new Nigella. I’ve made these a few times now and mucked about a bit with the salt flakes and adding orange rind. I’ve also experimented with chilli. Anyways, they’re very cute, very rich, and I’ve scheduled the recipe to post on Tuesday, but you can find the original Nigella version here.

Last night I made a batch of dragon wings with a cooling avocado dipping sauce. You can find that recipe here.

Finally, inspired by the fabulous fishcakes and aioli at Saltwater, we had salmon rissoles/fishcakes/call them what you will for lunch today. (I’ve posted my recipe for these before – you’ll find it here). I topped them with the easiest aioli recipe in the world – also from my new Nigella book. There’s none of that whisking and drizzling in of olive oil – everything just goes in the jug and is jooshed about a bit. Done.

How I moved…

Ok, there was some indulgence over the weekend, but other than that my body has been treated like a veritable temple. Seriously.

I got back into my morning walks (photographic proof is up on the Sunny Coast site), and on a couple of mornings started earlier so I could have a dip in the surf as well.

I did two sessions of strength training at the gym, and I went lap swimming for the first time in about 7 years. That 50 m pool seems so much longer than it ever used to! I managed just 10 laps – but I guess that’s a start.

What I didn’t expect…

My hair to turn green, but turn green it did from the chlorine – a very manky, mouldy looking green. I think I must not have been as blonde as I am now when last I was swimming regularly.

How was your week?

 

 

 

How to make corn and ginger soup…

Ok, I know that corn is one of those starchy vegetables that’s probably best moderated, but I absolutely love it. Plus, it’s in season now – I bought four huge  – and I mean huge – cobs the other day at the markets for $3.

I was going to make sweetcorn fritters for breakfast with them, but when Sunday morning came along I couldn’t be faffed. Instead, I stripped the cobs off the kernels and used half of them in this soup. In case you’re wondering, the other half has gone into the freezer for when I can be bothered to do the fritters.

One of my favourite dishes in the world is really good Chinese takeaway sweetcorn and chicken soup. I like making it at home too – to avoid the MSG and seriously salty aftertaste – but Miss 19 doesn’t like the gloopy texture from the cornflour and eggs.  She does, however like this one.

You’re seasoning this with shaoxing wine and soy sauce so it still has a vaguely Asian taste to it, but is much lighter in taste and texture than the Chinese takeaway version. Plus, you get the fabulously sunny yellow from the corn still shining through.

We had some stock left over from when we had Hainanese chicken rice the other night, so that went in as well and added another layer of gingery flavour – I usually add a knob of ginger, a heap of garlic cloves and the green spring onion ends to the water I poach my chicken in.

Anyways, to the soup…

What you’ll need

  • 2 cups corn kernels
  • About a tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 clove of garlic, grated
  • 1 litre chicken stock or water
  • Finely sliced spring onions – about half a cup
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (sometimes it’s spelt shao hsing)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (or to taste) – use tamari or gluten-free soy sauce if you’re gluten intolerant
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 or 2 finely sliced thai chillis – if you have them lying around and want to spice things up a tad…purely optional

What you do with it

Heat some vegetable oil (we use rice bran oil) in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the ginger, garlic, spring onions, and chillis (if you’re using them) and stir-fry for a minute or so, before tossing in the corn and doing the same for another minute. Pour in your stock (or water) and bring it to the boil. That’s pretty much it – except for the seasoning ie the Shaoxing, soy sauce and salt and pepper. Simmer for another 5 minutes or so and you’re done.

If you want to make it look a tad more spesh, drizzle over a couple of drops of sesame oil, sprinkle some more sliced spring onion, and maybe toss in some chopped coriander.

To take it to another level, add some sliced poached chicken into the bowl before pouring the soup over it. That turns it from lunch into Sunday dinner.

 

 

 

Self-care and resistance training…

At the best gym in the world

This post was supposed to be about why I hate the gym (and why I’m going anyway), but I’ve since decided that it’s actually about self-care – self-care in terms of really looking after yourself. The self-care that’s often overlooked in the name of self-indulgence.

It’s a concept that has kept coming up of late. Debbish referred to an article she’d read in this post late last year, and since then that same article has kept appearing in my feeds.

Have a read of the article – it rang heaps of bells for me. The key message I took away is that true self-care often involves doing the thing that you least want to do:

Sometimes actual self-care, “has very little to do with “treating yourself” and a whole lot to do with parenting yourself and making choices for your long-term wellness.”

It’s about putting in place those structures that mean you don’t need to escape your life as often as you might need to now. It doesn’t mean that every so often you don’t need to take time out or treat yourself, but rather that you don’t need to do it as often – or at the long-term expense of your health or goals.

I haven’t always disliked the gym…

I used to be quite the addict. You name a class, I’ve done it. I even used to double up – a pump followed by a step or combat…or vice versa. I can still listen to certain songs and will automatically know the steps from the old body step track or the rhythm of the pump track.

I stopped in my early 40s when a combination of injuries, weight gain, work travel, weight gain, work stress, weight gain, and chronic back pain took me away from the routine of classes. Actually, the chronic back pain started after I stopped – and stopped me from starting again.

I still moved. I walked and spent endless boring hours before work on the treadmill and cross trainer. The only time I had to exercise was before work and I decided that if I had to get to the gym by 5 am, I certainly wasn’t going to get up at 4.30 am to do something I disliked before heading to a job I disliked as well.  So, I ignored resistance training – even though I knew that I shouldn’t – and my pain got worse.

As we get older we need to do more resistance training.

Cardio is important, but there’s also that business about bone strength and maintaining muscle mass and how metabolism slows when muscles lose their mass. Yep, it’s technical and it makes my eyes glaze over too.

Aside from those reasons, I personally need to do resistance training to support a wonky back that’s always been wonky but is now more so as a result of too many years of doing too little to help it and too much to hurt it.

While I’m in substantially less pain than I was in Sydney, my spine has structural issues that need to be managed. It’s curved in a couple of places and I’m missing a few ribs and a couple of half vertebrates.  There’s also a couple of healed cracks in there from horse falls…don’t ask.

It’s something I’ve dealt with my whole life and managed relatively successfully until my early 40s – which was, you guessed it when I stopped swimming and resistance training…and when I started putting on (rather than lifting) serious weight.

They say that the best exercise for you is the one that you love…

That’s absolutely true. Regular movement is what’s important.  The problem is, I’ve spent the last 7-8 years doing only the exercise that I enjoy and ignoring what I know will be good for me.

While walking does my mind and my body a heap of good, I know that while it helps, it’s no longer enough on its own to keep my back strong.

That’s why even though I don’t enjoy it, in the interests of self-care, I’m adding resistance training back into my regular routine. I’m continuing to walk in the mornings – that’s non-negotiable – but I’m committing to the gym at lunchtime on at least two of the days I’m doing the corporate gig.

It doesn’t mean I have to like it, but I’m going to try and learn to enjoy it. I have a great playlist that I turn up very loud, and I’m just getting on with it. It’s a tough love thing and, while my mind might rebel today, my body needs it for tomorrow.

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.

2018: The Creative Goals

I fell sadly behind on my writing goals last year. I’d planned to publish another two novels and also two astro ebooks – and sell loads of them – and it just didn’t happen.

I drew up my production schedule and, because I didn’t pin it anywhere, promptly forgot about it. I told you the other day how my attention to detail and focus is a tad like Dory’s didn’t I?

That doesn’t, however, mean that 2017 was a lost cause…

What I wrote in 2017

I wrote most of the first draft of I Want You Back – about 60,000 words worth – before ditching the lot and starting again at the end of April. The story just wasn’t working. You can read the post here.

I’ve instead split it into three novels. I’m calling it the Careful What You Wish For mini-series. I Want You Back is the first, then I’ll do Tiff’s story and tie everything up with Alice – completely wrapping up what I started with Baby, It’s You.

That essentially put me about four months behind schedule and I finally completed I Want You Back towards the end of last year. It’s been re-worked, edited, copy-edited and proofread. All it needs is a blurb and some formatting. Don’t ask me why I haven’t released it yet because I wouldn’t be able to give you an honest answer – and that’s mainly because I don’t know myself.

While I was figuring out the story I also wrote a good chunk of Tiff’s book and a few chapters of Alice’s.

Finally, on the novel front, I used nanowrimo to write the first 60,000 words in something new and more grown-up. It has the working title Happy Ever After, but I daresay that will change. If you’ve ever wondered about the trials and tribulations of writing and publishing a novel, I’m blogging it weekly…well, there was a break for Christmas and I’ll be back with an update next week. You can find all the old posts here.

In addition:

  • Between this site, and anyways and the astro site, I wrote over 350 blog posts.
  • I wrote a 3000-word feature article for Wellbeing Astrology on mid-life transits and,
  • I spent most of April and some of May writing 2018 horoscopes for the astro diaries I contribute to.

That’s a lot of words.

What’s in store for this year?

  • Release I Want You Back on all the normal platforms
  • Complete and publish Happy Ever After – or whatever it ends up being called
  • Complete and publish the Tiff book
  • First draft the Alice book
  • I’ve set aside November for nanowrimo and the first in a cozy mystery series I’ve been wanting to write for ages – The Rambling Rose Mysteries. It will be set in Queenstown and brings back Max and Richie from Wish You Were Here – as well as a whole heap of other characters.
  • I’ll also finally package up blog content from the astro site and pop it into a series of ebooks
  • I’ve built in 3 weeks in April and May where I won’t be doing any writing at all. I’m off to France with my husband to visit a friend and have a mosey about…maybe for more ideas? This will be the first decent stretch of time I’ve taken with no writing commitments in I can’t remember how long.

Because I can’t help myself I’ve mapped it into a project plan of sorts. This year I’m printing it out and pinning it where I can’t miss it.

Naturally, dates etc will be dependent on my editor’s and cover designer’s availability, but I tend to hit a certain percentage of a target, so I might as well make the target a big hairy-arsed one!

What about you? Do you set writing or creative targets for the year ahead?

2018 – The Wellness Goals

In line with my word of the year heart, my wellness goals this year are aimed at heart health – improving it, healing it, making it sing:

  • Healthy body
  • Healthy mind
  • Healthy relationships

As a result of some extreme and sustained stress and anxiety in 2015/2016, I experienced high blood pressure – at one point dangerously high blood pressure. I’m an asthmatic and the medication I was placed on reduced my heartbeat to a level where I literally couldn’t breathe. Instead of feeling as though my heart was beating out of my chest, I felt as though my lungs were carrying a lead weight. My fitness disappeared overnight and climbing even a short flight of stairs left me breathless.

Although the doctor (eventually) changed my medication, I’m not on any at the moment and a pharmaceutical fix is absolutely not a long-term solution for me. Although our lifestyle has changed over the past 12 months, there’s no doubt that my weight is continuing to place stress on my heart.

This year is about healing both the physical and emotional hurts I’ve inflicted on that poor organ over the last few years. In short, I need to lighten up – in mind, body and spirit.

Healthy Body

1.Alcohol

Ok, I drink too much alcohol. My one glass a night has crept up to ½ a bottle a night – and more on weekends. It started as a way of managing the anxiety of my job and the crap storm that was happening elsewhere in 2015/2016. It was my way of winding down and numbing the events of the day – yes, my job back then really was that stressful.

Even after I left that job in July 2016, there was other stuff happening, long commutes, and…you don’t need the details. Suffice to say, I continued to self-medicate and de-sensitise.

These days that’s pretty much going straight to my belly with no nutritional value at all. I don’t intend giving it up completely, and would like to say I’d go alcohol-free during the work week, but in the interests of being nice to myself, will limit my midweek drinks to one glass of red a night – and not one that looks like this!

2. Water

At the other end of the spectrum, I’m slack on my water consumption. This is a problem as my body is one of those that tends to hold onto water. In the summer or on long flights that means my ankles become cankles by the end of the day. Then I spend all night back and forth from the loo to pee it all out again. Too much information?

My heart needs more water to do its job properly, so more water is what I’ll give it.

3. Nutrition

Generally speaking, we eat well. We eat and cook seasonally using fresh ingredients. I gave up sugar (including hidden sugars) a number of years ago – with the notable exception of the above-mentioned alcohol – but my portion sizes are too large (remember what I said in my word post about boundaries?) and although I never eat after dinner, I tend to snack in the late afternoon. This really is a mindfulness thing, but the changes I intend to bring into 2018 are:

  • Smaller portions
  • Meatless Mondays
  • No snacking
  • Reduce wheat and gluten – good sourdough can be my once a week treat

4. Exercise

 

I’ve fallen off the daily walk wagon in the last couple of weeks, but up till then was walking 5 km most weekday mornings.

As for my gym membership? I haven’t set foot in the place since November, so strength training simply hasn’t happened and everything is very floppy. Sadly, the opposite is true of my joints. I used to pride myself on my flexibility, but that’s non-existent these days.

In the interests of doing things that make my heart sing rather than groan:

  • I’ll re-commence my morning walks, but add in a longer one once a week. I’d like to set myself some sort of challenge to work towards, but am not there yet.
  • I’m getting back into the pool. I swam most of my life – until a boxing-related shoulder injury some years ago. It’s time to get wet again.
  • Although I hate it with an absolute passion, I do need to get to the gym and do some strength work.
  • Yoga. I spend a lot of time sitting on my bum, so need both my body and my mind stretched.

Healthy Mind

 

I still struggle with anxiety – those moments that consume my brain with worry and make my heart race, especially at night. As a result, my sleep patterns are less than ideal – alcohol helps me get to sleep, but it also leads to disturbed sleep.

I have to find ways of coping and switching off that don’t involve alcohol. I also need to learn how to let go of the things I can’t control – lighten the load my brain copes with. I spend way too much time worrying about what other people think and trying to control that.

These tactics should help soothe my mind:

  • Morning walks help me deal with the corporate gig and get my day off to a good start, and are integral to my mental health. Walking beside the ocean soothes my mind and makes my heart sing. In addition this year:
  • Swimming along a black line has always been an active meditation for me. It’s the main reason I’m hitting the pool this year.
  • I’m giving meditation a whirl and also recommencing a yoga practice after many years of absence. I’m starting with just 10 minutes a day…surely that’s achievable?

Healthy Relationships

This year marks 29 years that hubby and I have been together, and 24 years married. It’s easy to take each other for granted over that period of time. In a busy life, one on one time takes a back-seat.

In view of that, I’m suggesting we have regular beach walks together – it will help his heart too! – and a date night (or lunch) once a month.

While the three of us eat our evening meal together at the dining table with no telly, I’ll be reinstating the Saturday night specials – where I prepare a more elaborate or special dinner with music, candles and proper table settings. It’s something that we used to always do but has slipped over the years.

Ok, those are the goals…I’m joining with a group of bloggers to check-in monthly in a Wellness Wednesday style post. Wish me luck!

[inlinkz_linkup id=757950 mode=1]

2018: The Word

Although I don’t always achieve as much as I set out to achieve, I am a goal-setting junkie. Every so often I think I should throw the goals out the window and just let it all be and flow, but I know myself a tad too well for that to work:

  • I have major issues with boundaries – I have no idea where they start or end. It’s why I can eat mindlessly whatever is on my plate and, also why I set myself deadlines – without them, I’ll drift on and on.
  • I’m a tad like Dory when it comes to focus. This meme literally is me.

  • I have a tenuous connection with reality and can successfully convince myself – in the absence of evidence to the contrary – that anything I want to believe is true can be so. This is great for when I need to believe that anything is possible, but not so good when I’m confronted with an expanding waistline. I truly admire those people who can manage their weight through the fit of their clothes. Nope, unless I see it on the scales it isn’t happening.

Why I set goals

Without goals, I drift and achieve absolutely nothing. I need the discipline and structure that a goal brings in order to get anything done. As far as I’m concerned, the stretchier the goal the better – that way wherever I end up landing is way further than I would be if I’d aimed too low.

It’s like how I always leave the bottom ¼ of a cup of coffee or tea – no matter the size of the cup. I’m the same with goals. If I aim high I’ll tend to get most of the way there, whereas if I am low, I’ll tend to get most of the way there. Same same but a very different result.

Word of the year

Further, I need a focus point. Something that’s front and centre that reminds me every day why I’m doing what I’m doing. Over the last few years, I’ve had a word of the year to help me do that:

2017 Adventure

2016 Awesome

2015 Fearless

This year? I faffed about with SIMPLIFY and hubby suggested a phrase: What’s Important?

While both were great suggestions, it felt more like a way in which I’d approach my goals, but not necessarily words to guide me this year.

I thought long and hard about HEALTH. It really fit what I want to achieve this year:

  • Healthy body
  • Healthy mind
  • Healthy relationships
  • Healthy business

Then I decided that at the base of each of these four primary goals is one thing:

HEART

I’ll blog my wellness and creative goals separately, but at, sorry, the heart of each of my goals, will be this word. My priorities this year will be to do things and be with people that:

  • improve the health of my heart
  • lighten the load on my heart
  • heal my heart
  • contribute to the happiness of my heart
  • make my heart sing

Do you do a word of the year? If so, what is it?

 

2018 – The Business Plan

Here at The Hungry Writer, my business partner (Kali, Adventure Spaniel) and I have been busy doing some future planning.

We’ve been brainstorming, whiteboarding and thought balling. We’ve tossed around ideas, set some blue sky targets, taken a helicopter view of the situation and gone for a stroll through the blame garden. We’ve confronted the variables of our economic landscape and recalibrated our thinking in terms of our client base moving forward. We’ve looked to reposition our offerings in line with the goals underpinning our mission statement and with a view to nurturing and cherishing our ongoing commitment to excellence at every level. Outcome focus as a means of achieving positive deliverables within a realizable factual matrix. We’ve drawn a line in the sand and we have some clear visions regarding future-proofing the company and generating passive income.

Kali in planning mode

What does this mean? I poured a wine and started to write some stuff down. Kali alternated between snoring and wagging her tail encouragingly. By the time I finished my wine, I had a business plan for 2018.

Vision Statement

To be a financially successful independent author.

3-year strategy for focused growth

  • Increase product offering
  • Increase independent income to day job levels
  • Do more speaking at conferences and workshops

5-year strategy for focused growth

  • Continue to increase product offering
  • Increase independent income to mid-six figures
  • Be known as a successful writer

Values – my WHY

Success, for me, is defined as living (or being) the following values:

Freedom

  • The financial freedom to travel, explore and create
  • The professional freedom to choose and pursue my projects

Independence

  • The financial independence to build my own income and success
  • The professional independence to work with teams of my choice

Make a difference

  • Fiction: To be known as an author whose books provide a happy ending and whose stories make a bad day feel better
  • Astrology: To provide readers with the tools to expand their potential and increase their good day ratios

The Challenges

  • I have good traffic and social media presence on the astro site – am currently ranked in the top 50 astrology sites – but have no product to sell.
  • I have products to sell as The Hungry Writer but have limited traffic to the site and limited awareness of my books. It surprised me recently when regular visitors to my page via the weekly links were unaware that I’m an author.
  • I work 3-3.5 days a week in a corporate gig, so time to create needs to be tightly structured.

My Priorities: 2018 in focus

Double the number of products offered for sale.

Currently, I have 7 products for sale:

  • Baby, It’s You (Amazon)
  • Baby, It’s You (ibooks)
  • Big Girls Don’t Cry (Amazon)
  • Big Girls Don’t Cry (ibooks)
  • Wish You Were Here (Amazon)
  • Wish You Were Here (ibooks)
  • Wish You Were Here (Ingram Sparks print on demand)

In 2018 I’ll:

  • Release I Want You Back on all platforms
  • Release (working title) Happy Ever After on all platforms
  • Package and release six astro ebooks for sale on Amazon.

Double business income year on year and keep an eye on the numbers

Despite fiction being responsible for over 80% of my cost base, it accounts for just over 22% of my writing income – the remainder comes from freelance astrology commissions. This needs to begin to even out.

Just as I monitor the numbers on the websites, I have to take my head out of my own arse and do the same with book sales. Monthly.

Work smarter

  • Traffic on both sites responds to new content (see graphs below), but this is time-consuming to produce, so I need to be smarter and more focused on my content offerings
  • Repackage where possible (astro posts)
  • Develop a calendar for blog posts and batch post and schedule in advance once a week to maximise time I can spend creating content that will be income producing in the future

Increase email list- both astro and fiction lists

  • Develop a schedule for newsletters – and stick to it
  • Develop a “lead magnet” for each brand to grow mailing lists

Increase general brand awareness

  • Draft list of potential speaking topics and begin actively seek out opportunities
  • Develop press releases for all new fiction
  • Begin developing networks in Sunshine Coast and Brisbane
  • Increase traffic to The Hungry Writer – target is 40,000 views in 2018. It was just on 30,000 in 2017.

  • Increase traffic to Jo Tracey Astrology to 500,000 views (it was just over 400,000 in 2017)

Checking in…

I’ll check in on progress on a quarterly basis – sort of like my own mini CEO roadshow.

What about you? If you’re an author (indie or traditional), have you planned how you’ll grow your author business this year? What’s your ‘why’?

 

 

Fraser Island

Lake Mackenzie
Lake Mackenzie

The last time we came to Fraser Island was in May 1994 – a day trip from Surfers Paradise where we’d been honeymooning. Yes, that long ago.

I remember bits and pieces from that day. I remember the guide telling us that rubbing our jewellery in the pure sands of Lake Mackenzie would restore them to sparkling glory and I remember how I was thinking smugly just how bright and shining my week old wedding ring was. I remember the green of Central Station and I remember how terribly long the day was. Mostly, though, I remember thinking how much I wanted to come back and stay for a few days.

Since we’ve been in Queensland I’ve had fantasies about camping and four-wheel-driving up there – forgetting that:

  • I don’t really like camping
  • we have no camping equipment
  • Our RAV4 is not exactly equipped for serious off-road

Instead, we booked a mini stay at Kingfisher Bay Resort – and a 4WD Beauty Spots tour with Fraser Explorer Tours. After seeing the softness of the sand and the number of people in real 4WDs who were running into trouble in it, we definitely made the right decision.

Lake Mackenzie

The photos of this place on Instagram are amazing (check it out at #lakemackenzie) and although we weren’t lucky enough to have a clear shot of the lake as isolated as it is in those shots, it’s still mighty beautiful.

Lake Mackenzie is a perch lake – so called because the lake is “perched” on top of a sand dune. There’s no water source into or out of the lake – it exists purely on rainfall.

The water is held in place by a waterproof lining of decayed plant matter that has settled over many thousands of years. What’s even more fascinating is that there are only 80 or so of these perch lakes on the planet – and 42 of them are on Fraser Island.

The water is slightly acidic and the sand is white. It’s so clear that you can easily see the colour gradients as the depth increases.

Central Station

Fraser Island was heavily logged from the 1860s (when the originally gazetted status of Aboriginal reserve was revoked) until the early 1990s.

For a time, a thriving logging community was at Central Station. Nothing remains of that today.

We took a short walk through the valley, following one of the silently flowing creeks back to its sandy source. Speaking of which, the sand acts as a giant sponge – and filter. Rainwater is stored in the dunes, and gradually pushed downward and squeezed out by the pressure of the sand. What emerges is clear, fresh water.

The Pinnacles

The coloured sands of The Pinnacles have been formed by minerals leaching from the sands over hundreds of thousands of years.

pic by John

Of course, the Aboriginals have a much more interesting story about how the sands were formed. Their story is one of love and a rainbow serpent:

(It) tells of Wuru who was promised to an older man Winyer but fell in love with Wiberigan (the rainbow).  The older man threatened revenge after witnessing Wuru visiting Wiberigan on a daily basis.  Seeing her alone one day he chased and threw his boomerang at her..calling for Wiberigan help he stood in front of her and the boomerang of Winyer shattered the rainbow which spilled colour into the sand cliffs of the area.  Wuru escaped unharmed leading to the women of the Butchulla tribe believing that the coloured sands gave them luck that day.

The Wreck of the Maheno

The SS Maheno was on its way to a Japanese wrecking yard when it ran aground in a cyclone in 1935. It’s been on the beach here ever since. If you want to know more about the history of the Maheno, you can read about it here.

The back is a tad messy from where it was used for bombing practice in WW2, but that just makes it even more photogenic.

Eli Creek

Eli Creek is the largest of the free-flowing creeks on Fraser Island and pours up to four million litres of clear water into the ocean every hour. Yep, you read those numbers right. The same temperature (ie cold) all year round, the current is so strong that the best thing to do is follow the boardwalk upstream and then float down.

The day we were there (the last Saturday in December) it was seriously mobbed. So many 4WDs, so many people, so many flamingo and unicorn floats. I languished in the cool water so took no photos, these ones are courtesy of randoms from Instagram – obviously taken on a day much less busy than when we were there!

Where we stayed

There are two resorts on the island – Eurong Beach Resort (on the Western side of the island and accessed from Rainbow Beach) and Kingfisher Bay Resort (on the Eastern side accessed from River Heads). Other than that, there are also plenty of places to camp.

We stayed at Kingfisher Bay Resort in hotel style rooms overlooking the lagoon. I’ve always wanted to stay here and absolutely wasn’t disappointed. Our room had tea and coffee making facilities, but we brought a picnic bag and esky with us in the car and made our own brekky etc in the room. (Foot passengers are restricted to the amount of luggage they can bring in.)

The resort does have some self-catering villas – which we’d probably look at next time – and there’s a general store selling basic produce and supplies. Prices are inflated – mainly because we are on an island and everything has to be brought in by barge. There’s also a don’t miss photo gallery – a fab shot of Lake Mackenzie is now on our wall.

There are a few restaurants attached to the resort – although given the crowds and the time of year we were there (between Christmas and New Year) it would be unfair of me to review any of them. I’m sure that the food, the perceived value and the experience is different outside of peak times when both the crowds, the heat and the cost is inflated.

Getting there

…is half the fun. We brought the car over on the barge from River Heads – which is 20km south of Hervey Bay. It’s an easy 50-minute crossing, but a tad weird how you drive off onto the long and narrow jetty. The barge takes both cars and foot passengers and can be booked via the resort. We also checked into the hotel at River Heads – something that meant on arrival all we needed to do was pick up our keys and hit the pool.

The verdict?

We’ll be back – but preferably in the off-season when it’s cooler and quieter…and with a real 4WD to explore some more.

Have you ever been to Fraser Island? If so, what was your experience?

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.