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Thursday, 20 March 2014

Need coaching when you leave the Military?

Liz Abram is a coach and Simply Staffordshire member. She specialises in coaching those who are leaving the forces and entering a whole new world outside the military. Please enjoy her guest blog post and pass on to your friends and family who may need support.

I came to coaching three years ago after a successful career of my own in the RAF, followed by many more years as an Army wife running my own business before my husband finally left the Army in 2012. (Hooray!)

I now concentrate on working with service leavers, either preparing them for the military resettlement process, or working with them as civilians who may not have got what they needed from their resettlement and who find themselves lost and stuck as a result.

This is what I can do through coaching:

  • Get you thinking in a new, resourceful way
  • Help you identify what you REALLY want
  • Focus on how to get there
  • Guide and support you
  • Plan, do and review your progress
  • Equip you with tools and coping strategies
  • Get you on track for a fulfilled and exciting future
  • Help you achieve the salary you deserve

The best thing about being a coach is helping others achieve what they want out of life. It’s a brilliant feeling to be instrumental in someone else’s change for the better, and to see them flourish as a result of the coaching process. It is privileged and rewarding work.

So, if you fancy redesigning your life so you can achieve better balance, improve your prospects, earn more money and have more time for yourself and your family:

Call me on 07763 064689, email me on liz@lizabram.co.uk or visit my website: www.lizabram.co.uk to see more

Monday, 3 March 2014

What's in a photograph?

Please enjoy this guest Blog from our member business owner, David Gough of David Gough Photography...some insightful thoughts on using great photography in your business... 

The idea that a picture is worth a thousand words goes back over a century and it still holds good today. Photographs are everywhere, from giant billboards to the small thumbnails in your Facebook account. They are so commonplace we hardly notice them, unless they stand out.

One obvious way they stand out is by their absence. Have you ever read a blog post, article, or advertisement without any photographs at all? They tend not to be so eye catching and the words have to work harder to gain attention, whereas a good photograph included along with your words gives them a lot more impact.

Another way for photographs to stand out is by their quality - or their lack of quality. A photograph lacking in quality has a quieter voice and doesn’t add as much weight to the message. If the quality is really poor it can become distracting and starts to tell a story of its own. Such things as poor focus, poor exposure, background clutter, and strange items growing out of people’s heads - lamp posts are a favourite - all detract from an image.

One thing that quickly gets my attention is a crooked horizon, they really jump out at me unless it is obviously been done for deliberate effect. Maybe that’s just a photographer thing. I once spent a while taking a long hard look at a poster at an airport. Was I interested in the product? Not really, and I can’t remember exactly what cosmetic it was advertising. It was a great portrait though and I was looking at the lighting to work out how the lights had been used to achieve it. In much the same way someone who makes delicious food will be working out what ingredients went into a dish eaten in a restaurant while on holiday. The average person will either like the food or not, the expert digs deeper.

The average person sees the subject in their camera viewfinder, whereas a more experienced eye is also looking at the other things in the viewfinder - the things that shouldn’t be there, how the light falls, the degree of focus, the relative weight in the overall composition, and how the colours work together. That photograph you see as a nice shot may even be the result of several images combined together to make a single image.

So what makes a good photograph? Well like the thousand words it tells a story and, like the products you are trying to sell, requires the same care and attention. Maybe your story is about your product, or it could be about the service you provide for your customers. It could even be the story of you working and the many careful stages you go through to make your work particular work of art. A chef might want photographs to illustrate a new menu. A carpenter might want to show the hand-crafted nature of his work. A holiday home owner would want to show her holiday let in the best possible light and make it feel warm and inviting. Well-produced photographs can tell your story more clearly and echo the words in your advertising rather than fight against them.

If you would like to find out more about how photography can tell your story please give me a call.  Contact details are below and on my web site www.davidgoughphotography.com. And if you are a Simply Staffordshire member check the current offers on www.simplystaffordshire.co.uk to see what discounts apply.

Footnote: Are you are new to photography, or maybe struggling to work out all the controls on that nice new camera you got for Christmas? Perhaps you are disappointed in the results you get from photography despite your best efforts. If this describes you consider spending either a half a day or a full day with me as your photography coach. Share the cost with a friend if you wish. These sessions will be tailored for you and the type of photography you want to do. Call or email for details. 
David Gough Photography

t: 07977 142146

Friday, 24 January 2014

As January passes...a plan for 2014

The start of the New Year feels fresh and full of possibility, especially after the excesses of Christmas. I always find though, as January rolls on, that despite your best efforts, things can feel a little drab or flat. We are neither in the grips of a crisp white winter nor in the light of some spring hope just yet...so how to manage the passing of January?
For me it is about focussing on plans and dreaming of brighter days. It is also very much about accepting that humans hibernate of sorts too and it's ok to snuggle in, make delicious warming  frugal food while plotting fun times ahead.
Naturally I am in the business of ensuring those fun times are to be had in Staffordshire and for me it's about simple pleasures like a picnic, a walk somewhere new, discovering a new place to visit or a great cafe with top cake.
During 2014, there will be lots going on in Staffordshire to commemorate the Great War of 1914-18. Despite a long time resident of Staffordshire, there are parts that I have yet to become familiar with. The commemorations will be the perfect excuse for me to discover new corners of Cannock Chase, the site of troop training grounds, cemeteries historic landmarks. I also plan to take my off spring to the National Memorial Arboretum to help them better understand the sacrifices and stories of the war and the part Staffordshire played in it.
You can find information about the activities and events happening in Staffordshire from the following links, including where to stay, how to plan a trip and when to visit the county in 2014.

  1. www.staffordshiregreatwar.com - This is the council's website, bringing together events and trails in Staffordshire.
  2. www.learnorganicgardening.co.uk - a beautiful Edwardian garden in Brocton on the edge of Cannock Chase offering garden tours  Edwardian high tea...a perfect way to finish a day of exploring.
  3. www.simplystaffordshire.co.uk - a hand picked guide to Staffordshire highlighting places to eat, stay and visit during a visit.
  4. www,thenma.ork.uk - the National Memorial Arboretum website full of information about their activities and events during 2014.
So, pop some soup on & your feet up and have fun making your 2014 plans in Staffordshire!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Fairytale Beginnings...hello 2014

Ok - so 1st New Year's resolution is clearly to post on my blog more than every few months! We have been so busy at Simply HQ that posting about our life here in Staffordshire has ended up at the bottom of our list!
So to start the year in proper fashion, I decided to share our New Year walk with you...a magically muddy affair that thankfully finished with a warming drink in the pub.
Our walk took place around the village of Alton - deliciously quiet at this time of year. Along with a large selection of children, dogs & tired adults, we started at the top of the village and dropped down onto the old railway line at Crump Wood. Even in the early afternoon, the valley floor had started to milk over with gathering mist and crossing over the Churnet felt a million miles from civilisation.
To avoid the risk of the walk becoming mundane or clean, we then took a detour up to Ina's Rock over the old canal and horse bridge. The climb was steep enough after a week of eating, drinking and sitting but we were rewarded with the a break in the clouds and warm sun on our faces to help our gasping at the top.
We eventually worked our way back down over rocks and under vegetation gathering several muddy bottoms along the way to be greeted with this image on the meander to the pub...truly a magical sight of Alton Castle filling the new year with promise and mystery.

For more musings & mysteries - Staffordshire style, please stay tuned and we promise more posts will follow!
Happy New Year to you all from Emily at Simply HQ xx

Sunday, 13 October 2013

How to make a Sticky Toffee weekend treat...

As previously mentioned in this Blog, my cooking repertoire is often limited by a lack of time, elevated stress levels & boys...however today I made a NEW recipe! I attempted a Sticky Toffee Pudding to take to a supper with friends and thought I would share my journey and some some sticky top tips along the way!

So...Sticky Toffee Pudding...dates, brown sugar, butter, brown sugar, dates, eggs, flour & brown sugar...best served (in my humble opinions) with thick double cream but could tolerate custard or vanilla ice cream. I am picturing deep brown, moist bricks of cake covered in a lake of shiny, sticky toffee sauce followed by an overly full feeling of heaven.

In my research for a top recipe, I realise that the Sticky Toffee Pud is a hotly contested subject...Nigella had a quickie version - not authentic enough? Mary seemed to offer a classic although I didn't have coffee essence (?!?). Gordon's was too tricky and the Hairy boys seemed to have a random amount of dates in theirs so I did my own!

Here it is....

100g softened butter
200g pitted dates, chopped
150g dark brown sugar
175g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
175ml hot water
2 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 170C or Gas Mark 5 and prep a square tin (about 18-20cm accross) by buttering and lining the base.
Beat the flour, sugar, butter, baking powder, eggs until smooth. Stir in the chopped dates and then add the hot water. This will seem odd and create a batter like thick cream...but it does work!!
Pour the patter into the tin and wiggle the dates about a bit to evenly distribute them. Bake for 45 mins until risen and bouncy on top.
125g butter
175g dark muscovado sugar
6-7 tbsp double cream
Slowly melt the butter and sugar until fully melted and the sugar has dissolved. Take the pan off the heat and pour in the cream stirring quickly...you will have the perfect shiny sauce to pour over squares of pud. Serve warm with cream, custard or vanilla ice cream....

Monday, 19 August 2013

Cool Summer Cooking

image thanks to BBCGoodfood - my picture was awful, but their recipe was great!

I wish I was something of a great cook who creates hip & cool morsels in my kitchen but I am not. Simply, I am a slightly harassed 40 yr old mother to sons of the age that requires carbohydrate, IV style, about every 2 hours. I love food (& have the thighs to prove it) and feel in my head that I know about food. I am quite a good cook, I grow (well I sow, neglect & gather minute portions of) vegetables, I am bothered about where my food comes from and I know my way around a chickpea. However, the reality of my daily culinary existence is anchored firmly in the realms of pasta, potatoes, couscous & rice. Don't get me wrong, I make a mean fish pie and I reckon Jamie, Nigel and Hugh would love my risotto, but I think my downfall is the atmosphere in which I cook.
Picture the scene....a lovely, light, sunny kitchen diner with a view over the garden down to my office. There is my favourite wisteria hanging, untamed, round the kitchen window and French doors. There are open shelves housing my recipe book collection - even including some Elizabeth David and lots of Nigel. What you will need to add to this image in your head are the added ingredients that reduce a delicious risotto, being made with a glass of wine on the go while listening to some vintage Brucie, to a vat of sloppy carbs, made far too fast........
Firstly an extremely small window of opportunity to create the meal of your dreams. I work for myself, so am always halfway through another email at the bottom of the garden, when I realise with horror that the magic 5 has come & gone. There is a boy marching purposefully down the garden with a familiar face. It is a little pale, cross & determined. "Mum...when is tea ready? I'm hungry....". B**ger....
Secondly, another boys lopes (older) down the garden and says "Mum, football practice is on tonight. We need to be there by 6". Rats....
Thirdly comes the most sole destroying bit. Despite every effort, I am not one of those parents that plans a weekly menu. I have a vague idea of things I might cook in a week. Unfortunately this list is usually created in my woolly head and is mainly based on what I made last week. Dullness ensues as I look bleakly into my fridge and try to remember those days when I had time to plan a meal remembered from an article I read in the weekend papers (ha!) Dullness is followed quickly by a surge in heart rate...panic descends as I start to shout randomly about getting changed, finding football boots and goalie gloves.
Finally I start chopping onions in the hope that inspiration will follow, which it doesn't and I make risotto again.
So...the reason for the title - Cool Summer Cooking?? Well today I had time and today I rediscovered some previously lost foody mojo and created pea & mint soup, chickpea & spinach curry. Tomorrow I plan courgette & feta patties & a cake! Saturday was home made "in front of the telly" nibbles of lemon thyme Italian cured sausage, olives, home made falafels with minty yoghurt dip, pittas and houmous...delish...
Thank you summer for finding me just a little time for some cool cooking....

Sunday, 11 August 2013

The very best of Staffordshire - Soiree Food meets Forestside & Tinkers Bells...

Wow - it has been a while since I last blogged. We have been very busy with the launch of our brand new directory search options making it even easier for you to find great places, people, businesses, workshops and places to stay in Staffordshire. Not only that, but it will let you create a network of top local businesses that you can call upon to create a great event, holiday, celebration and much more.

To inspire you, please read on to this guest blog from one of our hand picked members, Soiree Food, who recently worked with two of our other members to create a fabulous, unique and truly special Hen Weekend in Staffordshire....
Tinkers Bells tent...

Great News from Soiree Food.

I am very pleased to tell you about a successful evening! The weather was just perfect. The clients greeted me with a kiss, they were having such a fab time. When I delivered my hot box full of goodies including Morroccan Lamb, chicken breast stuffed with sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella and basil wrapped in Parma Ham and Chargrilled Vegetable Lasagne. Crunchy roast potatoes and Greek salads were also added to the feast! Is your mouth watering yet??
The campsite, Forestside on top of Marchington Cliff, played host to this with stunning views. The accommodation was provided by Tinkers Belles in amazing bell tents. A perfect combination of Simply Staffordshire member businesses working together to create a great Birthday event! 
The next morning I received wonderful feedback from the guests who said "It was simply perfect". 

I am now holding small private Soirees in the Pods at Forestside as a "Dining Experience" if you wanted to stay over I'm sure Tinkers Belles could be arranged!!

A Soiree evening at Forestside Campsite....
Don't forget to find the very best, hand picked businesses in Staffordshire, please visit the Simply Staffordshire website today!