March 31, 2007

Weekend cooking - homemade vegetable soup

The thinking behind my soup
I didn’t try to make soup for many, many years. In fact, I only made my first pot about 2 years ago. Then I realised that you really can’t go wrong and I became much, more creative. So while I wrote down exactly what I put in this time, I usually just throw add vegetables in any amounts! It sounds vague because it is.

Money-saving tip
If you can see that you’re not going to get to use vegetables before their use-by date, and you don’t want to waste any (like me), toss them in a Ziploc bag and into the freezer. You can always use them in soup as the quality doesn’t matter because it will be liquidised anyway.

I like to have a protein in soup so that it’s a complete meal once you add a bread roll. So I added lentils. If you are using it as a starter, then you don’t need any protein and you probably don’t want it as thick as this one is. Just add more water until you’re happy with the consistency.

200g onions
220g carrots
200g marrow
100g spinach
410g canned tomato & chilli
400g lentils (cooked)
Tomato stock cube
1 tablespoon garlic
1 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste)
Worcester sauce
2L water

Heat a few millimetres of water (or 1 tablespoon of oil) in the pot.
Leave the pot on very high heat and add the onion and carrots. Cook through for about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic (you don’t have to add such a lot but I do because we’re going into winter and garlic is good for the immune system).
Then add the rest of the vegetables except the tomato.
Dissolve the stock cube (you can use beef, chicken or tomato – I like tomato) in some of the water.
After another 5 minutes, add the stock and the rest of the water to the pot.
Reduce heat, add the can of tomato and cook through for about 30 minutes.
Add the cooked lentils and the Worcester sauce (I didn’t measure – a couple of shakes of the bottle?).
At this point before you liquidise, check that there’s enough salt and pepper, to your family’s taste.
once you’re happy, pour the soup into the liquidiser until smooth.

Serve with a wholewheat or garlic roll!

This made 9 portions of about 300g.

Here are all my containers for the freezer!

March 26, 2007

Spring reading thing

As with many bloggy things, I am late to the party but better late than never, right?!

Anyway.... Katrina over at Callapidder Days is hosting a Spring Reading Thing. Yes, that's exactly what it's called - it's not me just being lazy.

Okay, so it's autumn in the Southern Hemisphere but I'll take any excuse to be OCD about reading.

The challenge runs from 21 March to 21 June and basically you decide on all the books you'd like to read during this time, list them on your blog and start reading. You can write reviews along the way if you want to but that's not necessary.

You already know that I'm weird and I set reading goals every month. Well, I chose 6 fiction and 6 non-fiction and I know I'll have no problems getting through the fiction but I'm very fickle with non-fiction - it's usually whatever takes my fancy. I usually read 7 every month so should be able to do 21 in total but my focus is on getting through the non-fiction so it could be less than that.

So! These 12 are the ones I'm committing to and the others will just be whatever my spontaneous self wants to read!

There's an Amy Tan, a Tess Gerritsen, a Douglas Kennedy and I really need to get through the Seed Handbook. That and a lot of the other non-fiction books have been on my bookshelf for about 2 years, if not longer!

Go over and visit Katrina to check out the full list of those participating in the Spring Reading Thing

Book review
Just between us - Cathy Kelly
I already keep a list of all the books I read and the date I finish them, so I'd already started this one by 21 March.

I finished that one last night. I usually enjoy Cathy Kelly's stuff very much and this one didn't disappoint. She writes really big books (600+ pages) so you can get really involved in the characters and almost live the story with them.

This is about a family with 3 daughters - all grown-up - and their individual stories. Not everything is as it seems on the surface with them and with their parents.

Very nice read and I give it 8 out of 10.

March 23, 2007

Daily steps for success

I consider myself tagged by Ali.

"Compose a new blog post listing the top 5 to 10 things that you do almost every day that help you to be successful. They can be anything at all, but they have to be things that you do at least 4 or 5 times every week. Anything less than that may be a hobby that helps you out, but we are after the real day in and day out habits that help you to be successful."

These are some of the daily things I do that result in my success.

1. Drink lots of water
In 1998 one of my goals was to start drinking 2L of water daily. The first two weeks were horrible but then when my body adjusted, I found that I loved it. And that has been part of my daily routine for the past 9 years. I really believe that’s one of the best things I do from a health point of view.

Of course, since March last year I’ve been eating 5 fruits and veg so that could be another good habit.

2. Say “I love you” daily
I tell Dion every day that I love him, and that he’s gorgeous and talented and cute. I joke with him that we need at least 13 hugs and kisses daily (I don’t know where I plucked the number 13 from) but it’s true. This is one of the ways we have a successful relationship.

3. Schedule and plan my day
A schedule is just a plan of how you intend your day to go. It doesn’t always work out and I can guarantee that it will never go 100% as you planned BUT it is better than having no plan at all. You know the old saying, “people don’t plan to fail; they fail to plan”. True. My days definitely go better with a plan and my faithful to-do list.

If you haven’t already read it, read my “Eat the frog” article and be sure to download your to-do list.

And if all else fails, ask yourself, “what’s the best use of my time right now?”

4. Read a lot
One of my mottos for life is “so many books, so little time” and now recently “so many blogs, so little time”. I have to read every day – that is absolutely not-negotiable.

I have a reading goal of 7 books every month – 5 fiction and 2 non-fiction. Sometimes I get carried away and skip the non-fiction totally. I’m adventurous like that. LOL

Anyway, I really believe that leaders are readers, and I always want to be learning something new. I worked with someone once who used to be shocked at the amount of money I spent on books – for work! And I remember saying that if I learnt just one principle to save me 10 minutes a day, it would be worth it. That’s my approach to reading – I just want to get one thing out of it. And usually I get stacks, judging by all the post-it notes sticking out.

5. Take a genuine interest in people
In my youth (!) I just seemed really curious about things but of course now, as a coach, it serves me very well. I am a very curious person and I do genuinely take an interest in people. Those of you who take the time to email me (thank you) will know that I like to fully engage. When I ask “how are you?” I really want to know. I think this is key to my success, not just as a coach, but as a human being. In fact, I often won’t totally open up to people if I don’t feel that they actually care.

6. Move on quickly
By this I mean that I’m very forward-focussed. If something happens, I try and learn from it quickly and move on. Dion says “too quickly sometimes”. I try to always look for the upside to situations.

For about two years, I manually sent out my newsletter. Then when the website launched, I sent everyone an email to click the link. I did it properly with reminders and so forth but I still lost probably about two-thirds of my subscribers. That’s a lot! I then said to myself that the people who made the move with me probably are meant to receive my stuff. See?

Okay, there you have it. I could write a lot more but I don’t want to bore you to tears before the weekend.

Now, what are your daily action steps for success?

If you’ve coached with me or come to a Discover Yourself workshop, you know that one thing I always ask you to do is define your own success. So in terms of this exercise, don’t think of success only in terms of work, finances, etc. Instead, think of your whole life.

If you have a blog, please post the link in the comments. And if you don’t, just type straight into the comments.

Just a quick reminder that the Simplify your life e-course starts this Sunday. Read more and book your place. Please send me an email once you’ve booked so I can add you to the distribution list.

March 18, 2007

A first for me

I had my hair professionally coloured for the first time ever yesterday. Call me cheap but I just can’t justify spending R400/ US$55 on a colour (and that’s before a cut or blow dry!)

Anyway, the stuff I’ve been doing at home has not been “taking” very well so I decided to treat myself at Dion’s fabulous hairdresser. She is must cheaper and knows what she’s doing. And her style matches ours (very task-structured and punctual).

After all, I wanted to look as FAB as I could for our Drab to Fab next week.

Look closely at my earrings in this picture. Ali made them and gave them to me when she and Rico visited me on Christmas Eve. Aren't they beautiful? Thanks again, Ali.

(Ali, I realised why I was always wearing orange in the Thailand pictures. It’s because I usually pack one theme of colours when we travel, so that everything matches with everything else. And I have noticed that it’s usually the autumn colours, like orange, brown and green.)

And in other news, while we were in the area, we stopped at an Oregon pine wood store where I saw and immediately fell in love with a beautiful sideboard. If I’d had my camera, the picture would be up here.

I intended to only go back in 6 weeks’ time (next hair appointment) to buy it. However I’ve already planned exactly what will go in the drawers, on the shelves, etc. Can you see I’m in love?

I don’t think I’m going to last 6 weeks!

Weekend cooking - pizza pancakes

As you know, there are only the two of us, so when I make pancakes, I generally use 1 – 1 ½ cups of flour. My usual thing with pancakes is a ratio of 1:1:1 as in flour: eggs: milk/liquid.

1 cup flour
1 egg
1 cup fat-free milk
(use as much vegetables as you like – the actual recipe calls for green pepper but we don’t eat peppers so I skipped those)
About half a cup of cheese (or more, if you like)
Salt & pepper & Italian herbs, to taste
Oil for frying
A tomato-based sauce for spreading – I used the All Joy pasta sauce (I love, love, love these sauces)

Mix the flour, egg and milk.
Add the vegetables and cheese.
Heat the oil and fry the pancakes.

I tried lots of ways to do this because I don’t follow cooking directions very well (except for baking – which I follow religiously since Nigella mentioned that baking is like science).

First, I tried to fry some of the veggies, and then I poured some batter, swirled it around and flipped when that side was ready. This didn’t work so well. So don't do this one!

Then I tried it the way the recipe intended :--)

However, the batter is so thick with the vegetables that it takes FOREVER to fry and frankly, I don’t have the patience for all that standing around.

Secondly, I tried frying it very thin and rolling it like a real pancake with tomato sauce and cheese on top. Looks a bit like an enchilada.

Third, finally I settled on a way that made me very happy.

I fried the pancake like normal. Then while still in the pan, I spread a teaspoon or two of the All Joy pasta sauce. I then grated some cheese and let the heat melt it.

Then it looks like a pizza and we ate it like that.

This is how I would do again, if ever I was mad enough to do all this work.

But please!!! Don’t let my laziness put you off. It’s just I’m not a fan of long meals. You know that anything I normally cook takes 30 minutes at most to prepare!

March 15, 2007

Empower yourself today

There's nothing quite as empowering as just doing something to stand up for yourself. We can simply talk about empowering yourself until the cows come home. But you'll never feel what it does for you until you take some action.

Let me give you a couple of small examples:

1. I took my car in for a service once and the manager then dropped me back at the office. He immediately took out his cigarettes and said, "you don't mind if I smoke, do you?".

Now at that point, I could have just sat idly and taken the easy way out by saying, "of course not, go ahead". However, I really don't like cigarette smoke because the smell gets into my hair and clothes. So I decided to be assertive and said, "well actually, I do mind".

He was a bit taken aback but put those cigarettes back immediately. And I felt empowered by standing up for myself. Of course, I was barely out of the car when those cigarettes were out again. LOL

2. Another instance happened at the gym recently. I was in a low and tone class and the instructor tried to get the gym assistant's attention to bring some more equipment. It was not working so I smiled and he caught me smiling.

So he comes over to me and asks ME to go get the equipment. Now remember the class was in session and I'm a type A-exerciser (get in there, get it over with, get out of there). For a few seconds my brain was in a go-slow mode and I ALMOST just caved in.

But then my brain kicked into gear and I thought, "hang on a sec. I've come here to exercise and not to run around doing other people's jobs so I said, "no thanks, I'd rather not". You had to see his face!

Now that felt empowering because I stood up for myself.

So my coaching question for you today is this - how can you ACT in an EMPOWERED way today?

Share and post your answers in the comments.

Remember to book your place on the Drab to Fab workshop - it's also about being FAB on the INSIDE. Today is the deadline but if you ask nicely, I probably will accept your booking tomorrow too.

March 14, 2007

Blog picture

I found this cool thing over at

Click on custom, enter your blog name and it starts generating your word picture. Here's the one for this blog.

March 13, 2007

Leave the office earlier - my 100th post!!!

Can you see how excited I am??? (the punctuation will give you a clue)

This is my 100th post - amazing - and while in the blogging world, people usually share 100 things about themselves, I'm going to buck the system. Not because I'm feeling particularly rebellious, but just because I'm not prepared (!) and writing such a long post is not one of my frogs this week.

Anyway, back to the scheduled programming...

I had a question from a client who was working late every evening until 7pm.

How do I leave the office earlier? I don’t know what to do anymore.

You do know what to do. You need to set some boundaries. If you are currently working until 6 – 7 every night, then set a small goal that says you won’t work until later than 6 every night next week (or earlier if you can). Then stick to it.

The next week you set your goal a bit earlier – 5.45 and then 5.30 until you’re working until 5 normally (or whenever your work day is meant to end). And you can of course (for special occasions) work a bit later but don’t make it a habit.

You will find that because you have a deadline you will work smarter during the day on your most important items (your frogs).

Action step
1. Set a recurring appointment for the next couple of weeks.

2. The appointment should be made for 30 minutes before you want to leave and should say PACK UP DESK AND ORGANISE FOR TOMORROW (or other such words).

Laura Stack has written a book called Leave the office earlier.

March 11, 2007

Weekend cooking - cottage pie

Last week, when I blogged that we were having cottage pie for supper, I think it was Jenny who left me a comment and asked me what it was.

I thought everybody knew what cottage pie was until I mentioned it to Dion. Apparently it is a UK thing so many Americans won't know about it.

So here is my recipe, although I am putting some links at the bottom of this post for the "authentic" recipes.

2 medium potatoes
Cheese for the top
120g beef mince, extra lean
200g red kidney beans
garlic & ginger, salt & pepper to taste
Worcestershire sauce
150g tomato & onion mix
200g onion, carrots and mushroom

Make mashed potato with the potatoes. Because I'm healthy, I don't use butter and I only use fat-free milk. Of course I love butter melting on hot mashed potato as much as the next person so I do indulge sometimes.

Cook the rest of the ingredients (except the cheese) into a stew/ casserole as you normally would.

Spoon the beef mince mixture into two mini casserole dishes like this.

Then spoon the mashed potato over the top and make pretty patterns with a fork. I learnt this from Nigella. I then put some Italian herbs on the top (just because I like that taste)

Then sprinkle the cheese on the top...

And bake in a pre-heated oven. Or you can use a microwave... but the oven works better.

It should look something like this. You can serve with a side salad. I was short on time and because I use such a lot of veggies, it is healthy without needing anything extra.


Here are some links I found for other cottage pie recipes.

March 09, 2007

Stephen Covey facilitation - Wed 7 March 2007

I went to a Stephen Covey thing at Exclusive Books (Nelson Mandela Square) on Wednesday evening in the pouring, pouring rain. In retrospect, it wasn't much good (for me, because I've heard all this stuff before) but you never know with these things until you're there, right?! It was also logistically very difficult - not enough chairs so more than half of us were standing, couldn't see the screen properly, and so on...

I always look for at least one “take away” from anything (book, movie, etc) – this is more so I don’t feel like I’m ever really wasting my time.

There was quite a bit on organizational leadership like the difference between a leader and a boss, and so on…if you're into all that.

But the one thing I really liked was the first thing Mbuyi (the presenter/ facilitator) said – in each and every cat there’s a lion waiting to come out. In other words, there’s greatness in each and every one of us.

So my questions for you this Friday are:

  1. What is the greatness inside of you that's waiting to come out?
  2. What are your great passions?
  3. What is the message that only you can bring to the world?

Let me know if I can help you discover your greatness.

March 08, 2007

International Women’s Day

Today, March 8, is International Women's Day !!!

So what are you doing to celebrate? Put yourself first, even if just for a day.

Here are some ideas:

1. Have a nice bubble bath.
2. Give yourself a pedicure.
3. Get your hair done.
4. Book your place on the Drab to Fab workshop
5. Relax with a favourite book and a cup of tea or coffee.
6. Get takeaways.
7. Buy some flowers - hey, sometimes, we’ve got to do it for ourselves!
8. Watch a chick flick
9. Start simplifying your life
10. Bake a cake, some muffins, etc.
11. Organise your clothes!
12. Write in your journal for 30 minutes

(Please comment and tell me what you intend to do).

Men, this is your chance to show the woman in your life how thoughtful you can be. Small things count!

Have a wonderful day!

March 07, 2007

What's inside your wardrobe door?

You know how I'm always going on about goals?

Well, one of the things I always tell people is to write down their goals and stick it up somewhere. You do know that just writing it down is 50% of the way there???!

Here is a picture of the inside of my wardrobe (closet for the American visitors).

In the top left corner, I have my health chart. Here I write down my weight, fruit, veg, water, exercise minutes, etc. If you go to my website, you can download a free health chart.

In the top right, I have a calendar and then directly below that is my Goals page. That particular one is from Goal-Setting Forms, a book I bought from Gary Ryan Blair. However, I sent out a nice goals form to my mailing list in January.

Beneath the health chart is a yellow card with my success beliefs. Some things on here are "I believe in my ability to win every day", "I'm ready for success" and "I let go of the small stuff to focus on what's important".

Beneath the goals list is something I've had for about 10 years and that I treasure very much. Dion and I used to run cell groups and I was always thinking up different icebreakers. With this one, each person gets a page with their name on the top. You pass the page around and all the other people write 1 thing about that person. People wrote such nice things about me (weird - almost all about how organised I am...freaky) and that's why I treasure it.

Oh and of course, as a bonus, you can see how I organise my necklaces and bracelets. Yes, all it takes is a couple of hooks and it's all done.

Now, more to the point, what do you have on the inside of your wardrobe door?

March 05, 2007

Get-It mag - March 2006

Photo courtesy of

Just to let you know that I was interviewed in the March Get-It mag. The article is called Reach for the stars and you can find it on page 26 in the magazine.

Here's the intro...

"Everybody needs starts to reach for. Marcia Francois, of Take Charge Solutions, helps you to find your north star and then map your journey towards it."

March 04, 2007

Ultimate blog party

Since I have two blogs, I'm just linking to my intro post for the Ultimate blog party.

So little time, so many blogs!

Weekend cooking - Beef mince & vegetable pie

400g puff pastry
360g beef mince
200g red kidney beans
garlic & ginger, salt & pepper to taste
1 can tomato & onion mix
300g onion, carrots and mushroom

Cook the above as you normally would cook a stew.
Roll out the pastry, lay half in baking pan and scoop mixture inside.
Lay other half on the top and trim edges with a knife.
Push the ends together, brush the top with milk and bake at 200 degrees for about 25 - 30 minutes.

It is ready when golden brown. After I took the picture, I decided that I wanted it a bit browner so I put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes.