Making Lettered Pancakes this Shrove Tuesday!

Tomorrow is February 28th – a special holiday where our favourite type of food can be consumed in unlimited amounts; pancakes!

We all love our delicious food; it’s what gives our lives meaning after a long day at work. So it’s only fitting that we make plenty of special occasions around the dinner table with the people we want share it all with. Aside from the usual festivities of Easter and Christmas, and their associated food comas, today’s another day where we can all be free to enjoy every food category that apparently is ‘bad’ for us – Shrove Tuesday!

The tradition of Fat Tuesday (I mean Shrove Tuesday) began many centuries ago and is celebrated every year before the start of Lent in the lead-up to Easter. But what have pancakes got to do with this? The tradition of eating pancakes on this particular Tuesday originated as a way to use up ingredients including butter, milk and eggs that were not supposed to be eaten and would go bad during the period of Lent.

So even though this plentiful day started out as a practical way of making sure no cooking ingredients went to waste, we’re glad that it turned into a pancake holiday we can all celebrate with plenty of maple syrup. The variety of pancakes these days, from pikelets to crepes, gives us plenty of choices to devour. But what if you want to turn the classic pancake into a different shape? Lettered pancakes make things even more fun!

The trick to create edible letters is to use a squeeze bottle. Using one makes it easier to write in the pan and get the neatest looking edible alphabet you could hope for. You can go and experiment in the kitchen, or take note from the multiple recipes that are out there. We’ve gone out and found one that is simple, easy to follow and most importantly delivers delicious results:

Ingredients:
– 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 tablespoon white sugar
– 1 1/4 cups milk
– 1 egg

Directions:
1. Brush griddle or skillet with vegetable oil or spray with cooking spray; heat griddle to 190°C or heat skillet over medium heat.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well in the centre and pour in the milk, egg and melted butter; mix until smooth.

3. If desired, pour 1/2 cup batter into plastic squeeze bottle with narrow opening to use for making letters. Squeeze batter from bottle onto hot oiled griddle to form letters. Cook until golden brown.

In three easy steps you’ll eat your way to alphabetical bliss!

Ewelina is a communications specialist and you can follow her at @marek_ewelina.

 

 

Copywriting cliches and buzzwords – ugh!

We’ve all been there, reaching for the most common expressions we could think of; scrambling for overused buzzwords and clichés. It’s easier than it should be. The trick is to source just the right amount, as many key words are necessary for things such as SEOs for websites and their content. In the world of copywriting there are a set of known rules which should be kept in mind when reaching out to your target audience. But I think this quote by Steve Harrison, from his book How to do Better Creative Work, really sums up what we need to look out for:

“If you tend to talk in business buzzwords and marketing clichés, try not to – they betray the fact that you don’t really know what you’re talking about. By using these pre-packaged phrases you are avoiding thinking about what it is that you really want to say.”

Only because these are easy to reach for doesn’t make them the ideal solution for the job. The key element to keep in mind, is figuring out the types of content your audience wants and the best way to deliver that content to them in an interesting and engaging way. This is your time to show what you offer and shine; wouldn’t you want to avoid clichés from this spotlight?

Here are some of the top ten overused buzzwords and clichés that have the unfortunate power of hindering your writing and our thoughts on their existence:

1. Awesome; just another replacement for ‘cool’

2. Big picture; two words for ‘holistic’

3. Get your creative juices flowing; just – no

4. Hit the ground running; how many times have we heard this one?

5. Multi-tasking; managers love the idea of this, but in reality it doesn’t really exist

6. Push the envelope; are you able to do that with an e-mail?

7. Raise the bar; of course we want to keep climbing the ladder of success…

8. Go the extra mile; or the extra kilometre, depending on your favourite metric system

9. Take it to the next level; go back to the drawing board and take it up a notch

10. Think outside the box; broaden the horizon of your mind and come up with a better idea – we get it

The list could go on and on, of course; there’s just too many of them.

Thanks to kudosmedia.com.au, kickamarketing.com, and thecopycollective.com for the heads up on clichés.

Ewelina is a communications specialist and you can follow her at @marek_ewelina.

I found love – with books

Why do we read? Why do we pick up a volume and get a thrill out of having the touch of bound paper between our hands, as we turn each page in anticipation? Why do we spend hours meandering the endless shelves of bookstores, and get swept away in the sea of paperback and hard covers?

We escape to other world beyond our own and beyond our day-to- day imagination. We let ourselves get carried away in the wonderful cocktail of feelings that books bring into our lives. They make us dreamers, deep thinkers, adventurers, detectives, romantics…

In pursuit of happiness among the ongoing ribbons of words, either bound or digitally in a Kindle, I found these ten books each in their own right a key into another world; one where I’m sure you’ll fall in love with them:

1. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Another great book by an exceptional favourite, Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers with incredible empathy, intelligence and candour.

2. Today Will be Different by Maria Semple

When I saw this book cover, I knew it would be an interesting read. Today Will be Different is a hilarious, heart-filled story about reinvention, sisterhood, and how sometimes it takes facing up to our former selves to truly begin living.

3. Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Moriarty is a house-hold name; and she does it again in a powerful way. She takes on the foundations of our lives: marriage, sex, parenthood, and friendship. She shows how guilt can expose the fault lines in the most seemingly strong relationships, how what we don’t say can be more powerful than what we do, and how sometimes it is the most innocent of moments that can do the greatest harm.

4. Me Before You by Jojo Moyers

We all know this has been turned into a movie; but we also know that books are better and deeper than movies. Me Before You is a heart-rending tale of Louisa, a young woman who finds herself in a predicament: how to convince Will, a young paralysed man in her care, that he has something to live for.

5. Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

Ah, Lauren Graham; can we ever get enough of her? She’s always been our favourite kindred spirit since Gilmore Girls, and parent from Parenthood. And now she’s written something for us to enjoy time and time again! This book is her witty, charming, and hilariously relatable debut novel and New York Times bestseller about a struggling young actress trying to get ahead, and keep it together, in New York City. Aren’t we all struggling, in the city of our dreams?

6. The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

This book catches your attention because it’s different. The Natural Way of Things is a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted. Most of all, it is the story of two friends, their sisterly love and courage.

7. The Life-Writer by David Constantine

With a truthfully sombre tone, Constantine’s passionate tale of grief and rediscovery marks only the second foray into novel writing for an author whose short fiction has won international acclaim. A great work of literature, he reminds us, is never finished, it is ‘a living and moving thing, alive in all its parts in every fibre’, designed to be inexhaustible and to outlive. As Katrin’s journey proves, the lives of those we love are similarly inexhaustible, they keep on offering up new revelations, possessing the people they leave behind, and forever needing to be re-written.

8. Two by Two by Nicholas Sparks

His name says it all; his writing sparks something in us with each novel. #1 New York Times bestselling author Sparks returns with an emotionally powerful story of unconditional love, its challenges, its risks and most of all, its rewards. This is a powerful story of unconditional love, not only between these two characters but also with the family members that surround them. Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned, but it’s how you take each step forward, how you mend or break bonds, that can define your future.

9. Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Music is another way we escape and something that influences us all on a personal level. Swing Time is a dazzlingly energetic and deeply human story about friendship and music and stubborn roots; about how we are shaped by these things and how we can survive them. Moving from northwest London to West Africa, it is an exuberant dance to the music of time.

10. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

At first I thought it read Bittersweet, only for me to do a double-take and see the word flipped. Sweetbitter is a lush, raw, thrilling novel of the senses about a year in the life of a uniquely beguiling young woman, set in the wild, alluring world of a famous downtown New York restaurant. It’s a story of discovery, enchantment, and the power of what remains after disillusionment. What could be better?

Ewelina is a communications specialist and you can follow her at @marek_ewelina.

Why I love what I do and why you should too

It’s February, and that means love is in the air. Not only is Valentine’s Day just around the corner, but we’re also all feeling loved up about the many wonderful things in our lives.

There’s this one quote I always try to remember whenever I’m having a slow day:

“Do what you love, love what you do”.

If you truly believe this, then I think any job you will have or career path you’ll pursue, success will follow. We always hear about how important it is to do something that you enjoy; that way half of the time it doesn’t feel like work. Finding out the right job for you is like finding a pair of shoes that fit perfectly, or that missing puzzle piece.

However, there are still some people who would rather say that finding a job you love is age-old advice; even though Confucius has manifested this prolific notion that has stood the test of time – because that’s what love can do:

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it could be like this all the time? Steve Jobs also believed in this, saying:

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do”.

What we do is something that allows us to be creative, and explore the world from many different angles. What’s not to love; the flexibility, the ability to explore, and most importantly write something people will enjoy reading?

Everyone has as different journey to their successes; yet whatever shape their path is, or whichever detours it takes, everyone is able to love what they do or pursue what they really want to do – you too!

Thanks to forbes.com for the extra quotes.

Capturing love at the altar

Every so often the Wordy Bird team comes across a person in business that we admire, someone who is forging their own path while kicking serious goals. Meet them in our profile series where they share the secrets of their success (hint: it usually involves a great idea mixed with a lot of good old-fashioned hard work).

Perth-born creative Shenae Hunter never thought she would be running a successful photography business of her own, Shenae Rose Stills and Motion, at just 20 years of age. As a university student, she saw photography as a hobby and a support base for her studies, taking stunning pictures whenever she saw the opportunity. This included the occasional newborn baby photos, family portraits, landscape imagery and wedding photography.

However, it only recently dawned on her that she could earn a living through celebrating others’ happiness. For more than a year, Shenae has attended weddings throughout the metropolitan and regional areas as a videographer, capturing the love between friends, families and couples. With the belief that the best smiles are altar smiles, Shenae began building up her business through social media and word-of-mouth.

“I currently don’t market much, but I guess the main form of marketing is when I upload highlight videos of couples for their family and friends to see and business usually comes through them. I also comment on brides’ posts on Facebook groups that are looking for videographers and sometimes use Gumtree,” she says.

“I usually schedule posts on social media to get more people engaged at times they want to engage and with content they want to engage with. This is mainly highlight videos or the first few photos soon after a wedding.”

Shenae says her passion for weddings increases the more she attends them.

“I have become quite specialised to rustic, rural weddings in natural settings. I’ve also found I connect more with laid back couples that laugh at the little things and have a cheeky flare,” she says.

Without further ado, we asked Shenae a few questions for those photography beginners out there.

What makes a good photo?

  • Focusing in on the subject and drawing the viewers eye to the subject
  • Panoramic shots work a treat for when you’re on a hike or for beach views
  • Sunlight is great when the sun is setting. But stay away from midday sun glare!

What’s the best time of day for photography?

  • My favourite time of day is the half hour before the sun sets, where the sun is dappled through all the trees and gives off an orange glow. The middle of the day makes everything look white and overexposed.

What about editing?

  • Filters can add to a photo, depending on the context. My go-to for editing is increasing the contrast a little and keeping the photo slightly overexposed to give that dreamy feel. I like to keep the natural feel and sometimes using filters can get you too excited and they become very unnatural.

What about photography apps for computers or phones?

  • Adobe offers a pretty great package for both photography and videography editing, so I use their app Lightroom. All the little things can be enhanced and the quality stays. But this is a little pricey.
  • For a cheap option, Fotor is a pretty good app in terms of learning what exposure and saturation all mean and experimenting with editing.

Brooke Hunter is a journalist and Wordy Bird writer. Follow her at @brooke_land.

Website faux pas

Like fingerprints or your favourite drink, your website is unique and should reflect your business. But think about whether you want your website to say: “Buy my products, I know what I’m talking about”, or “Stuff!!! Something shiny (more exclamation marks)”.

There are many do’s and don’ts when it comes to designing websites and, like building a house or removing your appendix, it’s a job best left to the professionals. We detailed why it’s a good idea to refresh your digital presence in a previous blog and here we’ll talk about certain webpage faux pas to stay clear of.

Tik-tok Design and Illustration Director Sasha Laffan says an effective webpage is all about function and friendliness.

“It shouldn’t be too complex – you don’t need a lot of buttons and special effects,” she says.

“It’s great to have a good looking design, but the web is all about functionality. It needs to be clear, not too busy and you need to convey what your page or business is about through effective content and professional looking imaginary.”

Sasha recommends you follow web specifications:

  • The correct colour mode is RGB and resolution should be 72 DPI.
  • For images, scale the image to the actual size – this can help the page load quicker and stop people losing interest.
  • Invest in good copywriting and photography as this reflects in how you’re perceived.
  • Keep your design simple and clean. You can create interest without being over the top. The use of white space is effective and doesn’t make the page look cluttered. There are some goodies here.
  • Limit the number of fonts. Get carried away with fancy fonts and you risk not only ruining your branding but causing people to run. Caps can also be an issue. IMAGINE READING A WHOLE WEBPAGE LIKE THIS. HARSH.
  • Link away! Embedded links are a great to lead your visitors to other bits of info but it’s better when they open in a new tab.

Now that you know what to look out for, there’s no room for making any webpage faux pas. Remember, sometimes less is more.

Ewelina is a communications specialist and you can follow her at @marek_ewelina.

Aussie slang and how to understand it

G’day readers! What better to write a blog on Aussie slang than the week of Australia Day?

Did you know that slang is short for ‘shortened language’? It comes in handy when you’re out and about in another country with its locals, trying to understand what they’re saying.

This reminds me of the movie, My Life in Ruins, where at the beginning the tour guide, Georgia, gathers her group where everyone’s adding to the conversation pile. Among this group is an Aussie couple, and this is the first thing they say before Georgia and another tourist, Irv, begin to be bamboozled:

Ken: You know, we left Adelaide last night with 17 pounds of frozen flake. Thirty hours later, she’s right on the bugle.

Sue: It was a shocker, Barry.

Irv: Are they speaking English?

Georgia: Australians are the nicest people, but you can only understand about half of what they say.

Although paying tribute to classic stereotypes, Aussie slang pops up more and more in everyday writing. So if we’re going to be seeing a lot more of it, how can we understand it better? The best way to learn the local language is to get amongst it. And asking a lot of follow-up questions of what someone meant when they said: “How many bells have you got on the old dickory?” (Translation: Could you please tell me what time it is?)

The more you practice the more you’ll pick up the lingo from down under. In the meantime, here’s some of the top Aussie slang words and what they translate to for you to add to your

personal dictionary:

Cuppa = cup of tea

Pav = pavlova (a meringue and fruit cake)

Yakka = hard work

Plonk and goon = cheap wine

Sunnies = sunglasses

Pollie = politician

Mozzies = mosquitoes

Arvo = afternoon

Avo = avocado (don’t get arvo and this one mixed up!)

Barbie = barbeque or BBQ

Footy = football or AFL

Another way to test if you understand our Aussie lingo is to take a quiz. Here’s a quick and fun one from the SBS website you can check out. Let us know how you go – I scored 100%.

Fair dinkum!

Ewelina is a communications specialist and you can follow her at @marek_ewelina. She’s originally from Germany (a country with its own set of far-out slang!). 

Thanks to langports.com, movingtoaustralia.com.au, and sbs.com for the slang and translations.

A Graduate Perspective

So you’ve finished your university degree. Now what? This is a personal blog, where I give you some insight into what I’ve learnt after the last three years at uni and what I plan to do next.

Study has always been something I’ve enjoyed and always my top priority. That is, until it was time to get a part time job and begin to learn the juggling act of classes, course work and new work expectations. Halfway through my degree I was lucky to find a way out the restaurant I was at for three years, and began technical work with an IT company.

Since then I’ve been given the chance to do multiple PR and communications internships, work experience and freelance freedoms, continuing to juggle it all.

Now that graduation is upon me, I’ve looked back at how lucky I am to still do all the work I was able to find. I’ve also realised the importance of hard work and determination to mentally keep going, which is the driving force to continue the momentum beyond student life.

And perhaps this is what many people who are finishing their degrees don’t realise. The majority of people I talk with about this always wonder how I’m “managing to do it all” – but the key thing they miss is the fact that you have to really want it and be willing to work really hard for it.

This is the one piece of advice I would always give to anyone wondering what the next step is after finishing uni. Especially since there is a shared sentiment that it’s difficult to find work or even just to get your foot in the door.

As this fact daunted me repeatedly, I would try to find articles to calm my nerves and get another perspective. An article by Time was the sort of thing to read to see what other people were saying.

The one point that I kept in mind was that “your first job might not involve your major in a major way”. What if you finish your degree and end up working somewhere completely different? What was the last three years for then?

An assortment of questions suddenly stumbles into your mind, probably making you wonder when you’ll see a path light up for you. And as someone who likes to over think a lot and still managed to get out there, at one point you just do what you have to do, keep your head down and your goals in mind, and work as hard as you can.

Good luck!

– Ewelina

Thanks to time.com for giving me something to think about!

Ewelina is a communications specialist and you can follow her at @marek_ewelina

Common grammar mistakes and how to fix them

We all have that Facebook friend – the one who gets their to, too and two mixed up. Auto-correct and spell-check don’t always get it right and it’s totally awks to correct them in front of a virtual audience. Maybe you could pass this handy guide onto them?

The most common grammar mistakes are these five:

1. It’s and Its

Depending on the situation, you miss an apostrophe and suddenly your whole sentence is all wrong. Just remember, it’s is the abbreviated version for ‘it is’ (the apostrophe is often used in place of a letter), whereas its is a possessive pronoun.

2. There, Their, and They’re

This one should be easy, so why do so many people get it wrong? There describes a place, their addresses someone’s things, and they’re is an abbreviation for ‘they are’ (notice where the apostrophe is? If this is confusing, see point #1). Think of the following sentences:

“Look over there, I see a unicorn riding a unicycle!”

“I envy their fancy espresso machine.”

“They’re going to be meeting us at the circus.”

3. Who and Whom

This one confuses a lot of people, but you can easily train your ear to pick up which one sounds right. Who refers to the subject of a sentence, whereas whom refers to the object. Consider these:

“Who shall I invite?” should be “Whom shall I invite?”

“Whom is responsible?” should be “Who is responsible?”

Whom is a little old fashioned so feel free to drop it for who.

4. Then and Than

These two are practically twins; they both look and sound so similar! But here’s the difference: then is used to indicate something following something else in time, whereas than is used in comparisons. For example:

“If we’re going to the pub then we should get dinner first.”

“I’d rather run a marathon naked than go see that movie with him.”

5. To, Too and Two

These three all sound the same, but mean very different things. Isn’t the English language wonderful/crazy? To is used as a verb as well as meaning ‘towards’ something (as in, “can’t wait to catch up with you”); too is another word for ‘also’, ‘as well’ or ‘in addition’; and two refers to the number 2.

It’s time – who’s set to get their writing into shape without these grammar mistakes? You are!

Ewelina is a communications specialist and you can follow her at @marek_ewelina. 

10 good reasons to upgrade your website

It’s a New Year and with it comes resolutions we’re planning (or hoping) to keep. But besides personal goals, what can you improve on in your business?

Let’s look at the first place potential or existing clients are going to visit; your website. It’s the place where you show off your products and services. And just like you, your business is always evolving; so why wouldn’t you want to stay fresh and show everyone what’s new?

Here are ten good reasons for you to upgrade your website:

  1. Don’t be stagnant; if you haven’t changed your website in three years, it’s time to hit the refresh button and give it a new coat of paint.
  2. No-one likes out-of-date content; keep your visitors up to date with current information and new features.
  3. Be easier to find; use more SEO keywords so people can find you easier on Google or other search engines.
  4. Get social; when you’re already on social media platforms, link these to your website for readers to discover your great content.
  5. Blank space; use the space you have and don’t leave your website pages looking hollow.
  6. Create a blog; having a personal voice your website can help you be more relatable.
  7. A picture says a thousand words; include more good quality visuals to make content easier to read and more interesting.
  8. Are we there yet; make sure your website doesn’t take too long to load, otherwise visitors won’t stay to see your awesome content.
  9. Hackers beware; upgrading your website and its security reduces the risks of getting hacked.
  10. Competitive advantage; don’t fall behind your competitors, and keep up with current trends to use when upgrading your website.

So let’s take this new year to hit refresh on your website. Because it’s so 2016.

Thanks to rcpmarketing.com, seositecheckup.com, inc.com, granite5.com and innovationsimple.com for the tips.

Ewelina is a communications specialist and you can follow her at @marek_ewelina.