Recipe: Lemon & Thyme Syrup Cake

January 14, 2016

Hi all! Would you like to make a unique sponge cake using lemon and thyme? It’s Emma here all the way from Sydney. I am both thrilled and honored (in equal measures) that Holly has invited me to share with you some delicious recipes every month along with her other food writers – you can expect a food story each week on Wednesdays starting in February. My hope is that these recipes inspire you end up in the kitchen making and baking for your family and friends. Christmas just passed and I’m sure with all the entertaining that goes on around this time of year I bet you have eaten way too much! With lots of turkey, potatoes, stuffing a plenty, christmas pudding and sweets galore having been devoured, I have come up with a fresh and light sponge cake for your next gathering or family dessert.

Recipe: Lemon & Thyme Syrup Cake

Doesn’t this look delicious?This Lemon & Thyme Syrup Cake is light, zesty and full of flavor and fresh – a lovely refreshing change after big heavy Christmas meals- you’ll love it! The thyme is so fragrant and works beautifully with the freshness of the lemon. I love serving this cake with an extra drizzle of syrup and greek yogurt, but thick cream or crème fraîche will be delicious too. Here’s the shopping lists and how to…

Recipe: Lemon & Thyme Syrup Cake

2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind (1 lemon approx)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup greek low fat yogurt
1 1/4 cup caster sugar
2 cups self raising flour
2 tablespoons thyme leaves

Recipe: Lemon & Thyme Syrup Cake

2 tablespoons finely grated lemon rind (2 lemons approx)
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice

THYME SUGAR (optional)
2 table spoons thyme leaves
1/4 cup caster sugar
Extra sprigs of thyme to decorate with

Recipe: Lemon & Thyme Syrup Cake

Preheat oven to 180C. Plaice eggs, oil, lemon rind, lemon juice, vanilla essence, yogurt, sugar and thyme leaves in a bowl and whisk to combine.
Sift in flour and fold in until batter is smooth. Pour into a 20cm greased cake tin and bake for 50 mins or until a skewer comes out clean. Once baked place on a wire rack for ten mins before removing from the cake tin.

Whilst the cake is cooking, to make the syrup, combine sugar, lemon juice and two tablespoons of water in a small saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer for 3 minutes or until syrup has thickened and then stir in zest then remove from heat. Prick the sponge cake with a skewer all over the top and then pour half of the syrup over the cake so that it soaks into the sponge.

Whilst the cake is cooling, place the thyme and sugar in a pestle and mortar and pound until the thyme leaves have combined and released their oils. Sprinkle sugar over the top of the cake and decorate with some extra sprigs of thyme.

Recipe: Lemon & Thyme Syrup Cake

Recipe: Lemon & Thyme Syrup Cake

Recipe: Lemon & Thyme Syrup Cake

See you again soon with another recipe to make your tummy smile! – Emma. xo

(images/text: Emma Duckworth)


Fresh + New For 2016!

January 13, 2016

Hello dear friends and readers, I have a lot of good news to share for my 2016 plans for decor8, some of which I’ll share now! I can’t wait to tell you. First, I have a new literary agent, Maria, from Stonesong in New York City. I’m thrilled to be represented by them for my 5th book and hopefully, beyond as I would love to write more books and even branch into novel writing and I believe that Stonesong can get me there. Plus, it’s a well-respected and growing firm that represents a lot of top talent on the web so they really get it – they understand the way new media works and how influencers and our businesses work, and that is vital for any author who goes from web to print. Working with agents who don’t really understand the blogger world is seriously a waste of time, so I’m with Stonesong because they know the biz and at the end of the day, that’s all you really want right?!

Fresh + New For 2016!

The next big news is that I’ve hired a team of writers (woo hoo!) to work with me so I can travel frequently and also vary the topics more with a team of 8 globetrotting reporters, all talented professionals working in the food and interiors industry. I also have a new Relationship Manager consulting on our team, Toni (Morten), who will help me with contracts and international clients – he speaks 5 languages and is excellent with people – it’s such an honor to have him even if only for a short period. He is incredibly talented and everyone loves him – he fills a room with light when he walks in. You really want someone like that representing your business.

Last year in October, I hired another consultant who is still with us, Amelie, who is my Sponsored Content + Marketing Manager. She is just great, in fact I’m going to Paris for a week all thanks to her great work in France for me. She is pregnant at the moment, due in May, but I imagine she’ll be consulting with me again later after the baby arrives too.

And the third chunk of good news is that editorial content on decor8 will now be managed by my assistant, Jessy, with the help Amelie and I. I decided last November that it was time to continue growing and reaching higher and I couldn’t do it with a team of 2 writers and a part-time ad sales person. Especially since I’m no longer in the business of selling ads on the blog. Now I have staff and it feels good. And Jessy has been with me for several years already, so she’ll be working with my team to organize their columns, editing, etc.

All of this means that we will have content that runs on specific days as outlined below. I’m so excited about this! It will begin slowly in February but be a regular feature from March onward. We will look at the model again in December to see what we can tweak and change for 2017, but for now, this is our plan.

HOME (Monday)
Each Monday, you can expect something produced for you from one of our columnists centered on the home. One week, a home tour. Another week, a DIY project. I’ve hired a wonderful lady to give us floral inspiration once a month and Anke will stay on for the year to share more fantastic tabletop ideas. So creating a cozy home with heart will become our Monday topic. What a nice way to begin the week.

OPEN (Tuesday)
On Tuesday, I will post something centered on my travels, a fair I’ve been to, a decorating project at home I’ve worked on, special products I’ve found, etc. Tuesday will always be authored by me, no matter which topic I’ve chosen. And it will always be centered on decorating and design or travel.

EAT (Wednesday)
Our food column will run on Wednesday so you have a few days to plan your weekend menu with maybe one of our delicious cakes, meals or other sweet and savory recipes. The first food writer I’ve hired is Emma Duckworth. She is a prop stylist, interior decorator and mother of two (with another on the way!) living in Sydney. She covers all areas of styling including product, still life, lifestyle, food and interiors. Emma’s work is wide and varied including the styling for music sensation Passenger’s music video, styling ex-Masterchef contestant Courtney Roulston’s latest cookbook and her work has also been seen on Houzz and Yahoo. If you look at her work, you’ll quickly see that she is talented and knows her stuff. Today Emma joins us for the first time with her recipe creation (Lemon & Thyme Syrup Cake, yum!) that you will love so stay tuned for that. I’ll tell you about the other ladies I’ve hired soon too in the weeks ahead.

I will lead a weekly column on Thursdays which will be a heart topic. Sometimes I’ll interview another woman. Maybe I’ll surprise you with a podcast or video. I’ll talk about things that are on my mind about parenting as a working mom, or maybe blogging, or perhaps sex (!), struggles in business, or anything that I’m thinking about that you may be thinking about too. You can expect that each week on Thursdays, from my heart to yours.

On Friday, I will post a weekly letter from me to you covering what I’ve seen and loved, links to special places online, books I’m in love with, etc. It will also be my sign off and wrap up for the week. I miss posting on Fridays when I used to wish everyone a happy weekend so I’ve decided to get back to that, but with more value to you so I can leave you with interesting things to see and think about.

WEEKEND (Saturday and/or Sunday)
Some weekends may include posts where I pop in and share something, but weekend content will be sporadic and not always happening each and every weekend. But you can expect it from time-to-time. The weekly content will stick to the format outlined above, however.

So! Those are just some of the great things for decor8 that I’ve put into play in the past 13 DAYS since the new year began. I’ve been busy! But very energized to get into the new schedule and make decor8 even more valuable and interesting because my first love and passion will always be this blog. I’ve just celebrated my 10th year anniversary as a blogger and when I read this post (the first post I wrote here a decade ago) I cannot believe how far I’ve come and I have each and every one of you to thank from the bottom of my heart. Here’s to another 10 years! Cheers my dears!

xo, Holly

(Photography: Holly Becker)


Paris Travel Tips Wanted

January 6, 2016

Hello lovely friends. I will go to Paris later this month for a week to work. First, for my new client Merci, and then to visit the Maison + Objet along with a bunch of other fun studios to visit crammed along the way. I’m very excited and you can follow my Paris adventures on my @decor8 Instagram beginning January 18!  SO I’m looking for some suggestions from YOU. I love pretty cafes, dessert, jazz clubs, shows, boat rides, I’ll take any tips honestly. Just need fresh and inspiring places to see and photograph.

Paris Travel Tips Wanted
I scoured my favorite blogs for tips but so many of them have posts that were written a year or more ago and we all know that cities like Paris change so frequently that I’m more interested in what is hot NOW. Also, flower shops and lunch spots. I don’t care about museums or monuments or tourist spots because I’ve been to Paris many times and hit those already.

I would love a tip for Korean food, a good Japanese place with excellent Udon soup and definitely a Lebanese place with amazing tabbouleh, falafel, hummus, etc. Also, any good Spanish places with tapas? And maybe something very Italian and delicious? A very hip and cool restaurant would be great too. I’m really open when it comes to dining out, so don’t hold back. Please leave website links in your comments so I can easily find these places if you don’t mind. I’m so grateful, in advance, so thank you!

Do you also have some great ideas for photogenic spots in Paris other than the usual suspects (Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower)? I’m very much a fan of hills and architecture and pale white buildings and streets with a lot of ambiance that aren’t totally commercial and littered with phone card and cell phone shops. I remember my last time in Paris, there were less of these streets (though I was close to the river and Notre Dame but still) so I’d love to be in districts where I can find privately owned bakeries and foodie spots – in other words, pretty spots to photograph so I can create content for this blog that I’m proud of upon my return!

I will be in these neighborhoods from what I know so far: Haut-Marais, Saint-German-de-Pres and Bastille. I’ve never been to Montmartre, is that worthy of a see?

P.S. Doesn’t the Broken Arm look nice and the I think Miss Banh Mi looks like fun along with Street Bangkok. I love casual and unusual places and Asian food but also great places for breakfast. My dear friend Susanne from Milas Deli just went to Paris and has a lot of bakeries on her blog, so I’m going to look over there now…

Thank you all so much, since getting pregnant in 2013 and then having my son nearly two years ago, I’ve only been to Berlin for a day and Amsterdam for 3 days, so this is mama’s adventure so I want to soak in as much as I possibly can to make up for all of those lost trips. Though I must say, being with my little boy has been worth it but I am ready for some stimulation and fun so please give me some of your lovely ideas… I’d appreciate it so much.



Blogging, From The Heart

From The Heart: Will Blogs Survive 2016?

January 5, 2016

Hello dear readers and a very Happy New Year to you! I want to talk about blogging and where I see it for 2016 but first… I’m preparing for a trip to Paris in a few weeks so you’ll be seeing lots of French inspiration on the blog very soon as I play roving reporter in one of my favorite cities. I’m also on the cusp of this blog turning TEN years old, I can’t believe it and how so much has changed in my life since I launched decor8. I’m trying to think of something special to do for the big birthday so I think I’ll just celebrate it in Paris, that seems like a great spot to celebrate anything, right?

From The Heart: Will Blogs Survive 2016?

When I thought about my blog turning 10 years old, I felt a bit emotional about it at first, then excitement, and currently a bit mixed. What is next for me? I’m still trying to hammer everything out but for now, I’ve decided: Write more regularly on decor8 from the heart, with personal experiences, feelings, observations. Hire more writers for decor8 so there is one new story here daily. I’ve hired two great food bloggers who begin this month; I’m now looking for a super special DIY/craft blogger who takes gorgeous photos and makes great stuff. Email me if you have experience and are interested. This is a paid position. Expand my topics on decor8 and Rent a large open space locally so I can teach workshops, host pop-up events and creative meet-ups. Actively explore opportunities to expand into radio, video, television, products, something that feels and fits right. I need to test and explore to see what I genuinely like and what I’m good at. I don’t want to do something because everyone else is doing it or because I feel like I have to do them in order to stay on top of my game.

I also wish to Travel regularly and blog about my adventures with my own photography and insights. Expand Blogging Your Way with videos that are inspiring and fun and products for the shop. Diversify coursework and cover even more topics that reach outside of blogging and social media. Maybe move to a new city or country. This is a big thing to put out there publicly, but we’ve been considering it. Find more joy in what I do each day and focus on what I have built, not what I need to build.

These are some of the things I’m thinking about currently for my business. There are more but this is a good start! My blog will always be the heartbeat of my business, I never want to stop blogging, it’s everything to me personally. For anyone who has authored a blog for 10+ years, I’m sure that the big TEN was a major milestone for you too. I don’t know a lot of bloggers who have been blogging this long as a professional choice, but I feel strongly that blogs still have power, are still important tools for effective communication and still matter A LOT.

Maybe we all read fewer blogs and are on Instagram or Facebook more frequently, but I honestly cannot find the quality of writing or the storytelling on Facebook as I can on a blog. Facebook is one big rant for the most part. And on Instagram, it’s only photos that pop up and though they are lovely, I crave to know what people are thinking, not just what they see or want us to think their life looks like.

Blogging is something we shouldn’t allow to become muddy through ads, tons of sponsored content and too much self-promotion because then we are pushing readers away and over to Facebook, Instagram and other social media channels – no one wants to read one post after another that a blogger was paid to write and in so many cases these days, not even sincerely write (sad to say). I personally know bloggers who have confessed to me that they disliked the products they’d written about and dumped them in th trash the next day after the post appeared – they were paid to say they liked it. But they didn’t.

I don’t want blogging to become THAT. You know?

I hope that anyone reading this, as I am also striving to do, will aim to strike a balance. Maybe 10% of content is sponsored and the rest isn’t. Or maybe you write 5 posts in a week, and one is sponsored. Come up with some math that works for you and your finances. But be cautious because the very thing you are trying to do (become more popular and earn a good living) may be the very thing you contribute to killing (blogs in general) because you are pushing too much sponsored stuff in people’s faces.

Readers honestly don’t believe the typical “What I’m writing is from heart and my own experience, regardless of that I was paid to say this stuff” blurb that you toss at the end of sponsored content. We all know that it’s a nice attempt at sincerity but in the end, the fact that you were paid still clouds judgement just a wee bit and that is often what scares readers away. When money is involved, readers suddenly question YOU.

Turn your blog into one big ad about your products, books, and clients… Well that simply can’t last and currently, with more and more people complaining about how they’re not reading blogs as much due to all THAT – beware. You could be phasing out your blog without even realizing it.

I am not just saying this stuff either. Remember, I teach e-courses (for nearly 7 years now) to bloggers and bloggers-to-be and I hear what they are saying in our private forums and even when I outright ask them, I hear ALL of these complaints above. Lots of our homework centers around what they love about blogs and what they dislike. Students even list the blogs they once read that they cannot tolerate nowadays because the content is so fabricated and soulless. I am often surprised by the blogs they’ve stopped reading because to me, their content still felt strong and balanced.

Yet everyone still loves Garance Dore and Emily Henderson. At least right now (blog readers are a picky bunch) and so why is that? These ladies strike a good balance between sponsored and authentic content from the heart. Their voices have remained on the blog and their heartfelt joy for what they do is still there and felt very strongly. I feel like I’m getting something when I read Garance or Emily. I’m learning something or simply having a good time – they can both be entertaining at times. But there are only a handful of these blogs that still exist that my students are still in love with and tune into regularly. A few years ago, students would list maybe 20 blogs. Now they are naming 3 or 4. That’s a massive decline and shows that poorly chosen content is driving people away from blog reading and guess what? We can’t blame Instagram. We can only blame ourselves because content is slipping or becoming entirely about our products or our clients.


Find balance, or rather CREATE balance, and you’ll notice more readers again and you’ll notice more engagement and even more interest in blogging. I believe that people are bored for the most part with what’s being offered currently online.I don’t see Pinterest nearly as popular as it was. Who is even using Twitter as they once did?  Maybe you won’t notice the same number of readers you had during the big blog explosion of 2008/2009, but you will see people coming back to your blog.

Bring your voice back to blogging, and you’ll bring the right kind of readers back to blogs.

So this is my new year’s message about blogging. Let us all remember WHY we started blogging, and consider what you can bring, but also consider that people love YOU and what YOU are doing and saying. And they want more of that. More of YOU. What you REALLY love, what you are doing, what makes you tick. Sure, some of that can be sponsored but try to balance what you are paid to write and what you are writing from the heart. Be an Emily. Be a Garance. Bring your heart, your expertise, bring value.

That’s my blog goal for 2016. What are some of yours?

(image: holly becker styling, susanne irmer photography)


Wishing You Peace + Joy

December 23, 2015

Hello dear readers. It’s so lovely to sit here with some time, to be uninterrupted, to say hello and to write to you. How have you been? Are you and your families doing well this holiday season? I’m still based in Germany, yet I have finally felt a bit of “homesick” fever lately… I guess it’s just that despite living abroad for over 6 years, you still remember your roots, your childhood memories of what certain seasons felt like, and there are always bits of you that you feel like you’d left behind in your former life. I remember reading once that it’s one thing to move from one state to another in the same country – difficult and exciting of course, but the writer had said that moving from one country and one culture to another, an ocean apart (not even on the same continent) and you will have a whole new reality to face each day and it never will feel exactly like the life you once knew. And that you would never be “that” person again, if you did move back to your homeland. Wow. I discredited this when I first read it years ago, but today I feel like that writer knew something I had yet to learn.

Wishing You Peace + Joy

I wonder about the importance humans place on the physical location of where we live. Yet it isn’t really just physical, is it? Memories, language, religion, the people who influence us, the light, the natural surroundings, the energy in the air… It’s so much more than just a spot in which you sit – there is so much emotion in where we live or have lived that connects us.

I often feel like I have no real home. Yet I have the ability to quickly adjust and see the best in every place I’ve ever lived. I’ve moved a lot in the states (over 35 times, not Continue Reading…

Decorating Tips, Tabletop

Tabletop: Ideas For An Elegant Holiday

December 21, 2015

Hello dear decor8 readers, how are you today, right before Christmas? This is Anke visiting you while Holly is recovering from eye surgery while simaltaneously finished her fourth book with Leslie Shewring. Yeah, really. So I’m back today with my monthly tabletop inspiration column. I don’t know about you, but I’m in countdown mode with a long “to do” list to handle but what about you – are you rushing around too or are you laid back with all preparations done already? While enjoying a rare break on my sofa the other day I discovered a beautiful DIY story with embroidery frames in Living at Home Magazine. At that moment I knew how my December table decoration for decor8 should look like. So here I am with a festive tabletop idea for you!

Tabletop: Ideas For An Elegant Holiday

I chose the Christmas rose (Hellebore) to be the picture motif for the frames. I like this white blooming plant a lot and here in Germany you can buy them almost everywhere in a pot at the moment. I took three different pictures of my Hellebore, printed the images in different sizes on a paper with a linen structure (bought in a shop Continue Reading…

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