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Looking Ahead To Spring

Hello friends! I’ve been thinking a lot about spring, have you? I think it’s because winter hasn’t really come yet here in northern Germany – it’s been consistently in the 50s all season so far so we definitely did not have a white Christmas. I must confess though, that being pregnant and walking everywhere as we do – this has been a true blessing for me. Today the sky is clear and blue, temps are in the low 50s, and all I can think about is that my baby will soon be born, we move this Thursday, my mother will be flying in this Spring, my next book with Leslie Shewring will be published all about decorating at home with fresh flowers and that I have an entirely new apartment to decorate and share with all of you, including the baby’s room.



There is so much to be excited about – plus my birthday is in March and it’s always nice to have a birthday even though getting older isn’t really what we all crave, it is nice to say that another year of life has passed and that many more are ahead – and to ask the question, “What’s next?”.

So yes, I have spring and all the things that it brings on my mind today. I can already imagine blades of fresh grass bursting through grayed fallen leaves, daffodils, tulips, peonies and cherry blossoms at the farmers’ market and taking long walks with my baby in the forest. Simple, beautiful moments that will be so much more special with a little one in my life. I’m also thinking about the direction of my business, this blog and the many ideas I’ve started to develop over the weekend after writing, Resolve To Be Happy. I can’t wait to slowly unfold the pages of what I plan to do as time goes by, but for now I’m just focusing on moving, childbirth and navigating the new life of a first time mommy. Yet, I cannot help but think about decorating, design, spring trends, new products that will soon hit market… Exciting!


See the photos in this post? I took them in May last year when Leslie was at my house and we were shooting and styling our upcoming book, Decorate With Flowers. These photos are not in the book, but I thought to share them anyway because they are so pretty. I also love putting flowers beneath bell jars, though you can’t keep them there long as they fade very fast – but for dinner parties or for guests, a few hours is just fine. Aren’t flowers inspiring? And wow, so spring-y!

Are you thinking about spring, too? If so, what are you looking forward to? Do you have some plans? Are you also a spring baby, born in March, April or May like me? Do you have a new baby on the way? Are you considering some changes in your life and if so, what? I’d like to know because it really encourages me to hear what you are up to – makes me feel more of a push towards the positive, too.

(photos/styling: holly becker)

Posted in inspiration on January 06, 2014
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Delicious Bites: Apple and Cranberry Tea Cake Recipe

Hello everyone, are you ready to bake some Apple and Cranberry Tea Cake? Or still recovering from indulging during the holidays? Whether ready or not, I’m sure you will be soon again, especially when your family starts to crave your homemade goodies! How are you anyway? I hope you’re all doing well and enjoyed the holiday break and are filled with inspiration for the coming year. This is Jillian and I have a wonderful New Years recipe for you to enjoy over Sunday afternoon tea and newspaper reading… I don’t know about you, but today was my first day back at work following a 2 week break. I decided that I needed something to sweeten the first working day of 2014, so I made an apple and cranberry yeast cake for morning tea. This recipe was inspired by a rhubarb yeast cake recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s book, ‘The Cook’s Companion’.

apple cranberry yeast cake

Fresh cranberries are impossible to find in Australia where I live, so we have to use frozen or dried cranberries. Maybe it is the same where you live? Rhubarb would make a great substitute if you can’t find fresh or frozen cranberries. If you’re not keen on cranberries, you could make an apple and walnut version instead swapping out the cranberries for some walnuts and sultanas (golden raisins) and use lemon juice and rind instead of orange to flavor the fruit and the glaze.


I recently bought a stand mixer with a dough hook and it made whipping up the dough for this cake a breeze. Once you’ve made the dough and rolled it out, it’s then filled with loads of sweetened fruit. The top is slashed before baking to allow some of the fruit to peek through. If you don’t feel like doing this you could always roll up the dough and slice it to make scrolls.

apple cranberry yeast cake

I then finished the cake with an orange glaze but that step is optional. If you don’t feel like icing the cake, you could just brush the uncooked cake with melted butter and sprinkle the top with some cinnamon sugar before baking.

apple cranberry yeast cake

Here’s the recipe for you for Apple and Cranberry Tea Cake – serves 10

85 gm (3 oz) butter, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup milk
2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tbl caster sugar
2 tsp dried yeast
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg

Apple and Cranberry filling
450 gm apple (1 lb), peeled, cored and finely diced
1/2 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 tbl orange juice
1 tsp finely grated orange rind
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Orange Icing
Reserved juice
1 tsp melted butter
1/2 cup sifted pure icing sugar

apple cranberry yeast cake

Put the butter and milk in a small saucepan and stir over a low heat until the butter melts and the milk is lukewarm. Add the vanilla and set to one side. Mix the flour, sugar and dried yeast in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Make a well in the centre, then with the motor running, add the egg and sufficient milk mixture to make a soft dough then knead until smooth and shiny (5 minutes). Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

While the dough is proving, make the filling. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl apart from the cinnamon and set to one side for 30 minutes. Drain the fruit, reserving the juice for later. On a lightly floured surface, punch the air from the dough; then roll out to a 20cm x 30cm (8 x 12 inch) rectangle before transferring to an oven tray lined with baking paper. Spread the drained fruit over the middle of the dough, leaving a 5cm (2 inch) border along the long sides. Sprinkle the filling with the cinnamon. Cut the long sides through to the filling at 3cm intervals using a pair of kitchen scissors. Fold the ends of the dough over the filling and then fold strips alternately across the filling in a criss-cross pattern, pressing the ends to seal. There should be glimpses of the filling within. Cover the cake with a tea towel and stand in a warm place for a further 30 minutes, to prove.

apple cranberry yeast cake

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF. Bake the yeast cake until the crust is golden, a skewer inserted withdraws clean and the filling is cooked ~ 30 – 40 minutes. You may need to cover the yeast cake with baking paper to prevent over browning. Cool on the tray for 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.For the orange icing, mix the icing sugar, 1-2 tbl of the reserved juice and the melted butter in a bowl or until smooth. You may need to use a little extra reserved juice. Drizzle the icing over yeast cake and serve. I use a 20 ml tablespoon and a conventional oven. You’ll need to lower the temperature if you’re using a fan forced oven.

apple cranberry yeast cake

apple cranberry yeast cake

By the way, the cake is best eaten the day it’s made but I had some for my breakfast this morning and it still tasted pretty good. Good luck with your return to work. See you again next month with another Delicious Bites post – Jillian.

(text/photos: jillian leiboff)

Posted in Delicious Bites on January 06, 2014

Resolve To Be Happy

Hello friends and Happy New Year! I hope that you had a beautiful holiday season and that you’ve kicked off 2014 feeling completely open and ready to take in whatever the next twelve months has to offer. I’ve been thinking a lot about resolutions (Will I bother? What will they be? Will I ditch “the list” altogether?) and for the first time in years, I’ve decided to abandon the list. While I respect those who take time to carve out their master plan, I thought I’d remove the pressure and just go with the flow this year. Ambition is nice and drives me on one side, but it’s becoming a bit uninspiring and mundane on the other. The real drive, for me, is to simply be more mindful, present, and passionate and to both invigorate and be invigorated. There’s so much ambition and hustle out there (often at a huge cost), I see this so much now online, so I want to step out of the ring and drive a return to passion, happiness and sharing: What drove me eight years ago when I launched decor8. The days when possessing merely a love of sharing and a passion for creative living and decorating were at the core.



Do you remember the early days of blogging? I remember them so clearly; long before companies noticed us and monetization and social media sites became the norm. In those days, we bloggers only hoped to get our voices, our opinions, out there and to show that we had worthy ideas in addition to what mainstream media was showing us. I started blogging because I was bored with popular opinion in print publications and longed to share an alternative approach to decorating and style. I trusted my gut and followed my creative passions – and today I still do though I feel like I hold back a lot more than I once did and I’m working to change this.

We were all driven by very pure things both raw and genuine, not by money, the number of “likes”, growing a massive audience (we didn’t know our potential back then), or some rather disappointing popularity contest. I personally was driven by a need to connect and share and spread joy for something that I truly loved with all of my heart. What drove you? What drives you today?


For 2014, I’m returning to my roots, which you’ll start to slowly see on decor8 and in other parts of my business. I’m not sure how I’ll do it, but ideas have been swarming for months now and it feels good that I came to this decision with the help of my husband. He reminded me to think about what drives me, what REALLY drives me. It isn’t my “brand” or sponsors or ads or popularity or numbers or increasing readership… None of that has ever felt inspiring or motivating to me but only caused me to feel alienated from my core values and from my readers. What drives me is my passion for beauty, a love of creative pursuits, sharing and spreading positivity, being encouraging, nurturing community and connecting others. Maybe this is something you can think about for your blog, too. That is, if you feel overwhelmed by the business side more than the creative passion that originally drove you to start blogging in the first place… What really drives you?


This year, I’m letting instinct take the wheel and drive my blog more than ever before. And you know what, I mostly just want to have FUN doing it. Raise your hand if you feel like blogging, as a whole, is becoming a bit stagnant, boring, underwhelming? Yes, my hand is high in the air too! But the good thing is that we all have the power to change this. We are each our own blog boss; we are the managing editors of our blogs. We drive how we are perceived, negatively or positively. WE are our content, WE are the voice, WE can easily switch things up and create more interesting content that is based on what we are truly excited about vs. what we think will drive our numbers or build a brand or what equals to simply showing off. In the end, your love for your topic will shine through and you’ll end up building readership and a brand anyway, so there’s no business risk.


Let’s talk about something I’ve not heard discussed at blog conferences or even in books on blogging or blog workshops. HAVING FUN! Yeah, you know, how to really have fun as a blogger. Why is SEO and traffic more important than FUN? I want to blog and have FUN with it. I want that FUN to be contagious and for other bloggers to start having FUN again too. That was how blogging was when we got started, right? FUN. Then, it all got so serious online all of sudden – money driven, over-produced (pressure is on for every post to be magazine perfect), competitive, flat. Yawn. It’s time to have fun again and return to the days when blogging was exciting and when we talked about whatever we wanted on our blogs because that kept us real, approachable and more interesting to read. When we read our blog comments, and replied to them. Real people, real conversations. Going beyond what magazine content provides to lift the veil and get to the heart of whatever topic in which we were writing about.


Back in the Fall, I was asked by Mollie Makes (UK craft mag) to write an article about my new year’s resolutions. I knew back then that I wasn’t going to make them for 2014, so I replied explaining that I would write the article but instead, I would encourage an alternative approach – to simply open up your heart, drop the self-criticism and task-mastering, focus on family and friendships, bask in the art of taking some time off, seeing behind the veil of perfection that most of us only show on our blogs, and simply to Resolve To Be Happy for 2014. In other words, no race to tick off boxes on our resolutions lists. My article was titled, “Resolve To Be Happy”, and it appeared in the 34th issue of Mollie Makes (you can buy it and download here). I’ve received an overwhelmingly positive response to my words from their readers, which further encouraged me to stick to my resolve; simply to NOT resolve – no resolutions for 2014. Reader response also became a huge source of validation – that how I felt, others felt too. That lots of us just want to be happy, have fun with our blogs and business, and cut the crap.


I often wonder if getting pregnant is at the core of my list dropping. I know pregnancy has definitely affected my need to listen more to my body and less to what the rest of the world says. You learn to really tap into your instincts when pregnant, don’t you? Especially if you’re like me and you intentionally stay away from all of the baby books and websites (and pregnancy forums! omg, lots of nutty advice!) out there. I’ve only relied on a single app, flipped through What To Expect (although I found most of the advice instinctual which made me realize even more the need to tap in to myself), and I read that book on French parenting (thanks for the gift, Leigh!) which proved more humorous than insightful and ended up being a great read while I was so ill during the first 5 months… But yeah, I’ve had to tap into my instincts like never before. My doctor speaks only German to me so I’m constantly googling or referring to my husband to explain medical German terms to their English equivalent. So even from a medical standpoint, I’ve had to ultimately trust my gut because so much of what my doctor says gets lost in translation. I’m learning to trust my gut like crazy right now and I imagine, after our son arrives, this will only increase.


Then there is this thing that happens when you are are a teacher. You think you know it all but then, through the eyes of your bright and talented students, you see how much you have to really LEARN. Teaching online and in my in-person workshops for the past five years has brought about a massive shift inside that sort of “hit” me this year as I was teaching Blogging Your Way online just a month ago… Maybe it was because it was the first time I taught while simultaneously being pregnant. My students ask me a lot of questions, some I don’t know the answer to so I do loads of research to assist them along their path. Through teaching, I’ve learned that ultimately, the answers are inside of us – we just need guides at times – but we have to be more open to what the questions are and to have the courage to ask them – even the tough ones. I like to motivate my students to ask the right questions, to dig inside and to really examine their intentions. Oftentimes, we aren’t open and aren’t asking because we’re too driven to succeed, too scared to know the answer, too focused on being better versions of ourselves, scared of failing, etc… Tuning out and tuning into our gut instinct is all we’ve got to rely on sometimes but ultimately, it’s a pretty damn good guiding light. So again, for the New Year, I’m going to tune in more to what Holly wants. Maybe you can tune in more to what YOU want, too?


My ultimate desire sounds simple but it really isn’t. It’s to be HAPPY and to INVIGORATE others. We all know what happy means, but what about invigorate? It means to give vitality and vigor to; animate; brace; refresh: fill with life and energy; energize. It goes beyond simply to inspire. Pinterest is inspiring. But does it call you to action? Are you making the cakes or the crafts that you pin? I had a long discussion on inspiration vs. invigoration before the holidays with my husband and he is the reason the topic of INVIGORATION came up in the first place. He encouraged me to make the New Year a year that I focus on this word: invigorate. To not just show pretty pictures and inspire, but to go beyond that and really use my talents to fill others with life and energy. With our first child to arrive any week now (he’s due 25 January!), this will be a very literal translation of “filling others with life”, a baby! But what about my students, all of you, my family, my friends and my husband and our new baby? What about me?

While I’m not going to make a resolve to take any particular step towards my master objective: to invigorate, I will be listening daily to my heart and soul to see where this leads me, and my blog and business, my friendships and family, for 2014. I may make some mistakes. I may not. But I’m going to trust my instinct and open my heart to what I think matters and where I want to put my energy into for this year. I’m going to look at my blog very critically and make some changes. I’m going to get back to my roots, take time to play with my baby and bond with him, decorate my new apartment, share projects here with all of you, and I’m going to take it one day, on step, at a time. None of these are resolutions. I’m not pressuring myself to fulfill any particular task. I just want 2014 to be a year when I grow up and let my instinct drive me, when happiness and having fun become part of my daily life again, and when I get back to what drives me and in turn, invigorates all of you. Let’s see where I end up this time next year.


And what about you? Do you have resolutions? Have you chosen one word that will define your new year? Have you given much thought to tapping in to your raw desire and passion vs. letting others lead you? Have you ditched new years resolutions list for this year too? Do you have a different approach to this year that you’re taking? No way is the “right” way, so feel free to share.

Happy 2014 everyone! xo, Holly

(image: illustration by the lovely Emma Block for my article, Resolve To Happy, which appeared in issue 34 of Mollie Makes)

Posted in inspiration on January 03, 2014

Wow! The Design Files Open House

Good morning friends! Can you believe it’s nearly Christmas? I feel like Autumn totally flew by, don’t you? Our baby boy will arrive in just five weeks (eeeeee!!!!) so I’m over-the-moon excited about it and busy prepping his room and getting massive butterflies as I think about how much we have to look forward to. I’m also in the midst of renovations on our new apartment, though I’m only overseeing things, but it’s still “work” and I’m happy to report that it’s nearly finished! We will move in 2 1/2 weeks! Yeah, wow is right. But all is well – the paint smell is gone, the new floors are installed (and gorgeous), and everything looks so fresh and pretty that the effort involved in sprucing has totally paid off. It’s a total clean slate. I can’t wait to move in and DECORATE! Yay! I will definitely share photos as I go with you, so expect to begin seeing those in January.


And speaking of decorating, I simply must share the lovely event that recently occurred in Australia hosted by design blogger Lucy Feegins from The Design Files. She contacted me over the weekend offering me first dibs on this content and sharing it here on decor8 so I couldn’t turn her down. I’m super behind her amazing concept and love how she and her team convert an empty house into a pop-up showroom all in the name of design and promoting local talent in Australia. Items are sold, they have hundreds of visitors, and then the home is cleaned out and is returned to whomever owns the property. What a cool concept, right?

This year for the first time they held the event in Melbourne (Lucy’s home town) and then again in Sydney 2 weeks later. Normally she only does it in one location so this was quite an undertaking. You can see the inspiring TDF Open House 2013 Video here or simply watch it below. This video was shot, directed and edited by Jessica Leski.

And here are some more photos for you to drool over, taken by Brooke Holm, of the Melbourne open house event.







I love all of the bold accent walls – especially the blue tones and that gorgeous watermelon-y color. Super pretty and so interesting to look at – the art by Melbourne artist Miranda Skoczek is amazing. I also love all of the colorful rugs and textiles, and the white wooden blinds in the bedroom shown above (I’m soooo into wooden shutters at the moment and want to install them in my bedroom, but these blinds are lovely too).

Isn’t this a lovely project? What do you think of the color palette and use of pattern? See any objects in particular that inspire you?

I’d like to wish you all a very lovely day! I’m going to finish up on some shopping, then it’s time to bake cookies and relax… Hope you make some time to relax, too.

AND a special thanks to Lucy for sharing this content with us today!

(images: brooke holm)

Posted in events + markets on December 23, 2013


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