2015 It was great

Chereen from For The Beauty Of It shared a post on 2015 where she shared her highlights, life lessons and all that good stuff. This is a great way to end off the year so I thought I would share some things from 2015 which will stay with me for many years.
A photo posted by Claire (@claire.howse) on

I entered the year engaged, a new home owner and I had a yearning to learn new things. I exit the year married, a slightly more experienced home owner and a few new hobbies and skills under my belt. It's because of these things that I would describe 2015 as my first year being a proper "grown up". However being all grown up also teaches you that life isn't always sunshine and roses. 2015 taught me about loss and how being grateful for what you have right now is the only way to truly live because it can disappear in the blink if an eye.

I had high expectations of myself this year and some of these expectations weren't met. This makes me feel bad but I don't like to dwell on it for too long and I'd rather take something away from it. Rethink what you would like to give and get out of the new year and adjust your expectations accordingly. This would be a good time to insert one of my favourite quotes.

"Have patience with all things but first with yourself. Never confuse your mistakes with your value as a human being. You are a perfectly valuable, creative, worthwhile person simply because you exist. And no triumphs and tribulations can ever change that. Unconditional self-acceptance is the core of a peaceful mind" - Saint Francis de Sales

I am excited for 2016. It will be a big year for my family and I am excited to share my own joy as well as share in their joy. I will continue to expand my gratefulness for the things, people and opportunities in my life. I also want to focus on giving more. Making myself more available to family, charities and learning that the world owes you nothing, you need to earn what you want by hard work and putting yourself out there.

My final thoughts on 2015? It was a great year! I ended the year in a better place than when I started and this is all I can really ask for. Have a safe and happy new year. Everything in moderation, nothing in excess and here's to a healthy and prosperous 2016!

Claire

Qualities I have recently learnt about myself

I received tremendous feedback on my last "What I have recently learnt about myself" post so I though I would share another. This is what I have learn't about myself over the past month or so.



1. I am a fast learner, which I discovered this year when doing crochet crafts and most recently, learning to play the guitar. It is still a challenge but I like to think that I pick things up quickly and after only 5 short days, I could play a simple melody. It's rewarding when you can surprise yourself like that and I can definitely say that trying new things and succeeding is one of my favourite things about this year and I am excited to try many new things in 2016.

2. I could be a bookworm. This past Friday I tagged along when Malcolm embarked on a last minute work trip to KZN. I will be here for just over a week and seeing as I am away from home, this frees up a lot of time where I would be doing dishes, re-organising cupboards or cleaning hedgehog cages. I got to read a book over the weekend. Which is really unlike me. I enjoyed getting caught up in a story and it was refreshing to let my mind wonder, imagine and picture things through the writers words. The book was not that great but it was the actual task of reading that I enjoyed. I might get a few more books to ready whilst I have the time. If you are interested or are already and avid bookworm I suggest visiting Bella-Mi who is an SA Blogger who shares her recent reads and refers you to books which she enjoyed and you might too.

3. I procrastinate, which may be the worst discovery because I detest procrastinators. I can't pinpoint the exact moment I became like this but I see myself putting things on hold and I say "I'll do it later/tomorrow" far more than I'd like to admit (hence the lack of blog posts). This is possibly something I can look at improving in 2016. I wasn't always like this so it can be fixed.

4. I find social media tiring to keep track of. They say that it's 10% blogging and 90% social media networking and getting your content out here but sjoe, keeping track of who posts what where and when is a little much at times. For me Twitter is the platform that I neglect the most when I simply don't have time to read through or post. You really have to filter out the junk to get to the good posts. If you need me, I'll be on Instagram, my fave platform to share all that I love.

5. I rely on people more than I realise. I have always deemed myself independent and if I had to be on my own I would be ay-okay but I need to adjust my view and how I define independence because I rely on a lot of people around me and should give them credit for bringing me to where I am today. Like my parents, siblings and more recently my best friend and husband. I will try and focus this appreciation to where it needs to go in 2016.

These posts always take a lot of pondering but I always feel better for taking the time to write them. Take 5 minutes and think of a few things you have recently learnt about yourself. If you'd like, share them below so I can see :)

Claire

Hill's Festive Treats


Last week the Cats and Dogs of the Howse Household received early Christmas treats from Hill's. "Treats" in our household is either spelled out slowly, T-R-E-A-T-S, or whispered very quietly. Should you say it out loud you will get one very energetic Collie and one giant Great Dane catapulting your way as fast as their bodies can move. Besides play time, treats are one of the dogs favourite things in the world so you can imagine the hype when they got new treats to try. But lets start with the Cats;
Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic treats RSP R45.00 (70g)
These kibble-like Hill's Prescription Diet Metabolic treats are available for both Cats and Dogs and are aimed at those on a weigh-loss program. These treats wont put strain on your furry friend's waistline when used in conjunction with the right weight-loss food. I mentioned on social media that this is the first treat (which isn't human food) that the Kits will actually eat. Even Mr. Meow who doesn't have all his teeth, loves them and just swallows them whole. Sweet boy!
Hill’s Ideal Balance Canine treats RSP R55.00 (227g)
Hill's Ideal Balance Treats for dogs literally have the ideal balance of natural ingredients and nutrition. Available in two variations, Oven Baked Naturals which are yummy little cookie-like biscuits, and the Soft Baked Naturals are a lot more chewy, like doggie candy. All the treats are made without any soy, wheat, corn, artificial colours and flavours. Our pooches will eat pretty much anything but it is good to know that these Hill's treats are packed with the best ingredients, kind of like those gummy vitamins you give kids every day. They do actually work a little bit before getting treats because we believe in good manners!

These packets of yummy treats are worth every cent and your animals will love them as a stocking filler with a ball and mouse or two. Spoil your four-legged kids this Christmas. All Hill's products are available at selected Vet's and some pet supply stores.

Thank you to Hill's for being a constant supporter of Howse Life and the animals in our family!

Running out of time

Image from Pinterest
Being a young adult, which I am apparently allowed to call myself until 39, comes will all sorts of thrills, adventures, milestones and, of course, obstacles. Back in February of last year I wrote a post about "this point in my life" and reading back on it now, I need to write more thoughtful posts like that because as much as this blog is for sharing things with others, it is also for myself. I have reached another "point" in my life and here is how it's going;

I am 25 and feel like I am running out of time. Oh.my.god. Ridiculous, I know, but now I have my very own family to provide for and hold onto forever and ever and ever. I want to do so much with them and for them.

An update from my previous post on life, I have the big house, I have a ring on my finger as well as a handsome husband to go with it. I even have an ever growing zoo at home, which makes me very happy. I am happy. I have mostly everything I wanted to have at my age. One of my more recent discoveries is that time has become something very meaningful to me and I just feel like its not enough. This feeling reaches all aspects of my life but I am mainly referring to my career and furthering myself in order to provide for my family.

I picture a boat, with me and a few crew members. Each one of them represents a specific amount of time I have left on earth. Each crew member needs a task which will hopefully make our trip smooth sailing. How do I choose what each member will do? How do I choose what to invest my time in? do I start studying again? or try start my own business in who knows what? I guess that is why its a good idea to have your career set in place before you get married and settle down. Alas, my boat has just sprung a leak and my crew members are busy shoveling water whilst I try fix it. I have loads of motivation but no where to direct it. The best thing for me right now would be to dip my foot in the water one toe at a time and see where life takes me. I am excited to see what happens and reading back on this, I hope I succeed! Did I?

Even after I settle down in a certain career path, I fear I will still have the anxious feeling of not having enough time. My thoughts have gotten so far as to fear that I will not have enough time with my children before they leave the house and make a life for themselves (and I don't even have kids yet!). Neurotic, I know.

I don't have enough time to do everything but I will make it count for something in the end.

Claire

Blog Break Facts


I'm in my second month of actively being back to blogging and I feel great about it. I love my little space on the internet. I thought I'd share a few facts I found when taking a blogging break all those months ago.

1. You miss your friends in the blogging community. Whether it be through Twitter, Facebook or even cheeky email chats, not interacting with other bloggers is just not fun at all. You want to share success stories and opinions but when you're on a blog break feel so 'bleh' because your blog is not really active anymore so what right do you have to interact? You are the only one to blame for self exclusion, Loner-lady :)

2. You still get views, which was a surprise to me. I honestly thought that taking a break would mean maybe a handful of views a day but alas, it is way way more than that. I must admit that still having views on your blog when you take a break must mean you did a good job on the content that is there (right?). That is partly why I am making a true effort to get back into posting a few times a week.

3. "All the things". Press drops give you a thrill that only bloggers would understand. Getting products before they release or even products that are out but you haven't tried yet is a treat. I know many bloggers will say "it's not about the free stuff" but it kind of is and it makes us feel special.

4. An epiphany - you desperately need a blog face-lift! This is common but even more so when you take a break from looking at your blog 20 times a day. You start to see things from a new perspective and why not start fresh while you have the opportunity. Like an artist taking a step back from his painting to really gaze and critic his work.

5. The Zen of it all - We do many things in our daily lives that use up precious time and so often we don't have anything to show for it. When it comes to blogging, you have proof you did something (or many things actually). Seeing a lovely layout on your own webpage that you so thoughtfully planned and moving over to see an archive full posts which took hard work and effort. It brings a certain Zen to my mind and not blogging disrupts that Zen. Namaste!

What do you miss when you take a blog break? Comment below.

Claire

Homemade Chicken Wraps


This simple chicken wrap recipe is a winner in our house because it is really easy to throw together and it is one of the healthier meal choices you can make. This will be an update for my Chicken Wrap post I did in 2013. My methods, tastes and general knowledge on food has increased drastically since then so here is how we do chicken wraps in our house...version 2.0.


Ingredients
Brown wraps,
Lettuce, baby spinach, cucumber and tomato,
Yellow pepper (optional),
Cubed chicken fried in your preferred spices,
Sun dried onions,
Ranch dressing.

Substitute Options
Switch out the sun dried onions by frying fresh onion with your cubed chicken,
Yellow pepper adds great colour but green pepper and red pepper also work well,
Pickles add a great pop of flavour is you are a fan,
Mayonnaise can be used instead of ranch dressing for a creamier texture,
Add mushroom and cheese if you want a "Mega Deluxe" wrap.


Heat your wrap in the microwave for 25 seconds, this will make folding easier as it makes the wrap more susceptible to bending. Then add your ingredients, in no particular order, remembering to stay in the center of the wrap, in a line, and leave a 4-5cm space at the bottom for folding. 

Here is how I layered my wrap: 1 teaspoon of ranch dressing, lettuce and spinach, cucumber, tomato and yellow pepper, chicken and lastly a sprinkle of sun dried onions. I like my wraps extra crunchy and this is the reason for my ingredient choices but you can really add anything you want. I also used lemon and rosemary seasoning which added a nice fresh, herb-ie, flavour. For a more filling meal, add some oven baked chips, a handful of crisps (like lays or Simba chips) or a fruit salad which doubles up as a healthy desert. Use your imagination and incorporate your favourite foods to ensure a delicious meal.


I had originally started making these wraps in our home because it was one of Malcolm's favourite things to eat when we went out on dates and making them at home was so much cheaper back when we were students. I'm glad this is still a "meal tradition" we have at least once a month and I'm super happy at how it has evolved.


What do you add to your wraps? Any suggestions? Comment below.

Claire

Upcycle Charger Idea

I have had my eye on these DIY charger "upcycle" ideas (from Pinterst of course) which only requires a mild crochet skill, a few materials and an array of design options. Call it a Pinterest hack of some sort. The point is to wrap yarn or cotton around your charger wire in a way that looks ascetically pleasing and serves the purpose of adding a protective barrier for cuts, bumps and dirt.


You will need the following; a ball of knitting cotton (try make sure it's 100%), a crochet hook, a yarn needle, and a stitch maker (optional). You will single crochet all along the the wire. Here's a quick video tutorial on how to do the single crochet stitch. As you go along the wire, twist the work so that it creates a swirl effect. Use a stitch marker if you remove your crochet hook so that your work does not unravel.


It will take a while to crochet along the whole length of your charger so make a cup of coffee and put your favourite series on the TV. Once you finish and your entire wire is covered then you will need to tie off your ends and weave them in with your yarn needle. Here is a video tutorial on how you do this. Now you're done!

My main purpose to do this to my own charger is the fact that it gets dirty really quickly because it's white. I also leave it plugged in most of the time (the plug is off at the wall) so it often lays on the floor where the doggies walk and may trample it. Pretty and effective. I wish I could have found the multicolour cotton which would have made a rainbow effect as you crochet but my local craft store did not have any so purple just had to do.


Is this something you would try? Comment below!

Claire

Weekend Ramblings

I have been spending a lot of my spare time thinking about a plan for my future career. This means most of that very valuable brain juice is being directed away from my blog, but only just for a little while. My sweet Husband has also been away for the past 5 weeks so I have been running our house/mini-zoo all by myself. I have about 13 drafted posts in my box but I am simply not getting around to finish them and make sure they are edited well. For now, until I get my shit sorted out ducks in a row, I will share a few scattered thoughts which came to me over the weekend.

Invisibobble
I received a sweet package last week with the Limited Edition Invisibobble with the Breast Cancer Awareness ribbon looped inside the hair ring. This Pink Power Invisibobble collaborates with BreastCancer Now to assist with their work in breast cancer research. Let's support each other because we don't know how strong we are until being strong is the only choice we have!


Adele
I wasn't really an Adele fanatic back in the day. I listed to her songs and enjoyed them but I never took the time to appreciate her as an artist. How great is her new song, Hello? It has been on repeat all weekend. Your thoughts, Love? Hate?

Santa Shoebox Project
I dropped my box off this weekend just like many others across the country. Even though it might be too late to drop off your own box, you can still donate a Virtual box which is pre-packed and delivered to a needy child. Unfortunately Santa Shoebox has not reached 100% of their 100,000 target for this year so please consider donating a virtual box for this cause.

A Healthy Me
I haven't shared much on this subject on the blog or social media but I have been taking my health and eating habits more seriously over the past few weeks. In 2013 I did a "Live Healthy" series on Miss Claira-Bella but it did not last long at all, hence why I haven't shared a new series yet, in fear that I will let people down if I don't succeed. I found out this month that I have a hormonal condition that makes me process sugars and carbs differently to others which explains why I have gained almost 15kg in the past few years and cannot get rid of it. Let me know if you would like me to do a full post on this. I am trying to cut out artificial sugars and wheat from my diet as a trial so see if I notice any changes in weight, energy and overall feeling about myself. Wish me luck!

Moose the Great
In June this year we adopted a 7 week great Dane Puppy. We love the breed and for safety reasons, it was always our plan to get a horse-dog. We named him Moose (Malcolm likes to call him "Moose The Great") and he is just the cutest thing! He is 6 months at the end of October and I cannot believe how something can grow so big in such a small amount of time. He is becoming a handful though, especially when I have to deal with him on my own. We got Tensai at 6 months so most of her naughty puppy phase was out the way and she was neutered so her hormones didn't have an effect on her behavior. Moose Still has his man bits and now that his hormones are starting to charge through his system, he is just so excitable and gets so worked up no matter how much you try calm him. Mix this with his general lack of brain cells (the breed is not the smartest) and his size and weight, it is really tiring. He has his sweet moments which totally outweigh the trying times so I am excited for the future and to watch this pup develop into his own "person"

June 2015 vs October 2015.
That is all the ramblings I have time to share right now. Normal posts should resume soon!

Claire

What's in my Santa Shoebox

My box is finished! I can finally share what I have packed for my little 10 year old pledge. I mentioned in my first post about Santa Shoebox that this in my first year participating in the project an I must say I have enjoyed the planning and packing. I don't have kids of my own so this was a new experience, buying school supplies and little girls clothes. Definitely got my broodiness out of control (hehe). 

Anyhoo, here is what is in my jam packed box for my little Rebecca.


Educational supplies: A small writing book (I'm sad the proper A4 ones don't fit in a shoe box), A pack of silly face stickers, a multi pack of stationary, a case for her stationary and a mini school Dictionary (this was the most expensive item in the box but I really felt that this would be used during the rest of her school career).


Sanitary supplies: Cute Hello Kitty face cloth, Bar of Soap, Toothbrush and kiddies toothpaste.


Toys: (I had no clue what to get) Two dolls and a Minnie Mouse lucky packet.


Clothing: Cute little Summer dress, leggings to wear underneath if its colder and a hand crochet beanie made by myself (which is aimed for the winter months). Sweets: Jelly Tots!

Now I have the difficult task of playing Tetris to fit all of these items in the box so it closes properly. I don't think elastic bands will hold this thing down. Want to see what my box looks like? I did a post here on tips to decorate your Santa Shoebox. Share your boxes with me on Twitter and Instagram :)

Claire

Mavala Garden Party - Hortensia

Mavala Hortensia RSP R65. Excuse the wonky thumb nail. I'm going through a stage of frustrating nail breaks!
I very seldom have instances where I find a nail polish "unforgettable" and by that I mean every time I visit my nearest Dis-Chem and walk past the Mavala stand, this specific policy catches my eye and I go home wishing that it was in my collection. It took about three weeks of convincing myself that I don't already have a similar shade and this week I snatched up this beauty for Mavala's new Garden Party collection.

Mavala protective base coat, Mavala Hortensia and Mavala Colorfix topcoat.
I am pretty chuffed with my Spring mani. I had the perfect nail polish sandwich on my nails using my fave Mavala base and top coat. Read my review on the base and top coat here.


Overall this polish is a pretty pink. I feel that is a good combination between pastel and bright pink. Not too "baby" but not too "disco". I did have a slight issue with streaking when applying this polish. You can't really do too many strokes on your nail otherwise the polish starts to make bare patches. You just have to apply confidently and don't mess around. I suggest doing 2 or 3 very thing layers in order to get good coverage and minimize patches. Using a Top coat helps to smooth out any light patches which I was happy about.

It also took a fair amount of using the Google machine to find out that Hortensia is just another name for Hydrangea. You might notice that the other 5 shades in this collection are also named after flowers, hence the "Garden Party Collection". Being a green-thumbed lady and all, I love the whole look, feel and general idea of this collection.

Image Source
Let me know what you thought of this polish and collection. Do you have any of the other shades? Share some pictures of your  garden party mani on Twitter.

Have a great weekend!
Claire

How to decorate your Santa Shoebox

As drop-off deadlines are fast approaching, I thought I would share a few tips on how you could decorate your Santa Shoebox (using mine as an example).

There are guidelines that the Santa Shoebox team asks you to follow in order for the whole project to run as smoothly as possible. Firstly, your box should be around 34x11x20cm and this will vary quite a bit from person to person as not all boxes will be exactly the same but try stick to these dimensions (my box is 29.5x11x19.5). Secondly, do not wrap your box in such a way that they lid cannot easily come off when reaching the drop-off area. I assume some boxes may be checked and additional items added if needed so wrap your lid separate to accommodate this process. And lastly, leave a space at the top right corner, on the top of the box, for your label. Again, this makes scanning easier on collection day.


You can go crazy with the personalising of your box. Get the kids involved with kokies, stickers and other crafts. I don't have little ones so I did a classy design for my little 10 year old pledge, Rebecca. Festive wrapping, which you see packed out in all the shops already, is a nice way to add to the kiddies excitement on the day that they receive their gift. I used some extra glittery paper for the name and accent spots here and there. I found this paper at my local craft store and it is quite hardy so it will still be all sparkly when Rebecca gets it!

You can even decorate the inside but for my box I just lightly stuck two pieces of neon pink paper. The aim here is that my little pledge can take the paper out and draw on it if she'd like. You can stick in a personal letter from you and your family and even include a photo of yourself if you are comfortable doing so. Like I said, I don't have kids but you should take advantage of this opportunity to keep yours busy and it is also super fun for them to do.


You can follow Santa Shoebox's Pinterest boards where they have tons of ideas on previously decorated boxes as well as what to include in your box for your specific pledge age group.

I hope this helps spring up some ideas on how to decorate your Santa Shoebox and remember there is no limit to your creativity. Next week I will be sharing what I have included in my box so subscribe to my newsletter (to the right of this page)  so you don't miss out on more ideas. Tweet me some pics of your beautifully decorated shoeboxes!

If you haven't pledged a box yet, there is still time! Go to www.santashoebox.co.za and follow the sign up process. Pledge target is currently only at 63%. 

Claire

My Favourite Kitchen Companion - Epimax Lotion Review


Epimax Lotion RSP R44.95
Being a young home owner, savings and any additional hard earned cash goes towards maintenance and fixer-upper tasks around the house and garden. Luxuries, like a dish washer, are really not a priority so I do things the old fashioned way. My hands are dipped in hot, soapy water quite regularly which is such a skin destroyer and an irritation if you are like me who cringes when your skin is dry.

Luckily I got the opportunity to try this nifty pump bottle of Epimax Lotion*. It sits on my kitchen windowsill ready to use on my hands after each load of dishes I scrub. It's not loaded with fragrances and is mainly targeted toward those who have dry skin. The ingredients are simple as they are there to do one job and that is moisturize and act as a barrier to all the nasties we touch throughout the day. Liquid paraffin, purified water, glycerine, vitamin E and two paraben ingredients. No artificial colouring or perfume and it is dermatologist tested. It comes very close to the traditional aqueous cream but just a bit thinner in consistency. Not much else to elaborate on beside that this should be a staple in every household.

The fact that I reach for this lotion on a daily basis means that I like it a lot and I feel it really does mositurise your skin. I will admit that I would use it a lot more on other parts of my body too if they somehow worked in an SPF into their formula. That would be awesome! I highly recommend this product after a few months of testing and would definitely repurchase the pump bottle again as it is so convenient to use.

Prices as spotted in Dis-Chem in September: 
100g tube R34.95, 
250g tube 49.95, 
100g tub R24.95, 
400g tub R45.00, 
450g with pump R44.95, 
Epimax Junior and baby 400g tub R54.95,
Epimax Plus 400g tub R69.95.

Visit their website for full product ranges and descriptions.

What lotion are you currently mad about? Comment Below.

Claire

*Product supplied at the Freebees PR editors day

Monday Pastime

Image Source
Lets all just throw a little tantrum because our weekend is over, mmmkay? Before you get started on your long list of tedious work tasks for the day, check out a few things I pulled off the interwebs over the weekend which I thought would make a good pastime. Waste some time at work and have a look!

These sweet and intricate illustrations. Untranslatable words by Marija Tiurina is also a language lesson so not a complete waste of eye-ball use.

Need to send someone at work a note? Thank you, sorry or even "hey, I like you", Bureau of Communication has you covered!

Gather those co-workers around you and have a bit of a Science class lesson about Clothing in a can

Songs that are surprisingly growing on me;
Hold my Hand - Jess Glynne
Cool for the Summer - Demi Levato
Love Myself - Hailee Steinfeld

A sweet story about an Alchemists Letter. Also cute to show your kids.

Zoella's sweet Pug Birthday party. If only my doggies would sit still for photo's like this!

Relationship type stuff - Why Marriage isn't for you (quite a sweet article actually).

Chicara from Lipgloss Kisses is having a party over on Instagram with the hashtag "#lipglosskissesparty". Daily prompts photo challenge which is really fun even if you aren't really that into Instagram. Follow me to see my piccies!

Advice going forward this week: Be safe, everything in moderation, nothing in excess and be sure to check back to Howse Life posts from last week and even further than that. September was a great comeback month and I would love for you to comment on your faves!

Claire

Angels on my tastebuds


Who knew we would be swapping soup and stews for fruits and salads so soon and so rapidly. Now that Spring and Summer are in full swing I though I would share some yummy foodie pictures which I took from my Pinterest Board, Yummy In My Tummy. If any of these catch your eye, do check them out on my Pinterest board.

Catch up on my other Pinspiration posts here. Enjoy your Saturday Lovelies!

Claire

Cous Cous and Chicken Salad Recipe

  
I have had this chicken salad about four times this week already which I am taking as a sign that it is really really good because I easily get bored with eating the same meal over and over again. I am sharing this really easy recipe as it is super affordable (read a few cheats at the end of the post) and with hope that you love it too.


What you need:
Cous Cous
Cucumber 
Green pepper
Shredded or cubed chicken
Chopped almonds (optional)

Dressing
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Cumin
Black pepper
Fresh or dried parsley
Soy Sauce
Garlic (optional)

The rest is pretty simple, as salads are. Dice. Chop. Peel. It's all about preference really. Forgot to add almonds before taking this picture but I also wanted to note that if you are not into a lot of crunch in your salad maybe skip the almonds as there is plenty yummy, juicy, crunch with the cucumber and green pepper. You can also rather use a mixture between green, yellow and red pepper to liven the appearance. And Voila! 


A quick few buck saving tips: Most Spar's and deli's have single piece, already roasted, chicken for like R15 - R20 (depending on the size) so if you are making this salad for 1 person this could be a viable option instead of cooking to much just for yourself. For the Cous Cous, get the instant kind where you just add boiling water and it is ready in 5min. It can save a lot of time and it also lasts longer (I've had my box for almost a year now). 

I hope you enjoyed this recipe. Please Tag me on Twitter or Instagram with your salad recreations. I would also love to hear your creative suggestions below on what else you think would go well with this salad. I am always up for new things!

Claire

Why I started blogging


In February 2012 I started a blog, Miss Claira-Bella, and at the time I didn't realize how much it would change my perception of people, life and myself. Here's the back story;

I was in my second year of Studying a Bcom Economics via correspondence through UNISA. In 2010 and 2011 I was working as a Receptionist and studying in the evenings which was difficult for my young adult mind so I stopped working mid 2011 to study full time at home. Not only did this prove to be a financial constraint on myself, boyfriend and family, it also left me living a lonely life where I stared at the same four walls 24/7. I didn't go out much because I simply did not have money for a social life and because of this, I started resenting my studies and my tertiary education.

This is where I learned something about myself. I am a peoples person (to some extent). I love seeing faces, being in crowds where I can hear conversation, judge peoples decisions and feel like I am being seen and acknowledged as a living person on this planet. I yearned to be noticed and not in a narcissistic way. I wanted to walk into a shopping center and shout "HELLO World! I am here. CAN YOU SEE ME?". The four walls in our 2 bedroom flat could not give me the acknowledgement I craved. So I started a blog. A place where people could go and acknowledged I existed. Even if it wasn't in person, the stats showed that people knew that that there was a person named Claire and she was alive, typing stuff (not very well may I add) on a blog.

If you are looking at staring a blog then the easiest niche to get into would be beauty blogging, a fact I learnt later on on my blog career, so this is what I did. You can read my first post here. Pick up any beauty item in your house and write what you think about it. My novice blog somehow got notice by brands and PR companies and I started receiving products to review and share with my blog followers. I think this contributed to my blog living longer that it would have if I had just been writing stuff about myself or I would have just run out of things to blog. This is where I learnt the second thing about myself, although this niche was really great and the ladies in the beauty blogging community are the nicest people you will ever meet, I was not passionate about cosmetics as others out there. There were things in this world that interested me more and I thought had more value in sharing with the world whether it was about myself, food, advice, animals or even events. (I am still trying to master that style of writing).

Here I am 3 years later with a new blog, I got married, moved cities, bought a house and started a family (with only fur-kids for now) and I couldn't be more appreciative of my blessings. In life, I feel that you venture into things at the right time for you and it will get you through whatever it is you need help with. Blogging was this "help" and I am so thankful for it. Even now, It brings me joy to share things on this platform on the internet and I can proudly call it mine. I am so excited for the future of this blog and the future of my content. I am way more serious about my blog than I ever have been before and this only means good things! I am so thankful for all you who visit my blog every day.

How did you get into blogging or if you aren't what are the reasons you would start blogging? Comment below!

Claire

Games for Ladies

I wasn't much of a gaming girl when I met my husband, actually I wasn't much of a tech girl either but six years of being exposed by your nerd-physicist-partner-man will change you. You start understanding things better and you start enjoying all things tech and gaming. With that being said, I still don't have a taste for most of the common "guy games" which made me think of doing a post on some games which my fellow ladies might enjoy.

Child of Light
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"Aurora, a young girl from 1895 Austria, awakens on the lost fairytale continent of Lemuria. To return home she must fight against the dark creatures of the Queen of the Night, who have stolen the sun, the moon and the stars. At stake is not only Lemuria, but Aurora’s true destiny." Source

The scenes, story line and narration throughout the entire game is simply magical. I find that the firefly character, Igniculus, adds humor and an extra aspect to controlling Aurora and using Iggy to blind enemies and help as much a little firefly can during battles. This game is perfect for those ladies looking for a fairytale experience. Available for PC, Xbox, Play station and Wii U.

Banished 

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Lets be honest ladies, we like to control things in life and this game allows you to do just that. "In this city-building strategy game, you control a group of exiled travelers who decide to restart their lives in a new land. They have only the clothes on their backs and a cart filled with supplies from their homeland. The townspeople of Banished are your primary resource." Source

I had so much fun with this game. The game play is so smooth and you really have great controls over what you are looking at. Keeping all my people fed and housed was quite a challenge to get right and even once you do have everything going smoothly, one big batch of nomads can send things in a downward spiral. Definitely worth it if you are looking for a challenge but still have a fun gaming experience. Available for Microsoft Windows only.

The Floor is Jelly

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"The Floor is Jelly is a game by Ian Snyder with music by Disasterpeace that answers the question: what if everything you touched was made of jello?" Source

This game is just as fun as it sounds and all the comments out there on the gaming soundtrack is true, really amazing. I have not progressed in the game as much as I would have liked to because it is quite a challenge. I would not recommend playing this if you have a tired mind because you have to really concentrate and focus to wiggle your way through these wobbly scenes and levels. Available for Windows and Mac users.

Prison Architect
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Last but not least we have my current fave, Prison Architect, which is a private prison construction and management simulation game by the British game developer Introversion Software. This game has been in Alpha for the past three years which pretty much means that they have been developing this for a really really long time getting all the bugs fixed to give us the best playing experience. Good news; The wait is over! The full game (V1) will officially be released on the 6th of October 2015. Pre-order on Steam here.

You make the rules and the prisoners have to follow, but keep in mind that prisoners have needs and demands. If you are too cruel or needs are not met, you will start to have outbreaks of prison riots, gang members will overpower your guards and they will literally break the prison down. Even when you think your prison is under control, a fire can break out in your kitchen or even worse, your prisoners have dug a tunnel underground and have escaped. I highly recommend this game to everyone. Available for Windows and Mac users.

All of these games are available on Steam. I hope you get to play some of these games because I really have enjoyed my time with them and that is saying a lot as I am not a complete girl-nerd. Leave some comments below if there is a game that I should be playing and I will definitely check them out! I will also tweet these games and their developers' accounts so be sure to follow me on Twitter.

Claire

Starting a Vlog

I have been feeling adventurous lately and not in the literal sense of doing things like mountain climbing or bungee jumping, I mean adventurous as in going out of my comfort zone and do things I wouldn't normally do. Many things around me have been changing and I suspect even bigger changes will come about in the near future so why not jump into the current of this change and do something like vlog. I watch daily vlogs every day and I always wonder what it would be like to capture your life on camera and share it with the world.

That's exactly what I have done! This weekend I filmed a few snippets of our weekend and I shared it with you on YouTube. Check it out below!


I wont be posting the vlogs to my blog every week so please be sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel and give me feedback so I know you are liking them!

Claire

Nail art

It was brought to my attention (thanks Pinterest) that I have over 4,000 pins on Pinterest, which is proof that I use this platform a lot when looking for creative inspiration. I went back to a few of my boards to scan through the ideas I thought were worthy enough to save (look at me on my high horse). There were some truly good nail art images from when I was obsessed with everything colourful and pretty on nails. This was one of them, a light indigo shade with a rose gold accent. How sweet! I decided to do my own version/copy-cat and I think it turned out fairly well.


Nails Inc Caviar base and top coat, Tip Top in Lady Lilla and Revlon's Copperglaze Platinum.
I enjoy the simple manicures nowadays as i just don't have the time anymore and this design mimics just that, simple and quick. Apply your base coat, two layers of you base colour, wait for that to dry completely. Snip up some pieces of sellotape, tape off a pattern (whichever you prefer) and pant over with the second shade of polish. This next step is most probably the most important; slowly peel off the tape downwards whilst the polish is still very wet. If you wait till the polish is dry before pulling off the tape, you wont get very clear lines on the design. Lastly, once that last coat of polish is completely dry, add your top coat.

I could have chosen a lighter base shade but overall I like it and I think it is a good copy-cat. There is a similar version over at Ordinary Misfit where Michelle does a reversed design with Hean polish.

If you like this design please Pin it, share it, and comment below on what you liked about it. If you try this, or similar designs, please tag #howselifeblog on social media so I can find it and share the love.

Claire

Crochet pencil/cosmetic bag

I haven't shared much on this subject on the blog in the past but crocheting has become a new hobby of mine in the past 6 months or so. Watching my grandmothers knit and crochet kind of makes it my heritage to learn the craft and whilst actually doing it, it makes me feel nostalgic. There are certainly no rules about only doing this when you are in your senior years and learning while you are still young has it's perks, like the fact that you may ask your elder relatives' advice on what you are and aren't doing right. It brings a smile to their faces to be able to bond over this simple thing.

Unfortunately I do not live near any grandparents (I only visit during the holidays) and I like to think that I am a nippy learner so after watching a few YouTube video's, I learnt how to crochet.  At first I made a small blanket and some beanies which was great practice but now that winter is over I'd like extend my knowledge to other crochet crafts, starting with a cute pencil/ cosmetic purse.

I want to clearly state that this is not my pattern (I am not on that level yet) and you can find it on Oombawka Design. This pattern is relatively easy to follow and can be adjusted to your needs. The colour of your yarn/wool is also completely up to you and I think that is the beauty of hand crafts, you can make it just the way you like. I am loving the Olive and Purple combo right now but didn't have yarn on hand in those shades. 

Follow the pattern and you will get something like this;



I really do suggest trying your hand at crocheting if it intrigues you. If you do crochet, what patterns do you suggest I try next? I'd love to see your creations so please Tweet and Instagram with the tag #howselifeblog so I can find you.

Please also sign up for my newsletter  on the right of this page.

Claire

Host a summer party

Collage images can be found here
I just cannot wait for Summer to hit me. Okay besides the blaring heat, this has quickly become my favourite season and the warm evenings are the perfect setting to entertain. This week I am sharing some Summer inspiration and general party ideas over on this Pinterest board.

Have a peek and let me know which are your favourite!

Claire

Basic Orchid Care

We've all seen those pretty orchids at Woolies and you may have been given one as a gift or even splurged and bought one for yourself, either way, you now have an Orchid and it would be reeeealy great if it didn't die. I have become knowledgeable on the topic of Orchids and none of mine have actually died which I am taking as a sign I might be doing something right. Sharing is caring so here are my top 5 tips for Orchid care.


1. Identification - The most common orchid and the ones you will most likely buy is called a Phalaenopsis orchid. The leaves are a dark green and are stiff (they cannot bend). It has a long flower spike/ stem and the flowers hang like a pretty pendant. Identification is important so that you may get to know it's needs and how to care for it. If your orchid is not like the one described above, please visit this website where they can assist with identification on their webpages.

2. It's in the roots - In Phalaenopsis orchids specifically, it is easier to "read" their roots. I have my orchids in clear posts so I can see what the root system is like but I will cover that in a different post if there is enough interest in the topic.

All you need to know to keep it alive is DO NOT pot this type of orchid in normal soil, they need aeration around the roots so bark is perfect. Thirsty orchids will have a silver-ish film over the roots making the roots appear to be a light green shade. After watering the silver film will go clear and the roots will be a dark green shade.

You also get aerial root which are the ones that grow out the pot in all different directions. I can also cover this in another post if you would like. (let me know in the comments)

Dry VS wet roots
3. Watering -  Wait till the roots are completely dry/light green because they like this. If your roots are constantly dark green, consider reducing your watering. Right now, early Spring, I am watering every 6-7 days. Mid Summer I will most likely water every 3-4 days but "read" your roots and water accordingly.

Please avoid getting water on the leaves and especially in the leaf joins (where the leaf is attached to the crown of the plant). One small drop of water in the crown will give you crown-rot and orchids seldom survive crown-rot. Watch this VERY helpful video on the proper and safe way to water your orchid.

4. Light is beautiful - Do not place your orchid in direct sunlight. Their leaves are very sensitive and you will start noticing burn marks on the leaves if your orchid gets direct sunlight. With that being said, light is still important for these orchids. They love morning sun and afternoon sun as this is quite bright but not harsh. Windows facing east and west are ideal for orchids so try place them like this in your home. If your windows are quite sunny then place sheer curtains/fine lace curtains between the window and orchid to break that direct sunlight.

Extra tidbit: Any unopened flower buds will turn towards a light source like a window so it is a good idea to keep buds facing the light until they have all opened. If you don't, you may have flowers face all different directions and you lose that pendant like droop.

5. Downtime - Do not throw your orchid away once it has finished flowering. Just because it has no flowers does not mean it is no longer useful. With proper care in late Summer to Autumn, your orchid will flower again in Winter/Spring the next year after a rest period.

I can cover a few more issues in another post so please let me know if the information above sparked some interest and it will let me know if I am good at this giving advice thing. Comment below with your own orchid stories (good or bad) and Tweet me your orchid pictures.

Claire

Santa Shoebox Project 2015


For the first time, I will be participating in the Santa Shoebox project this year, aimed at collecting 100,000 festive season gifts for children from vulnerable backgrounds. The idea is simple; take a shoe box and fill it with essential items as well as a few surprises for the little ones. There are guidelines of what must be in the boxes (toothpaste, soap etc.) and the rest is up to you.

After a few days of their website being down due to technical issues, I was finally able to pledge a box. For my first ever shoe box donation, I have selected a little girl named Rebecca who is 10 years old. The signing process was really simple. Once you create your profile you are given a list of children in your area. You can filter your search by gender and age which makes choosing a kiddy quite easy. You also get a bar code to stick on your box which makes collection more organized and productive. This initiative is very well organized and thought out.

I have also registered as a volunteer in my area which will be a new experience for me. I am looking forward to it. Now time to get packing, decorating and organizing. I will share my box with you closer to drop-off!

You can pledge you own box by visiting www.santashoebox.co.za. Tweet me if you have signed up and if you are excited to help make a child's Christmas special this year.

View Santa Shoebox on Pinterest for ideas on what to pack in your box and they have age specific ideas and suggestions which will help if you are at a loss for ideas.

Claire

A Fruity Flair

Mavala base and top coat, OPI, Essence and my little Fimo canes.
Many moons have passed since I last spoke about Fimo sticks. You can find these posts back at Miss Claira-Bella. Part 1 I explained what these funny things were and Part 2 I shared a few pictures of my collection (with the intention of doing a Part 3 but never got to it).

These little sticks are a mission to slice up which is why I haven't done more of these nail art posts in the past. Since being back form my blog break, I will use these Fimo canes more because I found a trick that makes it easier to cut, in my husbands tool box of all places. A stanley knife/box cutter, which is really really sharp. I wont get into much of the technical but you can find videos on YouTube if you are interested. Main point is they need to be cut as thin as possible to avoiding having ridges on your nails when stuck on. Here in SA, you will most likely get pre-cut slices in nail art wheels and packets which aren't as thin as I like but if they are all you can get your hands on then you can make it work.

My fruity creation.
From there it is pretty simple to design an array of nail art concepts. For this one I used a base coat, OPI's Pink Friday, Essence's Indian Summer, stuck the fimo slices on with a drop of base coat and once they were securely dried onto my nail, I finished with a top coat. Tada! A fruity flair for your nails which would go so well with a light summer dress, sandals and a hat.

I have not come across and local stockists of the bulk pack full length canes but you can purchase them online here however they are quite pricey due to import fees. If you are interested, I wouldn't mind sending a few selected readers some of my fimo slices. Pop me an email (msclairabella@gmail.com) with your details and we can chat about sending you some to experiment with.

Share your own nail creations (it doesn't have to be fruit related) with me on Twitter and Instagram with #Howselife.

Claire