Lasagne soup. It’s a thing.

Today I mentioned I had Lasagne soup for lunch, and Twitter was all ‘WHUT? WHERE? HOW?’ so here we go.

This is enough for around 10 – 12 servings (unless you are me, and then 8. Maybe.) and I made it to bag it up and freeze, with the cheese to serve.
2 cups cooked Ground Italian Sausage (I use Sicilian sausages, and squeeze them out of the skins, oddly satisfying.)
3 cups diced Onion
4 teaspoons mince Garlic, Cloves
2 teaspoons Oregano, Dried
1/4 teaspoons Red Pepper Flakes
2 tablespoons Tomato puree concentrate
800g Diced Tomatoes, Canned
2 whole Bay Leaf
1.75 litres Chicken Stock
1 cup of white wine
250g small pasta
1/2 cups Basil, Fresh
1/2 teaspoons salt,
1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 cup Ricotta Cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese grated
1/2 cup Cheddar Cheese grated

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add sausage, onions, and garlic. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add oregano, red pepper flakes and tomato concentrate and cook stirring frequently for 3 more minutes until paste turns brownish. Add tomatoes, bay leaves, stock and white wine and bring to a boil, add the pasta. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir basil into the soup. Season with salt and pepper. Cool soup. Meanwhile, combine ricotta, Parmesan, cheddar cheese in a bowl. Divide among small freezer bags for number of servings (ie 6 bags if you are making 6×2 servings). Divide soup among same number of large freezer bags. Place cheese mixture in the bag. Label and lay flat to freeze.

Defrost in the fridge and stir in cheese after heated through to serve.

This is a mix of different recipes, and I was reminded of my love for it by this month so I adapted it to my tastes.

Also speaking up.

Edit, March 17th 2013: Isn’t it amazing what you find when you trawl the inbound links to your blog? Like the pleasant forum user who decided to quote this post and append ‘lol fatty‘, to what started out as an interesting debate on the Something Awful forums. Nope, guess again ‘NevergirlsOFFICIAL’. I have issues but a massive excess of fat is not one of them.

Have you read Sarah’s post about the horrible abusive treatment she suffered as a designer who gets up and speaks at public events? Go do it, now. I’ll wait.

No-one deserves to be treated like that, least of all Sarah – who is incredibly talented and super smart.

I want to briefly tell you my story (and it’ll have to brief because I have a pile of client work to catch up with, and a 3 year old home from nursery with a cold) but I also want to state categorically this is not me trying to pull attention away from Sarah and her story, or clamour ‘me too, me too’. I just think that the more this stuff is heard, the less it can be shaken off as a ‘one-off’ or ‘isolated incident’.

I don’t get comments about my looks very often. Or rather, I don’t get positive comments about my looks, which is absolutely fine by me. I don’t get up on stage or in front of a video camera to look good, look bad or look anything other than non-shambolic. I brush my hair and apply makeup. I wear a colourful dress or a skirt and long socks. In fact, I have deliberately cultivated a kooky, sweary, brash onstage personality so that any criticism is not really about me, it is about ‘her’. I have seen comments describing me as an overgrown Teletubby, or questioning how someone with pink hair could be taken seriously as a speaker. (Good news, it’s currently blue!). Someone on Twitter alluded to my ‘beer belly’ once. For accuracy, I should tell you it’s actually a ‘two-babies-and-a-love-of-cake’ belly but I understand that is hard to fit into 140 characters.

I do not think that someone who has got up on a stage to give a presentation about their subject has given the world carte blanche to comment on the presenter’s appearance. Personally, in my case, I will have Amazon rush send you a box of all the fucks I give. The postage will be cheap. But it is NOT OKAY. I have resigned myself to the the idea that if someone has taken the time to comment on how I look in a negative light, I must have not been doing a good job of engaging them with the presentation. I do give more than one fuck about that.

Then there was the one comment I saw in a live irc style backchannel at an event, just after I came off stage. I wish I’d had the forethought to screenshot it or something but I was so shocked, I dropped my laptop on the table and immediately went and called home, to check on my kids.


Because the comment said (paraphrasing) “This talk was so pointless. After she mentioned her kids at the beginning I started thinking of ways to hunt them down and punish her for wasting my time here.”

Now, I don’t know the gender of the person involved. But it was someone who felt comfortable enough to make that statement in a room largely full of twenty-and-thirty something white guys, certain of anonymity and not being turned out by public opinion. Some people there must have recognised the handle. The point is, gender aside, they used something that I was bringing with me as experience (going to restaurants and reading menus with my small children) that they were unlikely to have experienced themselves, based on their response. No empathy.

I get the guy/gal was (almost certainly) joking. But, NO. NO, YOU DO NOT EVER SAY THAT. IT IS NEVER OKAY.
It is threatening. Even if you think I’d never see it, it is not an appropriate response to, well, anything but especially not to a public speaker you don’t agree with. And I did see it.

My life experiences and exposure to different situations makes me who I am, and the point of view I bring to my work and thus, my presentations. My children certainly shape that. I don’t expect any reasonable human being to use my motherhood, and the vulnerabilities that come with that, as weapon against me.

Unless you only want individuals with advanced narcissistic personality disorder and no client experience to temper their idealism, no people old or young or dear connected to them to make them vulnerable, and the looks of a non-threatening preconception-conforming type, to get up on stage and present to you (they’ll be the only ones left willing and able), you must help us call this unpleasantness out when it happens.

Chaps: All the time women are ‘others’ in this industry, we need you, as a representative of the legion of smart, not-sexist guys, to call out the one or two guys who think you are actually like them. These guys think you too are okay with ‘lighthearted’ rape jokes, misogyny, veiled threats and nudge-nudge references about the women in your midst. Show them *they* are actually the minority.

Getcha Content Strategy Workshop here, cheap as chips!

Ridiculously small fee of £300 to have me present a day long content strategy workshop at your company, good for the next 12 months. Very limited numbers. email or at-reply me @RellyAB to get booking details.

As many of you lovely people know, I am a freelance Content Strategy consultant. I specialise in teaching CS skills and helping companies use these as part of their web strategy, especially as part of a multidisciplinary approach. I think it’s pretty important that every company with a web presence has an opportunity to make content creation into something that makes them money as opposed to simply costs them money. The good news is that it’s pretty easy to do that too, once you see how it works. With that in mind, I’ve created a workshop that I can take in-house to organizations and get everyone together to work out what they need to be doing and when. I am going to ‘soft-launch’ this via Twitter and my blog, with an introductory price so I can make some bookings and, quite literally, get this show on the road.

Here’s the deal:

I will come to your company and do a day long workshop with you and your team – web team, marketing team, director of happiness – whoever you think should hear more about the why, how and when of making great web content. I’ve done this workshop around a dozen times in varying formats, for Higher Education, non-profits, huge organizations and small start-ups, but I will also take plenty of instructions on how to target it to your needs. We will cover research, planning, creating, governance and selling content internally. To give you an idea of what we might do, I would expect to cover some research work around user personas and design personas, and feeding those into useful tools for content planning such as scenarios and content mapping. Next would be planning content – so taking those scenarios and content requirements and turning them into page tables and tone of voice/style guides, and talking about how these slot into the creation process. I’d cover editorial calendars and how the content touches everything from big articles to microcopy like error messages. We’d then have a go creating an article while looking at story shapes that work well to deliver content online, before moving onto various ways to test content and measure effectiveness from all kinds of key performance indicators. Finally, I’d finish up with selling these skills and their results to clients (and/or colleagues). It’s a lot to fit in but I do make sure I leave everyone with a good bundle of resources to follow up on.
Also, it’s fun – and it involves cutting and sticking. You can have up to 25 people in one session.

And the fee for this wondrous content strategy smorgasbord of delights? A paltry £300 (+VAT). This is, in all sincerity, A STEAL. And VERY, VERY LIMITED in number and time. You won’t have to take your socks off to count them all. You might not even have to take off your other glove.

Cost and booking:

You agree to pay my travel and a hotel for the night (two nights if you aren’t in the UK) plus my fee for the workshop of £300 (+VAT). If you don’t have a date in mind, or you need time to organize your team, it’s cool. I will send you a shiny booking confirmation and honour any booking for within the next 12 months. I will try and do whatever date you want, outside of any travel commitments I already have. Best thing is to give me a choice of three dates and we can come to an agreement from there.
To book, you will need to be able to pay in full for the workshop by paypal or bank transfer. This is non-refundable. Email me at or send me an at-reply on Twitter (I’m @RellyAB) to let me know you want to book, and I’ll send you the paypal/bank transfer details.

I am also happy for groups of freelancers or meet-up groups clubbing together to share the workshop, but you are responsible for finding a venue (and a projector, or I have to draw my slides and my stick men always look like they’ve had a can too many of Special Brew). Numbers are limited to 25, which is £12 each for the workshop (plus my travel/venue/VAT). The very organized and entrepreneurial amongst you may even be able to charge a fee that raises money for your group.

I don’t expect this to be a long-term deal because I like things like paying bills and eating more than economy beans BUT I do want to get this going, so it seems a good start to offer this to my Twitter and blog friends (and their friends too, of course).

Looking forward to meeting bunches more of you in person!


Obligatory trumpet blowing

Some comments about Relly’s online classes:

“Totally amazing and incredibly useful!” – Jo Lankester

“I’d absolutely recommend @RellyAB‘s course. It’s been so useful to me. I’m really delighted.” – Pam McCormac

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Relly’s class and would definitely recommend it to others! It’s been very useful.” – Phil Matthews

… and about her conference presentations:

“…This is the best presentation I’ve seen in ages.” – Mark Boulton

“Someone give @RellyAB her own conference – and then a medal. Superb.” – Owen Gregory

“@RellyAB was a highlight this year – she is a fantastic speaker. Loads of laughs and plenty real points made too.” – Rachel Andrew

“Truly the best presentation of the conference [Web Directions South]” – James Fehon

New New Adventures

Trent speaking at New Adventures
Trent speaking at New Adventures

Trent Walton by Drew M on flickr

I’ve just got back from Nottingham, where I went to volunteer for a second year at New Adventures Conference. I joined the merry band of volunteers last year after Colly kindly invited me to come to the first event for free and I had a Skype conversation with him asking if there was anything I could do. After a little prodding, he said he would like a little help with registration (as I had done the honours at dConstruct for a couple of years) and there was some minor editing to do on the first newspaper if I had time to cast an eye over it. In the end it was quite a lot of editing, as we begin to read the articles back-to-back, and could see how we could bring some of themes of individual articles together but that early preview already told me that New Adventures (NA) 2011 was going to be a special event.

The day itself was amazing, hiccups around queues and the like aside (at one point we had a queue around the block in -4 when everyone decided to arrive at 9.30am!), and come 6pm pack up I was rolling up tubes of branding and already hoping Colly would put on another one. The moment he announced he was taking the plunge for 2012, I signed right back up for more editing and volunteering.

Volunteering at a small (ish!) conference gives you a unique perspective on what it takes to create an event. I saw speakers in the aptly named green room looking a bit sick as they walked towards the stage, and flushed and grinning as they walked back. I saw the Audio Visual team working away like pros. I saw Colly arrive at 7.45am on three hours sleep. I saw newspapers come out of their wrappers and ready to be devoured. I saw volunteers pull on t-shirts and gamely volunteer to swap shifts so everyone could see the talks they wanted to. I saw people taking seats, full of anticipation, chatting with neighbours and comparing notes on the night before.

I saw the amazing team behind the scenes at the Albert Hall conference centre making everything run like clockwork – including one memorable moment when towards the end of the day a couple of guys decided they might try their luck at nipping in and seeing if there was anything laying around to help themselves to. Know that your iPads and MacBooks were defended by one of the security team, who was clocking off at that point, and that he gave chase half-dressed! One of the scallies (to use the regional nomenclature) was half-way to the stage when he was apprehended. I almost wish he’d got there. Imagine 1 scummy thief vs 500 geeks. “Officer, it was the man in the checked shirt wot punched me!”

I saw attendees talking about what they had just seen on stage, about beer, about making stuff together, about being part of a community. I loved being able to give just a small bit back by volunteering. I was assigned the role of dealing with anyone difficult (Colly even had a one-off t-shirt printed just for me with ‘New Adventures in Fuck Yeah!’ on it to denote the level of kicking ass and taking names I was responsible for) but – light fingered outsiders aside – I had an easy, enjoyable day. Colly and Greg had taken a lot of the feedback from attendees, sponsors and volunteers last year, such as my request for first name registration to spread people out more alphabetically, and made it a reality. A special sort of reality that you only get with the attention to detail the two guys put in. Colly was putting in a good number of hours a day in the run-up to ensure as many people on the waiting list got tickets wherever possible, that signs were printed ahead of time, and that the volunteers had everything we could possibly need to do the best we could for attendees.

But, even as a so-called writer, I have to admit that words wouldn’t do it justice. I wanted to show people what it looked like, how special it was to be a very small part of – so, wobbily shot on an iPhone by me and edited beautifully by my husband, here’s NA 2012 from my perspective:

New Adventures conference 2012 from nicepaul on Vimeo.