She’s the colourful, quirky personality behind @steelemystyle, but we’re giving you an inside peek at family life for Brissy’s Sally Steele.
Tell us a bit about yourself… where are you based, what do you do and how many kids do you have?
I’m a Glaswegian by birth but emigrated to Australia 20 years ago with my husband – first to Sydney and then to Brisbane, where we’ve been for the last decade. Australia truly has been The Lucky Country for us. We have two girls, Indigo, 13, and Elodie, 10.
I am a speaker, life and business strategist, mentor and now author of self-love/style book ‘Dare More, Care Less.’ I created a business that I am able to fit in around my family’s life, as opposed to the other way around, and I am very grateful for that. I love what I do and the people I get to do it with – being able to help other busy, creative women design a life and career that works for their lifestyle is a dream come true.
Who does the cooking in your house? What is the go-to meal when you’re short on time, that you know everyone will love?
My husband and I share the cooking, and although he only started cooking 15 years ago, he is naturally better at it than me. Blame my Scottish heritage, but my go-to in winter is leek & potato soup – in fact, any kind of soup! In summer, my go-to is my version of a poké bowl. I use brown rice and chia, grilled chicken or salmon and then it’s all about the assembly – everyone chooses their toppings, like edamame, slaw, sauerkraut, seaweed.
When the kids were really little and I was more frazzled, I used to buy a Coles roasted chook and a number of different cheeses, salami, ham, pâté, and I would cut up some raw veggies with dips and some crusty bread. I would lay it out on the table nicely with candles and say, “We’re having a feast tonight!”. It became “Feast Night” which is another easy go to.
Are your kids fussy eaters? What are their favourite meals at the moment?
We think they are fussy because they don’t just eat whatever we want to cook, because my husband and I love more adventurous food. Realistically though, I didn’t love olives or mushrooms or lamb shanks as a kid either! My eldest eats anything except butter and sweet potato (which was her first food) and my youngest won’t eat any kind of pea or bean. My youngest’s favourite food anytime, anywhere is curry, while my eldest’s favourite is my version of Japanese ramen or her dad’s weekly roasts.
Is dessert a nightly occurrence in your house? What’s your current go-to?
I grew up with a domestic goddess of a mother who made three incredible courses every night, with amazing puddings every day. I fail miserably and feel bad reading that question because we don’t do dessert Monday to Friday – only a piece of fruit, and at weekends we just do ice-cream. My husband is a great baker and my mum is always dropping weekend treats round so there are always cake, scones, banana bread at the weekend.
Who packs the lunchboxes in your house? Does it usually happen the night before school, or the morning of?
I am the lunchbox lady, but we split the chores so I don’t touch the laundry anymore at all. It gives me so much joy! For lunchboxes, I do most of it the night before except if it’s a sandwich – I do that fresh in the morning and pop it in with everything, or I heat up the flask with soup or leftovers the morning of. I try to have it all ready to rock and roll as I like to use the early mornings to give myself time to meditate, set some intentions and get some emails to mentoring clients sent before everyone wakes up.
It’s a busy morning, and you’re in a pinch. Are your kids getting “tuckshop money” for lunch?
Nope. I only order them tuckshop every now and then if it’s Taco Tuesday or a special fundraiser.
How do you store your lunchboxes, and how many do you have in your collection right now?
I stopped using plastic containers around three years ago. Every year the kids used to get a new lunchbox, but I was really was not loving the waste. Last year I finally found an Aussie brand Seed & Sprout who do metal lunchboxes that are big enough for my hungry kids. I bought two of their Back to School kits and two Target small metal stacked “tiffin” lunchboxes and that is all we have now. When we go away as a family, we use them all too – they are brilliant! So much faster and easier to clean… I love them, a wee bit too much!
What is one food that is always included in your kids’ lunchboxes?
Veggies with dip. If they don’t eat them, they don’t get a muffin or sweet treat the next day. It seems to work so far… Our go-to’s are mini capsicums and cucumbers, carrot sticks, sugar snaps, snow peas and corn cobs.
You’re throwing your kids a birthday party: do you outsource, or are you one to plan and prepare it all yourself?
A bit of both. I always delegate the cake to my husband and my mum alternately as I hate baking and it stresses me out, but I do all the organising, creating and running of them. Depending on what the kids want, I like to do it the sustainable homemade way by using what we have or upcycling. I am definitely not someone who has it professionally organised or themed, or one of those super mums who has sewn everything and done labels and invites perfectly on Canva. It’s a bit rough round the edges, but homely.
When the girls were younger, we went all in theme-wise. There was a Ruby Red Shoes party for my daughter’s fourth, and a superhero party for a sixth birthday. The entertainer cancelled at the last moment, so I bloody dressed up as Wonder Woman and did 70s party games as makeshift ‘superhero training camp.’
But the biggest birthday party was my eldest daughter’s ninth, when she had a Harry Potter sleepover for nine kids. I was Professor McGonagall and my husband was Professor Snape – we stayed in costume and character the whole time and recreated the whole Hogwarts experience, with a brick wall at the front door, the talking hat (using baby monitors!) and transforming our living room into Diagon Alley. They chose wands, I had made ties and spell books for them and my husband made broomsticks from bamboo and sticks in the garden which they customised themselves. We had Quidditch training down on the oval with gold Ferrero Rochers for the Snitch. We recreated all the food with their creepy names and did spell and potion classes. It was mega fun and we were knackered, but they remember it so fondly. On the flip side, we recently had my other daughter’s tenth party and all she wanted was a high tea and inflatable world. I made some rocky road and cupcakes, bought macarons, put them on three-tiered china plates from an op shop and turned up. It was just as great!
Do you have any family traditions? What are they?
We usually have fish, calamari and chips on a Friday night, and we always have a long bush or beach nature walk with the dog at the weekends. During COVID we had card night playing Uno or Scoppo, art days, TikTok dance days or showing a movie from our past like ‘Labyrinth’ or ‘Back to the Future’. We love GoMa and in summer spend lots of time there, and Easter, Halloween and Christmas are always pretty silly. Every year we go to Agnes Water for three weeks with no screens, phones or TV and every year we learn to do something together – this year it was SUP-ing, last year it was surfing, a couple of years ago it was rollerblading. On holiday overseas we each choose an activity to do or place we want to go, so on our European trip we went on The Hogwarts Express in Scotland, to the Tower of London, did a bicycle tour of Paris, went to Rome and did gladiator training, saw sunflowers in Tuscany and went to Pompeii (mine). We also have gelato every day on holiday, no matter what. We try to create little traditions where we can.
How do you deal with mum/dad guilt?
No matter how much I try to flick off guilt if their hair isn’t done perfectly for ballet or I’m rushed and their uniform is a bit crushed, or I send them to school when I think they’re faking and they are actually sick or someone pops round and my house is messy, I still feel a twinge. But I also choose to spend time with them rather than be cleaning or ironing in the background, and I don’t want to mollycoddle them and teach them to be independent. I explain to the girls that it is not easy playing what I call Life Jenga as a woman but they see me doing it and making my business work and being there for them – not perfectly, but as well as I can – so I just let the feeling pass and move on. I don’t think my husband ever feels dad guilt when we’ve spoken about it.
What’s your top mum/dad hack?
I really don’t think I have any hacks at all – no matter how much I plan or create lists or motivational charts or ideas on how to do things more efficiently, I still find myself cajoling people to do basic chores, take out the recycling and put their clothes away.
Rather than that stuff though, I guess I focus on trying to instil the importance of good manners, kindness, compassion and tolerance through my actions and discussion about the world and the way people treat others. I make my girls know I am always here to support them and keep communication open no matter what. Sometimes I go outside and do ‘silent screaming’ when I am trying to remain calm and be the adult in a frustrating situation. If anyone has any hacks or tips, I would love them! I am just stumbling through as best I can.