My Little Duke

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Six by Nico Review

Blogging, Fashion, FoodSteph DukeComment

On Sunday 10th March I took myself off to the big smoke for a few hours. The weather was wild and so was my hair as I bumbled my way through the door of Belfast’s hottest new restaurant ‘Six by Nico’.

There has been a real buzz around this new eatery and rumour has it that you can’t get a reservation before the end of April! So when I received an invite to come and try the unique 6 course menu at ‘Six by Nico’ - I couldn’t say no.

Pic by Michelle  @two_daisies

Pic by Michelle @two_daisies

Six by Nico offers customers a series of carefully curated and constantly evolving restaurant concepts. Each six weeks, Nico and his team will serve a brand new six-course tasting menu – each one themed upon a different place or memory.

I have to say a special thank you to Rumour Mill PR for the invitation to attend Sunday’s taster event. The afternoon was kindly hosted by SKAPA and Cathy Martin and we were treated to the current menu - ‘The Chippie’ - I cannot wait to share these incredible dishes with you.

Course One - ‘Chips & Cheese’   Parmesan Espuma | Crisp Potato | Curry Oil

Course One - ‘Chips & Cheese’

Parmesan Espuma | Crisp Potato | Curry Oil

Course Two - ‘Scampi’   Monkfish Cheeks | Pea Emulsion | Wild Garlic | Gribiche

Course Two - ‘Scampi’

Monkfish Cheeks | Pea Emulsion | Wild Garlic | Gribiche

Course Three - ‘Steak Pie’   Beef Shin | Burnt Onion Ketchup | Mushroom Duxelle | Red Wine | Glazed Puff Pastry

Course Three - ‘Steak Pie’

Beef Shin | Burnt Onion Ketchup | Mushroom Duxelle | Red Wine | Glazed Puff Pastry

Course Four - ‘Fish Supper’   Cod | Confit Fennel | Samphire | Beer Pickled Mussels

Course Four - ‘Fish Supper’

Cod | Confit Fennel | Samphire | Beer Pickled Mussels

Course Five - ‘Smoked Sausage’   Pork Belly | Salt Baked Celeriac | Caramelised Apple | Black Pudding

Course Five - ‘Smoked Sausage’

Pork Belly | Salt Baked Celeriac | Caramelised Apple | Black Pudding

Course Six - ‘Deep Fried Mars Bar’   Caramelia Chocolate | Orange Sorbet | Cocoa Nib

Course Six - ‘Deep Fried Mars Bar’

Caramelia Chocolate | Orange Sorbet | Cocoa Nib

The photos hopefully speak for themselves. Gosh. The food was really incredible! I’m not entirely sure I can pick a favourite … probably the scampi or the smoked sausage dishes topped the bill for me! I’m a dessert person though so I can’t not mention the deep fried mars bar - literally have no words for this dish! Stunning. Just stunning.

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I can confirm that they make a decent skinny flat white too! Hurrah!

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Everything about this place is top notch, what an honour to get the opportunity to experience it like I did!

Lovely to share a table with these two beauties @lauras_little_loves & @two_daisies

Lovely to share a table with these two beauties @lauras_little_loves & @two_daisies

Photo by @brendangallagherphoto

Photo by @brendangallagherphoto

An "Insta-Class" with My Little Duke

Blogging, FaithSteph DukeComment

It took several requests and a gentle nudge from a friend for me to even consider doing something like this! I mean, who am I to give advice about Instagram?! I am nobody and I am certainly no expert. Tutor English? Yes, absolutely! Take a class on Instagram? Now that’s a whole other ball game!

As the date for the class drew closer, I had a major case of imposter-syndrome … but much to my surprise, the class ended up being over-subscribed and I needed to re-locate! Ok, I told myself. I can do this. I have something valid to say. I have my experience to share. And that is exactly what I did.

Flowers kindly gifted by  @gracehillflowers

Flowers kindly gifted by @gracehillflowers

My main aim was to offer the ladies a behind-the-lens insight into my experience of using Instagram over the last 4 years. It was important to me that they would come away from the class feeling both informed and equipped, and I do hope that this was so!

Here’s what they said:

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“Thanks so much for a lovely evening. It was so relaxed and you were refreshingly open and honest. I hope your other sessions go really well too - I’m sure they will love it as much as we did!”

~

“Thank you for last night, it was a fascinating evening. So much information to help me negotiate the Instagram world. I will be working on creating more content, experimenting with my pics and I may even create a story!”

~

“I have been trying to think of something to share so I could join with the hashtag #learnuaryni - turns out after a little insta class run by Steph from @mylittleduke, I did just that. I learnt some things about Instagram that I have been dying to know but most wouldn’t share. Steph was honest and forthright about her social media journey, and inspiring to say the least. The added bonus of course was the lovely ladies I got to meet there. We shared stories and ideas and this highlighted once again how these squares can bring likeminded people together to form friendships, business ideas, content creating and best of all, plenty of laughter (oh, and a love of cakes!) There are big things to come…”

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I couldn’t have asked for a better bunch of women to join me for this first class. We giggled, bonded and shared our unique stories over copious cups of tea and cake. The discussion was honest and open and full of learning opportunities for everyone, myself included.

As many of you will know, I’ve been on quite a journey with Instagram over the last 4 years. What began as a small business selling items for mummies and littles has evolved into something I could never have imagined. Never could I have dreamed that I’d create content for brands, never mind getting paid to do so. Never would I have thought I’d be driving up to Ballymena to meet someone I’d become friends with online. Never could I imagine I’d listen to promptings from the Holy Spirit, then write and share what I believed to be something from the heart of God. The doors of opportunity are wide open and I’ve been learning to walk right through!

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So what sort of things did we cover in the class?

  • my personal experience of IG ( the positive & the negative)

  • content creation / working with brands

  • taking & editing photos

  • branding & blogging

  • growing a following

  • instagram for business

  • & much, much more!

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It was an honour to showcase some wonderful local ladies on the evening too. Rachel from @rachiebakesni made the delicious treats we enjoyed on the night … thank you Rachel!

mini marbled chocolate & clementine loaf cakes

mini marbled chocolate & clementine loaf cakes

can you spot Rachel’s homemade marshmallow?!

can you spot Rachel’s homemade marshmallow?!

The ladies were also treated to gorgeous place-name hoops by the lovely Louise of @taylorit_ and stunning prints by mixed media artist, Lynsey of @lynseyauldart.

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A special thanks must go to the 6 brave women who came along to listen, to learn and to share their instagram stories. I’ve linked their accounts here:

Jillian @hennathome

Claire @thats_me_lady_c

Arlene @arlsnyro

Victoria @thecraftystag

Andrea @life_hack_mum_

Jenny @jennycatlowphotography - Jenny very kindly offered to take some photos on the night - such a lovely reminder of our session!

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It is no co-incidence that I’m sharing this blog post on International Women’s Day. I keep being continually blown away by the women I am having opportunity to connect with through Instagram - some real God-appointments and friendships! Gosh I am so grateful!

Alongside the group insta-class I have also been running 1-1 sessions. Like I mentioned earlier, these were also by request and I felt real imposter-syndrome all over again! However, after my first meeting I came away completely assured that I could actually offer something of value and I needn’t feel the fear.

My first meeting was with a woman who I greatly admire. Her God-story is pretty incredible and it was such an honour to have opportunity to chat 1-1 about using Instagram to grow her business. I now feel privileged to be able to call Charlene a friend and I can’t be more excited about being able to journey alongside her as she steps out in faith with @gracehillflowers! I really couldn’t have asked for a better person to *nervously* do my first session with!! Here’s what Charlene said:

“I had the priviledge of doing a 1-1 session with Steph. She has a wonderful knowlege of the world of instagram and was excellent at tailoring her knowledge to my specific needs in the direction I wanted our wee farm to take on the squares. I found her very open and honest in the information she shared. Through my 1-1 session with her, she has helped me gain more confidence through her encouragement and ongoing support. Thankful to call her more than a mentor now, but a friend.”

Charlene grows her own beautiful blooms at her Flower Farm in Loughgall

Charlene grows her own beautiful blooms at her Flower Farm in Loughgall

Here are some more amazing ladies who are availing of the 1-1 sessions. You girls are truly inspirational!

Sarah @iamsarahfletcher

Sharon @sharon_laura

Patricia @patricianewell1

Kerry @butterscotch315

Michelle @shelleyt_

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My most recent session was with Sara @saraallen_author. Sara has just launched her incredible book ‘Meraki’ and what a joy it was to spend time chatting together. This was indeed another God-appointment! I came away so blessed and encouraged, grateful to have spent time in Sara’s company.

Here’s what Sara said:

It’s #internationalwomensday and I thought Id mark the occasion by giving a shout out to this girl ... Steph Duke.

I’ve followed her on insta for a while and admired the authenticity she brings to a platform that can be very much all about my, myself and I.

Steph appeared real, not fake, not self promoting but someone who stood out as she bravely used her voice to encourage and inspire others by sharing her story.

When Steph mentioned that she was thinking of doing workshops on all things insta and sharing some of her experiences and lessons I couldn’t wait to jump in and sign up. But my ever complicated diary wouldn’t allow and so I thought I’d contact her and ask for a one to one coffee meeting instead.

Honestly I’ve never connected with anyone via insta before in person – I’ve DM’d, sent emails and commented but face to face was a whole new level of brave!! Especially because I still didn’t even really know what I really wanted to do with this platform.

I have loved Instagram for a few years, originally joining because I love nothing more than capturing a moment with a photo. I am a firm believer that a picture can sometimes paint a thousand words.

But if I am totally honest I had got a bit lost and disappointed with it all.

It has become a bit of an advertising, influencer platform with everyone vying for a little bit of attention and I’m not a fan.

I’ve lost my love for it but yet I am in a place on my personal journey where I know God is asking me to use my voice in whatever space and platform I find myself for good. I can’t just tap out.

I’ve spent the last few years writing a book which was published in December and as my lovely editor reminded me more than once the book is for others not me, my responsibility is to get the message out there. I can’t control what people will think of it but I do need to let them know it exists.

In steps Steph ...

As I tried to explain some of my ramblings as my love / hate relationship with Instragam and what I really wanted to use the platform for she listened, smiled and gave me so many key insights into what this platform can do & the functionality of how it all really works. Who knew there was a good and bad time to post? Of the importance of filters, stories and hashtags?

It is a minefield and one that I need to get brave enough to tackle with a bit more clarity of thought and planning but one that I now have a greater understanding of thanks to Steph. Who also helped me realise the importance of using platforms like Instagram for good!

I’ve shyed away as I don’t want to appear self- promoting. I haven’t wanted people to roll their eyes and think “here she goes again” but what I do want is for people to hear my heart in the words I share. Read the posts and understand that they flow from a heart that is surrendered to Jesus and that in sharing the things that flow from it I want others to connect with Him. To understand that He is the only reason I am something to share, He is the One who has transformed my life and I will gladly share His story for ever.

If you are thinking of connecting with Steph – do it! She has a lot to share and you will come away inspired and informed. Inspired to join the army of like minded “influencers” who are sharing their story to set others free and informed about all the technical know how and insights to help you make it happen.

I couldn’t recommend a session with Steph more.

Wow. Thank you Sara!

I am so deeply humbled and never more certain that if we offer God our WHOLE selves, He will take whatever we give Him (even if we feel like our hands are empty) and will use it in the most beautiful way.

So be encouraged today that even if you feel like an imposter - but you feel God stirring in your heart - DO WHATEVER IT IS THAT GOD IS CALLING YOU TO DO! I cannot begin to comprehend God’s plans and purposes for my life in the next 10 years, the possibilities are LIMITLESS. I’m learning not to limit myself! Will you join me?!

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And there you have it! I hope this post gives you an insight into my heart behind these sessions and a bit more information too. I’m currently running 1-1 sessions throughout March and April and intend on hosting another group class over the coming weeks as well. Please, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. There is never any pressure to sign up, I’d be just so delighted to connect with you and share the details! You can message me through my Instagram @mylittleduke or drop me an email: steph@mylittleduke.com. Can’t wait to hear from you! Instagram can feel a bit intimidating at times, it’s time to take back control.

Act Two.

Blogging, Motherhood, FaithSteph DukeComment
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God has been taking me on quite a journey over the last 18 months or so. The life I’m living right now looks completely different to the one that I imagined I’d be living. My life looks so different in fact, that I would have laughed out loud if someone had told me that at just 29 years of age, I would quit my full-time, permanent teaching job because God told me to! I would never have believed that I’d be working from home: blogging, creating paid content online and curating a motherhood journal. I couldn’t have ever even dreamed that I’d get to be the mum who walks her daughter to school every morning and picks her up again when school ends. Me hosting a women’s weekend retreat?! Not a chance! I would never have ever thought I could do something like that … yet God did. Praise God that He got my attention during a season of my life that was headed for disaster. My rollercoaster cart was running at high-speed round a well-worn track. It never stopped. All day, every day it was whizzing round and round, twisting and turning. And the wheels were starting to wear thin. Just as my cart was ready to come right off the tracks … God stepped in. 


For an awfully long time I lived my life trying to be everything to everyone. This was especially prevalent in my job as a teacher. I was on a constant mission of seeking approval. Deep down my heart was in the right place, but my actions flowed out of a wrong personal desire. If I’m totally honest, even though I called myself a Christian, I wasn’t seeking to glorify God. I was seeking to glorify myself. I played many roles as I performed Act One of my life. I was the Playwright in charge of penning the script. I was Director too, with the mindset that as long as I continually tried to control the unfolding of my pages, things would work out ok. How wrong I was. Finally I was also the Actor who was sometimes so worn out from all the writing and directing jobs I’d given myself, that I had no energy left to actually be present and act out the life I’d been striving so damn hard to create!  But thankfully God has rewritten the scenes in Act Two. I’ve come through a really tough process of learning how to hand over the reigns, how to submit control and let God be the master craftsman – exactly what He ought to always be. And I must clarify here that I am still learning. I’m not yet at the place of total daily submission. It’s not yet a learned behaviour. I am really trying though. My default mode is always to revert back to ‘control’. It’s my coping mechanism and my well-worn pathway. Yet now I know how dangerous it is to allow myself to live and operate out of that place. It doesn’t make it any easier for me to stop and hand stuff to God mind you, but I’m becoming more and more inclined to do so in this new season. 


So how did I get to this new season? If I can summarise it for you, it would look something like this. I ended up off work for a number of months because of a horrible incident involving a pupil at school. I’m grateful to God that I wasn’t hurt and that it wasn’t my fault. However, it jolted me out of my high-speed rollercoaster cart and forced me to sit a’while with God. In this quiet place - away from the hustle and away from the noise - suddenly it was just God and I. I tried to ignore His gentle whisper but I knew we really needed to talk. There was a lot of stuff that wasn’t (and still isn’t) right. When I finally (after several months) chose to listen … He changed my world. He gave me such a clear word about quitting my job that I felt I didn’t have a choice not to. I received this word when I was at my absolute lowest; down on my knees, crying out to God in desperation one afternoon. It was a day when I felt like I had no-one to talk to and no-where to turn. I felt trapped, isolated and frightened about my situation in school and could not cope being so out of control. I feared the past, the present and the future in those moments before God spoke. I shouted at Him “WHY!” and furiously questioned “What are you doing God?!” Yet as soon as I heard His voice, everything changed. There would be no going back. 


I allowed myself to crumble and fall to pieces on that floor, that day. And in His goodness and grace, God picked up each and every broken piece of me and began to put my puzzle back together again. He is in the business of doing that you know? Fixing broken things, broken people. He is still fixing me. Still moulding me into the person He sees me becoming. It’s all about perspective you see. God sees the big picture. We see but a mere fraction of our puzzle. We get so hung up on that tiny portion of our life when God is trying to lift our eyes off ourselves and our circumstances, and onto Him. When we focus on who He is … not on who we are or what we are doing, perspective changes.


I still lose perspective, even in this season. Despite knowing and trusting God’s plans and purposes for my life – I still lose perspective sometimes. I still try and get that old rollercoaster cart moving again. It’s habit you see. Those pathways are well travelled. The territory is too familiar.  But there is a big difference in me this season. Instead of seeking to glorify myself, my goal is to always bring glory to Him. If I mess up, I come right back to the foot of the cross every time and I start all over again. Before, I would never have stopped for a moment to even allow God near.  I would have convinced myself that I didn’t need Him around, that I was fine on my own, that I was totally ‘in control’. Now, if I catch myself attempting to take control I run straight to God and surrender myself to Him all over again. It frightens me how quickly old patterns can creep back in and how the enemy waits ready to pounce like a lion when we have a weak moment. So my challenge this season is to continue to allow God to work in me, no matter what the cost, no matter how hard it feels sometimes. There is so much ‘unknown’ about my life right now but I face it with certainty for I know and trust the hand that puts the pen to my paper and writes the pages of my play. Act Two … I’m ready for you! 


“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29 v 11

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Defining a Decade

Motherhood, FaithSteph Duke1 Comment

It’s the last few days of my twenties and I’m spending time looking back over a defining decade and forwards to a future that feels free and full of wide, open space.

If you’d asked me 10 years ago what my life would look like by the time I’d reached 30, I wouldn’t have had a clue. At 20 years of age I was just a baby, still winging my way through university, not really knowing who I was or what I wanted to do with my life. Now, 10 whole years later, I can say with confidence that I know exactly who I am and what I want to do. This assurance has everything to do with faith and my relationship with Christ.

At 20 I was engaged to Matt, dieting the heck out of life and ‘going through the motions’ of university. I majored in English and minored in Drama and was always asked the same question:

“So, you’re going to be a teacher then?”

“Eh, no. There are other things I can do with my degree.”

Out of stubbornness I didn’t apply for a PGCE the year I graduated. Instead, I took a year out and explored a few other options. Nevertheless, I still ended up in teaching and I loved it. From the moment I was accepted onto the PGCE, I thrived.

Being a teacher gave me great purpose, real thrill and huge satisfaction. I was exactly where I was supposed to be. But gradually, what began as ‘just a job’ turned into my life. I lived for teaching. My role as ‘teacher’ totally defined me - in very positive ways, but in the worst of ways too. As workload increased, I shrank further and further under the weight. As students became increasingly more difficult, I battled and fought till I was weary and war-torn. As unrealistic demands were made of staff, I panicked myself sick. As I strived to look after the students’ spiritual, physical and mental wellbeing, I neglected my own … burning myself out.

April 2017 saw me off work for a number of months - the result of a serious incident, through no fault of my own. It got to a stage where I was on my knees, crying out to God in desperation and frustration. I felt lost, hopeless and completely and utterly broken. All I’d ever known had been cruelly stripped away and I was left facedown on the floor, desperately trying to pick up the battered and bruised pieces of me. But, but, BUT … the life that I’d made for myself … the life I’d so carefully curated … was slowly poisoning me. Little did I know, on that cold, hard floor … in that deep valley of brokenness and hopelessness … God was waiting.  In fact, he’d always been waiting. God met me in my place of darkest despair. When I had no-one and no-where else to turn … I finally turned to Him. 

Over the course of a few days I experienced personal revelation like I had never experienced before. I received clear direction, complete clarity and perfect peace about leaving my teaching job and stepping out in faith. In total surrender to the Father, He began to reveal His heart and His purposes for me as I began to listen to His soft and gentle whispers of love. Making the decision to quit my teaching job was easy. After hearing clearly from the Lord, my only fear was of being disobedient to Him. Yes, actually implementing and following through on that decision was tough, but having God’s peace in my heart and lots of confirmation (over and over) about going in the right direction made the process so much easier. 

The months that have followed see me day and daily stepping forwards in faith. The connections, opportunities and conversations I’ve had over the last 6 months have and continue to blow me away. As I take a moment to pause and reflect on a truly defining decade (in so many other ways too like marriage and motherhood) one thing remains ... God’s faithfulness. As I stand in the doorway of my thirties I am overwhelmed with gratitude for a God who sees who I am to become in Him. I feel honoured and privileged to get a sneak peak at my tapestry ... my beautiful and intricately woven tapestry. The bigger picture reveals so much of God’s goodness and provision over these last 10 years. It shows His hand firmly over my life, even when I didn’t even realise it was there. 

My days in teaching were important days in my journey. They were days of learning, maturing and growing in my love for people and my desire to show empathy in the connections I make with others. Teaching was a crucial season in my life. I was perfectly positioned for those key moments in time; for pupils, for colleagues and for me. I am astounded by the ways in which God used me in that school. It was absolutely nothing to do with me, I take not one ounce of credit. Yet, God saw my heart. He knew the person I was becoming and placed me exactly where I needed to be in order to get there. Even still, I am able to mentor and encourage past pupils. Never in a million years did I think I’d get to make that kind of impact on my students. Only because of Christ. 

There are so many aspects of both circumstances and experiences in my twenties that have moulded me into who I am today - good and bad. But above all, it is God’s relentless pursuit of me that has me standing where I am now, feeling more free and alive than I ever have. I’m risking daily. I’m sacrificing financially. I’m desperately listening for His voice, leaning into all He has for me in the next 10 years. I begin my thirties as a writer and blogger. I still can’t believe I’m even typing those words! I’m just a month into the launch of Mighty Mothering - an online journal of stories of Motherhood. I’m curating a safe online space for mums to simply share their story. This was not my idea! God knows what makes me tick and he dropped a thought into my spirit, watered and nourished it till it bloomed and flourished. God has been at the centre of every detail of the project: branding, journals, podcast and name! He is a creative God! I am just so thankful and honoured to be trusted with this venture. Every journal is prayerfully considered and anointed with the Holy Spirit to speak truth, love and life through the words. 

So what have I learned about myself?  

I have learned that I need God more than I ever thought I did. I’ve discovered that He makes me more brave than I ever thought I was. I know that I can hear God’s voice and that I also have a voice that needs to be used. I have learned that I have a unique sphere of influence and that I am uniquely and creatively gifted by God to bless others in a way that only I can. I’ve finally realised that teaching did not and does not define me. That my identity is rooted in Him and Him alone. I am called for such a time as this. 

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