Divine Wines, Wincanton • New Discoveries

We have been showered by the kindness of strangers since we moved. Parents at school, neighbours and villagers (I think we may have moved to the friendliest village in the world - think The Vicar of Dibley) and I keep having chance meetings with strangers who I hope will become friends.

It's daunting moving to a completely new area, sussing out where all the essentials are like a doctor, the dentist, where you can buy a pint of milk and a loaf of bread. And during those first frantic weeks, I set up camp, almost daily, in a little find in Wincanton High Street, called Divine Wines.

Divine Wines

Jenny is a hostess with the mostest. For 10 years she has curated the most beautiful wine shop, with a delicious lunch time menu and cakes under glass domes on the counter. Mis-matched antique chairs invite you to while away the hours over a glass of wine or sit for a moment with a hot coffee and read one of the magazines or books, bursting from the painted bookshelves. 

Divine Wines
divine wines
Divine Wines
Divine Wines

I wanted to share Jenny's wonderful wine emporium as a big thank you for letting me make the most of her precious wifi whilst ours was being connected. I would blast in, hurriedly order a drink and sit tapping away at speed. 

If you ever have the pleasure of passing by Wincanton, make sure you have a pit stop. Jenny sells a covetable selection of wines and liqueurs, from a mid-week accompaniment to a home cooked dinner, to special birthday present treats and collector's bottles. 

Divine Wines
Divine Wines
Divine Wines
Divine Wines
Divine Wines

There is an adorable back garden for dry days, with vintage benches, chequered table cloths and an abundance of plants and flowers. You get why I like this place right?!

Divine Wines
Divine Wines
Divine Wines
Divine Wines

I loved listening to Jenny welcoming her regulars into the shop, an atmosphere we hoped to find when we moved to the village close by. And then a new customer would open the jingly door, with the same tentative look that I had on my first visit, as though you had found a secret discovery, and Jenny would make them feel as though she had known them for years.

Divine Wines
Divine Wines
Divine Wines
Divine Wines
Divine Wines
Divine Wines

I like wine, no wait I love wine, but I don't "know" wine. Jenny knows her wine. And I felt in just a few snatched earshot's, I learnt a little. 

One of the things I like best about Divine Wines is how they are a champion for other local independents and artists. All over the counter are business cards, handmade products and flowers from talented makers and crafters, which Jenny displays in a way that makes you want to touch it all. 

I was lucky enough today to pop in just as the talented local flower farmer, Georgie Newbery was dropping off a set of her new books. Georgie is a pioneer for the British Flower industry. I have followed Georgie on Twitter without realising just how close she was to our new house! The Flower Farmer's Year is a beautiful book and is released on the 23rd October so if you want an early (and signed) copy, pop to Divine Wines! 

You can find Divine Wines at 16 High Street, Wincanton, Somerset, BA9 9JQ. 

You can follow Divine Wines on Twitter.

Aeroplane Boy's Bedroom Inspiration • Featuring Urban Wardrobes

Welcome to the first inspiration post in the journey of us bringing life back into our new house!

It was so well loved and adored by the previous owners but at their time in life, we know it's easy to not "see" things that desperately need updating and replacing.

We are busy working on the dining/family room, which will definitely be the most well used room in the house, and I will share my ideas for that room later this week, but first I want to show you some inspiration for the boys' bedroom.

We decided we wanted to see if the boys would like sharing a bedroom, whilst they are young and play with similar toys, and before the moody teenage years kick in!

So when we sold our lovely house in Weston, they moved into a room together at the house we rented whilst searching for our forever house. And now I couldn't imagine them not together! The don't have to share at the new house but the attic room gives them their own space, on the top floor, a bedroom and a den in one. However at the moment it's pink!

They will desperately need a wardrobe after living out of boxes for a couple of months, and the space beside the doorway is ideal. But look at the angles! The beams are beautiful but they pose a challenge to most freestanding wardrobes.

What we really need is built in fitted wardrobes like the practical and classic collections from Urban Wardrobes. I had never even thought about the possibility of sliding doors in a loft space, but their clever designs have got me thinking. We need something that maximises the storage area and bespoke wardrobes are the ideal way to get the absolute most out of every square inch.

attic room

The boys have requested an aeroplane theme to their new bedroom. So the owl and nautical accessories have been passed on and stored away (Who knows there may be a nautical party in the future to plan!) and we are now firmly in aviation mode!

I love to build a room with a curated collection, not necessarily matching but with a strong central theme and then accessorise with curious finds. I want to reuse some of the lovely things from Sammy's nautical bedroom in the last house so we are sticking with a red, white and blue palette as the main colours and have tried to source prints and decor that will grow with them rather than cutesy younger boy's bedding and pieces that will date quickly and cost lots of pennies to update in a year or so.

The boys have strong ideas, the shelves behind their bed is going to be for their "precious things", birthday cards they treasure and special certificates from school and I show them samples of decor I like on the computer and they choose their favourite.

So here are a few things on my wish list. A love list and a lust list (I need to earn a few more pounds for those) of perfect plane decorations.

Aeroplane bedroom ideas

LOVE LIST

  1. New England Style bunk beds £199.99 Argos
  2. Planes wallpaper £9.99 Decorline
  3. How cool is a hanging chair?! £48.59 from Acandi
  4. Vintage aeroplane bedding set from £9.99 Dorma at Dunelm Mill
  5. Alfie striped rug on sale £45.50 Laura Ashley

LUST LIST

  1. Solid end detachable bunks £269.99 Amazon
  2. Spitfires Wallpaper £60 Paperboy at Not on the High Street
  3. Globo swingin chair £278.54 Amazon
  4. Aeroplane bedding from £20 Babyface
  5. Boys stripe rug £75 Babyface

So where would you splurge and where would you save? I have saved prints and other trinkets from talented makers and illustrators and I can't wait to show you the progress next week.

We hope they will be in and sleeping like babies in a week's time!

This post was kindly sponsored by Urban Wardrobes, talented crafters of all bespoke storage solutions. Oh and how much would I love a walk in wardrobe like these?!!!!!! YES PLEASE!

You can check out their blog for more design inspiration here.

Evaluating your blog • Being forced to switch off

People often say how a time of reflection is good for you. A time to refocus and be refreshed. And there are times when I absolutely agree. When you write a blog it can become all consuming. You fall in love with writing and sharing and the interaction and engagement from readers and followers encourages you to keep writing and keep sharing.

But it can take over your life! And not always in a good way. I see more and more bloggers talking about "technology free nights", days which are no laptop days and self imposed restrictions to help with the quest for a balanced, happy family life. There is always something to share or someone to share it with, strangers, acquaintances and friends online, who at any time of day are there to talk through your worries or celebrate your successes. 

It's hard to switch off. 

And the most frustrating thing of all is being forced to switch off. We moved house a little over 3 weeks ago and it has taken almost that long for our internet to be reconnected. 3 WEEKS! When your work relies on staying connected this feels like a lifetime and I can tell you that tag team trips back and forth to the Waitrose cafe, whilst trying to juggle childcare, has been a challenge!

But it's given me time to think, time off the treadmill I was on of feeling under a self made pressure to post several times, often more, a week. 

lavender

Being a successful blogger doesn't mean you have to spend every waking minute blogging. I know I couldn't. I've tried that in the past and I ended up feeling like a busy fool. The boys don't want to spend weekends being photographed for a blog post and Sammy starting school meant my model assistant suddenly had better things to do in the precious couple of hours after school than holding something or playing a "game". (Which was really a blog idea in disguise.)

I've realised in this forced period of quiet that I blog at my best when I am sharing the things I love the most, taking my time to create quality content, rather than chasing traffic. We all define our own terms of success and ratings and rankings are not the same as readers. 

I've been terribly guilty in the past about flooding my site with seasonal posts, I'm sure my most loyal readers have rolled their eyes during Halloween season at yet another pumpkin related post! Posts I can pin, posts that I can submit to Foodgawker or Craftgawker or another collective site I know will boost my traffic figures for that week. But those figures are fickle. 

Cue some themed photos... Psst these photos are for a lovely party company, Feather and Grey, I had the pleasure of working for recently!

halloween cakes
Halloween drinks labels
Halloween cakes

I feel very fortunate to have been recognised by the blogging community for the blog I have established and developed and winning awards helps you build a platform to help and inspire others. And that's what I want to do going forward.

Yes I still want to involve the boys and journal our family life, I want to share some Christmassy ideas in the festive season but I want them to be real. There are times when it's easy to make life one big blog post opportunity, getting swept up in the comparison craze and drawn into silly spats on Twitter. 

And then it takes you and your blog away from what it really is. For every blogger their goals will be different and I respect that. For me, it is my living CV, a digital record of our family life and an opportunity to hopefully inspire the people who take the time to read it. 

fruit cake

I get to promote companies with lovely products who value my time and it has led to creating long lasting commercial relationships with photography clients. So whilst all work and no play has made this blog a quieter than usual place, (Watch out subscribers for the longest overdue issue of my huh hmm weekly newsletter!) I have been quite busy, snapping away. 

blackberries and apples
kitchen garden
roasted rose hips
dahlias

My blog is a huge part of my life but for a while it became our way of life and that's not quite right. I want my it to be my creative escape, part of my working life and something that enhances our family life, rather than rules it!

I love being able to share my work on my blog and let my readers be part of my journey to become a photographer. Eek.

I feel very proud that my blog has been and continues to be, the reason I get to introduce myself as a working mother, consultant, blogger and product photographer. 

chutney ingredients
homemade chutney

So I have a few ideas for the coming months. A #backtobasics photography series, taking us all right back to the start, building our knowledge of our cameras through to composition, styling and techniques and tips I have learnt to help your editing processes. And put new life into old ideas, to get everyone even more excited about photography. I also want to blog our house renovations. 

charters

It's fair to say we are in a bit of a muddle. This house is going to be a labour of love! There are a few more things than we originally thought that need attention but we will get there... in time! I can't wait to share our ideas and I love that there's a whole wealth of interiors loving people out there who can help give us some advice and inspiration! 

charters
charters

First up is our family/dining room and the boys' bedroom - I'll be blogging our ideas later this week! 

Oh and for anyone wondering when my range of backdrops (I am producing a range of blogger friendly vinyl backdrops) are going to be available... I am working on them now, in time for Christmas presents ;)

Happy healthy blogging everyone!

Me and Mine - A Family Portrait Project September

October, I am not ready for you. I am going to pretend we are still in September (and that this post isn't a day late) because the to do list just went supersonic.

I've said before I need a few extra hours in the day, but for the rest of 2014 I need an extra weekend every week! 

September has been a big month of change. Finally out of our temporary home in Weston and after 5 removal van trips back and forth, into our forever house.

We are under no illusions that it will probably take forever to do everything that needs to be done! But that's the fun part. I am normally a person in a rush, but with this house I don't feel in such a panic. 

I want to restore it to it's former glory, work room by room, and decorate it slowly. Although I may need to find the cheapest kitchen on the planet asap!

So this month's family photo had to be on the day we completed! The removal men moved our stuff in a week later, so for the first week all we had was a mattress on the floor, blow up beds for the boys and camping chairs! 

Country garden

The sun was shining on the day we picked up the keys and it has barely stopped shining since. We've all lived in shorts and feel like we been blessed with a second Summer, which has helped when carting carpets in and out and moving boxes to and from the garage.

It's been all hands on deck and we've been so lucky that our family has been able to come and help with unpacking, cleaning, painting and despite having two very willing helpers (of course in pants), we have a decorator starting next Monday to get the family dining room finished!

painting
painting
painting
painting
painting
paint

We have decided to use the conservatory as a playroom until the day in the future when we can afford to extend the kitchen and make one larger room. Toys are unpacked, bunting is up and the blinds that were full of a thousand flies are down! Next job is to think of some flooring for the colder weather coming in Winter and make sure they will continue to use the room as much as they are now. Then next Spring time, paint the woodwork a lovely fresh white.

We've realised having had almost 3 weeks apart (bar weekends) with Sammy living in a B&B, it has taken them a little while to adjust to living together again. We have moments of wonderful imaginative play, make believe and then it descends into a battle or a competition! But they are so lucky to have a space of their own and are enjoying covering it with tiny balls, cars and lego every day!

wigwam

So for now we have a pocket of normality in amongst all the boxes and cables and pipes that need moving and replacing. We have a cosy area in front of the dining room fire which we are going to use as a family space, with no tv, a space to read and relax. And I have already started snipping around the garden, lucky my old box of bottles were one of the first boxes I unpacked ;)

country house
moving
vintage bottles

A little bit of calm in a sea of chaos!

Make sure you pop across to the other hosts of Me and Mine, LucyKatieLauren, Chloe and Becky and join in with us and share your family snap from September. We love seeing them all. 

I am still without wifi (2 weeks and counting) and slowly going potty! But as soon as we are online again I will be visiting them all!

A wonderful, mad, crazy week • The MADs 2014

On January 1st this year we said to each other we were going to slow life down more this year. Less travelling, less Sunday nights spent unpacking the car and carrying sleepy boys into bed and lazy Saturdays at home, in pjs.

Well. we are now almost in October and life is as hectic as ever!

But I wouldn't change it for the world. I started the week full of nervous excitement and ended it in the same way! On Tuesday we watched our emails, waiting for the all important, "It's official" message from our solicitor to say the forever house was finally ours forever. And earlier than expected, before I had even left Weston to head towards Somerset to the estate agent, to be ready to collect the keys, a short and sweet email popped up saying, "It is yours....!"

Mum headed to the estate agent and I headed to the house to meet my in laws with Rich and Ollie following from Weston after pre school.

All three of them tooted like a fanfare as I turned the key in the door! 

fireplace

In 48 hours we had pulled up carpets, uncovering a beautiful oak herringbone floor in the sitting room, hired a sander and started bringing the floorboards in our room and the boy's room back to life and filled a skip in almost 10 minutes flat.

moving house
mullion window
floorboards
moving house
sanding floors
demoliton
croquet
children in leaves
hydrangea
croquet
croquet
country garden

We all sat with plastic glasses of champagne, on camping chairs, with fish and chips on our laps taking in the garden (which I still can't believe is really ours) and toasted the start of a new adventure! I can't thank them all enough, the house needs.... well....more than a lick of paint and they all just got stuck in, cleaning, ripping down old partitions, running errands and entertaining boys! And then my sister, Andrew and Yasmin came to visit with a croquet house warming set! 

But it's ours. And now we have all the time in the world to bring new life into it. 

painting

Then from sanding and painting I whizzed up to London (complete with my hair in heated rollers in the car) to celebrate with all the Finalists in the MAD Blog Awards. I shimmied into a sparkly number in the car as we approached the hotel (classy I know) and ran up to join everyone at the champagne reception.

It is both wonderful and surreal to be in a room with all the people you talk to online. Lots of hugs and kisses and giggly hellos! I love it!

I had the pleasure of sitting for the dinner with lots of bloggers I hadn't met before and our table definitely gave the loudest cheers of the night! Go Emma and Lori! It's a night to celebrate the hard work that everyone puts into their blogs and it does make me laugh to look around the room and see the majority glued to their phones! 

It was a complete honour to hear my name called as the winner of the photography award. It is incredible to win again this year and I feel so lucky! I have worked hard this year to try and challenge myself technically and creatively and it is amazing to have all my love for photography rewarded by my peers. Plus the competition was stiff! Annie, Katie, Charly and Helene, you are all talented photographers and I was very lucky to win this year. 

I wished I could have stayed the night, brought my camera and had had longer with all the lovely bloggers, (A big shout out to the adorable Jenny for my beautiful vintage serving spoon - what a sweet gift!) but we had to head back to my in laws in Poole for an overnight pitstop, we got back at 3am, and then raced off to the house on Saturday morning for more DIY. 

A million thank yous to everyone who voted, for everyone who puts up with being friends with and family of a woman in love with blogging and to Rich for driving me home, having spent the evening pottering around London on his own. 

mad blog awards

I have felt so loved by the blogging community this year, so supported and showered with kindness. As I said in my speech on stage, we get to share the worst of times and the best of times, and this is one of the absolute best! 

Online Photography Course • Ace giveaway

The brilliant thing about social media is you find and follow like minded people. 

I love the supportive and sharing communities I am part of and one of them #blogphotochat has led to a super giveaway for a lucky reader! 

If you are a blogger and looking to take your blog photography to a new level this is the course for you, and if you are not a blogger but would love to improve your photos then hooray - you are in the right place too!

I follow photographers on Instagram and Twitter whose photos inspire me and photographers who I can openly ask for advice and share our passion for taking better photos. Emma is one of them.

emma davies photo

Emma Davies is a talented commercial and fine art flower photographer (I mean you can imagine just how much I adore her work!) based in Surrey and her photos are breathtaking.

emma davies photo

Emma runs a successful program of workshops and courses all of which I would love to go on, and is offering a place on the next online Blog Photography Course which commences on Monday 22th September for one of my lovely readers.

You will win a 28 day course which has been designed to cover every aspect of blog photography with 5 video tutorials each week and access to all sorts of loveliness with Emma.

blog photography course
emma davies photo

All you have to do is tell us why you would love to win the place. 

The competition will close at midnight on Friday 19th September and the winner will be announced on Saturday 20th September.

Good luck! 

And don't forget to join in #blogphotochat every Thursday night at 9pm UK time on Twitter. 

A tribute • Skye B

When it comes to blogging I am a firm believer if you haven't got anything to say, don't say anything at all. And for the last 2 weeks I have been trying to find the words, the right words, to convey my love and respect for the bravest people I know.

On the 29th August my cousin Sally's little boy Skye died peacefully at home. 

I have seen the piles and piles of letters and cards sent to Sally and Andrew, kind messages on their Loom to the Moon Facebook page and tributes on Twitter. But I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers, wonderfully thoughtful people who have been touched by his story and felt compelled to send me a message, an email, a text or a tweet. 

And it's only when you re read every single one again and again that you truly appreciate just how extraordinary Skye was. To at 5, have a voice that has made a mark.

A boy who has made a difference.

No parent should ever lose their child. It's a pain that you can visibly see rips someone's heart out. And it's a pain that you are helpless to heal. How do you learn to live without that child? In all the countless parenting books you read when you are pregnant, there is never a chapter on this horrendous experience. Life carries on, but for them life has stopped. No one can prepare you. No one could prepare any of us for the reality of the day when we lost him and the day we said goodbye.

Skye B, you will never be forgotten. You were mature beyond your years, with a wit that could outsmart children and grown ups alike. We always said, with your soft blonde curls, that you looked like a little angel, and it seems so dreadfully unfair that you are now an angel in the sky.

You have made people think differently about their lives, to be more grateful, more patient. Sally and Andrew put together an incredible order of service for his heartbreaking funeral and shared their own guide to parenting. Points to remember that we all take for granted so easily. 

The best thing you can give children, next to good habits, are good memories.

Sally and I had our boys within months of each other. It is hard to fathom that we won't have 4 boys having adventures. They shared clothes, milestones and both of us share that quest to capture those times with video and photos. And I am so grateful now, because my boys can remember all the happy ordinary family times we've had together.

skye hall
skye hall
skye hall
skye hall

Skye B you have given us so many treasured memories and we will all miss you forever.

He had a final message to all his supportive fans on Facebook. A message that I will strive to live by.

We all need to remember to make the most of what we've got. 

Make the most of every day. And hug your small or big ones a little bit tighter. Now go and find the dressing up, or whatever makes your children happy and make them smile like cheshire cats. 

Linking up with The Ordinary Moments

Me and Mine - A Family Portrait Project August

From the age of 6 weeks old I have been visiting our family holiday home in Southbourne. It's the place in the world that I feel truly relaxed and I get hit with a tidal wave of nostalgia that knocks me into a happy place with the full force of childhood sentimentality.

The beach hut is full of photos of all the family and every year we have a week on the sand, come rain or shine. 

Southbourne, thank you for the memories this year. It's such a pleasure to see the boys reliving my childhood, that somethings never get old, feeding the squirrels, running on the bandstand, digging huge holes on the beach. Well this year it was a Red Arrow! 

Southbourne
Southbourne
Southbourne
Southbourne
Southbourne
Southbourne

So here's my Me and Mine for August 2014, recreating the first time we took baby Ollie to our happy place.

Southbourne
Southbourne

Four pairs of long legs! 

Now it's time to head back to Weston and start packing! Moving day is less than 3 weeks away! Somerset here we come.

Southbourne

I've shown you me and mine, now show me you and yours! 

Head over to Lucy's blog and see what her sweet family have been up to. I've been pouring over Lucy's blog this month and her beautiful family portrait sessions they have had and definitely want to book one of our own. I love the snaps we have captured over the Summer but sometimes letting someone else take control of the camera shows you a whole dimension of your family you sometimes miss behind the lens. 

I can't wait to see all your family photos this month.

Loom to the Moon • Blue Skye Thinking

This Summer has been a Summer for family and blogging has firmly taken a back seat. 

I have hundreds of photos to share of our happy times but have run out of time each day to blog them! I have often been guilty of spending so much time recording the moment, rather than enjoying the moment, but was determined this year, to make the most of our holidays with family and adventures with friends before we move.

Of course we all want to share our fun times and there's a strange sense of achievement when you get a large number of "likes" for a photo but this Summer there's only one thing I want you to like. 

If you follow my blog on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook you may have seen me talking about Loom to the Moon, the vision of an incredible little boy.

Skye is 5 and slowly losing his courageous fight against a disease he developed following treatment for an aggressive brain tumour.

Exactly a year ago my sister and I spent a week at our family holiday home in Southbourne and on a sunny day as we sat on the deck of the beach hut we received a call we would never wish on anyone. That our cousin's little boy had cancer.

Sally and I have grown up like sisters and had our sons just months apart from each other. 4 healthy boys who have spent many happy times together and 2 that were due to start school. Except Skye never started school. His uniform was never collected and whilst we've watched with pride as Sammy conquered two milestones this Summer, learning to swim and riding a bicycle, my cousin has watched her darling boy deteriorate. 

We were so lucky that they were able to join us for a day at the beach hut this week, a precious day making memories that will need to last a lifetime.

skye hall
skye hall
skye hall
skye hall

I am often teased in our family for endlessly taking photos. And I always say "You can't get these times back you know!" This has never been more true of this photo of 5 out of the 6 cousins. It breaks my heart to think we won't get the chance again to capture these beautiful children together. And when Sammy kissed Skye goodbye and told him he loved him, I felt like someone had shattered my heart into a thousand pieces.

skye hall
skye hall
skye hall
skye hall
Skye Hall
skye hall
skye hall
skye hall
skye hall 21.jpg
skye hall

Skye encapsulates the word brave. He has exceeded all expectations by undergoing intensive radiotherapy without the need for a general anaesthetic, lying completely still during the frightening process, in a mask that covered his whole face and body like something out of a horror film, and displaying a determination to walk again after his surgical procedure.

skye hall
skye hall

And it feels terribly and painfully unfair that after everything he has been through, he won't share all the happy times we have ahead in the future.

I want everyone to know how proud I am of Skye, what a remarkable son he is to Andrew and Sally and what an inspirational big brother he is to Jesse.

Most recently they have tried a hyperbaric chamber treatment, to try and halt the progression of the disease, and it was in the chamber which felt like a rocket, that Skye suggested they try and Loom to the Moon.

If any of you reading this have spent the last few months cursing these tiny rubber bands, hoovering them up when your children weren't looking, or popping a few ropy lengths in the bin then I need to ask you a favour! Please send them to Blue Skye Thinking, 59 Hendred Way, Abingdon, OX14 2AW, to help Skye achieve his dream of the world's longest loom band.

Over the Summer Sammy and Ollie have achieved some major childhood milestones. Sammy hopped on a friend's bike the other night and suddenly rode around the garden! Both of the boys have learnt to swim, Sammy blowing us away with 3 lengths of a 15m pool, back to back. Ollie decided this week to abandon his armbands and at just 3, is now confidently swimming a width of a 4m pool. We've had play dates with friends, including Sammy's sweetheart Katy. They are both convinced they will get married one day and this innocence is adorable.

Skye has a sweetheart and it's been heartbreaking thinking of all the things he won't have the chance to do in the future. So my cousin gave him a wedding, with his little beloved Ellie! I think these were the photos that stung the most. Seeing the stark difference in such a short time.

skye hall

If you haven't already please pop onto the Facebook page and like it and follow Blue Skye Thinking on Twitter.

You can also donate to Skye at his Just Giving page HERE

Now go and hug someone you love, life is precious.