This month we have been living in chaos. I have been able to write my name in the dust on every window ledge, sideboard, the floor in the hallway and even the cutlery that sits in a basket in the kitchen needed washing every time before you stirred your tea! But it's all worth it. Because when you see a room slowly come together it starts to feel more like yours. More like home. Our home in the country.
We are trying to be methodical, move room by room, and translate our vision for this beautiful old house into walls, furniture and all the other bits and bobs that are the fun part to source and buy!
I have lots of photos to share over the next week or so of the inside of the house but when we first viewed the house, on a chance drive by back in the Spring, it was the garden we first fell in love with. The garden is a picture perfect backdrop, still full of colour, and a testament to the vision and loving care the previous owners poured into it.
So it seemed fitting that our family photo for this month was amongst all the crunchy leaves and apple trees! We donned our wellies and headed out yesterday whilst the air was still full of mist, with the horses next door looking on bemused.
Balancing the camera on an old stone sculpture that I was thrilled they left for us, we snapped this.
My family. My boys. And their stinky dog dog and puppy. (Yes we go for original names for stuffed dogs here!) And then I really looked, looked at the small boys between us. They are still so little. We have expected so much of them lately, been frustrated at the continued broken night's sleep, been horrified at the level of rough play fighting and the constant desire to run around the garden in bare feet getting filthy!
But we have been blessed with 2 boys, slugs and snails and puppy dog's tails! I followed them as they headed down to the pond, their precious dogs in hand, and listened as they talked about adventures in the trees. Climbing trees has become a standard in this garden, a big challenge for big boys, apparently! All 3 ft off the ground!
We feel like we need to freeze time at moments like this. Simple, happy moments with no bickering, no endless request for Takeshi's Castle, followed by endless requests to turn the lounge into an assault course. Last weekend we went to the big annual village event, the Harvest lunch at the village hall and I was so proud of them. Polite, funny and nice to the other children from the village. As we chatted to new friends and enjoyed the amazing food (The dessert table was like a final of the Great British Bake Off!) I caught a glimpse of them in the garden, throwing leaves in the air with the other children and smiled.
They are wide eyed and innocent for such a short time. They won't want to come into our bed for cuddles in the middle of the night when they are teenagers, they won't fiddle with my hair when we sit next to each other on the sofa.
And it's these moments we need to freeze and store away to get you through the days of moaning and arguing! Boys - you are our greatest challenge and greatest achievement. And we love you very much.
Now hurry up home from your kind grandparents who have had you for a half term sleepover so we can get dressed up, put our wellies back on and go trick or treating!
I've shown you me and mine now show me you and yours. Join in with us and share your little family. This month, pop across to Lauren's blog, another Mummy with 2 beautiful boys!
I have a complete obsession/weakness for stationery and anything office related.
There are several wooden boxes on my desk bursting with cards for friends, pretty notelets, prints that inspire me and little pots of your everyday office supplies. But what I have always lusted after is a peg board.
I read a lot of American craft and DIY blogs and every now and again they would feature this beautifully holely piece of wood and I would despair about where I could source one over here. No longer confined to a garage wall, a peg board is a sleek and elegant, functional, modern noticeboard.
I have always used a noticeboard as a mood board for inspiration. And a peg board takes that concept to a new level.
I couldn't wait until my office was ready to share it, so I will save my office makeover for another day. At the moment the barn above the garages, which is divided into three, has one end set up resembling an office for Richard, albeit with no flooring or heating, and the other side looks like a car boot sale!
Over the next few weeks I am going to repaint and carpet my office under the wooden beam and clean up the store room next door to use as a prop room.
And this peg board is going to have pride of place above my desk.
I love the multicoloured pegs and with two sizes, so you can hook to your heart's content or slip over the ends of bulldog clips and collate your latest inspiration.
I love how just 2 pegs make a shelf for your favourite card, a mini cork peg board tile or a pencil holder! Perfect for your phone too. And the best bit is you can reconfigure the pegs at any time.
I adore the symmetry a peg board gives you and its makes an awesome backdrop! You may have seen it creeping into blog posts and my Instagram photos ;)
Thank you Red Candy - I think the Block Design product is awesome. Now if only I could have one in every colour...!
The best thing about moving to a new area is finding new places to discover.
And the moment I walked into Fork and Flowers in Shaftesbury, I knew I had found a special place. A family run business, filled with pretty stems and bursting with antiques.
Cassie show cases other local businesses and uses their pop up pieces to style her carefully curated shop. There are vintage apothecary bottles squeezed next to antique crockery and decorative home ware.
Her window displays are award winning and as I snapped away quietly, it was lovely to see the passers by stop and stare at the vision before them.
Not only does Cassie offer a bespoke floristry service to her many happy clients, she runs workshops through the year for adults and children.
Next week on Tuesday she is running 2 workshops for children during half term and there are still a few spaces left. As we have family visiting on Tuesday we were lucky enough to spend Friday after school stuffing some gourds with beautiful flowers.
The boys were totally engaged and played nicely with Cassie's two children. Sammy asked questions and Ollie was determined to cut his own stems! It was lovely to see them doing such a calm activity and now our fireplace is filled with pretty pumpkins!
There are so many photo opportunities at Fork and Flowers, the garden where Cassie grows all their foliage and the baskets of gourds that line the floor, the rustic old table by the milk churns , the old stone steps. And I couldn't resist taking a few photos or five ;)
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 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.
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.
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.
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?!
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.
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.
Welcome to the first inspiration post in the journey of us bringing life back into our new house!
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.
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.
- New England Style bunk beds £199.99 Argos
- Planes wallpaper £9.99 Decorline
- How cool is a hanging chair?! £48.59 from Acandi
- Vintage aeroplane bedding set from £9.99 Dorma at Dunelm Mill
- Alfie striped rug on sale £45.50 Laura Ashley
- Solid end detachable bunks £269.99 Amazon
- Spitfires Wallpaper £60 Paperboy at Not on the High Street
- Globo swingin chair £278.54 Amazon
- Aeroplane bedding from £20 Babyface
- 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!
You can check out their blog for more design inspiration here.
I love getting emails from readers with photography related questions and today I want to start my #backtobasics series of tutorials.
It's easy to buy a camera and dive straight in. Leave the manual neatly in the box un-thumbed and start snapping. I know, I've done it!
But understanding the principles and basics of photography will help you master your camera, whether it be a phone camera, compact, DSLR or anything in between.
I will be posting a series of easy to follow photo tutorials which will take us on a journey from the fundamental principles right through to editing processes and tips to ways to use your beautiful photos.
Everything is easier to understand in bite size pieces. Then when you piece them all together you will feel a light go off in your mind and bingo, you will start taking better pictures!
Today is about Aperture.
Light passes through your camera lens through a hole. This hole decides how much light to let onto your camera sensor. Aperture is the size of that hole inside the lens. Just like how your pupils react to light. If you shine a light in your eyes your pupils will get smaller, but in a darker room they will dilate to try and let as much light in as possible.
Put your hands together in front of you.
The smaller the hole the less light that can pass through.
Aperture is measured in F-numbers. This is the measurement of the diameter of the hole.
Aperture is referred to as full stop F-number or F-stops. If you look at a lens you will see it has an F-stop range or number.
There are a number of different sets of F-numbers but the most commonly used are:
ƒ/1.4 2 2.8 4 5.6 8 11 16 22 32
It might sound confusing but the lower the F-number, like ƒ/1.4, the bigger the hole and therefore the more light that is allowed to the sensor.
The higher the F-number, like ƒ/22, the smaller the hole and the less light that is allowed through to the sensor.
The amount of light that reaches the sensor affects the depth of field and the amount of your image that is in focus.
So... the lower the aperture, like ƒ/1.4, the bigger the hole and the more light, but this will give you a very shallow depth of field. You know the lovely blurry background shots with a very crisp focus in the foreground.
Take a look at this set of photos.
As the aperture number increases, the hole gets smaller, the less light reaches the sensor, and the more in focus the background becomes.
Look at the holes on the peg board (Which I was kindly given by Red Candy, I'll be sharing a post on that soon) higher the F-number the more in focus they become.
I love shooting on Aperture Priority and my signature style is to use a low F-number, typically ƒ/4, to get a shallow depth of field and a very blurry background.
Compare these 2 photos. The one on the left is a low aperture, ƒ/4, the one on the right, ƒ/22.
You can see how the leaves become more crisp on the right, but my familiar style would be the photo on the left.
Have a play with your camera on Aperture Priority (Look for the AV or AP setting) and compare how changing the aperture alters your photo. If you are taking a picture of a landscape you may want to try a higher F-number, to get the whole view in focus, but if you are taking a picture of your child, a lower F-number might help keep the focus of the photo on their face.
Don't forget to leave me any questions on the blog post and if you take any photos on Aperture Priority tag me or tweet me so I can see! I love shooting on Aperture Priority because I have control over the atmosphere I create in a photo, by altering the depth of field.
Next up is shutter speed...
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
October, I am not ready for you. I am going to pretend we are still in September (and that is why this post is 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 lovingly update the house, work room by room, and decorate it slowly.
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!
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!
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 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!
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 ;)
A little bit of calm in a sea of chaos!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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 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.
All you have to do is tell us why you would love to win the place.
- Leave a comment on this blog post OR
- Leave a comment on this Instagram photo OR
- Leave a comment on this Facebook photo
The competition will close at midnight on Friday 19th September and the winner will be announced on Saturday 20th September.
And don't forget to join in #blogphotochat every Thursday night at 9pm UK time on Twitter.