#Prop Shop • Plate Love • Featuring Out There Interiors

I have a love affair with props.

I love how they can add atmosphere to a photograph and tell a story. I am so happy when I am styling up a little photo for inspiration, lost in my own little world!

I have wanted to bring back my Sunday Prop Shop feature for a while, but my obsession with props is too great to restrict to a Sunday! So from now on I will be sharing my collections with you under #PropShop. Over the last few months it's been brilliant to see so many bloggers take a little more effort over their photos and style them in their own ways, with new backgrounds and colourful accessories. What are your go to props for photographs? I'd love to know!

When it comes to props I adore plates. Nothing makes me happier than a table of mis matched crockery and serving dishes, making a routine, mid week meal come alive. There is something about the pops of colour that just make the food taste nicer! All in the mind!

My collection of wonderful plates means I can create unique photography for food clients and I have curated a collection of different styles and eras to ensure I can style a vast range of imagery. I have banned myself from buying anymore blue and white china at the moment as I have enough to host a banquet with! But the temptation is hard to resist when I spy a plate for 50p at a charity shop!

My "props" have become part of our daily life and we use almost everything you see in this post on rotation. I never wanted to have a cupboard that looked like a sad returns department of a homeware store, I want to be surrounded by things that make me smile and inspire a creative idea.

I have lusted after a wooden plate rack for as long as I can remember so I was thrilled when I was sent this beautiful turquoise number from Out There Interiors. I can't wait to find a house to buy so it can adorn our new kitchen wall! Or I might be tempted to have it in my office - wouldn't it be wonderful for scrap book papers, well loved and saved magazines and my absolute favourite plates that inspire so many ideas?

The colour is so rich and at 100cm wide it can display a huge number of plates. Layer your smaller plates in front of dinner plates and really show off your lovely china.

Plate Rack

I think the vibrant colour would refresh any kitchen and the distressed finish adds character and charm.

Plate Rack

I am all for pops of colour so this would look brilliant with an all white display too.

Plate Rack

It gave me the chance to show you some of my plates that I have collected over the years. 

I always search for metal chargers in charity shops and car boot sales. They make fab props because they have depth and texture but are not shiny! Remember - you don't want to see your reflection in a photograph!

Woods are excellent too - chopping boards make perfect backgrounds for small objects and I cannot resist picking up a wooden plate when I see one. The surfaces are often smooth but not too reflective and you can use them on crisp sheets of white paper or card for a clean look or take them outside on the garden bench for a more earthy and Autumnal feel. They are great for kids craft posts too as they can be used for your craft materials without the worry of smashing like china. 

Wood and metal plates
Wood and metal plates
Wood and metal plates

Plastic can be fantastic too! Dig out your picnic plates and raid the kids melamine - they often have great prints which can add fun to a photo but be careful when shooting outside. On a sunny day plastic will show up big light patches so take your plate into the shade, in even light where the colours won't distort.

Plastic plates

Paper plates are ideal props too and I was giddy when I opened these alphabet plates for Mother's Day. I use them all the time in my Instagram feed and paper plates are cheaper to buy than china. So save one from a next birthday party - I am sure it will inspire an idea.

paper plates

I source a lot of my individual plates from charity shops. I head straight to the crockery section and more often than not I spot a bargain. I am currently hunting for the green cabbage leaf plates although they don't seen to come up that often. 

Platters are wonderful for big family meals. It might just be me, but bringing to the table a feast on a pretty platter just makes more of an occasion of meal times.

plate rack.jpg
plate rack.jpg
pretty plates

But these have to be my favourite. Quite a few of them were birthday and Christmas presents and although they could be saved for best, we don't, we use them everyday and get such lovely compliments from visitors. 

plate rack
plate rack 16.jpg
anthropologie plates
food photography props

And if you fancy having a play with some of my props then make sure you get a ticket for Blog On on the 4th May 2014. Along with 3 other bloggers I will be hosting the props and styling part of the photography session and will be encouraging you all to create beautiful vignettes for your social media feeds as well as sharing lots of tips and advice for styling your blog photos at home. I'll be showing you my behind the scenes shots and let you into lots of my little secrets to get "studio" look photos at home. 

I will be bringing suitcases and apple crates full of all sorts of styles so there will be something for everyone to get creative with.

Plus we get to play! 

Do you suffer from plate love syndrome too? I'd love to see how you style your photos with lovely plates! 

I was kindly sent the plate rack from Out There Interiors and I love it.

Living Arrows

I love being part of the contributing team of photography loving mothers over on I Heart Snapping.

And in case you've missed it, every Monday we all post a snap of our children as part of the Living Arrows series.

Living Arrows

Weekly portraits are such a lovely memento of their little lives and what I enjoy most about this project is how it brings out everyone's creative side. That when you join in a weekly series, you don't always have to post a picture of their faces! 

It's all about what you have captured that week.

This week was week 16 and a nice point to post a quarterly review! 

I love how Wintry the early photos feel and how colour is creeping into my photos with the sunnier Spring weather.

Living Arrows

I love that Ollie still looks small. Because he doesn't feel small. He's like a busy bruiser at the moment, even with his skinny little frame and chicken legs! He races around at a hundred miles an hour, is terribly clumsy and is streets ahead of Sammy at the same age.

We joke that Sammy was like a big baby at 2 and a half, but Ollie feels as though he's two going on 7! He loves lego and never ever puts it in his mouth, he hasn't eaten in a highchair for almost a year and today he told me off for helping him put his shoes on! He's so much more independent, which we attribute to having a bossy and strong willed older brother, but he's also so much more street wise all by himself.

He is just as contended to play on his own as with Sammy and can work his way around an iPad at a frightening speed.

Living Arrows

I adore how Sammy acts in front of the camera. I won't lie, sometimes I do have to bribe them into a photo, to look less like crazy fools screaming cheese and making terrible grimaces and more of the natural fun loving boys we know.

I also won't lie and say I find this project easy. There have been some weeks when I have suddenly panicked that of all the hundreds of work images I have taken in a week that I haven't snapped a single one of the boys. But what I realised is that actually I take "Living Arrows" pictures all the time, just not necessarily on my DSLR.

And over the last 6 weeks or so I have grown even more fond of the camera in my pocket. 

At the end of the year I want to print a mini book of all the photos and it won't matter a jot if they are a mix of iPhone and "big camera" when they are printed small. It's easy to get into the mindset of trying to always take a perfect photo but sometimes it's the snapshots that capture all the little moments that bring back memories and sum up life as you know it.

So go forth and snap! And come and join in with us. 

Monkey World • A Special First Birthday

The Easter bank holiday weekend started with a bang for us with a visit to Monkey World in Dorset to celebrate our sweet niece's 1st Birthday!

I can still vividly remember seeing her come into the world and that's a precious moment I will never forget!

Yasmin lu - you are a delight and the closest thing I have to a daughter of my own.

I love you. Lots and lots.

Monkey World
Monkey World
Monkey World
Monkey World
Monkey World
Cake Smash

Roll on the flamingo party next week!

Have a wonderful Easter everyone. I am having a little break with friends at our flat in Southbourne and will have a monster photo post coming next week! 

Easter Tree Decorations

An Easter tree, an Easter tree?!!! Yes, yes, this may sound like a silly concept but I LOVE it! It's actually a Swedish tradition called a Paskris. 

But I am all for any excuse for seasonal decor and when you can buy teeny tiny wooden egg decorations why not?!

But the thought of getting out the Christmas twigs just didn't seem right so I created a living tree from foraging in the back garden!

I cut off a couple of branches from a large shrub and used an old plant pot that has lovely grape hyacinth coming into bloom. Leave enough "stem" on your branch pieces for them to poke far enough into the plant pot.

Then get decorating! The kids will love it and it brightens up your home.

I made a couple of ideas too. Seriously easy and you can get them out every Easter.

Moss Bunnies

Easter Decorations

Super sweet! All you need is some florist's fake moss and some cardboard decorations. I bought these bunny shapes in The Range. You could use real moss but then they wouldn't keep year on year!

Using a sharp pen knife cut through the edges of the cardboard and peel back the top layer. Remove the cardboard insert and stuff with moss. Pack it tightly so it doesn't spring back out. I safely cut the cardboard but let the boys help with the stuffing!

Easter Decorations

Watercolour Feathers

I bought a basic watercolour set the other week as I want to make some DIY photography backdrops. Plus I've always loved the way watercolours blend into each other and would love to learn how to use them properly. But for now, in a busy week, a simple and quick idea is to paint feathers! 

Watercolour craft

You get a subtle ombre effect by adding more paint to the base of the feather then using a touch of water and dragging your brush towards the tip.

Watercolour craft

And with the little wooden decorations I spied in Waitrose the other day (seriously it's dangerous for me to even get a pint of milk in there - far too many lovely things) we have  pretty and colourful Spring decor in the living room.

easter tree.jpg
Easter Tree
Easter Tree
Spring Flowers

I popped the boys' paper eggs under the tree and they are so excited for Easter day to see what's inside.

Fancy making your own Easter tree?! Or am I just loopy?!

Have a peek at some other ideas you may have missed from last year too.

Life Lately Podcast • Episode 7 • A Change Is As Good As A Rest

Helloooo lovelies! A week that started with disaster has turned out quite nicely.

Let's have a catch up.

SHOW NOTES:

Capture by Lucy

More balance means more boys, happy boys. Put your hands up if you love the holidays?!

A few behind the scenes...

book shoot
book shoot
book shoot

Turns out you can do both, more work and more play! Just have to be really really organised!

Capture by Lucy

As I type this I am raising a cup of tea to a wonderful Easter break for everyone, let's hope for more of this sunny weather the UK has been basking in for the last few days, it almost feels like Summer is on its way. Cheers!

Oh and I didn't mention the house hunt this week as it's currently hopeless – although we've decided to offer a £500 finder's fee for anyone who can broker a private sale for us! What do you think? Good idea?

Linking up with #theordinarymoments, #whatsthestory, #magicmoments

Cake Boss Buddy • A workshop with the master

Blogging is brilliant.

It's brilliant because it brings communities together, raises thousands for charity, develops life long friendships and brings you opportunities you'd only dream of!

And.... it brought me to Buddy.

Buddy Cake Boss

Oh what a night! Kirsten and I have been giddy for a couple of weeks, my sister was livid as was my brother and sister in law in New Jersey who adore his show Cake Boss! If you haven't seen it you are one of the few, his shows are televised in 190 countries! 

Cake Boss
Cake Boss

I had no idea what to expect from an international celebrity. But he surpassed all expectations.

Charming, witty, informal, welcoming (He kissed us all on two cheeks asking "This is what you do in England right?!") and led the most informal workshop, bouncing questions back and forwards between bloggers, journalists and television network staff, who were all as giddy as we were.

Cake Boss
Cake Boss

Buddy is passionate about creating a legacy and it was his strong sense of family that was so overwhelming. He wants a successful empire but he wants a clean, family, wholesome empire. One which will inspire generations to bake.

He calls it "Empowering the home baker." 

Buddy had both the men and women captivated in the basement kitchen of L'Atelier des Chefs in London's Mayfair. I was impressed with his sincerity and the way in which he openly discussed his own ups and downs and family heartbreak. This isn't a skill he has mastered, it's his natural charm.

Cake Boss Workshop
Cake Boss
Cake Boss

We were all invited as part of a promotional event for his new line of bakeware. A HUGE new line of everything you could possibly ever want or need. But there were moments when you forgot he had a new line to sell. There were no figures or statistics, no hard sell, just banter. 

There were bloggers, bakers and writers and it was wonderful to meet Caroline too! 

But what I noticed was how classic the styling of the new collection was. With a reputation for creating enormous, extravagant cakes and even covering a whole car in fondant icing once, I had imagined the packaging, colours and patterns to have a show business quality to them. But no. Beautifully packaged, timeless products and pretty decorations. Feminine colour palette but the metal bakeware and gadgets have a strong unisex feel which I can see men and women alike snapping up as soon as they hit UK stores. If you can't wait until then you can purchase the range on Amazon.

Cake Boss Workshop

Thanks to the official TLC photographer for providing the image of me icing my "marble" creation. Eek!

Cake Boss Workshop
Cake Boss
Cake Boss

We were all sent home with a marvellous goodie bag full of treats to try and watch, apron and books including The Cake Decorating Bible by Juliet Sear, Cake Boss' ambassador in the UK. And Kirsten won the prize for the best decorated cake! Go Kirsten! 

Thank you to Porter Marketing for such a brilliant invitation.

And don't forget to watch the new series of Cake Boss on TLC on Fridays at 9pm.

And if you haven't yet nominated your favourite blogs for the BritMums Brilliance in Blogging Awards (yes I know - it's blog awards season!) today is your last chance!

You don't have to submit links to everything just the blog website links you love. 

Of course I'd be thrilled to be nominated this year so if you think I deserve a place in the shortlist you can nominate HERE.

Easter Bento Babies

Welcome to another month of beautiful Bento!

It was great to see so many link up last month and I feel inspired by all the different ideas.

The best thing about Bento is you can be as creative as you want or as time allows.

You don’t HAVE to be a creative genius, just empty packets! How hard is that?

Have you seen the cute divider plates? Start there. Bento is all about thinking about the way we present our food. So instead of a plate of foil and plastic wrapping, let your children really see what feast they have before them. 

We can all work up to Hello Kitty figures made from seaweed and rice!

I am a busy parent and I have no time to have to use tweezers in order to create a masterpiece, but I do have time to separate. Use silicon cups in a shallow lunch box to stop them rattling around, or lidded pots or even better as it’s Easter time, refillable eggs! There are also loads of different lunch boxes available which have pre divided plastic sections.

Easter Bento Idea

The boys helped me choose the ingredients for these ideas and then proceeded to eat everything like a tasting platter! Sammy’s eyes were as wide as the eye picks when he saw it all come out to the table, and that is my biggest inspiration for making meal times more fun.

Easter Bento Idea

 

And if you don’t think your children may appreciate the extra effort think about whether little things make a difference to you, in terms of presentation. I have no idea why but when I eat a sandwich that has been cut into triangles it just feels nicer than in squares and a cup of tea just feels more special, when the tea bag comes with a string in a little envelope of it’s own?! Am I mad?!

Last year’s Easter Bento Babies was full of colour and this year is no different!

5 ideas to get you through a holiday week.

Easter Bento Idea

Fresh coconut/Scotch egg/Pepperarmi/Pasta/Pistachio nuts/Blueberries

Easter Bento Idea

Sweetcorn rings/Bruschetta and hummus/Dried cranberries/Chunks of ham/Cocoa Snack bar/Kiwi and grapes

Easter Bento Idea

Pretzel mix/Strawberries/Green pepper,Cold noodles/Almonds and a chocolate egg/Babybel cheese

Easter Bento Idea

Salami/Yoghurt/Cucumber/Mango/Japanese crackers/Boiled egg

Easter Bento Idea

Pumpkin seeds, yoghurt covered strawberries, cashew nuts and cranberries/Carrot and mini sweet corns with a salsa dip/Pineapple and dried pear/Sweet treat/Fruit puree and bunny biscuits/Scotch pancake

It’s a hard job expanding your children’s palettes. But it’s even harder if we never try. It’s easy to get into a routine and I’m often guilty of serving the same 5 dinners on rotation, in amongst a few dinners that go ping. I’ve got into a bad habit of using lunch time to experiment and then it’s the same old spag bol or mince related dinner on the menu! 

Easter Bento Idea

I watched a BritMums video hangout the other day and was amazed at the kinds of meals the bloggers were talking about, that they serve to their families. There’s no reason why we can’t challenge their taste buds with flavour and spice and I am going to attempt a few new dishes over the Easter holidays to add to our family repertoire. 

Any suggestions?! 

Join in and share the love of Bento! Link up your lovely lunches and snack teas and let's all inspire each other. It's not about what looks the most fancy it's about sharing ideas to get our little ones eating better!

Linking up with #TastyTuesdays, #recipeoftheweek, Share with Me and Eats Amazing

Life Lately Podcast • Episode 6 • Opportunity Knocks

Hello hello!

It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks preparing for the Easter holidays and having the boys at home for 2 weeks. I have been working my cherry print socks off, been chained to the laptop, much to the despair of my husband, and in an attempt to rectify a home/life balance have been a bit quieter lately on the blog.

I even had a day off everything on Friday and had a girly day of lunch, shopping and non stop gas bagging with a lady I wish I lived closer to. If you are a blogger you will find it hard to believe that Katie and I managed to get through a 2 hour lunch without sending a single tweet! But as we don't get many opportunities to see each other we made the absolute most of it!

Mummy Daddy Me

BUT, I am bursting with ideas so watch out for a nice steady stream of things to make and hopefully some pretty things to inspire you. 

So we have have lots to catch up on....

Show notes:

Do you ever get weeks like this, when it seems like one opportunity leads to another, then another?

It's times like this that you need to focus on the good bits to get you through the hard bits!

Here are a few snaps from behind the scenes at the photo shoot. A couple I borrowed from the very lovely Ruth and a few final shots mixed in. The shoot was for a social media campaign for  a successful Functional Medicine Doctor In London and I had the pleasure of working with a premier Paleo chef, Pete.

The trick of this shoot was to create a bank of images that could be used in different seasons and for different campaigns. So each dish had to have several styles to convey the different times you might eat it and create atmosphere. Which meant lots of props! 

One of the best things was seeing all my charity shop bargains come to life. 

food photography
eggs
broccoli recipe
food props
Paleo breakfast
dr mouton functional medicine 9.jpg
food styling
Fresh eggs
paleo lunch
quinoa recipe
Seeds
pale fish recipe
food styling
paleo pancakes
food styling
broccoli recipe
Ruth Walters
cherry tomatoes
food photography
Fresh fruit
Eggs
green smoothie
food photography props
Fish recipe
green smoothie
food photography

I love how much we smiled through this shoot!

These were genuinely happy faces!

And speaking of happy, since I reactivated my Instagram account I have never felt more creative or inspired. And I had a thought this morning about creating a rainy day book of photos. Most of the photos you see on my Instagram account are taken on my iPhone and although they may not be perfectly crisp, I think it would make a sweet book of inspiration to cheer me up in stressful times. I need to dig out my little Selphy photo printer!

Happy week everyone, what ever you do, do it with pride, a smile and record it in some small way. 

These are the good times.

Linking up with #whatsthestory, #magicmoments, #magpiemonday

Chocolate Free Easter Gift

I love the idea of giving little Easter gifts to the boys that don't have to feature chocolate!

They will be spoilt by family with Easter eggs, chocolate bunnies, chicks and we seem to have an endless pack of mini eggs in the house, (How is anyone meant to resist the little boxes?!) not to mention all the lovely treats they had in the last week of term at school. Competition prizes and chocolate rewards are fab but when I spied these old fashioned paper eggs in the local garden centre it gave me an idea.

Paper Easter Eggs

Did you ever have one of these as a child? I am hoping we can start a little tradition and keep them for every Easter.

Easter Gift Idea

All you need is the egg, some tissue paper to keep your surprise from rattling around too much and a small gift.

Small Play Farm

I thought this tiny farm set was so sweet and as they are complete magpies and constantly collect baskets of curious tiny things from around the house to play with, I know these little figures will inspire hours of imaginative play.

chocolate free easter gift 6.jpg

Line your egg, add your gift and an extra length of ribbon if you fancy!

Chocolate Free Easter Gift

Will you give Easter presents?! My brother's mother in law in America makes up the most incredible Easter gift baskets for each of them! Like Christmas - amazing!

Chocolate Free Easter Gift

Woolley Grange Hotel Photo Shoot

I am been spoilt with work recently. Hence the lack of blog posts!

Today I have been on a nutritional journey, working (if you can really call it that - it was far too much fun) with a talented multitasker Ruth on a promotional shoot for a London based Doctor, specialising in Functional Medicine. But more on that later in the week.

I felt like I've been on a journey because I learnt more about what what eat and what is best for us in a day, than I have for a long time. Yes of course I know I need to eat more fruit and veg but the secret is to know which fruits and veg we should all really be eating!

I'll post some photos, and some behind the scenes of my organised chaos, but first I want to share some of the images I took for a seriously wonderful luxury family hotel Woolley Grange.

Woolley Grange
Fresh fruit
Smocked salmon bagels
Juice bar
Chocolate Muffins

Can you even begin to imagine how hungry you feel after photographing a breakfast service?!

I realised on the shoot that my focus is always on the detail. A focus on the little things you might overlook or forget to appreciate at the time. And I feel it's always my job, as a photographer (yikes I am only just getting used to saying this out loud) to make sure it's those sentimental and special details that I capture.

The baby cup nestled in amongst the plastic and glass, the incredible attention to detail from the talented chef and the hotel team. Each plate carefully placed on the enormous wooden dresser with pride, the sun streaming into the orangery, lighting up the fruit bowl like an encore on a theatre stage, each table adorned with a milk bottle of flowers cut fresh from the hotel gardens.

There is something I found so enchanting about the walled gardens. Fresh home grown produce available to buy for a few pennies and served for a happy couple's wedding breakfast!

Spring bulbs
Woolley Grange Hotel
Woolley Grange
Potatoes
Home grown salad
Woolley Grange
Fresh eggs
Chicken
Wedding breakfast

It was beyond lovely working with Kirsten aka The Little Wedding Helper and Ruth, capturing different things but working together.

photo shoot

I couldn't resist taking a few snaps of the wedding set up though!

Pink wedding flowers
Wedding chair flowers
Pink wedding flowers
pink wedding flowers
Wedding chair flowers

It was a pleasure working at Woolley Grange, and I hope I will be able to share some more details of what it feels to stay there sometime soon.

Woolley Grange Hotel
wooden wendy house
Woolley Grange Hotel
Woolley Grange Hotel
joules welly boots
Woolley Incidentals 4.jpg
Cocktail recipes
Woolley Grange

Like a home away from home, but the nicest home you could go to!

I feel like the luckiest working girl in the world at the moment!

But tomorrow I am off to Bath for some fun, and no doubt some blog chat with a special friend :)