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On writing (and blogging)…

15 Sep

Blackberry | Wolves in LondonI’m going through one of those phases where I’ve forgotten how to write.

It’s a phase that’s not uncommon to me, as someone who has made their crust for the past 15 years with writing in one form or other (journalism / editing / communications / whatever the particularly tedious brand of writing is called that is simply trying to persuade people to open yet another promotional email newsletter that they really just want to delete).

I think almost all writers would admit that they frequently compare themselves detrimentally to other similar writers. It was this irresistible but bad-for-the-soul trait that really diminished my enjoyment of working on a big broadsheet back in my 20s.

You’d pick up the paper every morning and look through it, reading the pieces by your friends and contemporaries most carefully.

“Great piece this morning, John,” you’d say as you bumped into John ten minutes later in the lift popping off for a fag on level one. But secretly you were thinking, “Bloody John, that turn of phrase in paragraph two was really brilliant. I’m never going to be able to construct a sentence as well as that. John’s going to get that job that I really want on the books desk and probably a reader is writing in to complain about the factual error in my piece right this very second and I’m going to get fired on the same day John gets his promotion…”

When I’m going through a bad writing phase, though, it’s not other people’s writing that is making me feel depressed, but my own. “Good god,” I think, reading some witty, intelligent and beautifully honed article I wrote a year ago. “I could really write then! That’s a great joke! That’s an insightful but deftly managed point of view I’ve put across there. I will never, never, be able to write as well as that ever again. All my best work is behind me!”

So, yup, that’s where I am right now.

My lovely friend Laura pointed her readers towards a blackberry and apple vodka recipe I posted last year. I trotted over there too, just to remember what I had said and thought, blimey, I haven’t written anything as nicely as that for a while.

Why am I telling you this? Because I’ve decided that it’s time to give myself a little bit of a break. Stop beating myself up about my lack of writing panache and instead to just ride out the lull until I get my mojo back again.

So, dear readers, if you’ve noticed a certain dullness about my posts recently, an awkward turn of phrase, a clumsy repetition, please bear with me. If my posting isn’t as frequent, it’s because I’ve written something and decided it’s all a load of rubbish and deleted it in a fit of pique. And if I haven’t made you crack a smile for a good few months, my apologies.

In the meantime, head over to my archives and check out some of my articles back from the days when I could really write… There’s a particularly tasty blackberry and apple vodka recipe you might like to start with.

Grow, forage, cook: a disappointing harvest

4 Sep

As August has bid us farewell and summer has melted into the season of mellow fruitfulness, I’ve started to feel a little bit of a fraud.

It’s been great to see so many of you joining in with our Grow, forage, cook series; Laura posted what we hope will be the first of many round ups of some of your mouth-watering photos and recipes last week: August round up.

I am practically salivating onto my keyboard at the sight of all the wonderful jams, pies, salads and other delights, made from homegrown or foraged foods.

I, on the other hand, a founder of this wonderful series have not, I confess, been out day after day picking the bounty of my garden.

Despite Laura’s kind words about my gardening prowess, back when we launched this series a month ago, this year has been my least successful when it comes to growing food.

Homegrown apples | Wolves in London

Apples from my tree: about the only edible thing in my garden right now

There was the excellent plum bounty, to be sure, and the apple trees have produced a small but steady supply of really delicious apples (though nowhere near the apple glut we had the first year we moved in). The brambles at the bottom of the garden by the greenhouse have been nothing if not prolific.

But, to the production of these delicious fruits I have assisted but a little. Yes, I did prune and thin the apple and plum trees earlier in the year (I recall the rather worrying incident of a heavily pregnant lady swaying atop a rickety ladder fairly well). And when it comes to the brambles, well, I have actually spent quite a lot of time and effort trying to eradicate them, so far completely unsuccessfully.

But everything that I have actually tried to grow has been an unmitigated failure.

Come take a stroll with me, if you will, and see if you can spot the problem…

Horrible courgette | Wolves in London

Erm, what can I say, this looks utterly vile

Now, I hope you’re not eating anything when you take a look at the photo of my single courgette. Yes, this limp (I am restraining from using the word “flaccid”) nibbled, part yellow specimen is the solitary courgette produced from my courgette plant. Appetiising? Not so much. Everyone, but everyone growing courgettes has the September “what the hell am I going to do with all these courgettes?” quandary. Everyone, that is, but me, who knows perfectly well that this sad looking specimen is headed straight for the wormery. The slug damage inflicted is just too great for any recovery now.

A few steps over and you find this glorious prize winning aubergine.

aubergine flower | Wolves in London

Yes, it’s really pretty, but can you turn into into baba ganoush?

What’s that you say? Just a tiny little flower? Oh. Yes. So it is.

Though the plant has put out about 30 flowers this year, not a single one has produced a fruit. I don’t know whether it’s lack of germination, or lack of water at a crucial time or just lack of luck, but this is the best I’ve got from the aubergine plant…

I can’t even show you a photo of my purple sprouting broccoli plants, veg that I have grown in previous years and eaten with delight for the whole of the winter months. I lost them all a few months ago to caterpillars. Overnight.

The broad beans are certainly more successful because they have, gasp, produced one whole entire almost certainly edible bean. Hurrah! This is he.

Broad bean | Wolves in London

Granted, the slugs might have a harder time if I actually weeded around my poor bean plant

Hot on the success of my lovely borlottis last year, I planted half borlottis and half broad beans. I cared for them, nurtured them from seed, watered and loved them in the greenhouse and, in May, certain the last frost was over, I planted them out into a specially prepared patch in the garden. There were 24 plants in total.

Two weeks later there were three.

Now, there is just the one, with this single bean hanging from its stem.

Slugs. Bloody slugs again.

Even the cucamelons, something I declared both prolific and fail-safe after my first attempt growing them last year, are struggling on, pitifully, producing a few fruits but mostly dying down.

Cucamelon | Wolves in London

Awww, I never tire of their cuteness!

The problem with it all, of course, is lack of time. I never use chemical bug killers or computerised sprinkling systems because of environmental / sustainability issues. But hand slug-removal and hand watering are only good if you actually *get out into the garden and do it*. This summer, what with one thing or another (thing one: a toddler, thing two: a baby) free time has been slightly on the rare side and the poor garden has rather suffered as a result.

The one hope for any sort of real harvest I have are my beetroot, which succumbed in a big way to some sort of fungal disease a month back (the result, I am certain, of letting the sproglet be in charge of watering them, which will have bounced the fungal spores all over the place. Never water from above in the middle of the day, I know that, of course, but the sproglet loves watering the garden so much that I feel exceedingly mean to deny his enjoyment…) At one point they had not a single green healthy leaf among them. Now, amazingly, a pleasing resurgence and they look as if they might yet produce some decent roots for eating.

 

Beetroot | Wolves in London

Sunkissed and, astonishingly, still alive, hurrah!

So the verdict from my garden this year. Pests: 1; Sabrina: 0.

I’d love to end on a deep philosophical note about how gardening isn’t just about the end result, but also the pleasure of time outdoors, taking a moment out of your life, yadda yadda yadda < insert appropriate homily here> but, you know what, I really wanted to actually grow something to eat this year and I am pretty miffed at the sorry show.

So please, keep your pictures coming so I can live vicariously through your gardening successes! Tag your photos #growforagecook on instagram, tweet us your blog posts (to @circleofpines or @wolvesinlondon) or just leave a comment below.

Meanwhile, over here in slug city, my love of stocking the larder won’t be thwarted (Autumn time to me = permanent eye-watering vinegar aromas in the house as I pickle / chutnify everything I can get my hands on…) But if it’s not made from plums, apples or blackberries, it’ll be from the veg box this year, not the fruits of manual labour.

Ah well, seed catalogues have been circled and next year’s planning has already begun…

August break 2014: the last week

1 Sep
August break week 4 | Wolves in London

Prompts, top to bottom, left to right: memory, nature, lines, love, small, adornment, morning, something new, nature (again)

So, a whole month has passed, just like that. *Clicks fingers*

Much as I love participating in projects like the August break, or my monthly garden moodboards, I am often put off by the side effect of an increasing awareness of time passing.

You start out thinking, oh yes, a photo a day for August, how lovely! And before you know it, you’re writing about the very last photo, August 31st, and the month has gone, poof, disappeared in a puff of smoke, and you’re sure you barely had time to get out of bed and brush your teeth.

Perhaps it’s something about marching, inexorably, towards my 40s that makes me rather reluctant to notice the passing of the days / weeks / months, but prefer to just live in them.

Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in this August break.

I’m fairly proud of a few of my photos. I’m slightly embarrassed I posted a couple of them (two proved to be slightly out of focus when I looked at them on my computer screen rather than my phone). I struggled to think of a decent interpretation for a few of the prompts. And I’m constantly surprised by which ones prove the most popular on instagram.

(Of all the photos I took, the one from the first week, of my feet on my bathroom floor was the most popular. A great photo? Erm, probably not. Just some very lovely tiles. All credit for which surely is due to Fired Earth for making nice tiles and not to me, photographer and feet owner. Ah well…)

And so on, into the first day of September and I am already missing a daily prompt to make me think, take a few minutes to decide on my interpretation and head out there, armed with my little phone, to try and get a snap of something.

Related articles:

  • It’s all over for this year, but you can read all about it (and get ready to join in next year?) on Susannah Conway’s blog: the August Break 2014
  • And, of course, I’ll still be sharing pictures on instagram, so do follow me there if you fancy

August break 2014: week three

24 Aug
August break photo collage | Wolves in London

Prompts, left to right, top to bottom: bookshelf; black and white; treasures; peaceful; shadow (twice)

Well, another week over and another weekend reached. Tick, result, breathe…

It’s started to feel a bit like that as I’ve been battling not only toddler daytime meltdowns but toddler and baby lack-of-nighttime-sleeping this week.

I just keep trying to remind myself that one day I will look back on this time and remember only the cute adorable bits, completely forgetting the sheer exhaustion of sleep deprivation and the frustrations of dealing with someone too little to understand reason who would really like to jump on top of his baby brother right now, irrespective of said baby’s need for a nap. (Cue one hour meltdowns all round…)

Anyway, the phone was about somewhere during it all and I managed to snap a few pics for the August break. Not my finest, for sure, and I missed a day for the first time too (the prompt was “jump” and nobody I spent the day with can do that yet!)

Here’s the montage from the last week. As ever, if you want to see anything larger, just click on the pics and zoom in…

Already feeling more relaxed, half way through the bank holiday weekend. If only every week had three days respite at the end!

Related articles:

Trips to the Horniman museum

21 Aug

At last! Another post in my Making the most of London series. A mere year since the last one, ha ha…

Horniman museum | Wolves in London

The stunning conservatory at the Horniman museum. I want to live here

Overstuffed walruses, giant totem poles, kitchen gardens growing lentils; what’s not to love about the Horniman museum?

It’s one of those collections of eclectic eccentricity that the British seem to do so well.

Luckily for us, it’s a mere 15-minute walk from where we live (albeit up an extremely steep hill) so we visit almost every week. But weekly visits are almost a necessity to even start to explore just a little bit of the amazingly diverse activities and sights here: almost all of them ideal for children.

Bandstand Horniman museum | Wolves in London

A view out across the grounds by the bandstand. Look closely and you can see the London skyline in the distance…

The museum was founded by Frederick John Horniman, a Victorian tea trader, philanthropist and collector in 1890 to showcase the bits and pieces he’d picked up on his travels around the world. [Side note, if only current job descriptions were as exciting as "tea trader, philanthropist and collector" -- I'd be updating the CV as we speak...]

Added to slowly in the centuries that have followed, the museum is a brilliant juxtaposition of the old anthropological exhibitions that you expect from a natural history museum and crazy architectural features like a totem pole, with modern additions such as the beautiful green-roofed library and aquarium in the basement.

Horniman museum totem pole | Wolves in London

Just your average view in South East London

Being something of a fishy family (in the nicest possible way), the aquarium tends to be our first spot to visit, where the sproglet races round pointing out all the fish excitedly to anyone listening and the baby and I tend to spend a little more time staring into the tranquility of the jellyfish tank. So peaceful and beautiful, I’d really love one in my own house.

I try not to bore on too much about the differences between a pipe fish and a seahorse to the sproglet, so once we’ve completed the loop a few times, we head upstairs to the natural history museums.

Here, two floors of glass cases are filled with stuffed animals, where the most famous exhibit is the fat walrus – bought by Horniman for the opening of his museum and originally from Canada. He’s a little chubbier than he should be as the taxidermist who stuffed him who had never before seen a photo of an actual walrus so had no idea they had folds in their skin.

If fish and stuffed animals aren’t your thing though, there’s plenty more to see.

The music room showcases practically every musical instrument you could ever imagine. Though safely behind glass, two tables in the room allow you to select photos of the instruments and listen to what they sound like. An adjacent room has a hands on area where you can play a selection of random instruments (most often populated by dads with their children, I’ve noticed, “just showing them” how to play the instrument correctly)… Outside, by the bandstand, every day objects have been turned into giant instruments – plastic pipes become a huge organ, and metal ones a giant xylophone. The sprog absolutely adores this area.

Outdoor music at the Horniman museum | Wolves in London

He’s a musical genius, I suspect…

The bandstand itself is the setting for weekly story readings as well as a series of concerts over the summer.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the animal walk – a (really pretty tiny) walkway where you can admire chickens, goats, sheep, rabbits and… …two alpacas. Alpacas being pretty much one of my favourite animals in the world right now, I often lose myself, leaning on a gate, dreaming of owning an alpaca farm in the country and making my fortune selling beautiful alpaca yarn. Right until the sprog starts tugging at my sleeve and demanding, “Wot Mummy doin’?”

Horniman museum gardens | Wolves in London

The dye garden: full of wonderfully bright coloured flowers

There’s also a kitchen garden, ten acres of grounds to explore, and the most stunning glass conservatory, in which occasional exhibitions are shown and which is available to rent for events like weddings (we did consider it for ours…)

Conservatory at Horniman museum | Wolves in London

Just one more of the amazing conservatory

The summer events programme is particularly impressive, I think. With an Edwardian theme (to match the newly renovated Edwardian bandstand), they’ve really gone to town on creating events to cater to all whims. Open air cinema, Edwardian “lates” with tea dances and live music (sooooo up my street!) and activities for kids on every day of the week, such as storytelling, art and minibeasts tours of the grounds. I genuinely think this must be one of the most “interactive” museums in the whole of London.

So, if you like a bit of weirdness in your kulcher, definitely somewhere to add to the “to visit” list. It’s in Forest Hill, so fairly easy to get to on the Overground or train line. Just be warned that the hill to get there is pretty steep…

Related articles:

  • Check out all the events, activities and exhibitions on the Horniman museum website. (NB, despite the gushing, I’m not in any way in cahoots with the Horniman on this post; just a genuine fan!)
  • For more Sabrina-reviewed places to visit in London, check out my series Making the most of London

 

August break 2014: week two

16 Aug

The photos continue…

August break photos | Wolves in London

Prompts, left to right, top to bottom: hands; guilty pleasure; drink; blue; look down; in my bag; look down (again); look down (and again!); handwriting

Phew, this has been a tough week.

The hubby was back at work on Monday after a five week hol between jobs. Of course, in that time, the sprog and the babe had become completely used to having him around all the time (as, for that matter, had I) so it’s been a shock to all our systems to be back to a one parent unit during the daytimes.

Having said, last week, that I was finding it a great joy taking a photo every day, this week it has definitely been more of a struggle to find even a spare minute to snap something. But I did, somehow, manage it on every day.

Here are my pics from the last week, for your delectation. (By the way, if you want to see any of them bigger, just click on the image and zoom in…)

{The August Break is a photography project of Susannah Conway’s, where you take a photo every day following prompts. See more about my participation in my post last week, or more about the whole thing on Susannah’s blog: August break 2014.}

Related articles:

August Break 2014: lots of photos

9 Aug

Well, 31 photos to be precise. These are the first nine…

August break week 1

Left to right, top to bottom, the prompts were: orange; pattern; selfie; lunch; today is…; three; reflection; pattern (again!); window

Last year, I took part in Susannah Conway’s August Break for the first time.

It’s a brilliant (and brilliantly simple) idea. For the month of August, you take a photo every day and publish it on your blog or share on Instagram (or Facebook or wherever…)

There are prompts to follow every day, if you choose, or you can just take whatever photo you like.

It’s called a “break” because the idea is you stop bothering with blogging your usual posts, but just take a lovely photo and share that instead.

Last year, it absolutely stressed me out beyond belief. It was the most exhausting month of blogging I’ve ever had since starting the blog.

Even though I didn’t follow the prompts or insist to myself that the photo I posted was one I had actually taken on that day, I found it utterly draining finding a decent photo to publish every day. (I wrote a bit more about it on August 31st last year, if you want to hear more specific moans!)

This year, I’ve got a phone with a decent camera so I’m over on Instagram instead of the blog and, let me tell you, I am loving it!

I’m doing it properly. Following all the prompts. Taking the photo on the actual day. And yet, somehow, I’m not finding it loads of extra effort. I’m just finding it a joy to take a picture each and every day.

I thought at the end of each week I’d round up my pics over here too, in case anyone who isn’t on Instagram is interested in seeing them.

If you want to join in too, you can find out all the info on Susannah’s blog: August Break 2014.

Check out everyone else’s photos over on Instagram by searching #augustbreak2014.

And you can follow me on instagram if you’d like to see the day-by-day shots as they occur: @wolvesinlondon.

Come and play too, it’s really fun!

Related articles:

  • I’m sure that a big part of the reason I’m finding this so much more fun this year is thanks to the bloggers’ photography course I took with Emily Quinton last year. You can read more about that here: Makelight workshop.

A peek in the garden

7 Aug

I thought it was high time to take you for another little stroll round my garden and a photographic browse of what’s going on outside in August.

I’m thinking about my garden pretty much non-stop at the moment, planning what changes I want to make for next year. Which plants need to be dug up and moved. Which new plants I want to buy. Which of the beds should be dedicated to what.

So – amongst all the looking forward – it’s nice to take a little break to remember what’s there right now.

In the front garden, everything is looking pretty happy at the moment. The verbena, as I have mentioned perhaps a million times before, is putting on as good a show this year as the last two. I’ve read that you need to replace these after about three years, so I’ll have to check on its performance next year. It flowers for months on end, but best of all the bees love it.

Bee on verbena | Wolves in London

Bzzz bzzzz bzzzz, I loooove verbena

The new wild rose hedge that we planted earlier in the year is very perky. The roses are stunning and smell delightful, but I’m equally fascinated by the way the leaves unfurl from a tightly-packed whorl…

Rosa rugosa | Wolves in London

They only last for a day or two, but the scent is just stunning…

Rose leaves unfurling | Wolves in London

Wouldn’t this be great in time lapse?

The Nectaroscordum siculum seedheads have been all but fully eaten by birds. All that is left are these spiky fronds. I plan to leave these in place all winter, I really love them. (You can see a photo of the full flower here and the seed heads pre-eating here.)

Seedhead | Wolves in London

Just one of the seed containers remaining…

The flowers are almost over on my amazing sea holly (Eryngium ‘Jos Eijking’) but its striking blue stems haven’t lost any of their colour. This is one of the plants that I’d like to move – it’s overshadowed by all the verbena and the electric blue doesn’t go well with their more mellow purple — so I think it’d look better in a bigger bed out the back. But reading up, it doesn’t like disturbance, apparently. Hmmm, might have to just see how it goes.

Eryngium 'Jos Eijking' | Wolves in London

Eryngium ‘Jos Eijking’

Moving round to the back garden…

Do you remember my obsession with Mexican fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus)? The good news is, the three plants I put into the back garden are all growing well and flowering. Hoorah! I hope they’ll colonise this stone wall nicely.

Erigeron karvinskianus | Wolves in London

Whoop whoop, welcome to my garden little daisy-like flowers

Close by, in what is to be my mixed border once I’ve planted it up this summer, the last remaining cosmos (which should have been planted at the back of the border, but for some reason I put at the front and it looks rather gigantic there next to the smaller plants.) I feel I should apologise for yet another cosmos photo, but really, how could you ever tire of photos of this lovely flower?!

Cosmos | Wolves in London

Beautiful cosmos

Just as there is a pink rose bush in the front garden that I claim as my own, but in fact belongs to a neighbour, so too in the back garden. These roses have been blooming since the spring, now, and the bush, though technically originating next door, takes up a substantial space in one of my beds. They’re unscented, but I really like the loose natural petal arrangement. So much more attractive than the traditional tightly-packed roses, in my opinion.

Pink rose | Wolves in London

Anybody know what sort of rose this is?

Over on the other side of the garden, the apples are ripening nicely on the trees, though I fear many are filled with caterpillars.

Apples | Wolves in London

Almost ready for picking, I would say

Also ripening, shockingly early, are the blackberries. The same neighbour with the lovely pink rose also has a garden that is basically 80% bramble bushes. I spend a lot of time trying to stop them taking over our garden too, but it’s something of a losing battle. Which I mind less when I am greeted by a sight such as this.

Blackberries | Wolves in London

Ready to be turned into jam…

Meanwhile, the actually intended veg is doing less well. My courgette has put out lots of male flowers, but just the one female so far. I don’t think it got pollinated, either, so I’m afraid this solo courgette is just likely to drop off sometime soon without growing further. Fingers crossed I’m wrong…

Courgette | Wolves in London

Please don’t fall off, little baby courgette

In the greenhouse, I’ve just treated myself to some gigantic trays and some capillary matting, in a quest to overcome my crappy watering schedule. My plants are consequently neatly lined up and looking rather smart despite the hot weather.

Tray of seedlings | Wolves in London

Lovingly grown from seed and not yet dead, hurrah!

On the right of the photo are Penstemon ‘Husker Red’ with lavender and Aubrieta deltoidea ‘Purple cascade’ in the front. I’ve grown far too many of the last two, I think I counted about 35 little lavender seedlings. If I grew these all to adult size and planted them out, that would pretty much take over my whole garden, ha ha. I plan a nice little lavender line to go down the side of my path in the front garden but I suspect I won’t need more than five plants to complete that. So if anyone in SE London wants some lavender, give me a shout!

Ditto for the aubrieta, which will one day soon have lovely purple flowers all over, but currently just looks like this:

Aubrieta seedling | Wolves in London

Aubrieta seedling

Also in the greenhouse, for now, are two jasmine plants: an evergreen (Trachelospermum jasminoides) and the standard jasmine (Jasminum officinale). I’d planned to grow them up a certain wall, but completely changed my mind once I got them home. They’ve been sitting here, gently baking in the summer sun for the past few months and I really must decide where I want them. In the meantime, though, the greenhouse smells amazing…

Star jasmine | Wolves in London

Lovely star jasmine

And finally, a few photos of my kalanchoe. I normally have this indoors, but I moved it outside this summer, for no real reason other than the fact we were decorating inside.

The sunlight has done it the world of good though, tinting the edges of its fat leaves a wonderful red colour. I think it’s looking more glorious than it ever has before in the ten years I’ve owned it…

Kalanchoe | Wolves in London

I love its chubby little leaves

Kalanchoe | Wolves in London

Beautiful red outlines

Phew, well that was quite a long stroll, wasn’t it? Thanks for joining me. Perhaps time for a nice cuppa and a biscuit now. Have a lovely afternoon.

Related articles:

Styled: an Ikea jug

24 Jul

Last year I took a blogger’s photography course with Emily Quinton (you can read more about it here: Make light photography workshop).

Last month, Emily set all her past students a challenge to take an object and style it three ways.

It was a challenge I really wanted to take part in: styling is the thing I find absolutely the most utterly difficult in photography (especially photography for my blog) and the area in which I really want to improve.

I mulled it over for a few weeks, thinking of various different things I could style and then dismissing them again as I imagined the disappointing photographs I would take.

Then I saw A Quiet Style’s amazing photos for the same challenge and I almost threw in the towel then and there, so beautiful were her shots.

But not wanting to fall before I’d even reached the first hurdle, I looked myself in the mirror and had a stern word.

“Come on, Sabrina”,  I said, jumping up and down and making little motivational jab shots towards my own reflection, “you might as well at least try. Practice makes perfect and so on. Why don’t you take a few photos and if they’re heinously awful then you don’t have to put them on the blog or even admit to anyone else that it ever happened…”

So, safe in the knowledge my reputation would remain unbesmirched whatever the results, I settled on photographing a humble Ikea jug in three different ways. These are the results.

Firstly: the lazy option

I was photographing my July garden moodboard, when I saw the jug and decided to just stick it onto the backdrop and take a photo.

Jug and leaves | Wolves in London

No, there is no rhyme or reason to this photo

One of the very few things I know about styling is that you’re meant to tell a story with your vignette or wotnot. What on earth this story would be, I just don’t know. Milkmaid is on her way to milk cow, but stops to pick some herbs and accidentally leaves her jug behind with the discarded herbs on a pristine piece of paper?

Verdict: okay, definitely failing in the whole story telling stakes, but I quite like the simplicity of the white background with the white jug and the reflections of the green foliage on the jug’s sides.

Secondly, the ‘is it actually there?’ photo

I picked some of my delicious-smelling sweet peas and put them into the jug. (Y’know, in my real life, rather than my pretend styled life.)

And I think it was about two days before it actually occurred to me to take a photo of them. Ha.

Sweet peas | Wolves in London

Look carefully and you can just about make it out…

When I did, I got a bit carried away with the delicate sweet pea veins, which you can’t really make out unless you have quite a close up shot. So the jug becomes nothing more than a tiny background accent.

Verdict: nice sweet peas. Irrelevant jug.

Finally, number three, some actual styling

Okay, please don’t laugh that I call this styling because what is in this photo? A jug. Sitting on a tea towel.

Jug on tea towel | Wolves in London

Styling is all about napkins and tea towels, right?!

But, I have to confess that this took me almost 30 photos to get something I was even a little bit happy with.

I took my jug upstairs to the wooden floorboards (something Emily taught me in the last class, this one: wooden floorboards look nice in photos!) Then I took a nice (unused and still actually clean) tea towel and spent the best part of 15 minutes farting around trying to get a nice fold on it and wondering whether or not the jug should sit on the tea towel or next to the tea towel…

But, finally, I was actually pleased (or, at least, not displeased) with this shot.

Verdict: even things that apparently look really simple can take a bit of time to get right!

So, what do you reckon? I don’t think my phone is going to ring off the hook anytime soon with people begging me to style things for them, but a definite improvement along the way there…

I already have plans to try and style some other things in three ways. Watch this space for more agonising!

NB Can I just let you know how hard it was to resist calling this post, “Jugs.” But resist I did. Some acknowledgement due, surely?

Related articles:

  • I had another mini fight with my lack of styling instincts when I was doing a Blogging your way course last year. That time, the subject was some carrot jam

A few holiday snaps

22 Jul

Is showing some holiday photos on a blog the modern day equivalent of the dreaded slide evenings in the 1970s?

Quite possibly, but, stuff it, I’m going to show you a few pics anyway. At least if you’re not interested you can just look away now, and I won’t force you to drink any of my homemade elderflower wine. (My grandfather used to make this. Believe me, it sounds nicer than it tastes…)

Where once holidays with the hubby meant diving in exotic locations around Asia, these days we’re firmly staycationers (the one foreign holiday — our honeymoon — that we attempted to take the sproglet on being something of a disaster of constant night wakings and the like…)

So this summer, we packed up the car and set off for sunny Dorset, for a few days staying on one of the Featherdown Farms campsites. This is glamping to the extreme: a safari tent, with an actual flushing loo inside, two bedrooms and a wood burning stove. It’s basically a house but with fabric walls.

View at Featherdown farm | Wolves in London

Every campsite needs a kettle planted with herbs…

We’d carefully selected the farm that had the most animals, so that the sproglet would have the best time animal admiring for a few days.

Of course, as is always the way when planning stuff with kids, for the time we were there he completely lost his normal love of farm animals and showed no interest in them whatsoever.

However, there was a conveniently-placed rowing boat in the field outside which provided hours of entertainment. As well as hours of cajoling parents into joining him for a row…

Boat in field | Wolves in London

Possibly the most exciting thing for an almost-two-year-old

Boat in field | Wolves in London

“Row, Mum-Mum, row…”

There were also some glorious views for us to enjoy from the comfort of our deckchairs.

Golden hour | Wolves in London

Golden hour one evening. Just out of shot, a frazzled looking hubby, trying to persuade the baby to go to sleep…

Horse in field | Wolves in London

The horse in the adjacent field provided some interest for the sprog

It was all so picturesque that I didn’t even mind that we had to walk to the shower block when we needed to wash, or that it took 30 minutes to boil a kettle for a cup of tea. (Okay, the last one bothered me a teensy bit. I am something of a tea addict…)

Early morning sun | Wolves in London

Off to the shower block in the early morning sunshine…

Camping stove | Wolves in London

Making a cuppa on the outside stove

As well as mooching around on the farm we took a few day trips — I won’t bore you with details of the one to the Sea Life in Weymouth where we met one of the Octonauts — but by far my favourite was Honeybrook Farm, close by in Wimborne Minster.

The most glorious red brick farm buildings are set in a courtyard, with stables on one side, a dovecote on another and a lawn with ducks, geese and a terrifying-looking turkey in the middle. The estate is set in stunning river meadows, with a chalk stream running down through the grounds.

Honeybrook farm | Wolves in London

This photo comes nowhere close to showing how attractive these buildings were…

We spent a long time fishing in the stream, followed by a lovely walk along the banks, the sprog persuaded along with the promise of another bridge to cross.

All this, plus a cafe, restaurant, tea shop, heavenly kitchen garden, soft play area, tractor rides, two playgrounds, a water area and the chance to meet and pet some of the animals.

I was so busy having a wonderful time that I only took a few photos on our riverside walk…

River meadows at Honeybrook Farm | Wolves in London

The mown path in the river meadows

Honeybrook Farm river meadows | Wolves in London

Oh the sky!

But if you’re ever in the area with young children, I highly recommend a visit.

Me, I could barely drag myself away at the end of the day and have spent every second since dreaming of a more permanent life for us on a similar farm. I just won’t expect the sproglet to help out with the animals…

 Related articles:

  • Featherdown camping is across a huge range of farms in the UK. We stayed at one near Blandford Forum. Though full of glorious pictures, I found their website a little bit lacking in info, but if you’re interested in something similar it’s here: Featherdown Farms. (Needless to say, they’re not paying me to say any of this…)
  • At the other end of the scale, the Honeybrook Farm website is lacking in photos of their beautiful surroundings but has lots of info on the various events and activities available: Honeybrook Farm.
  • And, naturally, I’ve got a Pinterest board dedicated to nice-looking places to stay in the UK, with links to these and other places I found when I was researching our hol. It might provide inspiration if you’re looking for child-friendly accommodation: Holiday cottages UK.

 

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