Pumpkin Patch

Over the last couple of weeks I've been lucky enough to be able to cross several things off my Autumn Bucket List - you may have spotted a roast dinner and an open fire already, and last weekend was also a similarly autumnal weekend with lots of winter-y candles, snoozing under blankets on the sofa and an amazing pint of  local cider and Ploughmans lunch in a little cafĂ© in the forest.  Ticking off things on my Autumn Bucket List is definitely more fun than trucking through my personal to-do list - I think I am going to add pub lunches and conker collecting to all my to-do lists to make them a little more fun to complete!

Last Sunday afternoon we visited our local pumpkin patch and chose a pumpkin each for carving later on.  I drive past the pumpkin patch every day on my way to and from work (in the summer you can go strawberry picking there) and have been enviously eyeing all of the families huddled together in scarves and gloves choosing pumpkins.  There's even little sledges for children to use to carry their pumpkins back to the till if they're too heavy to carry!

We spent a little while nosing our way around the patch and trying to find the perfect pumpkins.  Sadly I think we were a little late as some of the pumpkins looked like the birds had got there first, or were on the turn.  It was still a lot of fun though and I think we found two good'uns! We are away this weekend so hopefully they'll still be prime for carving when we get back....

Pumpkin patch Pumpkin patch Pumpkin patch Pumpkin patch Pumpkin patch Pumpkin patch Pumpkin patch

coat: reiss {old} // jumper: zara // trousers: 7 for all mankind {old}

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Photography tips for shooting in the forest

You probably all know by now that I have a deep love affair with the forest.  For me it's a magical place to escape to; a place of fresh air, nature and calm.  And of course, there's no better time to explore the forest than in the Autumn - the changing colours of the trees and all of the sights, sounds, and smells of my favourite season make it the perfect time to visit.

Forest Holidays challenged me to write three tips for enjoying the forest as part of their '30 days of Autumn' project, and as one of my favourite ways to enjoy the forest is to get out and about with my camera, I thought I'd share my tips for taking photographs in the forest (except I got a little excited and shared five tips instead of three!)  I'm no expert in photography but you don't have to be to be able to capture the beauty of the woods - it's all about having an eye for the things around you.  I like to treat it a little like a scavenger hunt - scouting out the hidden treasures of the forest - the shiny conkers, the bright red berries, and the little bugs and birds just waiting to be discovered.  So keep your eyes and ears open, and your camera in your hand - and we'll begin.  I headed out with my Canon 1100D for a day in the New Forest to capture these - but you don't need a digital SLR to take beautiful forest photos - any old compact camera, or even your phone camera, will do.

1. G o  m a c r o

Macro photography just means 'close-up photography'.  Most cameras are capable of shooting macro photography - a lot of compact cameras also have a macro mode or setting (it looks like a picture of a flower).  This means that it will be able to focus on a much closer object than normal (i.e. something immediately in front of the lens) and will often use a smaller aperture, meaning that the area around the object falls out of focus or looks blurry.

Now for the fun part - macro photography can capture some amazing results, and only involves sticking your camera really close to what you want to shoot.  The forest is perfect for macro photography as there are so many beautiful plants, flowers, bugs, and other interesting finds.  You can get some really creative results just by playing around with focussing and pointing your lens in different places.

Berries Close up Leaf

2. T r y  d i f f e r e n t  a n g l e s

I like to have fun with photography, and to try and come home with a photograph someone else might not have taken, or thought of (that's why, as above, you'll find me poking my lens into plants and zooming in on leaves and creepy-crawlies - no chocolate box pictures for me!)  One of the things I love to do is to try slightly different angles and viewpoints.  I often plonk my camera on the floor and shoot along the ground, especially when it's carpeted with pine cones or crunchy leaves.

Down low Leaves

3. L o o k  f o r  i n t e r e s t i n g  t e x t u r e s

As part of my 'photo scavenger hunt' I'm always looking for different textures and colours.  Water bubbling down a stream, a curly, fluffy dog coat, a gnarled tree stump - these all make for interesting captures. Look for spiky horse chesnuts, silky feathers, dewy grass, wet bracken - or even a mix of textures (I love the contrast of the shiny conkers against Tom's muddy hands in my last post).  Shoot interesting textures up close too, or from different angles.

Waterfall BodhiGnarled tree

4. R u l e  o f  t h i r d s

One of the things my Dad taught me about photography when I was younger was about the 'rule of thirds'.  The idea of the rule of thirds is to think about the compositon of a photo in order to make it more pleasing to the eye.  Essentially all you do, is divide the photo into thirds both horizontally and vertically.  When you're taking a photograph, try and position the important elements of the photograph along those lines, where they meet.  (You can Google this for more examples if I haven't explained that very well).


This isn't a perfect example, but you can see how it makes it more aesthetically pleasing that the branch I'm sitting on and the line of the branches behind me split the photo horizontally into thirds. I am then positioned mostly in the final vertical third of the photograph.  When shooting landscapes, it's useful to remember the rule of thirds to make the photo look more natural.  Try starting off by placing the horizon along one of the horizontal lines rather than immediately in the centre of the frame, and try and find other points of interest to add to the composition.  (Many cameras also have a 'grid' mode if you toggle the display modes, which can help with where to position things).

5. T r y  b l a c k  a n d  w h i t e

Even though the beautiful colours of the season clearly lend themselves to colour photography at this time of year, don't be afraid to try out black and white photography.  Again, many cameras have this as a setting on the camera itself, or you can use photo editing software to change this afterwards. You can create some really moody, arty photographs just by switching from colour to black and white - and again, black and white is great for showing off different textures and surfaces.


I really hope you've enjoyed my photography tips and that they've encouraged you to head out into the nearest forest with your camera and get snapping away! Often I find that my favourite photos are the ones where I try out something different or walk off the beaten track to find a hidden treasure - the beauty of digital photography is that you can just delete the ones that don't work out, so get snapping and experimenting, get muddy, and have fun!

Don't forget to check out the other tips from Forest Holidays - you can also get 5% off a Forest Holiday by using the code VWAUTUMN if you book before 31 December 2014.

What are your favourite photography tips for snapping in the forest?

All photographs taken on my Canon 1100D with a 50mm f/1.8 lens.  Edited in Photoshop - mostly using VSCO Actions Pack.

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A weekend in the Cotswolds

Having friends spread all around the country can feel a little lonely sometimes, especially when you long for a few friends close by that you can pop over and have a natter and eat cake with.  But as much as I'd love to have my best friends live that little bit closer, it comes a close second being able to plan wonderful weekends away where you load up the car with wellies, coats, an excited dog and a boyfriend who can't decide quite how many bottles of Badger ales to take with him, and hit the road.

My lovely friend Becki currently lives in the Cotswolds with her fiancĂ© Joe, and kindly invited Tom and I to stay with them last weekend.  They only moved there fairly recently, so we hadn't actually been to stay at that house before, and I was not prepared for quite how much I'd fall in love with where they live.

The sat nav took us through winding country roads, past farms and open fields, when we finally arrived at their front door in Gloucestershire.  Rolling up to their driveaway, we were greeted by their dog, Bu (a whippet), who Bodhi enjoyed a very excitable reunion with whilst we unloaded our bags.


We were welcomed into their cosy kitchen - their Aga making the whole room indescribably toasty. Bodhi immediately climbed into Bu's dog bed next to the Aga whilst we gossiped over tea and planned our weekend. We spent the afternoon drinking ciders and ales in a lovely little pub in Cricklade and then headed back to their house for dinner.  The evening was similarly relaxing - spent eating good food, drinking margheritas and scoffing chocolate by the fire.  Perfection.  That night we slept soundly in their spare room, the windows open, listening to the sound of pheasants crowing outside.

Open fire

The next morning we enjoyed a leisurely brunch of poached eggs, spinach and sourdough bread, before pulling on wellies and coats for a bracing dog walk.

Muddy wellies

This is their dog, Bu, waiting excitedly by the front gate.  Bu is short for Mbuzi, which is swahili for goat.


We set off through the muddy fields, the dogs galloping through the dirt and us following closely behind. Checked shirts were clearly the outfit du jour for the boys! I bought Tom's from Primark a couple of weeks ago, it is fleece lined and looks so cosy.

Muddy fields

I discovered on this trip that I have a bit of a thing for gates.  Rusty old gates, rustic wooden gates, gates that open into expanses of field, or that hold the promise of a winding footpath beyond...


Tom spent some time collecting conkers.  I adore conkers - the smell, the texture, the way the Autumn light glints off them.  They're like hidden treasures tucked under leaves and in the undergrowth, waiting to be found.


My wellies got stuck in a bog, which Tom found very amusing.  We strode down, and up, hills, and found another rather charming gate...


... which led down another rather boggy and muddy path...

Rosie Rosie

Bodhi didn't mind a bit getting absolutely caked in mud however, or having a roll around in the cool grass whilst the humans were taking their time climbing the hill.

Bodhi Bodhi

We headed back up to the road with thoughts of a roast dinner filling our minds.  We had to climb over - guess what... another gate - to find our way back.


When we got back to the house, Becki showed off her little vegetable patch and picked a courgette whilst the chickens clucked around the garden and I secretly wished for a life full of open fires, chickens and vegetable patches!


But after all that walking, there was one thing, and one thing on the agenda - a roast dinner in a country pub. With an open fire.  And an impressive cider menu.  Okay, okay, there were three things on the agenda.  But luckily we managed to find them all in The Wild Duck at Ewen.

It was very busy when we entered the bar, with lots of people crowding around and waiting for tables.  Despite this, this little pup had an armchair all to himself...

Wild Duck

The pub was the perfect, cosy little countryside bolthole, with hops hanging on the wall, the fire crackling away, dogs snoozing under tables and the smell of roast dinners wafting round every corner.

Wild Duck

We ordered four roast beefs, and they didn't disappoint.

Roast dinner

Crispy roast potatoes that required extensive sawing to access the fluffy potato within, humougous Yorkshire puddings, tender beef and a good slosh of gravy.

With full bellies, Tom and I headed home to Dorset, with a sleepy Bodhi at our feet, and our own dreams of wood burning stoves and planting vegetables.  Sadly the Cotswolds are too far from the sea for Tom to consider living there but it truly was the perfect weekend away, and I can't wait to go back.

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10 favourite finds

Just a quick post today - a little round up of some things I've been loving on the interweb and elsewhere....

001. Victoria's engagement story is so cute - a ring box on a pug, could you get any more perfect?

002. Sarah's blog post on '50 simple steps for cultivating self-love' is a must-read.

003. If you have little people, and like adventures, check out my good pals Emma and Nick's new 'toddler travel blog' - Curious Wolves.  They also have a rather swoon-worthy Pinterest account full of lots of adventure inspiration!

004. I really loved reading this blog post 'From Google to God' about one woman's adventure in search of spirituality.

005. I've been majorly stalking the recipes section of Deliciously Ella lately - I've just bought some puffed quinoa so I can make these quinoa and cacao crispy treats, they look amazing!

006. Talking of cacao, I made Tess Chef's 'Filthy sexy healthy chocolate shake' last night and it was incredible - highly recommended! I am currently a bit obsessed with That Protein's Raw Cacao Brown Rice protein powder - review to follow!

007. Someone asked me yesterday if it was too early for mulled cider and mulled wine - I answered with a resounding NO!  I can't wait to try this Henry Weston's Mulled Cider, though I'm afraid that once I open a box I won't be able to stop - best save it for the weekend...

Mulled cider

008. I want to buy everything on La La Land at the moment - I've just bought myself some Twin Peaks pencils and this Badger Head necklace is definitely going on my Christmas list...

009. We sent out our wedding Save the Dates a few weeks ago, I was so excited to get them in the post, it made it all feel very real.  We sent out some cute magnets and some postcards to go with them, I'm definitely going to share a few photos as they're too pretty not to (if I do say so myself!) It's so easy to go overboard when buying the fun little things for a wedding, I got very tempted to buy custom made stamps and pretty envelopes but I didn't want to go too stationery crazy (there are some rather pretty envelopes here - maybe I'll save them for the invites!)

010. I've just been watching a short film I was sent to take a peek at called 'The Vauxhalls', which is a rather sexy collaboration between Vauxhall and James Brown (it's his directorial debut).  Watching Abbey Clancy prance around semi-naked is definitely motivation for me to get myself down the gym - why don't I look that good getting ready in my messy bedroom? The film was shot to promote the new Vauxhall Adam Rocks Air, their rather snazzy new 'crossover' car, and features music from The Kills. (I have just watched it back again for another peek at the amazing sequin jacket Abbey is wearing in the film - NEED!)

What are your favourite internet finds this week?

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My Autumn bucket list

Autumn has somehow ended up well in the realm of 'blogger loves' - along with the obligatory cupcakes, fresh flowers and macarons, my instagram and twitter feeds are currently full of bloggers getting wistful about the arrival of Autumn.  But definitely for good reason I believe - living on the edge of the New Forest, I can't help but feel all warm and fuzzy when I see the leaves change colour, and have an excuse to get out in the woods and stomp around in my wellies.

I've made a little list of all of the things that are a must do for me during my favourite season.  I've also become a little bit obsessed with creating the ultimate Autumn Pinterest board.  I love using Pinterest for inspiration, I can get lost for hours just finding recipes, DIYs and pretty photos!

Here's what's on my must-do list this Autumn....

Have a movie night with homemade popcorn.
Go for a roast dinner in a pub in the forest - roaring open fire is a must
Collect conkers and create an Autumnal centerpiece for the dining table
Go for a bike ride in the forest and take a flask of hot chocolate
Stock up on Christmas Yankee candles
Go to Burley Cider Pantry and try their home-brewed draught cider
Go for a run in the forest and try out my new trail running shoes
Make the ultimate Autumn Spotify playlist
Make at least three recipes from Jamie's Comfort Food - the Insanity Burger is already bookmarked!
Master some more slow cooker recipes
Buy a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch
Go to a Fireworks Display (there's one at a local pub with a hogroast and bands playing in the barn - I'm in!)
Make an 'Autumn Berry Pavlova' - there was a recipe in last week's Grazia from Ruby Tandoh (GBBO lady and author of Crumb) that sounded amazing!
Raid Lush for their Halloween and Christmas bath bombs and soaps
Spend a rainy day doing some scrapbooking
Find the perfect pair of Chelsea boots
Make a batch of warming soup for a week at work
Spend as many evenings as possible snuggled under a blanket with a good book
Make mulled wine
Get up early one weekend and photograph sunrise in the forest
Have a fire in the garden and toast marshmallows
Make some more sourdough bread to eat warm with cheese from the deli (perfect Sunday tea)
Start planning homemade Christmas presents
Treat myself to some new slippers

img credit: weheartit

What's on your Autumn bucket list? Send me your ideas so that I can add them to my list!

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Trek America Westerner 2 : Day One : LA and San Diego

After my post about San Francisco I thought I would now go back to the start and tell you about my Trek America trip in a bit more of a logical order.  I'm so glad that I kept a Notes log on my phone of all of the places we visited as now even only three and a bit weeks since we arrived home I've totally forgotten the order in which we visited some places, so I'm looking forward to having these blog posts as a record of all of our stops!

Our tour started on 4 September but Tom and I decided to fly out to LA on the 2nd to give us a chance to get over our jetlag and take in a bit of LA before the tour started.  We were due to meet on the morning of the 4th at a hotel in Downtown LA called the Kawada, but looking at Trip Advisor and doing a bit of research I discovered that that hotel and the area it was inb didn't have the best reputation, so I booked us a self-catering apartment near the Financial District in Downtown LA (it was called Residences at 616 for anyone interested).

Having taken the photos off my camera it is probably quite fitting that the first photo on there is a stack of pancakes that we had at IHOP on our first full day in LA.  I love IHOP and am a big fan of starting a day with a pile of Cinnabon flavoured pancakes.  I could eat them again right now - there are so disgustingly good.  Drooooool.

pancakes at IHOP

We had walked to IHOP from our apartment and then decided to explore further into the Downtown area of LA.  This day of blindly ambling around Downtown certainly had its highs and lows.  I'd recommend that if you are staying in Downtown and want to explore that you take note of where the safe areas are to visit before you set off.

I had heard of a really cool stationery/gift shop called Poketo which seemed to be only a few streets on from IHOP, so we mapped out a route on Google Maps and started walking. We walked down Skid Row, which is where the largest population of homeless people is in LA, and saw some things that didn't make us feel very comfortable.  After stumbling onto a row of shops which extended about a mile and only seem to sell drug paraphernalia we decided to head back and give up on our attempt to find the stationery shop!

On the way back we walked through Grand Central Market, which sells all kinds of amazing sounding food via food kiosks and restaurants, and made us feel very hungry.  One of many occasions during our time in America that I wished I could erase the fact that I was full of food already and eat again!

grand central market

We wandered down Broadway but hit another spot on the corner of 5th Street where we again felt a little unsettled (I saw a really frightening looking guy in a clown costume who also had his face tattooed with clown makeup - and not in a fun 'children's birthday party' kind of way...) so we decided to head back to the Financial District and back towards our apartment.

Downtown LA
Downtown LA

The next day was the day we were off to meet the rest of our group and start the tour.  We were meeting at 07.30 so we were up and packed early (also assisted by the jetlag) and set off to the meeting place at the Kawada Downtown Hotel.

When we arrived in the lobby it was obvious who the other members of the tour were (spot the scattered pile of suitcases and hiking backpacks!) and we sat down and waited for our Tour Leader to arrive.  I think everyone was slightly nervous at meeting the people we would be spending the following two weeks with.  Most people had come on their own and so there was a bit of chatter about who we all were and what we were expecting out of the trip, before our Tour Leader Brian arrived and things got underway.  We completed some paperwork, were given our itineraries and then we carried our bags down to the van to load up the trailer.

Trek America has various different types of tour but the one we were booked on was predominantly camping, so the van we travelled in also had a trailer for us to load our bags into, and it also had all of the tents and mattresses etc stored inside.

Our first stop in the van was to see a bit of Hollywood before going on to San Diego later that day. We went to see the Hollywood sign but it was really foggy and overcast so it wasn't the most exciting or breathtaking sight!

Hollywood sign

We then went on to Hollywood Boulevard which is obviously a big tourist spot and has the celebrity stars/Walk of Fame, Chinese Theatre and lots of other theatres and memoribilia shops, as well as several museums.  We explored for about an hour before heading back to the van.

Robin Williams star Hollywood Boulevard

It was about three hours onto San Diego, where our first stop was Mission Beach.  We spent the journey peering through the van windows and hoping that the cloud would burn off so that we could enjoy the beach when we arrived! There were 13 of us in the group and so naturally we did some more getting to know each other - the group was made up of two Dutch girls, one German girl, one German guy, one Australian guy, two Welsh guys, one Swiss guy, three English girls and Tom and I.

We arrived in San Diego to blue skies and warm sunshine.  It was probably the first place we'd visited since arriving where I really felt like it was 'our kind of place'.  I really didn't enjoy downtown LA, and Hollywood was a fun place to tick off, but San Diego was beautiful from the moment we arrived.

When we arrived, the first thing on the agenda was lunch.  In the trailer, Brian had a big coolbox full of salad, wraps, sliced meat, fruit, snacks and all kinds of yummy food, and so we made wraps and sandwiches and took in the beautiful surroundings.

San Diego
We then walked on to Mission Beach for sunbathing and swimming in the sea.  It was all of a sudden so hot and several of us got a bit sunburnt - myself included!

Mission Beach Mission Beach

After a few hours of lounging in the sunshine, it was time to head to our campsite to set up camp for the first time.  Now - I love camping and Tom and I go away camping a lot, albeit usually in the van rather than in tents.  This was predominantly a camping trip so you obviously have to enjoy camping for it to be the right trip for you - but there are other versions of the tours where you can stay in hotels if it isn't your thing.  This is our van and the trailer - there was lots of room for all of our bags, the tents and the coolers for food.

Van and trailer Trek America

I must admit that the campsite was not like the camping experiences I am used to in Britain! There was a swimming pool, hot tub, wifi, a shop and a laundry.  We put up our tents and then got showered and changed and headed into the Gaslamp Quarter for dinner and to go to a baseball game. This is mine and Tom's cosy little home!


On a lot of the days we had options for different things to do and on this evening half of us chose to go to a baseball game and the other half headed off for dinner and drinks

We went to Petco Park to see the San Diego Padres play the Arizona Diamondbacks, which was really fun! I loved the atmosphere there, there were loads of families out enjoying themselves, eating good food (there was so much yummy food there!) and watching the baseball.  I must admit I didn't 100% always know what was going on in the game, but I enjoyed it nonetheless!

Baseball game Me and Tom baseball Petco Park

After about an hour or so at the game we decided to head into the Gaslamp Quarter to get some food. The Gaslamp Quarter is San Diego's 'historic district' and is packed full of bars and restaurants.  We absolutely loved walking around - delicious smells emanating from all of the restaurants, and loads of cool looking bars, packed with people.  We chose a Mexican restaurant and had fish tacos and Sangria - so good!

After visiting a couple more bars we met back up with the rest of the group and headed back to camp - an amazing first day of our tour!

I think I'll leave it there for the moment, I can't believe that's only our first day of the tour - I can't wait to share more with you.  Let me know if there's anything specific you'd like to know about the Trek, or Trek America in general and I can always fit in some other posts!

Hope you're having a great Sunday wherever you are,

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