Sparkler Photography

In the UK fireworks are a tradition on the 5 of November because of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. In 1605 Guy Fawkes and a group of followers attempted to blow up the London houses of parliament using gun powder because of the laws King James passed against Catholics.

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I have always loved bonfire night since I was very little. The air has a crisp chill to it, the sky is dark and you can see your breath in front of you. The warming smell of burning wood and smoke fills the air and everyone huddles together to look up at the sky at an array of vibrant colours and exciting bangs.

It’s no secret that I love photography so this year, needing to take a slower pace,  we celebrated from the comfort of our garden and took some cool pictures of sparkler art.

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To shoot this photography I used the manual setting on my camera. I set my IOS to 400 and my aperture to 4. This is very low aperture and takes the shutter speed several seconds to capture the picture however I personally really liked the effect it created. For a general rule, the lower the aperture, the longer the firework pattern!

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The end of Guy Fawkes night for me signifies the very beginning of the Christmas period, and although it’s very early I allow myself to start feeling just a little bit Christmassy. The light from the sparklers and fireworks gets me excited for the lights and decorations I will soon see donning my village around Christmas time.

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The beauty of Autumn

Before I became ill, if you asked me what things I got enjoyment from I would say holidays, swimming, dancing, going on nights out etc (many of which I have outlined in Then and Now ). I wouldn’t have thought it would be possible to get enjoyment from or even feel love for something unless it was something that I could ‘do’. One bit of good that has come from my illness is that I feel like my eyes are opened wider than ever before and I get joy in appreciating the small things in life. One thing I appreciate at the moment is the beauty of autumn.P1030925Autumn is something I can enjoy even on my days when I am stuck in bed. It is something that I can appreciate through a window; something that I have the time to admire to its full beauty like a good piece of art work. Autumn is art.P1030675And on the days that I am well enough to go for a walk I can take in all the senses of autumn- something I never used to do: The smell of wet leaves, chimney smoke and rain, the oranges, reds and yellows underfoot, the crunching of dry leaves as I step on them.
P1030927Walking used to be a chore, I would plug my iPod in and get to wherever I needed to go as quickly as possibly. Now it is a luxury. I am thankful for every step I take- especially in the alluring autumn months.P1030960

Nieces

This weekend I went to visit my partner’s family- I took some delicious homemade brownies which you can find the recipe for in my previous post Gooey Chocolate Marshmallow Brownies – but I just couldn’t log onto wordpress without sharing some pictures of my beautiful nieces from the day.

Meet Elsie, aged 30 months and Maddie, aged 18 months.

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They are the perfect reminder of natural, true beauty. Toddlers can’t hide their emotions like adults do, this is a learned behaviour, so each picture I take of them is a precious capture of pure, unaltered emotion.

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In this picture I took of Maddie I am completely drawn to her eyes and the story you can see behind them. I believe that here you can see Maddie’s complete fearlessness and curiosity to get up close to my camera- she has never seen a camera like mine before and I haven’t zoomed in or cropped this, this angle is all natural. Imagine if as adults we continued this confident approach to the unknown.

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Here I am in love with Elsie’s smile. Much like the Mona Lisa I feel Elsie’s smile is enigmatic. To me it is more of a smirk, she knows something that I don’t and everything that she had been babbling on about just before I took this picture was a detailed, important account of something that was much too profuse for my understanding.

Here are some more emotions captured through these gorgeous girls…

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Gooey Chocolate Marshmallow Brownies

2 spoonsHave you ever heard the saying ‘baking is good for the soul’? Earlier in the week I was invited to a family gathering and knowing that I would need to save my energy in the build up to this I had to rest, limit what I did and stay inside the house. I never used to bake but being housebound I decided to have a go and found that baking is a fun, productive way to fight boredom without spending too many spoons (energy).

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First of all, here is why I found baking my brownies to be so good for the soul and actually quite theraputic:

  1. It’s comfort food- sometimes you just need to indulge!
  2. It focuses all your attention on measuring, setting timers etc so less time for your mind to be thinking about pain or something that’s bothering you.
  3. It is sensory- Your hands feel different textures, you ears hear different chopping/ blending sounds, your nose smells the sweet scent of cooking. All of this releases endorphins!
  4. You can be as creative as you want to/ have the energy to, by altering the design or ingredients.
  5. The cooking time allows you to have a rest break!
  6.  You can make other people happy by offering them brownies too.

Here is a quick and easy recipe I used to make my gooey chocolate brownies…

You will need…

300g dark chocolate, 175g butter, 300g caster sugar, 4 eggs, 200g plain flour, 25g cocoa powder, 10 marshmallows.

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Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl over a pan of boiling water. Once melted, take the mixture of the heat and allow to cool.

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First mix in the sugar. Then mix in the eggs one at a time.

Next add the flour and cocoa powder and fold the mixture together until smooth.

Spread the mixture into a lined baking tray. Cut the marshmallows in half and add them to the mixture so they are partly inside the mixture and partly sticking out the top.

Allow to cook in the oven on 200C for 15 minutes (or 12 minutes if you want them extra gooey) and put your feet up! When you remove the brownies from the oven they should be hard on top but gooey in the middle- they will harden as they cool.

Cut into squares, sprinkle with a little icing sugar and enjoy!

I really enjoyed being able to share these brownies with my family and show that I was happy and grateful to be around people even if my lack of energy was making me seem a little boring.

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Pumpkin Carving Top Tips

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Are you ever too old to carve a pumpkin?

This weekend my beautiful friend Ashleigh visited me and we had a go at the festive art of pumpkin carving. We are both  very much novices as you will see but we had a lot of fun in the process! Check out our designs below and tips we discovered on how to carve a pumpkin and hopefully you’ll be a little more successful than I was…

Tip 1: Make sure your table is protected. Before Ashleigh’s keen insight I began my carving on a new, clean fabric tablecloth. Make sure you use something plastic or washable to protect your table as pumpkin insides are very slimy.P1030713

Tip 2: Have a bin to hand. To begin you must cut off the top of your pumpkin in order to clean it’s contents out- this is where your candle will go after all. One thing I took for granted is just how much contents a pumpkin has! As you can see in the picture I just used my hands, but I would recommend using a fork and a spoon to rake the seeds out. Make sure there is a bin next to you to to put these in to avoid extra mess.

Tip 3: Use a variety of knife sizes. As you can see in the picture, the knife that I used was very large which didn’t make it easy when it came to the more intricate details of my design- and my design wasn’t even particularly ambitious!

Tip 4: Light the tealight inside. No pumpkin is complete without the glow of candlelight but to avoid your match or lighter extinguishing with every breeze make sure you light your tealight inside. Once you have popped the tealight inside the pumpkin and put the pumpkin top back on you can safely transport your pumpkin outside and the flame will be protected from the wind. Or better yet, purchase some battery operated lights!

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I discovered these tips the hard way and had I known them before, I believe my pumpkin carving experience would have gone a little more smoothly. But sometimes it’s less about carving the perfect pumpkin and more about the memories you make carving a wonky one… I guess in many ways that’s the same in life too.

Let me know if you’ve had a go at pumpkin carving this year, how you found it and what designs you went for!

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Man’s best friend

Being in good company doesn’t necessarily have to mean being around people. I was lucky enough to have a 4 legged visitor for the day yesterday and he certainly put meaning to the saying ‘dog is man’s best friend’.

Meet Archie the four year old fox red Labrador…

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Archie belongs to my partner’s sister. He is a very social dog who loves to be around people, play, eat (literally anything), and of course go on walks. Knowing I was going to be having Archie for the day I rested up on the days before so I would have the energy to take him for a walk.

Here are my top 3 reasons why dogs (more specifically Archie) really are man’s best friend…

  1. Dogs are incredibly forgiving- Dogs feel emotions just like humans do and if a dog is upset you will know by the lack of tail wagging and the occasional whimper or cry. But as soon as you show them a bit of love or affection (or in Archie’s case you simply get out of your chair with intent) they want nothing more than to show you how excited they are for your existence.P1030706
  2. Dogs want to be part of your every activity- For me an activity that has to take part every daytime in order for me to semi-function is sleeping- and believe me, this is not something I choose. Whilst I can be missing out on doing things with people because of my health, Archie is a friend that is just happy to come round and nap with me (or on top of me!). He doesn’t mind, as long as it is quality time. P1030696 (2)
  3. A dog’s energy is infectious (sort of)- Now if energy was actually infectious it would be the one bug I wouldn’t mind catching… but not all energy is physical. The emotional energy and love that Archie gives back to me when I look after him is heartwarming. I mean how can you possibly feel down when you’ve got someone who scratches at the door to check up on you when you’re taking a bath (yes this did happen!) and wags their tale with excitement when you move a muscle!

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I could definitely give at least another 10 reasons why dogs are amazing (one of the top contenders being that they are human vacuum cleaners!) but for the mean time here are some more pictures of Archie being beautiful…

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Home Made “cheats” Bunting

If you are frequently housebound it is sometimes difficult to find things to do to occupy you that don’t take much energy. If like me you love all things homey and lifestyle then easy, inexpensive home craft projects are a great way of keeping busy- particularly when you make something you can use or display too! I’m really into festive decorations at the moment. Recently (over the course of several days) I had a go at making some bunting using autumnal colours. Check out the instructions below.

You will need…

PVA glue, old cardboard, ribbon, scissors, glue spreader and pot, material in colours or patterns of your choice (I used a bag of old clothes).

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Cut a triangular shape out of cardboard and use this as a template for the other cardboard triangles. (I found 15 triangles fit the width of an average sized room). After this use the templates to cut out fabric triangles but make them about an inch bigger along each side.

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Spread PVA glue over 1 side of the cardboard triangle and stick the fabric on. Turn the triangle over and seal down the edges at the back with a little glue. Repeat with the rest of your triangles. Allow to dry overnight.

Hole punch the bunting at the base of the triangle. Begin to thread the ribbon through the holes on the bunting. Repeat until all the triangles are threaded on the ribbon.

 Tie a loop at each end of the ribbon and hang it up!

My bunting is long because I wanted it to fit the width of my room but you can adjust these instructions to fit any space. Here is the finished look!

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