Mother’s day weekend was the perfect occasion to escape life in London and to head back to the countryside. Alex has the cutest nieces and nephew who are my favourite subjects to photograph – mainly because they’re not camera shy yet 🙂

Seriously, adults are so boring to take photos of!

And as it’s creepy to post these on instagram – I assume this is why no one likes my bebe photos – here are the pics of my favourite little dumplings. Have you ever seen so many blue eyed babies!

Life, Photography

Happy Mother’s Day

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Photography, Travel

New York: my top tips and making the most of a 4 day trip

When my favourite person, Beth, asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding last year – I screamed yes! When she told me it would be in America – I screamed again and then clicked my heels in a perfect musical-worthy fashion!

I was only 18 the first time I visited the States and had just finished college. I was working at camp for the summer (which pays pennies) and traveling on my own. So I knew visiting again this time, I had to make the most of it. I finally had money to spend, was old enough to party and had made friends from my travels (and camp) that I couldn’t wait to meet up with.

My first stop – New York City!

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Objective: See everything in 4 days and still have enough money for 3 other cities.

When to visit:

1. Weather

Low season:

Winter can be beautiful in New York as it gets covered in a frosty magical layer of snow. Personally, I think it looks dreamy, but with snow comes cold and wetness. A dream of mine is to see the Christmas tree at Rockerfeller – touristy I know but a must in my eyes. Best way to sight-see is wear layers, as the same with London, you’ll be constantly in and out indoor attractions and their super warm heating. Visit Uniqlo (my fav) for light weight layers that are easy to stuff in your bag and avoid any backache if you’re spending an hour or two in a museum! I have this in fuschia pink *heart eyes*. Temps average between -5°C and 7°C from Dec – March.

Mid season (aka shoulder season):

Spring means warm-er weather, but you’ll still need those layers. This is a great time of year to visit and avoid peak school holiday times and the expensive hike in prices that comes with it. As it begins to hit June, this is optimal weather in NYC! I have traveled twice to New York at this time of year, and the weather ranges from cardigan weather to short shorts* (optional). It’s also right before the city becomes a sweaty, sticky mess! As it’s still not summer holidays, what better time to make the most of all the outdoor attractions (flea markets, beaches, Central park, hipster food markets…) there are in the city while still avoiding majority of the crowds. Temps range from 7°C to 26°C (Apr – June), and 10°C to 24°C (Oct – Sept).

High season:

Summer in New York. Although I have already been quick to label it as sticky, there is something special about summer there. People come out of shadows where they’ve been hiding from the cold and wet, and here is when you see the city alive and at its busiest! There’s theatre in the parks, rooftop cocktails, ice cream at Coney island, cycling in Central Park, afternoon tea down the most beautiful roads of Manhattan and of course, 4th of July fireworks. Temps fluctuate between 20°C and a toasty 30°C.

2. Sport seasons

Charge!! Add oil!!! #NYMetsgame #firstphotobomb! #nowstalgia

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Another thing worth noting when choosing what time of year to visit – what sports will be on when I’m visiting? Generally speaking, sport seasons in NY tend to be…

Basketball – Oct til Apr

Football – Sept til Dec

Baseball – Apr til Sept

Ice hockey – Oct til Apr

My top tips:

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This however is too friendly..

1. People are friendly, as long as you are super friendly too. Yes, they’ll laugh (or die of shock) when you say please but that’s not how they find out you’re a tourist. Trust me – they already knew – but the please and thank you’s will go a long way. Out of all the places I visited in the States, New York has always been the friendliest/most helpful, contrary to what I’ve heard.

2. People-watch all day long. I don’t know why but New York is made up of the most glamorous, loudest, busiest, hungriest and economically-divided inhabitants I’ve ever seen. It’s also where all the crazies are. And I’m not saying it as an insult, I always have the best time in New York and there’s a reason why everyone wants to live here.

3. Eat everything. You will never be so blessed to be in such an epicentre of good food, go out and try all the classics! Then try all the new foodie trends (hello home of cronut). Watch Man vs Food for inspiration – a must before traveling to any American city.

People are not lying when they say portion sizes are huge! Okay, in New York there is more control that some states, but it’s really true that you can get away with sharing a meal. My friend and I did when we went to Katz Deli (who can eat that much?) which also turned a $20 sandwich into an affordable one. We did find that some brunch-eries served smaller portions than say, a local diner.

4. It’s okay to not plan anything to do for one day and see where the day takes you. New York is one of those wonderful cities that things to do/see just seem to appear. For instance, one trip I reaaally wanted to visit Carrie’s house from SATC, and my friend and I chanced upon a once-a-year-only flea market. While flea markets get a terrible rep in Europe, the ones in New York are actually affordable and I found the most amazing vintage Mulberry holdall from the 80’s (I still couldn’t afford it, but it was a gem nonetheless).

5. If you have to pick one sightseeing tower to visit – pick Top of the Rock. Hands down, don’t even question it.

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Look at that view!

6. If you’re in NYC for more than 4 days, purchase a 7 day metro card. I know it’s $30, but for even 4 days that’s the same price as 3 journeys per day. As a budget traveler, this was a life saver and a valid alternative to getting a yellow cab. Yellow cabs are still affordable compared to London, but it still adds up. Plus, the subway is 24 hrs! Which gives you even more hours to make the most of your pass 🙂

How to plan your trip:

Since I couldn’t really remember much of what I had done the first time I went to NYC, my list of things to do was huge. I was also travelling with a friend, so combined together, both our lists became endless.

I recommend when starting to plan your trip, just writing a quick list of all the things you want to do there and that if you didn’t, it would make you cry. I mean it! The mere thought of it has to make you cry. Great, focus on those things because you then use those to start building your itinerary.

I knew that while in NYC, I had to:

1. Visit the 9/11 memorial

2. Visit the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock

3. Go to a baseball game (didn’t matter which one)

4. Eat at Katz Deli

5. Go to the Natural History Museum

6. Visit a flea market

7. See Carrie’s apartment

I then wrote a list of all the other things I would love to do, followed by a list of maybe activities. I then scoured the internet for 3 or 4 day itineraries and used them for inspiration as well as a guide as to what attractions are near to each other etc.

Here was my ‘final’ itinerary:

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It looks like a lot right? In reality, we didn’t get to do at least 1/3 of the things on my itinerary. But what it did do, was give me inspiration and a guide of where to start, and at least the flexibility to move afternoon’s of activity around if the weather fails you!

What I also love doing (and it seems like extra effort) but I make a note of minimum expected expenditure for each day. If I know entry costs will be $XX for this day, then I am more likely to know how much money to bring each day. I landed back in the UK having spent exactly within my overall budget (as of course I put in a buffer of $300~ to be flexible) and I had done/bought everything I had wanted to without the stress of overspending once I had got home. I also wrote how long it took to get to somewhere from our hotel. Now this is extra geeky, but it was a lifesaver when the weather unexpectedly changed from gloomy to roasting, and I knew I had enough time to run back to the hotel to change before meeting friends later that afternoon.

Another top tip – use Google maps to ‘star’ or save restaurants or attractions. There’s tons of free wifi if you know where to look, and often you can log in to find places nearby that you’ve already looked into visiting.

But that’s my basic itinerary – ask me a question on any of the places I’d visited!

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In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Serenity.”

Water always makes me feel peaceful. There’s something about still water that evokes a sense of serenity.

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This is a picture was taken after I had spent the day sightseeing in Seattle, and I was walking back to my friend’s place. It was really hot that day, and I was walking down a long built up road, when Lake Washington suddenly appeared in an opening between two buildings.

Photography

Serenity

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In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Shadowed.”

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Does this count?

To me, this is my favourite way to use shadows. Although technically it’s more about the light to manipulate the feel of the picture..?

I couldn’t resist taking spooky photos after spending the afternoon carving these at work (back when work was all fun and carving pumpkins)

Photography

Shadowed

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Photography

Photography 101: Water

One of the most beautiful places in the world, in one of the most congested, polluted countries in the world.

Jiuzhaigou!

I’ve wanted to travel here ever since I first heard about the beautiful five colour pool. A mythical bright turquoise oasis in the middle of a mountainous forest.

I usually always shoot landscape, and very rarely feel comfortable shooting portrait unless the subject becomes out of frame by shooting landscape.

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How amazing is the reflection in the water? I chose this angle, because it really elongates the reflection. However, I think if I had the chance, perhaps I would think about framing the picture better, perhaps re-think the focal point of the image, rather than having the bush in the way, see how I could use the reflection on the water to draw the eye’s attention to something else.

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And so the reason for shooting portrait for this shot, was I wanted to be able to capture more of the curve/shape of the mountain and its reflection. It created more of a pattern or symmetry than I was able to capture shooting landscape.

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Taken from the vantage point of the roundabout, looking down onto the cluttered, vehicle strewn street.

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I wanted to take a picture that was authentic in that it was true East London. I wanted to take a picture that could show what is different about the residential areas of London, compared to other cities around the world. What strikes me when I visit other countries – like in the States there is so much variety between the houses’ architecture and so much more land, in Hong Kong – everything is built/integrated into the malls and shops and most people tend to live in tower blocks.

In the area I live in East London in particular, there a lot of huge Victorian houses. And everyone parks in the street. We also have a lot of roundabouts – something I’ve noticed to be really uncommon in America.

Photography

Photography 101: Street

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Day one is home.

I’m not a home person, I don’t really know what makes home home yet, but London is an amazing place to call that for now.

Here is a shot from one of my favourite places – Southbank.

Photography

Photography 101: Day one

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Life, Photography

Guy Fawkes fireworks at Wanstead Flats, Newham

For all Newham lacks as a place to live, it sure makes up for it on Bonfire night.

But with tons of firework displays dotted all over London, why am I telling you about this one?

Firstly, it’s free. Awesome.

As someone who lived in town which charged £15 for their fireworks display, free really is awesome.

Secondly, no one really notices poor, forgotten Newham and so the crowds are oh so spacious. Under-the-radar fireworks display equals non-pushy crowds. Yay!

And my favourite part – the fireworks are AMAZING. This years theme was music legends (my highlight was Sinatra’s My Way) with surprisingly perfectly synchronised fireworks.

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Life, Photography

Suffolk’s (not-so) Spooky Scarecrow hunt!

How cute is this? I spent this weekend in little ol’ Halesworth, deep in the countryside of Suffolk… to which I happened upon a village full of scarecrows!

The idea behind it is that each shop along the village ‘high-street’ each makes their own scarecrow, related or unrelated to the shop, coming to 48 in total. Each shop then has a clue – a letter in a pumpkin – which you have to collect. You then use the letters to spell out 7 spooky words, and to make things even easier they colour code the letters for each word.

Being a city girl, I remember trick-or-treating with my friends every Halloween around my local borough, something of which I rarely see anymore! I don’t even bother buying sweets because I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone ring my doorbell during Halloween – so tragic.  So I love knowing there are these adorable village traditions out there (even if I’m not allowed to participate, apparently 23 yrs old is pushing it).

My favourite scarecrow is the Farmer (below) and the Miley Cyrus ‘crow! I am SO gutted I couldn’t get a better picture of it without the reflection!

Which one was your favourite?

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Food, Photography

Busaba Eathai ~ the only chain I’ll openly admit to enjoying

Chain restaurants get a bad rep. I admit to being immediately skeptical to any enthusiasm bore towards a restaurant chain as a collective. My reasoning ~ how can you love multiple restaurants whose main purpose is to produce an almost homogenous experience and be low cost as a result.

But even I can admit that maybe sometimes, I really do have a genuinely nice meal…. at a chain restaurant!!

For example, here is a meal I loved and it was at Busaba Eathai in Stratford – Westfield.

If you haven’t been before, Busaba Eathai is a chain of pan-Asian (I know, bear with me) cuisine, its interior tastefully fitted with a blend of dark woods, tropical flowers and musky incense. Its menu reflects the decor, with Asian dishes inspired by a variety of countries.

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Sen Chan Pad Thai

Pad Thai – a staple in my diet. I LOVE flat noodles, adore seafood and pretty much prefer any dish that has crushed peanuts (or a fried egg) on top. The addition of tart green mango and fluffy crab meat helps breath new life into this familiar and normally unremarkable dish. Plus, portions are HUGE.

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Chargrilled duck

Juicy, tender duck rested gently on a bed of firm broccoli, swimming in a rich umami pool of tamarind sauce. Alex, forever a skeptic about Asian-food portion sizes, wanted the biggest dish on the menu. And with a side of sticky rice, further accompanied by a portion of ‘Thai’ calamari, biggest dish he got.

Did he finish it? Not so much.

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So if you’re stuck in Westfield Stratford and you don’t want to fall in the trap of bad shopping mall food – pick Busaba. It’s like those reliable pair of uggs that you will never openly admit to loving but you’ll wear them all the time. I know, my analogy doesn’t even make sense, just eat at Busaba, it’s good I promise!

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