How to capture better digital photos of your children and other adults, using natural light


Let me put it out there, I am no definite expert but I have learnt a few things from being around and meeting with professional photographers. Here are some quick tips on how to make the most of natural light in a ‘home’ or ‘outdoors’ environment when taking photos of your children or other people.

I started taking photographs nearly 15 years ago, initially of my friends and people on the street, and then of my children and family friends. Since the beginning of this year I am taking more photographs of other people as a professional photographer and these tips still apply. When I turn up at someone’s house I have to do a quick assessment of the place, where the light source is i.e. windows and where can we ‘set-up’ for the shoot, in terms of light and background.

I am not going to talk here about camera settings as that is another topic that deserves a whole lot of attention in itself and there are countless guides out there about that. I know I have created a few quick ‘go-to’ settings I use on my camera in manual mode – f4 for shallow depth of field and ISO 200 or 400; f5.6 for having more of the subject in focus and ISO 200 or 400 or more for indoor lighting; f11 for anything that is landscapes and where I need the whole scene to be in focus. These set-ups seem to work for me but I do also get it wrong and have to take a few more shots just in case.

In order of importance as others more expert than me say, the psychology of the shoot is the first thing to care about, then you need to define your positioning and lighting and have a few ‘set-up’ scenarios that you can use during the shoot.

1. The psychology of the shoot

Being good at ‘people management’ is the first rule of thumb. Building a good rapport is important as that will allow people to feel at ease and be natural. During this shoot with my friend and her family we spent about one hour together and this photos was taken about half-way through, meaning that by this point everyone was feeling more relaxed and ‘playing the game’.

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2. Positioning

There are countless permutations about positioning and where you could be as you can be anywhere, ready to photograph your subject.

Be ready to capture the natural

With children however being quick to take the shot is key and capturing them in their natural element is the best.

With my son on this shoot I took a few photos from above, while he was lying on the floor and I paused for a bit which is when he put his hands on each side of his face and I ‘caught’ the pose quickly enough before he moved. Priceless!

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Move around and try different positions 

If one position doesn’t seem to work just move around and try a new one. Incorporating the elements from the scene your children are busy playing with also gives more interest to the photo.

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Use the ‘bird’s eye’ perspective

A good one with children as they are little and it is possible but also because they have lovely expressions when capturing them from above.

Clapham photo club meets for the first time with Charlie Round-Turner photographer

Make use of beautiful backgrounds

As simple as that, making the most of flower beds, or trees or any other cute background.

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Clean backgrounds

These are important as they do not distract away from the focus of the photo. If you can, try and move things that are in the way, toys, tables, chairs etc. Or place your subject in front of a clean wall or a use a backdrop if you have, that’s even better.

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3. Lighting or what makes beautiful photographs

Again there are beautiful works of art out there from professional photographers that master the art of lighting in studio or outdoors and use appropriate equipment for that. I love photos from Damien Lovegrove and Julia Boggio.

However lighting is something anyone can use and be aware of no matter what your level of photography is.

In simplistic terms there are a number of elements that you need to care about the most about lighting and that will help you produce better photos.

The quality of light with “soft” light generally being more flattering than “hard” light

However hard light can be used to create dramatic effects.

Lighting on the subject is “soft” when the source of light is near the subject and diffuse in its distribution. For example the light coming from a window. Lighting on the subject is “hard” when the source of light is removed/far from the subject or is a strong “not-covered” single source of light. Think about the sun or a single lighting source above your subject’s head.

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Soft light

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Hard light

The direction of light

This is the direction from which the light falls on to the subject with lighting from the side usually being more flattering for portraits.

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Lighting from above is less so, for .e.g. midday sun is not very flattering and can be harsh.

The Easter egg hunt - was my photography assignment achieved?

However if there isn’t a clear ‘direction of light’, the most important is for the subject to be well lit.

Contrast

Defined as the difference in lighting between the “well lit areas” of the subject and the “not so well lit” ones. The smoother the difference in lighting between these areas, the less contrast will be in the photograph.

A reflector can help reduce contrast or using more than one source of light (which I didn’t have here in this photo and therefore it is a contrasted light).

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4. Your ‘go-to scenarios’ you can use during the shoot

Indoors or a home environment

Use the window as your light source and place your subject next to it.


Shoot in the doorway, that is another great location, as light is interesting.


Increase the ISO settings on your camera to 800 or more and use a wider aperture (f4 for mine or f1.8, f2 for other lenses).

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Outdoors environment

Look at where the light is coming from and try and place your subjects where the light falling into them, is most flattering.

Use sunlight to light the subjects hair from behind, giving the photo a magical hazy effect.

Use natural elements to add interest

Trees or flowers, or long grass anything that makes the place look magical and unique.

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Make use of accessories for your ‘models’

During a maternity shoot we made use of hats to add elements of interest to the photos.

Conclusion – ‘make your photo’ rather than ‘take your photo’

A lot of effort goes into beautiful images, the location, lighting, posing, clothes, emotions so the more of these you use the better your photos will be. But as with anything you don’t need to wait to be perfect before you start you can start from where you are and get better overtime.

As mentioned at the start, these are some quick tips i have learnt along the way, through courses I have attended, a mums photo club I run for a while in Clapham and being a member of the Photographer Academy and the SWWP.

You can start using these tips today to take better photos, using natural light.

Have you found this useful? Do you have any other tips you find useful? I would love to hear from you.

Wonderful trip to Paris, while pregnant and with a toddler


Visiting Paris is a memorable experience, right?

Having done it with just my husband (when there was just us two) and having previously lived in Paris for seven years in my student years, doing it with a toddler in tow and pregnant was a (totally crazy) different experience.

Only joking, it was still wonderful, and not more stressful because, hold tight, we didn’t cram in too much during our 3 days there.

Packing too many things during the stay can make it stressful, so we wanted to have a relatively free and spontaneous programme, while also having a list of things to do/see. Having one key attraction per day was the perfect amount we found.

So on to what worked well for us?

Stay close to the departure/arrival station

Well, first staying somewhere close to ‘the point of entry’ i.e. for us the Eurostar arrival station, Gare du Nord. We booked an AirBnb apartment about 10 minutes walk from Gare du Nord and that was brilliant. It meant that we could ‘check-in’ first and drop our bags and have a quick refreshment/put my feet up. Also for our toddler it was exciting to discover a new place and enjoy some quiet time before we set off for an outing again.

Beautiful Canal St Martin area

The second good thing about the location of our apartment was that we were quite close to the beautiful canal St Martin, with its many coffee shops, bars and brasseries. So after a quick rest we headed out again and stopped for a late lunch in one of the canal facing, brasseries. Along the canal there is a playground, an additional attraction for our toddler who still had some remaining energies after all.

Being in a different country is interesting when you observe your own child trying to interact with other local children. And before you ask, no I wasn’t providing any kind of translation, to questions, such as “can i have a go at the swing”, that doesn’t need any translating, does it?

Balloon adventure at Parc Andre Citroen

The definite highlight of our trip was the “balloon” adventure. During my years of studying in Paris and working intermittently as an ‘au pair’ I had gained a good ‘children related’ knowledge of playgrounds and adventure parks.

One I was very familiar with was Parc Andre Citroen, in the 15th arrondissement. It is a little bit out of the way and not a main tourist attraction but for kids it is magical. 

The park has a number of gardens and a great fountain court with water jets that can be such great fun, in hot weather. You can sit on the grass and enjoy a picnic while you look at the balloon, which is not a “hot air” but a “tethered” balloon that goes up to 150 metres. The views of the Seine and the Tour Eiffel are splendid and it is not as crowded as the Tour Eiffel or Sacre Coeur Cathedral.

‘Toujours dans mon coeur’ Quartier Latin

Another favourite area I always love to visit when in Paris, is the Quartier Latin or 5th arrondissement, perhaps because I love to go back to the ‘student streets’ of la Sorbonne where I spent many splendid youthful years.

Jardin du Luxembourg cannot be sidelined and hidden in there, is another great adventure playground for kids, “Les Poussins Verts”.  This one was way too busy than the quiet and relaxing Parc Andre Citroen but it is centrally located and you also have to pay a small fee.

One thing we had not noticed on our previous trips, was the lack of escalators or lifts in the “Metro”. If you can manage not to have a buggy or can take with you a collapsible one, underground journeys will be less tiring.

By the end of the third day in Paris, while also quite pregnant, 7th months precisely, I was starting to feel the heat of the streets and the underground and it was soon time to leave.

Eurostar here we come!

Heading towards Gare du Nord and the exciting Eurostar journey, was extremely pleasant and another adventure for our toddler, the train and the tunnel under the sea!

Some photos from the trip, unseen before, enjoy!

I would love to hear if you have been to any of these places in Paris or have any others to share.

Love

Refresh your profile with a free profile photo


Are you looking to refresh your profile picture on Facebook or LinkedIn? Is it time for a new image on your blog?

Using a professional photo for your profile, does help make you stand out from the crowd, win new work and adds a professional factor. It has a ‘feel-good’ factor too.

If that is you and you want to impress your followers with a new, ‘shiny’ (read contains high levels of sunshine) or ‘green’ or ‘white background’ kind of photo, or anything else you fancy, then why don’t you enter this free giveaway.

I am offering one lucky winner, the chance to have a new professional photo taken by me, as a way to get to know me as a photographer.

I am starting out as a photographer although I have been doing it for many years with family and friends.

You have nothing to loose, right?

All you have to do is click on the link below, which will take you to the giveaway page where you can enter your email address and click ‘submit’.

http://s.heyo.com/3f3a40

The winner will be randomly selected and announced on Saturday 22nd April.

This giveaway is open to everyone, based in London or nearby as we would need to meet in person to have the photo session done.

Feel free to share with friends and connections.

Good luck, it could be you.

I am also linking this with the Brilliant blogs linky

Love

Laura

Need your opinion please – I am thinking of changing this blog to a photography portfolio


My dear blog followers,

I would like to ask for your advice about the future of this blog and its “raison d’etre”. I am thinking to change it into a blog portfolio of my photography. This blog initially started as a place to write about a number of things: being an Albanian in London, becoming a parent and a mother, learning and practicing photography, writing etc. Perhaps too many things?

SO i am thinking of repurposing the blog to turn it into one single thing: a blog where i showcase my photography, a photography portfolio. The intention being to do more photography in 2017 and build a body of work by photographing friends and family and connections. Once i have practiced more and have a number of sessions under my belt, i could then start thinking about doing it more professionally with clients (and people i don’t know). I am also planning to take courses and learn more on the technical and other aspects of photography.

I would change the name of the blog to Laura Shimili Mears Photography (same as my Facebook photography page). I would also not have the current posts anymore (for which i feel a bit sorry but hey… they’ve been there for a long time now). I would change the domain name too, so the only thing that would be the same (hopefully) would be you.


So i have put together a simple poll to ask you to vote on whether you think changing this blog into a photography blog is a good idea and whether you would continue to follow me?

Please vote below, i would really appreciate your feedback to give me an indication of your acceptance of the change. Thank you all and sending you lots of love.

A Syrian Refugee Support Advent Calendar 2016


Chocolate advent calendars are not a tradition in Albania and I haven’t done them neither when I was a student in Paris. So they are a relatively new thing for me. I haven’t yet introduced them to my children and I am not sure I will anytime soon (I know of many grown ups trying to break away from constant chocolate desire).

Instead of the traditional chocolate calendar I have seen other examples of advent calendars with “acts of kindness” each day in December until Christmas day. I like the alternative ideas on the traditional take and I thought that I would write my own advent calendar in support of something that occupies my mind a lot at the moment.

In the face of the “worst humanitarian” crisis in Syria since WW2, I have been having a full range of emotions about the hundreds of thousands of children and people suffering from this dreadful conflict. Feelings going from extreme sadness, to despair, to feeling powerless and guilty and unable do anything to change the situation. I am sure so have felt many other people.

But one morning on the way to work I decided that instead of “feeling bad” and doing nothing, I would do something each day that can help or contribute in alleviating somehow the situation of innocent civilians trapped in a war between extremist factions of a divided society.

So here is my Syrian Refugees Support Advent calendar 2016 with some real examples of things we can do everyday to help a little. The situation is terrible and desperate for millions of people, and having a comfortable and peaceful life, feels like “the best and the worst thing” we could have whilst others cannot have.

https://adventmyfriend.com/25728/6ee72f87e1/

This is my list of actions:

1 – I decided to help Samara’s Aid Appeal, founded by Samara a mother from Brighton, in 2013 to supply Syrian refugees with items of clothing and shoes to keep warm while living in tents in the winter.

2 – I wrote to my MP Rosena Allin-Khan asking her to support the petition to airdrop aid to starved cities in Syria.

3 – I met with another mum from NappyValleyNet (our local online forum) to talk about solutions and doing things together to help refugees

4 – I dropped off our baby clothes and clothes from a friend at the Balham Vineyard Church in response to Samara’s Aid appeal December collection

5 – Attended Samara Levy’s address at the Balham Vineyard church to hear her talk about how she has set up Samara’s Aid Appeal and has done am amazing contribution for the past 3 years to desperate and vulnerable people in Syria and Irak.

6 – Made a donation to a local Syrian refugee fundraising event at the Tooting Tram and Social although we didn’t attend the event (hope it was fun 🙂

7 – Booked tickets to see Vanessa Redgrave film “Sea sorrow” on the refugee crisis at the Battersea Arts Centre. All ticket receipt will go to the UNHCR

8 –  Registered with Wandsworth Welcomes Refugees email address that updates on local initiatives and activities about helping refugees.

9 – Registered with Refugees at Home on Facebook and email address to register my interest to host refugees that could be matched to us in Tooting.

10 – Called the Foreign Office and wrote to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson to support the safe passage of trapped civilians in Eastern Aleppo.

11 – Shared my activity on the NappyValleyNet forum where a number of local mums are discussing the issues around refugee crisis and how we can help.

12 – Made a donation to Syrian Refugees Blanket Fundraiser that is raising funds to buy blankets for Syrian refugees based in Jordan.

13 – Read about the Syrian conflict trying to understand the parties involved and especially who are the rebels and the Western countries foreign policy in the region in the last 20 years.

14 – Had a hard time sleeping after seeing photos of dead babies, and parents following the intensification of the war in Aleppo. I only calmed down after finding peace in sending prayers and thoughts to those affected.

15 – Called the Foreign Office and the Russian Embassy to make my concerns known about the current crisis.

16 – Helped load the lorry of donations for Samara’s Aid Appeal for Syria and Irak, from Balham Vineyard Church. 1200 packages were collected, next round will be in January.

17 – Considered joining a protest at the (empty) Syrian embassy in London but was confused about who was holding it and when (and didn’t go in the end).

18 – Went to the screening of Vanessa Redgrave’s Sea Sorrow with 2 Albanian friends and spoke in the audience and to organisers afterward looking for ways to do something more. This fundraiser raised £1.5k for UNHCR.

19 – Called Caras, a local charity in Tooting working with refugees and asylum seekers to become a volunteer with them.

20 – I called and wrote an email to a local councillor, Candida Jones who organised the Vanessa Redgrave screening at the Battersea Arts Centre about facilitating a mum’s friend application to foster a Syrian child (she was turned away from the council).

21 – Organised a meeting at work to start “Refugee conversations” with refugees and asylum seekers in our work offices to help with English and general social and cultural understanding.

22 – Donated to the DEC Yemen Crisis Appeal

Looking for an inspirational quote to conclude, “the Ripples of Hope” from Robert F. Kennedy seemed appropriate.

“Each time a man (and a woman I hope) stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Urgent: Aleppo, a letter to Boris Johnson, U.K. Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs


Yesterday after the shocking reports of 100,000 civilians trapped in Aleppo i wrote this email to the foreign secretary (after calling and being advised to send my concern by email). 

This morning I was pleased to read that a deal had been agreed but unfortunately it wasn’t long and shelling started again. Seeing photos of dead babies, dead parents, bodies on the streets is filing me and so many of us with sadnes and despair. We are trying to do something, donate, help collect funds, contact MPs, the government but this is a war and the parties involved are not shocked or hurt by the thousands of deaths. What can we do? 

This has been such a traumatic period for these people but also us powerless outsiders who are not able to force our politicians to stand up to Putin, Assad and Iran and reverse a dreadful situation of a war that is killing hundreds of thousands of people. Politics has failed Aleppo abd this is so sad. 
To the attention of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, RT Hon Boris Johnson MP

Hi Mr Johnson, 

I called the Foreign Office this afternoon to make my concern known to yourselves about the situation in Syria. I have been informed by grass root organisations in Syria as well as the general media about the recent violent and deathly attacks on civil populations in Aleppo, perpetrated by the Syrian government forces in an attempt to control rebel-held areas of Eastern Aleppo.

We were warned by the UN of this coming attack last week, as something the Syrian government forces were intending to do in order to gain control of these areas before the change in administration in the US. There were several severe warnings by the UN but nothing was done. And here we are, one week later and people have been killed in their homes, on the spot as reported by the media today.

What has the UK government done to stop these attacks on civilian populations? What has the Foreign Secretary done to make sure innocents are protected?

Furthermore what are the Foreign Secretary’s plans to make sure these attacks don’t continue?

Grass root organisations in Syria are calling for a UN evacuation plan to secure safe passage 100,000 civilians trapped in Aleppo, including humanitarian workers. I understand that there is a UN plan to get, the trapped people out across the four kilometres of Western Aleppo to safety: with a few dozen buses and lorries people could be evacuated in twenty four hours. However, the international community needs to guarantee their safety.

I am writing to you today to make sure you contribute to this call and make sure a safe passage is provided for these people to flee their deaths.

They need all our support and help, this is a desperate situation in the face of which politicians and the UK government have failed to respond and engage. This will be a shameful legacy for you all.

I hope you can respond to this and help save thousands of lives, to survive in this dreadful conflict that has displaced millions and has caused world wide turmoil.  

2015 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,800 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Interviste me Fanfara Tiranen dhe Hysni Zelen pas koncertit te tyre ne Londer


Me siguri keni degjuar te flitet per Fanfara Tiranen. Si? Jo? Zgjohuni menjehere, keni humbur nje nga spektaklet me te bukur te muzikes shqiptare me miksim tingujsh tradicionale e moderne. Fanfara Tirana luan bashke me Transglobal Underground dhe pjese e grupit eshte edhe mjeshtri i muzikes popullore shqiptare Hysni Zela. 

Nese kerkoni ne Google emrin e tyre, do t’ju dale faqja Facebook a grupit me datat e koncerteve. Ata jane vazhdimisht ne turne  dhe se fundmi ishin ne Kine, ne veri te Anglise dhe me pas ne Londer. Shikoni daten me te afert dhe sigurohuni te zini vend per koncertin e ardhshem. Kercimi, vallja dhe hareja jane efektet kryesore që ju shkakton ky bashkepunim unikal. Ose blini albumin Kabatronics dhe shikoni videot ne YouTube.

Po cfare muzike luan Fanfara Tirana dhe Transglobal Underground?

Me nje pershkrim te shkurter, eshte muzike tradicionale e jugut te Shqiperise e miksuar me tinguj moderne. Disa kenge jane “Shege e kuqe”, “Xhixhile” te përziera me ritme elektronike, reggae dhe dub. Por ka dhe polifoni dhe hare dasmash.

Si dy zerat kryesore te grupit, Londinezi Tuup dhe mjeshtri i madh i këngës popullore Hysni Zela, mund të duken sikur nuk kanë asgjë të përbashkët por në skenë prodhojnë një harmoni perfekte, në sfondin e tingujve që vijnë nga anë të ndryshme të botës.

Pyetjes se si funksionon bashkimi midis dy rrymave muzikore kaq te ndryshme, Hysniu i pergjigjet:

“Me thoni ju se si ju duket bashkimi?” Fantastik eshte pergjigja e publikut.

Fuzioni midis tingujve të kabasë së Shqipërisë së jugut, klarinetës, perkusioneve dhe kitarës tradicionale indiane, tingëllon si një fuzion organik, ku të gjithë anëtarët e grupit luajnë në simbiozë. 

Por si u krijua bashkëpunimi unikal midis dy grupeve? 

Idenë e vuri në jetë Olsi Sulejmani, themelues i agjensisë World Music Management bazuar në Itali, i cili duke njohur muzikën e të dyja palëve, e drejtoi grupin londinez drejt grupit shqiptar. 

Prania e Hysni Zelës veshur me fustanelle te bardhe, qeleshe e papuce, i fton njerezit per fotografi si dhe pyetje e kureshtje pafund.

“Veshjet tradicionale janë pjesë e mrekullive tona”, thotë Hysniu. “Por mrekullia me e madhe  është polifonia”. 

Edhe pse në pension, Hysniu bashkepunon me Fanfaren. Pjese e procesit krijues per te eshte mbledhja e tingujve dhe e muzikes nëpër fshatra, pasi “kënga është në popull”, thotë ai.

Një anëtar tjeter i grupit Xhemal Murraj na tregon për pritjen e publikut anglez që ka qenë shumë e ngrohtë.

“Bashkëpunimi me një kulturë tjetër dhe një stil muzikor shumë të ndryshëm, ka qenë pa vështirësi”, thotë ai, gjë të cilën publiku e ndjen.

Ndërkohë muzikanti i Transglobal Underground, Tuup, e shijon bashkëpunimin me muzikantët shqiptarë. Në skenë ai kërcen duke ‘lëvizur lehtë shpatullat’, një mënyrë kërcimi karakteristike shqiptare dhe tregon se këtë  ‘e ka mesuar nga anëtarët e grupit’. 

Ai thotë, “3 cilësi i pëlqejnë më shumë te shqiptarët, respekti, ngrohtësia dhe vlerësimi i gjërave të mira ne jetë, ushqimi, pijet dhe prezenca femërore”.

Përballë një përzierje sa të çuditshme po dhe aq tërheqëse, publiku ndjehet i “çarmatosur” dhe nuk mund t’i rezistojë tingujve “ngjitës” që të bëjnë të hidhesh e të kërcesh. 

Kjo muzikë është një nga ambasadorët më të mirë të Shqipërisë jashtë vendit dhe si e tille meriton te gjithe mbeshtetjen dhe pelqimin tone.

Our long-waited home renovation project, 10 things we are looking at now


It has been since September last year that we have been waiting to get our hands on a house. The process of buying and selling in the UK is over complicated and unnecessarily long. So we were caught in it, waiting to complete the purchase of a house for 10 months. What holds the whole process up and makes it lengthy, is the concept and practice of a chain, a number of people buying/selling from each other. Instead of having a one to one transaction, in the UK you are bound to wait until everyone in the chain completes.

So with a lot of frustration and anxiety we went through the 10 months, worried every week that it would fall through. But in the end it didn’t and we got the lovely house we were waiting for.

Except that we can’t live in it straight away. The house needs a whole renovation. It hasn’t been changed probably since the 70s, it has had leaks, water marks and damage on the ceiling, the wooden floor is broken, the carpet is so old and has lost the fabric, wall paper is falling off and the paint is colourless. There is mould in the bathroom, the bath tub is broken, the shower’s side glass panels have been nibbled at the bottom. The kitchen is small, with cabinets that desperately need replacing. The garden is massively overgrown.

On top of the complete overhaul of the existing space, we are also going to extend in the loft and in the kitchen.

I have already got an idea of how I want the kitchen to be.

And ideally we’d love to fit 2 bedrooms in the loft extension and a small bathroom. We have parents visitin often and staying with us for a while, so that’d be the perfect space for them. And perhaps a small room for a study or the occasional au pair.

So what are the kinds of things we are going to focus on, in the initial stages of the project?

  1. The overall design of the house, including loft and kitchen extension. We have chosen an architect, she is very nice and she will be drawing the plans for us. We have to make a number of decisions there, about the use of space, the loft size, the details of the side extension, the opening from the kitchen into the garden. I will dedicate a separate blog to this as it’s such an important part of the works.
  2. The architect will finalise the plans and apply for a planning permission at the council.
  3. We had to clear up what was left behind by the previous owner, which was a lot of rubbish, toiletries and other more sentimental items such as a nursery report from 1984. The family who sold the house had lived in it for the last 40 years. Roger felt quite emotional when he read the nursery report, as we are at a similar stage of our lives with our older son just finishing nursery and starting school. And I felt emotional too when he told me about it. We used Junk Monkey, a company that takes your rubbish away. All done in one afternoon. 75 black bin bags, in total! And that is without the garden and a few more things, that could fill up a skip on their own.
  4. Next stage will be to get quotes from builders once we have the plans from the architect, so that the quotes can be precise.
  5. I am keen to include eco friendly features that are easy to incorporate and don’t cost a fortune. Solar panels, wall and roof insulation, smart energy reader and double glazed windows. I would also like to see if we can include, a rain water tank harvester but they require a lot of space and that might be an issue.
  6. Once we have had the quotes, have met the builders and have discussed our specs it will be the stage of choosing the builder. Such an important decision that can ‘make or break’ the whole project and experience.
  7. When we get to the stage of actually starting the works I will be so excited and pleased that we got there.
  8. While the builders do the works we need to have our shortlist ready for the next phase, kitchen appliances and fittings, kitchen tiles, bathroom fittings and tiles, wardrobes, flooring, wooden floor or carpet, colour paint for the walls. 
  9. Moving in – I don’t expect this to be before January next year but if it does, it will be a very good surprise for the start of the new year.
  10. Once we are in, we will have to finish the interior decoration but that is a stage I love taking the time for. I love browsing on eBay for second-hand items. I will have to get familiar with scrapyards that we can go to easily from London. And if there is any budget left, we might buy something new, if not it will have to wait.

We have done a renovation project before but it was very different as it was a flat and also we didn’t have children. This time, we have two of them and it will be harder but we are very excited about it!

This is during our first project, in our flat with the main builder.

This is during our first project, in our flat with the main builder.

What about you, have you any tips for things to consider at the initial stage of a home renovation project? Have I missed anything important?

Multitasking, is that really such a good ‘female skill’ to have?


Everyone today talks about the need to multitask, and the fact that in particular women are natural ‘good multi-taskers’.
In our post-modern, digital society, multitasking is ‘the way to go’.

1. Washing the dishes while supervising children’s dinner and cooking the meal for next day (yes I have done that in the past, with what I have called ‘tremendous speed’)

2. Taping on our smart phones while walking down the street (I see so many people do that, constantly, every day despite it being bloody dangerous!)

3. Checking on google maps for directions while pushing a buggy and frantically trying to hold a toddler in tow (me and many other mums do it regularly, trying to get to a playdate or birthday party in the middle of an unknown common)

4. Talking to family members on the landline while checking emails on the mobile (and loosing track of what is being talked about in the conversation; they didn’t notice, did they?)

5. Doing our online shop on the app, while finding recipes and ordering a gift for a 3rd birthday present (that’s called not wasting your time).

We make lists. We use apps. We work hard. We entertain ourselves. We read a lot (blog posts, social media updates, ebooks, books). We have a social and family life. We have kids. We commute. We write blogs. We take photographs. We have wider interests.

The list can be even longer, if I was to include the whole range of tasks I complete most days.

This is the kind of fast-paced life we live, where our attention is continuously divided between numerous tasks, presented to us in rapid succession and sometimes even simultaneously.

While women perform better than men at multitasking and prioritising in particular ‘in stressful situations’, as numerous studies have reported, women tend to downplay their multitasking abilities while men tend to overplay them.

However, the truth is that the more we multitask, the more we make mistakes.

Our brains are not that well equipped to deal with constant interruptions and distractions that take our attention away. It even seems to be counter-evolutionary.
My husband regularly reminds me that I am ‘putting too much on my list’, an inflationary process that ends up with some randomly selected items, dropping off my list. And the ‘to-do’ list becomes a ‘wish-list’. What was the point of the list, in the first place?

Concentrating and completing one task at the time, can sometimes be much more efficient than trying to do, three other things at the same time.

For example concentrating on pushing the buggy and holding the toddler in tow, without also holding the phone and causing it to fall and break (that would be a disaster, right?)

So in fact I think, multitasking can sometimes be unproductive, especially on competing tasks such as checking email while on a phone call or walking. But for certain tasks it can work, such as commuting and reading, or pushing the buggy and running.

Personally I am growing tired of multitasking. 

I am going to start scanning my lists for competing items, remove them from today’s list and add them on to a new list. This way I will end up with a number of lists, based on priorities, but at least, I will lead to completion one list at a time.

Good at multitasking? Maybe, not so much for me finally. How about you? Are you good at it? How do find the right balance?

Some visual examples

Multitasking, is that such a good 'female'

http://youbabymemummy.com/the-list/the-list-45/

http://honestmum.com/brilliant-blog-posts-16th-july-2015/