2014: my year in pictures

On the last day of the year, I always like to look back and reflect on all that has happened - the highs and lows, challenges and adventures, and to share some favourite images....

2014 has certainly been a challenging year for me. It has been a year of learning to live with chronic fatigue, to figure out my path to recovery, to better understand myself. A year of exploring my creativity when my energy allows. And a year of deciding to move to pastures new: from a mad decorating frenzy in May/June, securing a buyer in July, to a summer tour of the UK deciding where to move to, and many bumps along the way. I'm very happy to say that we completed our journey two weeks before Christmas and are now happily ensconced in our new seaside home in Seaford. So I hope you'll understand why things have been rather quiet of late on here :)

First up, are some of my floral favourites. I've been a regular visitor to the beautiful Oxford University Botanic Garden over the seasons, and this year I got to visit the very beautiful Cambridge University Botanic Garden as well.

Next we have some seaside favourites - always so hard to choose! We had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful Christchurch on a sunny spring day, a delicious week in Watergate Bay in Cornwall in late spring and a fabulous summer week exploring South and East Devon and a little bit of Dorset.

Then I've put together a few favourite snaps of my home and vintage bits and bobs, as well as a few of my makes. I was delighted to have my home tour published in Mollie Makes back in January (you can read about it here and here), followed by the Back Page Project in the summer where I talked about getting my inspiration from the seaside. I'm excited to have a new home to style and decorate and make my own - so watch this space!

Next up are a selection of my favourite Blythe images from throughout the year. I always try and take a couple away with me on my trips - the outdoor shots are always my favourite :)

Now the year wouldn't be complete without a good dose of autumn colour. I just adore autumn leaves and was lucky enough to visit three arboretums this year: Batsford, Harcourt and Westonbirt. I'll have to find some new autumn haunts for next year!

And last, but most certainly not least, I thought I'd share some favourites from my new neck of the woods: East Sussex. We have visited many times this year as we researched where we wanted to move to, including a lovely week near Alfriston. We fell in love with Seaford - the stretch of coast between Seaford and Eastbourne is breath taking. We are spoilt with beaches, dramatic cliffs, undulating green hills and beautiful forest (and of course, Brighton is only a short hop away). I'm looking forward to lots of walking and exploring in 2015, with my camera of course! Still pinching myself to make sure we really do live here and feeling immensely grateful.

So, may I wish you all a very happy and fulfilling 2015, full of love and good times. Go follow your dreams! See you soon. Z x

NB. In case you are interested, many of these images are available to buy from my Red Bubble Shop in a variety of formats, including cards, prints, tote bags, cushions and iPhone cases :)

Autumn glorious autumn ~ Part 2

I enjoyed a fabulous wander around the stunningly beautiful Westonbirt Arboretum at the end of October as my traditional birthday treat - there really is no better place to be at this time of year :)

My favourite bit without a doubt is the Acer Glade in the Old Arboretum - I just adore Japanese Maples. We started here and returned for some Blythe shots. It really is quite tricky to find the right spot to prop them up that's at the right height and supportive enough to hold them (their heads are very heavy!). It was VERY muddy so I was paranoid that they would take a tumble into the mud. Luckily the worst that happened was a bit of green slime on their tights ;)

I love the photo below of me, taken by my lovely husband. This was how I was to be found much of the time - head in the trees, searching for the prettiest leaves and the prettiest light! My favourite lens for autumn leaves is my 100mm macro lens - I love to focus on the details with a soft background. Low light levels make holding the camera steady pretty challenging, though, so inevitably lots of photos ended up in the bin!

Most of the leaves here are now on the ground, so these photos will have to help carry me through until springtime - I really don't like everything bare and brown! Nature really does put on a pretty spectacular seasonal finale.

As always, you can find more photos on Flickr in my Autumn Glory Album. I've also uploaded several of these images to my Red Bubble shop in case you are interested in cards or prints. There's currently a 15% discount on Wall Art (posters and prints in a range of sizes and formats) and Home Decor (cushions) with code RBGIFTS15 which is valid until the end of Thursday 13 November.

Autumn glorious autumn ~ Part 1

I just adore autumn and it's glorious display of colour in such warm, rich shades. It's so uplifting. Autumn leaves are such a gift - I always feel compelled to capture that beauty on my camera, to carry me through the winter months when the trees are bare and the world becomes monotone.

It's an annual ritual for me to go hunting leaves with my camera - and a traditional birthday treat - nothing makes me happier (except perhaps the sea!) :) These photos were all taken in Harcourt Arboretum in Nuneham Courtenay, Oxfordshire last weekend. And this weekend, as my birthday treat, we're heading to the amazing Westonbirt Arboretum. So I thought I'd best get these photos published pronto :)

There really is nothing finer than listening to birds chirping away with sunshine on your face, and gorgeous low, warm light pouring through the trees, setting the leaves aglow. It really is tonic for the soul.

For more autumnal fabulousness, take a look at my Autumn Glory Album on Flickr.

BlytheCon UK 2014 and a weekend by the seaside

I had a rather hectic but lovely weekend by the sea at the beginning of October, taking in Blythecon in Brighton, a house viewing in Seaford (which we decided to buy!) and a mini family holiday. Phew!

Believe it or not I've never been to a Blythecon in the UK before (my first ever one was last year in New York!), so didn't really know what to expect. I went along with my lovely sister as part of her birthday weekend and we had a fab time. It was so lovely to put some faces to names and have a jolly good natter with fellow doll obsessives :) It all passed in a bit of a whirl so I'm afraid I didn't take many photos - far too busy talking and looking and just taking it all in...

One of my favourite stands, was Emma Mount (below). I just adore her beautiful illustrations - combined perfectly with vintage fabric to make cushions, as well as many other things. I'm really not sure how I managed to resist one (I did leave with a print, though, so all is not lost!).

There was just so much to feast the eyes upon. I loved all the shop displays - and the creative nautical fashion competition entries - my favourite one (the blue raincoat) is below.

I fell in love with the Pinky Jane raincoats (below) and one had to come home with me :) In fact, it features in the seaside photoshoot below!

Unfortunately we had to leave before the raffle, so I have no idea who won my cushion, or all the other fun stuff! If anyone knows, do let me know :) Our early departure was worth it, though, as we fell in love with the house we went to see....

We were blessed with glorious sunshine the next day and enjoyed a lovely visit to Seaford, with its pretty pastel beach huts. My sister and I had fun with some Blythe photography, which drew a few onlookers :)

I just love Seaford, and am so excited to think that this is where we will be living soon (assuming all goes OK with the house stuff - it sure is a stressful business!). It was so fabulous to see everyone out and about enjoying the glorious October sunshine.

We even managed to squeeze in a visit to nearby Cuckmere Haven and picnicked on a bench in the sunshine looking at this view :) I have a feeling this will become a regular haunt!

Well that's all for now folks. Wish us luck with the bumpy house selling/buying journey - it sure is a lesson in taking one day at a time ;)

What I've been making lately(ish)

It's been a while (4 months!) since I did one of these posts - ahem! But in my defence I have been rather busy with house selling, hunting and buying shenanigans - and that's not over yet! I think there's a very good reason it's up there with the most stressful life events! Anyway, I digress.... In order to keep my sanity, the sewing machine has come out to play several times....

I made the tote bag above and below back in August, just in time to take away with me on my summer hols. I thought I'd try adding a pocket for a change, with some precious little pieces of Alice Apple fabric - I think the prints co-ordinate perfectly with the main vintage sheet fabric (my all time favourite print). The tote bags are the perfect size for carrying around Blythes, so they get used a lot, as well as being a pretty display on my wall :)

I then made a little batch of pencil cases and coin purses for presents (below). I'd been itching to use the bunny fabric I'd bought a little while ago, together with the contrasting polka dot fabric - don't they make the perfect partners? The little birdy purses were made from some fabric remnants I picked up in Cambridge - I love the colours together.

Then it's back to the tote bags again and my favourite fabric. I made the bag below for my sister's birthday and thought I'd try a little bambi pocket this time :)

I had a special request from my sister for some embroidery hoops with vintage fabric to display on her wall - not a problem :) I enjoyed rummaging through my stash and picked out these favourites (below). I also couldn't resist making another cat cushion from the pattern by Modflowers from Mollie Makes issue 39. This fabric worked perfectly as the print wasn't too strong - I think he might be my favourite cat yet! I even attempted to use the applique stitch on my sewing machine for the first time on the eyes, ears and nose - rather tricky round the curves - but you've got to try these things, right? You can see my other cats in the My Makes set on Flickr.

And last, but not least, it's another tote bag! I'm addicted to making these - such a lovely way to use and display favourite fabrics. This time I didn't add a pocket as the print was so fabulous and psychedelic, I didn't want to cover any of it up (the fabric came from the most gorgeous of fabric shops: Rainbow Vintage Home). I used another strong print for the lining - think they work well together.

And that's it! But not for long - I have plans for some cushions with some more wintry looking fabrics - time to change the summer ones! TTFN, Zoë x

Early autumn wanderings

I've enjoyed a couple of lovely outings with my camera recently to capture the last glimmer of summer and the new beginnings of autumn. I love this time of year - maybe it's because I'm an autumn baby - or maybe it's all that beautiful colour and gorgeous light....and the best is yet to come :)

I took a Blythe along with me to the Oxford Botanic Garden in mid-September, and met up with the lovely Ruby Red for some leisurely wanderings and a jolly good catch-up. I find a friend helps to fortify my courage with taking Blythe photos in public :) We were surprised to see so much lovely colour and carpets of beautiful cyclamens and what looked to me like crocuses. A thoroughly lovely day!

And last weekend Al and I ventured out to the fabulous Batsford Arboretum in Moreton-on-the-Marsh. It's such a beautiful place - we've visited often and it looks different every time. There was a surprising amount of autumn colour for this time of year - I love spotting the bursts of red amongst the green. And adore how magical everything looks when a sunbeam bursts through the cloud. I took bambi along with me for a little photoshoot. She took a few tumbles and is a little bit worse for wear, but I loved photographing her "out in the wild", so I guess a few tumbles go with the territory!

We also had fun taking a few portraits of each other - I needed a new pic for my blog and Al wanted to play with his new 56mm f1.2 lens for the Fuji XT1. It really does produce some dreamy results. And the Arboretum provides a lovely backdrop. I've played around with a few textures too to soften things a little. All photos of me taken by my lovely husband alpower.com and post-processed by me.

I always find walking through so much greenery and space so calming and restorative - I can highly recommend it as a way to unwind and refresh.

I've updated my Red Bubble Shop with my latest photos. If there's a particular image you would like to see that's not in Red Bubble, please let me know (hello@zoepower.co.uk) and I will happily add it for you.

A fabulous week in East Sussex

Back in August, we enjoyed a wonderful, restorative week by the sea, exploring the East Sussex coast. I'm also extremely excited to say that we are planning to move here (to Seaford), so sea fixes will be more than an occasional treat! Hurrah! Lots of hoops to jump through, yet, though - the house buying and selling process seems to be achingly slow....wish us luck! I still can't quite believe that all this stunning scenery will be on our doorstep!

We stayed in a fabulous cabin in the South Downs, not far from Alfriston, through Airbnb. Such a peaceful spot. I challenge you not to unwind when this is your view! The cabin was full of beautiful, original artwork by its owner and had so much character. Everything was so tactile. Even though it was August, we lit the log burning stove - just because :) I can highly recommend it if you are looking for a get away from it all spot (and it's really well located for visiting lots of places too).

There's just to much to see. We had a fun day exploring Alfriston, with its picture postcard perfect church, and Lewes. I have a feeling we only scratched the surface of Lewes - I am looking forward to going back! I did manage to find a lovely fabric shop, though, and we stumbled across some really pretty public gardens. There were antique shops aplenty, but I was very restrained (feeling rather overwhelmed by "stuff" at the moment, as we sort and declutter!).

We also headed out to Seaford at the end of the day - I was desperate for my first sea fix! It was a blustery day, so the waves were rather energetic. I'm SO looking forward to this being our local view! I hope you won't get bored of these beach huts ;)

I think the highlight of our trip was the stunningly beautiful Cuckmere Haven. You can approach it from a couple of ways. One day we came across the cliff path from Seaford Head via the picturesque coastguard cottages (really epic, classic views). Another day we walked from the Seven Sisters Country Park alongside the Cuckmere and ended up on the other side of the beach. The 360 degree panoramic views really took my breath away. I think I might have overused the word "Wow" those days :) And taken far too many photographs ;)

Another beautiful spot not far from Cuckmere Haven is the Birling Gap. There is a viewing platform that affords great views of the Seven Sisters. It was another blustery day, so holding the camera still was quite a challenge! We were lucky enough to encounter some surfers, who provided a very nice point of interest and scale for the photos :) A short stroll along the cliff path and you enjoy a lovely view of Beachy Head. The cliffs drop away very steeply, so probably not good for those with a fear of heights!

One day we headed inland for a change, to Friston Forest, for a green fix. We did the "white horse view" walk then free reigned for a while. Can you spot the white horse in my photo below?

And of course we had a day in Brighton. I love this vibrant city by the sea, full of all the quirky, cool, creative, crafty, geeky, healthy stuff we could (and will!) need. Very happy that this will be close-by.

And last, but not least, we headed West to Worthing. Another beautiful beach. It was rather a grey day, though, so I busied myself taking some Blythe photos :)

Believe it or not, these are just the photo highlights! So if you would like to see more, head over to my East Sussex set on Flickr. I've also updated my Red Bubble Shop with some Blythe seaside pics and recent floral delights from Cambridge. Enjoy :)

Kettle's Yard, Cambridge: pure magic

Kettle's Yard in Cambridge has a very special place in my heart. It was the first (and pretty much only) art gallery (that's not a gallery) I have visited where I really connected, where I felt comfortable, where I adored pretty much everything, and where I felt I understood what art was all about.

Kettle's Yard is very different to other art galleries. Firstly, and very importantly, it's a house, not a gallery (although it does have a modern gallery space attached to it). The house was very carefully designed by Jim and Helen Ede in the 50s, when they transformed four dilapidated cottages into a single homely space, to display their collection of artworks, furniture and natural objects. They felt strongly that art should be enjoyed in a relaxed atmosphere, not in neat rows on large walls in austere spaces. They generously donated Kettle's Yard to Cambridge University in the 60s, so it could be enjoyed by all, and so students could understand how to appreciate art.

You ring a large bell to enter and are warmly greeted by the staff who introduce you to the space and give you some background to Jim and Helen Ede. You are encouraged to feel at home and to sit on the chairs - art has been very carefully placed, so you only notice certain things when you are seated. The play of light on the objects is beautiful too, and not coincidental. I was lucky enough to visit on a sunny day and the beautiful light and shadows were a big part of what felt a very personal and magical experience.

I absolutely love the integration of natural objects with artworks on the walls, and sculptures, and the beautiful vases of fresh flowers. Textures are so rich, and each object enhances the others. I was hugely influenced by the beautiful spirals of round pebbles when I visited as a student 20 years ago. To this day, I have always had a spiral of pebbles in all my homes, and various other displays of pebbles and shells - I spend hours hunting down the smoothest roundest pebbles whenever I'm near the sea. I hadn't made the connection, until my return to Kettle's Yard.

It really is a truly magical place, and I can't encourage you strongly enough to visit if you are anywhere near Cambridge. My photos don't do the place justice - you really have to visit. For more information, please go to the Kettle's Yard website.

Revisiting Cambridge: a (rather floral) walk down memory lane

Hot on the heels of my last post about the very beautiful Cambridge University Botanic Garden, I thought I'd share some more photos from my visit to Cambridge last month. I was a student at King's a couple of decades ago (god that makes me sound ancient!) and this was my first visit to Cambridge in a very long time, so it stirred up quite a few memories...

The city was looking as beautiful as I remember it, and in full bloom, with pretty hanging baskets everywhere. And the most bikes I have ever seen - even more than Oxford, if that is possible!

I think I might have seen more in a few days than I did during my entire undergraduate years!! As a student my world was rather small, centred around my College and Faculty/Library and the centre of town... I might have ventured to a few other Colleges, but I had never made it to the train station ;) Life was very different then, before email and mobile phones, let alone social media - I remember queueing for ages to use the pay phone - and finishing a relationship in floods of tears with a line of people listening to my conversation...

It was also a time before digital cameras. I had a film camera then, and developed black & white prints in my Dad's darkroom at home (he was a Professional Photographer). My photos of King's from my student years are buried somewhere in the attic in old photo albums (hopefully along with the negatives), so it was fun to return with my digital SLR.

It was exactly as I remembered it. The grounds are stunning - I remember feeling so privileged (and unworthy!) every day I walked the immaculate paths. It was an intense experience from start to finish, but I wouldn't change anything.

Anyway, back to my photos! Sadly it was rather overcast when I visited King's so I don't have that many photos - the sun decided to pop out just as I was leaving - isn't that always the way?!

I enjoyed a leisurely wander down King's Parade and the backs, watching the punts glide by. I popped into Trinity and St. John's, where I sat for ages taking in the beautiful view and watching the gardeners hard at work, whilst I recovered some strength. Hats off to the gardeners there - I have never seen more beautifully maintained lawns and (vast) grounds anywhere. Seriously impressive.

And I must confess to having a thorough explore of all the shops too - I got lost in the huge John Lewis for several hours! I also paid a visit to the fantastic and very special Kettle's Yard - but that deserves a post of its very own. Coming soon....

A riot of colour in the Cambridge University Botanic Garden

Well, hellooooo there! Apologies for my absence of late - we've been busy house hunting, so the last month or so has been rather consumed with pouring over Rightmove, maps, travel times etc. and spending far too much time on the M25! The upside, however, of researching where to relocate to, is that we've visited lots of beautiful places and I've got lots of photos to share with you :) I promise my blog will contain something other than travel photos, just as soon as I get a chance to sit down at my sewing machine!

So, next stop on our house hunting tour of the UK, after Devon (see last two posts), was Cambridge - the alternative Oxford ;) I took some time out from house viewings and city wanderings to spend a wonderful couple of hours in the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. A beautiful oasis of green and calm in the centre of the city - just a short walk from the train station. I can highly recommend a visit, especially in July, when everything is a riot of colour.

The garden is huge (much larger than the Oxford one that I love to frequent) and essentially a collection of lots of different gardens, so do allow plenty of time for your visit. There is a rather nice Cafe there too, so plenty of opportunity to rest and refuel!

Hard to pick out any favourites, as it's the sum of the very colourful parts that I love. But I may just have to give special mention to the Echinaceas. They do a fantastic job of attracting the butterflies and bees - I stood staring at them for as long as my strength would allow!

In one corner of the garden there was a beautiful meadow area, with a gorgeous medley of poppies and cornflowers and countless others. I always love the wilder areas of any garden. Oh and the alliums were out in force too, and very popular with the bees!

Well I hope you have enjoyed your visit and I haven't bored you with too many echinacea pictures ;) I'll be back soon with more photos from this beautiful city. TTFN. Z x