I thought I’d share something a bit different today with a video of scenes from the weekend! It’s pretty much what happens when we have a relaxing weekend in London (with a bit of creative direction! ūüėČ )

MAKE FILMS – SCENES FROM THE WEEKEND – 20/21 MAY 2017 from Laura Pritchard on Vimeo.

This is the first video from the Make Films course I’m taking part in, which is run by the fabulously creative Xanthe.

I love the films Xanthe shares on Instagram and have long been and admirer of her work. It’s full of colour, creativity and happiness. I tried my hand at a video a while ago (you can see it here) and for a long time have wanted to join the 10 week course she runs. But one way or another either the timing wasn’t right or I didn’t quite have the funds. As luck would have it I won a place through a competition she was running and was totally thrilled.

Each week she shares something new to learn with a film prompt to help put it in practice. So for the next 10 weeks I’m going to pop them up on here. I figure the more I share them, the more confident I’ll get at filming.

Here are a couple of things I’ve learnt about so far as a result of the content Xanthe has provided:

  1. There’s a lot more to filming than it seems after just filming on the iPhone until now.
  2. It’s a really fun challenge switching from photos to filming. You should definitely try it!
  3. I’m much more uncomfortable in front of a rolling camera. My voice, how I look and just a general awkwardness does not make for a smooth video. But I figure the more I do it, the less bothered I’ll get?
  4. I have total respect for fashion bloggers. I got James to film a few seconds and I felt so awkward just asking and then filming in public.

Hope you like it and don’t mind something a little different! I’m looking forward to seeing what else I can create to share with you, but there’ll be other posts going on in between.

2016 was one of my best years yet on the reading front. I finally managed to smash my target of 12 books over the year (one book a month) and even read of total of 15 books. I think it was a mixture of determination, a reasonable amount of travel, some great books and discovering new ways to find my next book. I’m hopeful for 2017 and I’m looking forward to seeing what books make the reading list. In the meantime, here are my last books of 2016!

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His Bloody Project

I spotted this book when scrolling through the shortlist for the Booker Prize 2016. The story involves the recounting of a brutal triple murder in a remote Scottish community in 1869 by a quiet young boy. It’s not the kind of book I’d usually pick up, which is why I chose it. I couldn’t remember having read a book set in Scotland in that era and the psychological aspect intrigued me.

Roderick Macrae is guilty and there’s no doubt about it. Or is there? Between the court room transcripts, medical reports and psychological evaluations, the reader questions what really drove him to do the deed or if he was capable of it at all. It’s a real page turner and I devoured it quite quickly. Whilst obviously gruesome in parts, the interplay of different narratives is very clever.

You’ll like this book if you’re not afraid of a few pages of pillow-hiding content.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

I chose this book from a reading list I found on Pinterest and was largely drawn in by the fact it was described as heart warming.

Shortly after the death of his wife, 69 year old Arthur Pepper finds a charm bracelet that belonged to her, which takes him on an adventure and forces him to change how he sees the world and his relationships with his children.

It is overall a heart warming book, a little bit like ‘Up’ but without the Pixar delights. But it felt a little bit too twee for me. The scenes in London were a bit cliche and there were some details that just weren’t needed.

You’ll like this book if you fancy a nice easy read.

Victoria

I loved the Victoria series on ITV last year, it filled the period drama gap left behind from Downton Abbey so perfectly. It’s a complete dramatisation of Queen Victoria’s early reign but I really liked the characters and of course all of the scenes in London. I decided to download the book by the screen writer Daisy Goodwin because it was only 99p at the time and I was sure to enjoy it.

The book follows pretty much the same plot line, but it excludes the stories of the household and ends at an earlier point than the TV series. I think what I liked about the book version is how much easier it is to picture those places in London as they’re down in writing rather than made in passing reference on screen.

You like this book if you liked the TV series.

The Penguin Lessons

This was possibly my favourite book of 2016. I spotted the cover as someone was reading it on the tube and immediately checked out Goodreads to find out the plot line. I mean – penguins, how could I not.

The Penguin Lessons is about a passion for travel and a penguin named Juan Salvador. Tom Mitchell has a teaching position in a prestigious Argentine boarding school and uses the school holidays to travel. On one such trip he rescues a penguin from an oil slick, although he tries to return him to a safe place Juan won’t leave his side and he decides to smuggle him back to school. It’s such a lovely book, which also might make you want to back up your bags and go travelling to South America.

You like this if you like penguins or travel.

So that’s 2016 books. For more books from the year read chapters one, two and three.

Now for 2017. I’m going to aim for 18 books, 50% more than my last target. I really want to get back into some classics (please so share your favourites!) and continue with some more non-fiction books.

Do you have any book goals for 2017?

As ever, if you have any book recommendations please share them!

I really enjoyed having a wishlist for the year last year, so I’ve decided to do another for 2017! Firstly it’s fun to think of all the things I really want to do. Secondly, although¬†(as last year proved),¬†it¬†often ends up hard to¬†manage it all, it’s the first place I go to when I just¬†can’t think of what to do.

Hopefully, what I’ve shared in this post¬†will give you a little bit of inspiration for your very own wishlist or a place to come back to if you need an idea too.

Here goes…

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Image credits (from top left) – 1/ 2/ 3/ 4/ 5/ 6/ 7/ 8/ 9

1. Take a bike ride through Epping Forest. I still love the idea of the wind rushing through my hair, the light dappling through the¬†trees and pockets of peacefulness you can’t find as easily in the central parks.

2. Visit Ham House and Petersham Nurseries in spring. I visited Petersham Nurseries on a whim the other week and it really is a lovely place to potter around. There was a wedding on at the time so I didn’t stay long but I’d like to go back for tea and a wander.

3. See a lavender field in season.¬†It looks like a photographer’s dream and I bet it smells amazing.

4. Go to Hampton Court when the leaves are green. James and I have had plans to visit for ages, I think it would be perfect those first few exciting weekend when the winter frost has thawed, the sunshine feels warming and the breeze feels refreshing.

5. Explore Walthamstow. It’s one of those areas that seems to be evolving at a rapid pace. I’m thinking a wander¬†around the village, a potter inside the William Morris Gallery, a rummage¬†in God’s own junkyard and either¬†sandwiches at Hillman’s tea room or¬†cocktails at Mother’s Ruin.

6.Visit Wakehurst Gardens. I’m able to visit for free as part of a corporate perk so it makes sense to try to check out Kew’s little sister.

7. Wander around Syon House. Talking of Kew reminded me that I should try to make it over the river from Kew Gardens to explore Syon House.

8. A day trip to Oxford. I’ve been once a very long time ago and my lovely friend Ashley (a former student) tells me I¬†should definitely¬†make a return visit.

9. A weekend in Wales. We used to visit Barmouth and the sand dunes of Dyffryn Ardudwy almost every¬†summer as a child and I loved it. I haven’t been in so long and I keep seeing some great views of¬†the Welsh¬†countryside so I think it’s about time I planned a return trip.

10. A Sunday at Seven Sisters.¬†I’ve seen so many¬†pictures¬†of Eastbourne and Beachy Head on Instagram, but Jessi’s trip last summer definitely inspired me to turn a¬†sight-seeing visit¬†into¬†a long walk along the Seven Sisters.¬†The bracing sea breeze¬†and stunning views would blow any cobwebs away.

Here’s six more I’m carrying forward from 2016:

11.¬†Afternoon Tea, ideally at Sketch. It’s been so long since my last afternoon tea and I still haven’t¬†tried Sketch. Have you had an amazing afternoon tea recently? I’d love any other recommendations.

12. Dishoom for the bacon naan and bottomless chai. I still need to try it!

13. The Rumpus Room at the Mondrian Hotel for cocktails.¬†I’ll need at least one cocktail hour in 2017.

14. Druid Street Market for Saturday lunch. It’s still got to be an ideal weekend activity.

15. Bread Ahead Bakery School for the Introduction to French Baking, Doughnut or Pizza Workshops. I hope I can manage to get tickets for one of these, it would be so fun.

16. An autumn wander at Winkworth Arboretum. I love seeing the season in different places and this will be on my wishlist until I visit.

17. Book tickets for the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House for me and my sister, maybe the Nutcracker at Christmas (seeing as I don’t have a festive one for the list this year!).

With a city break wishlist I’m currently itching to work through, a potential house to buy¬†and only 52 weekends in the year it’s probably definitely¬†impossible to do it all, but as I said before it’ll at least give me some inspiration when I need a break or something to look forward too!

What’s on your wishlist for 2017?

It’s that time of year when everyone looks back at the year that was, the highs¬†and the lows, the happiness and the heart break.¬†I fully believe it’s a good time to congratulate yourself on any achievements (big or small), to try to let go of things that didn’t work out or to¬†leave behind a¬†piece of any sadness.

It’s hard not to start a post on 2016 without referring to the fact that on a world scale¬†the last 12 months haven’t¬†been the best, there have been some horrible tragedies and huge political changes.¬†It’s important to be aware of what’s going on and do what we can for the good and the values we believe in,¬†but we also need to cherish the positivies and be thankful for the things we have.

For me personally, 2016 was quite a good year overall but it zoomed by far too quickly. We had seven weddings, each lovely and special¬†in their own ways, four fun hen dos, a handful of 30ths, a 60th and a 90th. On top of unforgetable trips to Costa Rica and Iceland. Whilst I often craved a bit more time for what I called a ‘normal social life’ and sometimes worried about my finances, I can’t complain and have managed to end up in a better financial position than this time last year.

You might remember I did a 2016 Wishlist, I really enjoyed having¬†a list of fun things I didn’t feel emotionally committed to as it was a useful way to make sure I did some things I really wanted to do without any pressure.¬†I thought it would be fun to see what I managed to squeeze in and what I might need take into 2017.

Starting with what I managed…

Duck and Waffle was surprisingly easy to organise as Lucinda also wanted to go, so we agreed early on to book a table for her birthday. I’d happily go back as it’s a great place to take visitors.

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The Little Taperia made for a pretty great date night. It’s always nice to be able to walk home after dinner.

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I was so keen to try Yolkin’s Ice Cream Macarons we ended up eating them in February.

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Cambridge made for a lovely day out for my birthday. Now that I’ve discovered the city’s charms I’m sure I’ll be back there in 2017, I’d love to see it in spring or autumn. That said, I’m thinking a return to Oxford will be on next year’s list as my last visit was so long ago.

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I didn’t manage a proper trip to Norfolk as we were only there for a wedding but I did squeeze in a walk near James’ dad’s house. I’ll give myself half marks and hope we’ll manage a proper trip next year.

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Vanessa and I managed a catch up and a wander around¬†Hampstead Heath just at the beginning of September, whilst this isn’t technically a summer month I reckon I can count it here.

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Victoria Park was perfect for a Sunday stroll and a bacon roll in spring.

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I got tickets for the TfL hidden tour for Clapham South¬†all the way back in March for the tour in March next year. The tours are so popular (I didn’t manage to get into Aldgate which was my first choice) it’s best to sign up to their newsletter if you want to be in with a chance of tickets.

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Last but one on my list was Christmas carols at the Royal Albert Hall. I got the tickets pretty late so I almost didn’t make it and unfortunately a lot of my friends couldn’t go at short notice. But¬†I’m so happy just three of us still decided to go (there’s a¬†few more¬†pictures in my previous post.) I really enjoyed it as a Christmas activity and I’m definitely adding it to the yearly traditions and vowing to¬†be more organised next year.

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With limited free weekends, there was inevitably a few things on the list I didn’t manage…

  1. Sketch for Afternoon Tea. I just didn’t seem to find the time¬†or the right occasion to justify the treat. Next year I might just have afternoon tea on the list as it has been sooo long since I last enjoyed one, I’ll just have to hope Sketch makes the cut.
  2. Dishoom for the bacon naan and bottomless chai. I can’t believe I still haven’t had the infamous bacon naan. I’m carrying this one forward.
  3. The Rumpus Room at the Mondrian Hotel for cocktails. Another one that will have to go on next year’s list.
  4. Druid Street Market for Saturday lunch. I took James to Maltby Street Market but sadly didn’t make it as far as Druid¬†Street.
  5. Bread Ahead Bakery School for the Introduction to French Baking, Doughnut or Pizza Workshops. I really wanted to do this with James but between his exams and all the weddings it just didn’t work out. I’m still hoping to do this next year.
  6. An autumn wander at Winkworth Arboretum. On the autumn weekend¬†I thought this would work I realised that the route there was actually quite long and involved a 2 mile walk from the station just to the entrance. I wasn’t really in the mood for such a long journey so chose Kew Gardens instead and I was so so happy with my choice. We will hopefully have a car next year which should¬†help¬†tick this off¬†the list.
  7. Book tickets for the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House for me and my sister. I think I need to spend time working out which performance we’d most enjoy and get organised to book reasonably priced tickets before they sell out. I would love any top tips on your experiences of the Royal Opera House.

So overall I managed 8.5 out of 16. I would have liked to have reached 10 out of 16, but with all the events that happened last year I’m impressed I managed what¬†I did.

I’m really looking forward to 2017 as it’s currently looking less chaotic from¬†a social perspective. I’m hoping I’ll be able to focus on what feels like a bit more of a balanced life. So look out for the next wishlist!

You might notice I haven’t looked at the personal goals I added to last year’s post, I think I’m going to come back to these alongside some for the year ahead in a whole other post, once I’ve got my head around it all.¬†(I’m still getting used to the idea of¬†us being on the brink of a whole new 365 days.)

Happy New Year!!! See you in 2017!!

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What does feeling festive mean to you? For me, it’s being cosy whether in a coat, cosy scarf and bobble hat or snuggled up inside wearing a comfy jumper; twinkling Christmas lights; mulled wine and mince pies; merry songs; and Christmas films with a tub of chocolate. All enjoyed with family or good friends laughing and wearing big smiles.

In a capital city like London that festive feeling can be easy to find but you often have to consciously make an effort to push through the crowds and lift your head up to find that happy place.

I’ve enjoyed so many Christmases here but I tend to do the same things, adding something new each year. After seven Christmases in the city I’m feeling pretty knowledgable about what’s on these days so, since it’s 1 December today, I thought I’d share my guide for where to feel festive in London.

Find the festive window displays at Fortnum’s 

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Fortnum and Mason’s became a Christmas tradition a couple of years ago when I started to buy small gifts like their jam, marmalade and biscuits. Since then, it is always on my list of places to go at least once. The food treats are fit for a queen and it has some of the best window displays in London.

Dash into Liberty London

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If time is against me then the historic department store is a must-visit. Between this year’s Nutcracker door guards and a Christmas shop that meets all our needs, it has festive sorted. The Christmas lights inside aren’t as good as they have been in the past this year but it’s such a lovely store anyway.

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Take a week day trip to Winter wonderland or South Bank’s Winter Festival

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Being from Birmingham (the home of the UK German Christmas market in my opinion) means the Christmas build up isn’t complete without a Christmas market. They tend to pop up all over the city but Winter Wonderland and the Winter Festival are my favourites. You’ll find me eating bratwurst and poffertjes, drinking mulled wine and watching the fair ground rides whizz by. As people travel from far and wide to visit, the best time to go is during the week or before nightfall at the weekends.

Grab some goodies at the market on a Saturday

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I buy food gifts every year and they go down a treat. But I love getting all wrapped up and leisurely browsing market stalls for goodies. Broadway and Borough are my go-to markets with cheeses from around the world, London honey, creamy fudge and colourful meringues. But seeing people collecting their Christmas trees and smelling mulled drinks too, makes me feel so festive.

Sing along to Christmas carols

This year will be the first time I’ve ever made it to a carol concert in London and I can’t wait. Carols are the one thing that pull all of my Christmas memories together, from the nativity plays in nursery (I’m always proud to tell people I had the role of Mary one year), concerts held at the end of the school term, or just quietly listening to carols whilst wrapping presents up a few presents. Carols just give me that spine-tingling festive feeling. I’m off to the Royal Albert Hall but Time Out London and Visit London have some really great guides to help you find the best one for you.

Go wreath hunting in West London

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OK, you’ll find wreaths all over the residential areas of London but I’ve found that some of the most opulent ones can be spotted in West London (Notting Hill and South Kensington being the usual suspects). It might not be the most festive thing on the list but it’s good to get outdoors when I’ve been eating plenty! And it’s a good way to get some great Instagrams too.

Visit an ice rink

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Even though I’m not the best ice skater, visiting an ice rink makes me feel super festive. I’ll head to Somerset House or the Natural History Museum even if I don’t have tickets. They’re like real life Christmas snow globes, don’t you think? I’m hoping to visit Hampton Court this year but there are plenty of other places to get tickets.

Complete THE Christmas lights tour (or make up your own)

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A few years ago I shared a great Christmas lights tour. Whilst I don’t usually have time to do it all in one night these days, I’ve virtually memorised the route and try to see as much of it as possible. It’s guaranteed to give me that heart-warming feeling. I wrap up warm, grab my camera and get going. If I can squeeze in a hot chocolate, all the better. If you do it I really would love to know. Tell me where you’re from, what you think and share any pictures. You can send me a tweet, tag me on Instagram or drop me an email.

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Do you ever have those weeks when you put so much pressure on yourself to create but your brain freezes as if in protest? Yeh, I’ve been feeling like that recently and it’s just got in the way of doing anything. So I decided to write the title of the first post I could think of and funnily enough the next morning a whole host of others came to mind.

So let’s get stuck in to this one then. Basically, I faced the white screen of death the other week (iPhone holders will know that this spells doom) and was forced to use my old iPhone for a week. As I browsed through my old photos on the tube, I made the happy discovery of some old Instagrams and, without blowing my own trumpet too much, realised how much better my posts have got. I know this is part as a result of phones and Instagram getting more sophisticated but it got me thinking about what I’ve learned.¬†

I don’t have a huge following so this isn’t about gaining followers, but if you love the app or want to improve your photography skills I thought you might be interested in getting a handful of tips.¬†

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Get out and about

The quickest way to get better and to enjoy the app even more is to simply take more photos and to do this you just need to get out and about. Take a wander on your lunch break, join an instameet or pluck up the courage to meet up with someone you’ve had a regular exchange with over your snaps. You’ll learn to notice different things, pick up some great tips and have a camera roll of things to share.

Remember the rule of two-thirds

An often repeated photography trick that you can apply to Instagram too. Katya provides an explanation of this in her great guide.

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Keep it straight

Instagram works on grids, so thinking about lines when you take pictures and post them can make a really simple improvement. Your horizon has got to be straight for a start, which you can fix through ‘adjust’ on the edit tab. I also like to play around with the vertical and horizontal perspectives to fix those occasions where I’ve not got the angle right (like doors that look like they’re leaning backwards.) You just have to be careful that you don’t go too far and make it look squashed.

Apply some simple edits

I use Snapseed (iPhone/ Android) for cropping and tidying up pictures. It’s great for removing little details like cigarette ends (try the ‘healing’ tool), has a handy auto-straight feature and a set of simple-to-use edits to enhance your snap. If I’m in Snapseed or Instagram I often up the exposure, contrast, structure and sharpening, and reduce shadows to add a bit of depth.

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Curate your feed

This is a tricky one and despite reading loads of articles I’m not sure I’ve got it spot on yet. But ever since I started using the 3×3 grid on Frame Swagg to plan out my posts, I’ve noticed a better mix of photos because I can easily work out what looks good or not. Matching up colour pallets on the commute to work has got a bit addictive (sad I know!) As for content, I like to think I have a bit of an accidental theme of things I like, a bit like the blog really. So you’ll often see coffee shops, colourful houses, places to visit and things to see.¬†

If you want a few more tips and app suggestions, you should check out Katy and Jaime’s posts.¬†

The danger with all of this is that you can become a bit obsessive about it! I’m still looking for ways to improve so do leave a comment if you’ve picked up any handy tips.

Oh and if you want to follow me, you’ll find me @thiscitylifeldn.