Every year on the closest Saturday to July 1st, we celebrate Canada Day with a barbecue party in our garden. The tradition started (appropriately enough) when we lived in Canada between 2007-2009 and it’s become a great excuse to order in Canadian beer and try out a few North American recipes.

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This year the closest Saturday was 4th July, so we rolled Canada Day and Independence Day into one and enjoyed the opportunity for some combined maple leaf and stars and stripes themeing! Our party also provided an opportunity to christen our amazing Debenhams garden furniture which we won a few months ago and to try out the Be Bop water slide which we had been loaned for the weekend.

The weather wasn’t entirely perfect as it was rather windy, but it was dry and the sun shone for most of the day, which is good enough for me!

This year events conspired to mean none of our friends who we actually lived in Canada with could actually make it to be with us on the day (and two of them are actually emigrating back there at Christmas!) however we did have our Alberta-born dog and our friends Toronto-born daughter as our token Canadian representation!

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Jim who is a bit of a barbecue legend researched, shopped for and cooked the main course, picking up some beautiful Beef Flank at Borough market in London on Friday morning which he cooked with mango salsa, brined chicken kebabs, sausages, burgers and salads.

Meanwhile I was able to devote my time to playing with puddings which is a huge amount of fun when you haven’t got the pressure of savoury food to worry about! The American flag was something I spotted on Pinterest which looked amazing and simple to do. What I hadn’t anticipated is that kids also loved the skewers and getting the chance to make their own mix with the leftovers.

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By far the biggest hit with the puddings was the triple layer Nanaimo Bars which I made (which weren’t the most beautiful, but were the most tasty!) Everyone loved them and we ate the very small amount of leftovers with a cup of tea on Sunday afternoon. They will definitely be cooked again!

I also made a large custard and strawberry “Tim” Tart, triple layer Canadian flag jellies (the middle layer was made with evaporated milk and was a bit solid and flavourless, so I need to work on that) and finally with the leftover eggs there were some meringue nests filled with creme fraiche and blueberries, strawberries and raspberries

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Of course it wasn’t entirely about the food, there was also our Be Bop water slide which was on loan to us for the weekend and was a massive hit with all the kids.

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Of course bouncy castles in any shape or form are always popular, but none of the kids we invited had ever experienced anything like a 16ft inflatable water slide so the novelty factor was huge.

They played on it all day. We used it both with and without the water turned on and Theo had another really joyful session on it on Sunday afternoon on his own, before we broke the news that it had to be put back in its box and returned to Toyz World, at which point there were real hysterical three year-old tears and I felt really mean!

If you are wondering about recipes. They are all on my Canada Day Pinterest board, along with a couple which we didn’t get round to making this year, but might try next year.

Follow Maybush Studio – Family & Lifestyle Blog’s board Canada Day on Pinterest.

If you fancy trying one think, make it the Nanaimo bars, which were (I may have mentioned more than once) amazing.

Linking up with Em, Aby and Hayley…

Living Arrowssnowingindoors
  • July 6, 2015 - 6:35 pm

    Carie - the food all looks amazing but I am rather distracted temporarily by longing for that amazing water slide! No wonder Theo didn’t want it to go back!!ReplyCancel

  • July 6, 2015 - 7:09 pm

    Emma T - Looks like a great celebration – loving the look of all those desserts. We’ve got a bouncy castle from Toyzworld coming this weekend – just hoping for a dry weekend, if not hot! #livingarrowsReplyCancel

  • July 6, 2015 - 11:38 pm

    Jenny - WOW what a celebration. Lovely sunny photos too. Always great to celebrate with friends and family. Popping over from #livingarrowsReplyCancel

So I’m joining in for a second time with Street Style Sunday, despite the fact that I really struggle to get any more than a single photo of what I’m wearing on a weekly basis! You want close ups of individual items? That may take some time!

Independence Day

Dress : Boden / Cardigan : H&M / Flip-Flops : Havaianas

Yesterday we celebrated Canada Day as we have always done since we spent two years in Alberta. We do the party on the closest Saturday to 1st July, which this year happened to be 4th, so it became Canada Day… with a flavour of the 4th July.

Normally I’d try and crowbar some red into what I’m wearing for our party, but this year I figured I could be let off as my wardrobe is a little restricted. I actually bought this dress about 6 years ago from Boden. It is absolutely my colours, but it was utterly shapeless and hugely unflattering! Then a few weeks ago I decided to dig it out and see if I could alter it to make it fit my bump. I took it in by about an inch and a half on both seams, literally by turning it inside out and sewing a line an inch and a half up both sides. I also sewed up the neckline a bit to stop in gaping quite so much around the cleavage.

I turned it back in the right way and tried it on and it fitted like a glove – I can assure you that does not happen every time!

Since then it’s been one of my most useful summer maternity dresses and when I get too big for it, or I want to wear it after the baby has been born, I’ll just unpick the seams and resize it again!

Style Me Sunday
  • July 5, 2015 - 6:13 am

    Carie - oh what a lovely dress! I’m so glad you rescued it because the colours are gorgeous!!ReplyCancel

What would you replace in your home if you could? Are there things you own that are past their best and never seem like a priority to replace? Or perhaps (like me) you have a couple of items that have done you long service but would benefit from an upgrade?

This was the question recently posed to me by the team at Legal & General and I’ve spent a good few days considering what to pick, in the end I chose two items I really love and use nearly daily, but which are approaching retirement.

Macbook Pro

First of my list is my Macbook Pro. I always reckoned you could get about 4 years out of a good laptop and I’ve had this one for 6 now. Early on its life it acquired a huge dent in its shell in an accident I have no recollection of, the battery has died, the power lead needs replacing and it runs at a speed that would test the patience of most! It’s also suffered recently from the attentions of a small boy who although prohibited from using it, did decide to enhance its exterior decoration a little!

2009 macbook pro

But honestly I still love it and I would say completely sincerely that if someone offered to take it away now and replace it with a top of the range PC laptop I would choke on my tea and wrestle it back from them! So I am slowly and patiently saving up for its replacement which will be the 11 inch Macbook Air. Every time we pass through a John Lewis store, I make a little detour to the technology department and just have a look at one of the models on display. They are so tiny and light and sexy – One day they shall be mine!

My Roberts Radio

This FM radio was bought for me as a Christmas present by my parents at least 15 years ago and has toured the world with me and had a huge amount of use. Like my Macbook it also has war wounds. In Cyprus it used to sit on top of the ancient free-standing oven we had in our quarter and I didn’t realise until it was too late that the top of the oven (where the grill was) actually got very hot. So if you look at the bottom right of the radio now you will notice there is actually an ugly brown burn mark on it!

Pink roberst radio in a sewing room

It still works perfectly well, but where I use it in the cabin (aka the She-Shed) the FM reception is a little dodgy, so ideally I would love to replace it with a DAB Roberts Radio (maybe in duck egg blue?) and then this one would be allowed to retire to another part of the house.

What are the things in your home that are top of the list for upgrading? Are they necessities for the household or is there room in the queue for nice things for you too?

 

  • July 2, 2015 - 9:40 pm

    Donna - We have a Roberts radio, purely to look at! I am also wondering whether I should take the leap and get a MacBook…. Hmmm! xReplyCancel

A couple of months ago I was approached by the team at magazine.co.uk and asked if I’d like to team up with them to share some of the magazines I enjoy reading. Magazines have always been a big part of my life (my brother-in-law publishes one and my sister used to work on the marketing side) and I’ve found that as time has gone by that they have been quite an interesting measure of my changing interests. I rarely pick up celebrity or fashion magazines nowadays and instead prefer things that have more of a lifestyle focus.

My collaboration with magazine.co.uk means I have chosen three subscriptions for this year and they are all publications I love for different reasons.

digital photographer magazine

Digital Photographer

I’ve read a lot of photography magazines and choosing the one that is right for you is a bit like the story of Goldilocks & the three bears. Some magazines are aimed at the beginner photographer, others are aimed at a pro and some are fixated on the technical side or the editing. Digital Photographer is my current favourite because it strikes the balance between amateur and professional perfectly, so although most of the content is great for an amateur there is also a “going pro” section which touches on some aspects of the business side such as marketing and developing a career in the industry.

Digital Photographer also has some beautiful photography in it and profiles of artists and the first section which showcases readers images is always worth a slow browse. I also like the tutorials which are divided into shooting skills and editing skills. In fact the only bit I rarely read is the section where they review new cameras, because I rarely ever buy a new camera when it’s released and reading about the latest model more often than not makes me want to!

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Coast Magazine

Coast is a bit of a guilty pleasure for anyone who reads it. It involves a lot of beautiful pictures of people living idyllic lifestyles by the sea and some stunning examples of the kind of houses you can buy along Britain’s shoreline. It appeals to both those who live inland (and wish they could escape) and to those who live by the sea already. In the August issue there’s a feature on a fabulous Midcentury modernist house near Littlehampton (not far along the coast from us) and the British architect Patrick Gwynee.

However it’s not all about houses. Coast also features fashion, craft, profiles and this month there are several features about travel with inspiring ideas for the summer holidays in the UK and beyond.

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Country Living

This magazine was almost totally new to me, which is funny because my sister is actually going to be in it in a few months time! It’s a great mix of property (again, sorry!) nature, travel, crafts and stuff with a country twist. In the August issue there’s a feature on a lady who uses natural dyes to create dresses made from ethically sourced fabrics and another about four siblings who inherited a fruit farm in Wales. One of my favourite bits of Country Living is actually the classified ads at the end where you can discover some really interesting small businesses selling lovely stuff for the home.

The warmer weather we’ve had this week has come at the perfect time for me, just as August’s magazines start to arrive in our post box and it’s lovely to have the copies before they are out in most of the shops…

If you fancy taking out a subscription have a look at the range of magazines on offer from magazine.co.uk (affiliate link) and they are also running a competition at the moment asking people to submit a short video of them reading a magazine in a strange place for the chance to win theatre tickets and a £40 gift card for the website, there’s also £100 of prizes for 4 runners up. You can find out how to enter here.

 

Last weekend I held my breath, handed over my much-loved Nikon SLR to a strange man and walked out of my local camera store with a new model. It’s something I have been doing roughly every two years since I started on my photography journey and I am finally wise enough to know that these steps along the road are necessary and inevitable and I no longer kid myself that every camera I buy is my last one!

The DSLRs I have owned and why I upgraded them

For those of you who are debating your own upgrade or perhaps thinking about purchasing your first DSLR, I thought I’d share with you the story of the cameras I have owned, the photos they have taken and ultimately why I have upgraded each time….



2004 : Canon Ixus 500 (£279)

My first digital camera was not an SLR. I bought it from Amazon in 2004 and I literally used it as a point and shoot. The most adventurous thing I ever did with it was switch to “landscape” mode to get enhanced blue and green colours. Then one day I was sat on the terrace of our local pub trying to take a picture in the fading light and a stranger introduced me to something in the settings called “exposure compensation” and suddenly a world of potential opened up to me and I started to realise you could actually control (minimally at this stage) how photos turned out.

The 5 megapixel capability of the camera was fine at the time, but as you can see from the image below it didn’t produce the sharpest or clearest of images. I absolutely loved the Ixus with it’s stylish polished metal exterior and compact size, but eventually it was to be replaced by something a bit bigger…

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2007 : Canon EOS 400D (£400)

Jim bought me my first SLR for Christmas 2007 when we were living in Canada. It came with an 18-55 kit lens which later on I grew to understand later was a pretty basic bit of glass. I did the classic beginner thing of rushing out and spending £200 on the longest lens I could buy (cause that’s cool right?) with no knowledge of what I was buying. I spent nearly all my time that I owned the Canon shooting in auto. Towards the end of the two years I had this camera for I joined a camera club in Cyprus and a whole world of aperture, raw files and manual settings opened up to me.

The picture below is one I took with the kit lens on auto (f/8.0) and I still thinking it’s a great photo.

January strawberries in Cyprus

I eventually upgraded from my Canon for two reasons. Firstly I was surrounded by people shooting with Nikons and talking about Nikons and the associated software and having the same kit made it easier to learn with them. Secondly I had started to have a limited understanding of the importance of RAW files, but my Canon wouldn’t allow me to take photos in RAW in the auto setting, which was all I was comfortable with at that stage.



2010 : Nikon D90 (£750)

In 2010 I sold everything I owned (flash, lenses, camera) and switched to Nikon. My first impression of the Nikon was that it had a really professional sounding shutter noise (simple pleasures!) and looked like a grown up camera. It came with an 18-105 lens which I kept for 6 years, but which I was very glad to see the back of towards the end when I realised it didn’t actually take such great photos.

why I upgraded from my Nikon d90
I had my biggest period of photography growth while I was using my D90. I belonged to a great camera club and was living in sunny Cyprus with wonderful light, people who inspired me and good weather most of the year. Buying the D90 was also the beginning of a series of parallel upgrades that my sister and I have done. We now always have the same (or nearly the same) model as each other as it helps enormously when you can discuss the same camera and share the same kit.

I still had the D90 when I moved to Scotland and started experimenting with family photo sessions. I often heard the D90 being praised by people who used it for semi-pro work and certainly the photos it took along with my 85mm prime lens (as below) were great.

I got lucky...
But of course it wasn’t perfect and after two years I started eying up the next model and wanting a camera with better low light performance…



2012 : Nikon D700 (£1000)

Somewhere along your photography journey, friends who are into cameras will start talking to you about full-frame sensors and how you amazing it is when you upgrade. For me this happened in 2012 and pushed along by a friend who knew someone who was selling his D700, I decide to make the big leap and sell my D90, but it did not go smoothly.

d700
Only days after taking delivery of the camera it developed a fault with the shutter which rendered the camera unusable and having spent all my money on a hugely expensive upgrade I was terrified. In the end the fault (which it transpired was something that randomly effected all D700s at some point in their life) was fixed and I shared the cost with the seller, but it still left me £100 out of pocket. I was also very naive about the cost of full-frame lenses. Suddenly I was down to just one lens (my 50mm) and all the frame lenses I could buy started at £600 and rocketed up to thousands.

What I didn’t realise fully at the time is that the D700 took beautiful pictures. They were saturated with light, sharp where they should be with wonderful depth of field.

New Year

However I had an over-riding fear that my model was a ‘lemon’ and along with the shock of the cost of future lenses I panicked and made me make a silly move. I decided I needed to be back in my comfort-zone of cropped sensor cameras with a warranty that would make me feel safe so I traded in my D700



2013 : Nikon D7100 (£800 approx)

Six months after my upgrade to full-frame I decided to go back to a cropped sensor camera. Most importantly I wanted a new camera with a guarantee that wouldn’t let me down! My sister also traded in her D90 for a D7000 and I went for the newly released model above the D7100. Though the camera itself was great, slowly I started to appreciate that I’d given up something special with my D700. It’s very hard to put your finger on what exactly it is about full-frames, but I read something recently that described it like this. “If you spilled something, a large table cloth would soak up more of it than a small one” and that is the best way I can explain the relationship between light and sensor size.

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Gradually I started to use my 18-105mm lens less and less which rather defeated the object of being able to afford the cheaper zoom lenses. My sister eventually traded in her D7000 last year and replaced it with a D610. I could see that subtle but magical difference in her pictures almost immediately and I realised I’d made a horrible mistake giving up my D700, which leaves me where I found myself last week…

I went back to the place I had bought the D7100 and traded it in for a second hand D600. By doing so I am once again back to just one lens (my 50mm) but I’m on the road I want to be on and happy to be looking ahead to be purchasing my next lens some time next year or whenever I can afford it. The part-exchange cost me £325, which is actually not too bad. The D600 got a bad name for itself due to a fault which it was recalled for. That fault has been fixed on my model which leaves me with a cheaper but near-identical version of my sister’s D610.

It’s early days yet, but already I can see the magic happening when I look down the lens and I’m happy to be back with full-frame…

  • July 1, 2015 - 9:35 am

    Hannah - I traded in my Nikon d3100 for a D600 a few months ago and I am in love. I grew frustrated with my original camera’ s lack of low light ability amongst other things but now I feel so inspired again. Great choice of camera! :)ReplyCancel

    • July 1, 2015 - 10:20 am

      claremansell@mac.com - I’m so glad all these D600 owners are coming out of the woodwork! They aren’t the sexiest of purchases because the shutter fault gave them a bad name, but they seem to be great cameras! :-)ReplyCancel

  • July 1, 2015 - 1:00 pm

    Charlotte - Always interesting to read other people’s camera stories. You made me laugh with the shutter speed of your Canon 400D – I have the 600D and while I mostly love the camera, I hate the shutter sound! It sounds so plasticky and it’s so loud, especially compared to my friends’ Nikons.
    I’d really love to upgrade and a full frame is so tempting, but I’d never have enough money to buy a lens for it! 70D for me I think.ReplyCancel

  • July 1, 2015 - 3:59 pm

    Ickle Pickle - I bought my first DSLR last summer- a Nikon – and have no idea what I am doing with it! Kaz xReplyCancel

  • July 1, 2015 - 5:59 pm

    Em @snowingindoors - I’m glad you’re happy with your new camera and I’m only ‘slightly’ jealous that you’ve gone full frame. Have fun with it xxReplyCancel

  • July 5, 2015 - 7:16 pm

    My Two Mums - I love this post, it makes me want to upgrade asap. If only I had the money.ReplyCancel