Family Photo Album

Introducing my brand new family photo album! The perfect addition to my product line. It's an absolute stunner!

With it's handmade hard cover and layflat pages, printed on Cannon Deep Matte paper, it looks and feels luxurious. You can personalise the album with your chosen image in a cut out window on the front cover and even choose different colour textured covers too.

For only £350, you can add this to your package and know that you have a beautiful family heirloom to last a lifetime. You can fix approximately 30 images inside a standard family photo album or upgrade to include more of your favourites.

For a limited time only, I'll be offering the album to my past family clients for only £300 but the offer will end on June 30th 2019. So get your orders in now.

Find out more about my prices and other products on my pricing page. See more of my work in my portfolio.

 


How to raise children with high self esteem!

Collaboration

I've been following the hilarious writer Rhiannon from The Daily Boyle on Instagram for a while and really like her no nonsense, straight talking attitude to life. I got in touch with her to ask if she'd like to collaborate on a blog post together about raising kids with high self esteem. We're both mothers and both trying our best, like everyone else, to help our kids navigate through life as well rounded, confident people.

child jumping on the beach

 

Meetings and research

After researching my post about how to boost your child's self esteem through displaying family photos around the house, it got me thinking. What else can we do to help raise confident kids that have a high self esteem? Rhiannon and I met for a coffee in Cowbridge and had a good old chat about it all. I wasn't a very confident child and never had very high self esteem. But I'm doing my very best to ensure that my kids do. We chatted about all the things that we're both doing, instinctively, as mothers and what else we could be doing. Rhiannon spent a long time researching the post and with her background as a teacher, she had even more knowledge to use.

 

portrait of someone working on a laptop
Writer - Rhiannon Boyle

 

The post

In the post, she covers a huge amount - including, love, attention, valuing emotions and praise. There's also information on structure, boundaries, behaviour and responsibilities. She discusses the impact of pride, health, confidence and challenges. And the importance of being a role model. Finally, she mentions outward factors - particularly the impact of social media on our kids.

It's a great read, so grab a cuppa and head on over to her blog for the full article.

Follow her on Instragram at The Daily Boyle.

child running on the beach with outstretched arms

I also had a great personal branding shoot with Rhiannon last week. A blog post with some of the images from her shoot is coming soon!

Gem x


Beach lovers guide to the Vale (and beyond)

I've lived in the Vale of Glamorgan, South Wales, for 14 years and I still feel like a tourist. Living by the coast gives you that holiday feeling all year round and I spend as much time at the beach as I can. As a family and child photographer I tend to combine my love of the beach with my love of photography and do a lot of shoots at my local beaches. If you're like me and only truly happy with sandy feet and salty skin, then have a look at my beach lovers guide to the Vale and beyond!

This is a very personal list, based on the places that I regularly visit or shoot at. I know there's lots of other beautiful beaches in the area and still have plenty yet to visit.

I live in a small village just outside Cowbridge, a busy market town, nestled amongst the gentle rolling hills West of Cardiff. So, I'll start with my favourite local beaches and then head further afield to some of my favourites in the Gower and Pembrokeshire too.

girl on beach, rocks, water.

Southerndown Beach (Dunraven Bay)

At a glance: Car park, Shop, Toilets, Lifeguards, Disabled facilities, no dogs between May-Sept.

Although officially called Dunraven Bay, everyone locally calls it Southerndown, after the nearby village. This is my number one local beach. There's something magical about driving down the steep road from the cliffs at the top to the car park below. You catch glimpses of the water and we're always craning our necks on the way down the hill to see how much beach there is. It took a few years for us to understand the rhythm of the tides and to know what time to go to make sure there was sand to sit on (I'm originally a city dweller!). I've got the BBC Tide Tables as a favourite on my phone, so we never get caught out (anymore).

There's three car parks. One right by the beach and then an overflow car park on one of the fields above and a pay and display car park at the top of the hill. In recent years they have started charging for parking all year around (not just in the Summer months), so it can cost between £3.50-£5 to park for the day. There's also a toilet block (very handy indeed) and a little kiosk shop selling ice creams and beach paraphernalia as well as a nice cup of tea.

The beach itself is a lovely little bay, dwarfed by the Jurassic cliffs along the coast. Please be aware that there a regular rock falls from the cliffs, so you must not sit directly underneath them.

When the tide is low, there's a large crescent of sand to play on and some fabulous rock pools. When the tide is high, there's no sand at all but you can still sit on the rocks (away from the cliffs) and enjoy time at the beach.

If you walk through the car park and up the cliff, there's lots of different paths to take to explore the area and also there's the lovely Dunraven Gardens. Perched high on the cliff, they provide a great spot for a picnic and shelter from the wind as well. There's lots of paths to take through the gardens and beyond to some awesome cliff top walks.

I do a lot of family shoots at this beach all year round. If you'd like to see some, check out my blog and family portfolio. I've put a small handful in a little collage below.

I could talk all day about Southerndown. It has a piece of my heart but there's plenty more to see, so on we go.

Places to eat and drink nearby:

Frolics - An Italian restaurant right near the beach.

Three Golden Cups - The nearest pub to the beach.

southerndown beach

Ogmore

At a glance: Car Park, Mobile vendors, Toilets, Lifeguards, Disabled facilities, dogs allowed all year.

The Ogmore River meets the sea at Ogmore Beach. On one side there's a large sandy beach and on the other side of the river are the Merthyr Mawr sand dunes (some of the largest dunes in Europe!).

There's a large car park at the beach and sometimes mobile coffee and ice cream vendors in the car park as well.

Ogmore is a large beach and when the tide is out, you can walk quite far along beach towards Southerndown. If the tide is in, then there's plenty of rocks to climb and little coves to visit. There's great rock pools too and a it's a fabulous place to hunt for fossils.

Places to eat and drink nearby:

Cobbles Kitchen - Winner of the Welsh Restaurant of the Year 2018. This place is highly recommended and our 'go to' place for a coffee (and cake) on the way home from the beach. Also great for meals too.

The Pelican in her Piety - A pub that also serves food.

The Watermill - A Brains pub. It has an outdoor play area, so it's great if you have little ones.

images of Ogmore beach

Rest Bay

At a glance: Car Park, Toilets, Lifeguards, Disabled facilities

Just down the road from the seaside town of Porthcawl you'll find Rest Bay. This is another one of my favourite places to hang out and where I go surfing with my daughter. It's a massive beach and when the tide is low, there's loads of room to spread out and spend the day (enjoying the odd game of rounders or cricket). The beach is very popular with surfers, kite surfers and body boarders and each has their own separate area to play (when the lifeguards are there).

Most people tend to plonk their stuff down as soon as they hit the sand but if you walk a little way along the beach, it's much quieter.

There's also a lovely boardwalk/path that runs along the back of the beach and beyond in the westerly direction. You can walk all the way from Porthcawl, past Rest Bay and along the coast on the same path. When my kids were younger it was a regular day out for us, with scooters, bikes or roller skates. We always tempted them with a picnic at Rest Bay and then a promise of a cake when they got back to Porthcawl! It's also the route of the weekly 5k Parkrun on a Saturday morning.

There's a couple of surf schools and you can hire equipment from them as well as book lessons - so if you need a wetsuit or a surfboard in a hurry then they've got it covered. Visit Portcawl Surf and Adventures Wales for more information.

Places to eat and drink nearby:

There's plans for a brand new sports centre and cafe to be built near the car park.

Porthcawl is only a minute down the road and there's plenty of cafes and shops there.

 

surfboards, flip flops, beach

The Gower

Rhossili

At a glance: Car Park, Shop, Toilets, Disabled facilities

Ah Rhossili. I first visited Rhossili on a camping trip with friends about 5 years ago. I'm ashamed to say, that even though I'm a massive beach lover, I was a little afraid of the water. Then one day in Rhossili, I threw caution to the wind and had my first experience of body boarding. The waves there can get pretty big but the bigger the better right? I've never looked back since that day. I went off and bought my own body board and then progressed to surfing a year or so later. Surfing is now my favourite thing to do. Ever. I'm rubbish at it but learning all the time and determined to improve.

With a 3 mile stretch of sandy beach, ending with the iconic Worms Head and more beach awards than you can shake a stick at, Rhossili is one stunner of a beach.

When we visit, it's normally via the campsite Hillend, which is just behind the sand dunes in the centre of the beach. There's a car park and also a cafe on the campsite with toilets etc. You can also access the beach from the National Trust car park at the Rhossili end of the beach. It's a steep walk down from the car park but worth every step.

If you love body boarding or surfing get down there. If you look closely you can see me surfing on the smallest wave in the world below. You can hire and buy surf gear from PJ's Surf Shop in Llangennith.

Places to eat and drink nearby:

The Bay Bistro in Rhossili

The King's Head in Llangennith is great for a drink and dinner - a regular haunt of ours when we're camping.

Pembrokeshire

Barafundle Bay

At a glance: Car Park, Shop, Toilets

For years I wanted to visit Barafundle Bay but legend (Mum friends) had it that it was a massive walk from the car park to the beach and I was afraid of schlepping the kids on an epic walk so put off the visit until they were a bit older. We eventually made it there a few years ago and were pleasantly surprised (after packing supplies as if we were going to the North Pole), that it was in fact about a 10-15 minute walk from the National Trust car park. A pretty flat and easy walk too, apart from the stairs at the start and end. So, don't be afraid my friends! Set the sat nav and off you go.

There's a car park, run by the National Trust and of course the obligatory National Trust cafe and toilet facilities.

The last time we visited we went for a walk around the headland as well and could see over to the beautiful Broadhaven beach a bit further down the coast.

images of barafundle bay

I know there's a plethora of gorgeous beaches all the way along the Welsh coastline. It would be impossible to mention them all, so this is just a little taster of my favourites.

I can't leave without a little shout out to some of the other gorgeous beaches that we've visited since moving to Wales 14 years ago. There's many more that are on my 'to see' list. If you have any suggestions, let me know!

woman holding a scarf on a beach

Even more beaches

Three Cliffs Bay - an absolute stunner.

Bracelet Bay - a cute little bay with playground, car park and restaurant nearby.

Langland Bay - family friendly beach with car park and facilities.

Caswell Bay - popular with families and surfers. Car park and facilities nearby.

Tenby - gorgeous beaches in this beautiful Pembrokeshire town.

Saundersfoot - I can highly recommend the very decadent and perfectly placed St Brides Spa Hotel perched high on the hill overlooking the beach. Check out a fabulous headshot photo shoot in the hotel and a portrait shoot on the beach below.

children playing on a beach at sunset

I'm always on the look out for new locations for family photo shoots and love discovering new beaches. If you have any recommendations, please let me know!

If you'd like to book a family photo shoot in South Wales, get in touch!

Gem x


Kitchen Renovation - Before & After

I've recently completed my kitchen renovation and wanted to share the before and after images to help anyone else thinking of doing the same thing.

After living in our house with a dated kitchen for 10 years, we decided to try and give it a bit of a makeover. We planned to do most of the work ourselves, so we were a little worried that it would end up looking a bit rubbish. But, it didn't! It looks pretty fab. I know loads of people have similar kitchens, so before you chuck them out, think about changing a few key elements and save yourself a fortune. There's links at the end of the post to all the suppliers used.

 

kitchen painted in farrow and ball paint

Here's what we did:

Replaced the floor.

Replaced the worktops, sink & taps.

Changed the light fittings.

Added a door for our new 'pantry'.

Glued tongue and groove over the old tiles.

Painted the cupboards/drawers and added new handles/knobs.

Removed some old cupboards.

Painted the walls and ceiling.

Bought barstools for the new breakfast bar.

List of suppliers at the end of the post.

 

PLANNING

It took a while for us to work out what sort of design we wanted for the kitchen. I enlisted A LOT of help from friends (they are all rolling their eyes and nodding if they are reading this) for the look and feel of the kitchen. We opted for a "country kitchen" feel because it went well with the house and the existing design that we had.

We were on a very tight budget, so spent a lot of time researching prices and looking for online suppliers that would be cheaper than the high street DIY stores.

kitchen refurbishment

PAINT

We knew we were going to keep the walls Almond White (Dulux) as we have the colour throughout the house. For the cupboards we opted for the more expensive Farrow & Ball paints. We tried a few tester pots on the doors and eventually chose Pigeon. It's a sort of greeny grey colour and it looks different in different lights. We also bought the Farrow & Ball undercoat as advised but used a primer from Wickes too.

Of course, there's the option of matching a Farrow & Ball colour with a cheaper paint but we've done that elsewhere in the house and it just isn't the same finish. There wasn't a massive difference in price to choose the paint that we wanted, so we went for it.

I'm not going to lie, painting the cupboards and all the wood work was a monumental task. It took WEEKS and was very slow going. However, if we'd paid someone to do it for us, or bought new cupboard doors, it would have cost so much more. In hindsight, it was worth it, but there was a LOT of whinging (from me) and frustration (from me) about how long it was taking.

Each door and drawer front had to be removed and have the handles removed. Then it was cleaned, sanded and cleaned again. Only then did the painting begin. Each door/drawer front was painted with white primer (both sides - twice), painted with undercoat (both sides**) and painted with Pigeon (both sides - twice). We used brushes for the edges and a soft foam roller for the flat parts. Did we need so many layers - who knows?! We were worried about it looking bad, so we wanted to do the best possible job. **You may wonder why the undercoat is so dark - hangs head in shame - I ordered the wrong one. Moving swiftly on...

 

kitchen doors being painted

One of the biggest issues with painting the doors was that we just didn't have room for them all to dry. I used boxes and cardboard on the floor and anything else I could get my hands on to lay them out but eventually ran out of room. I painted until I ran out of drying space and then went back the next day to carry on. TIP - THINK ABOUT WHERE YOU CAN LET THINGS DRY AND MAKE PLENTY OF ROOM.

 

painted kitchen doors

Being total novice kitchen renovators we didn't think to mark the doors in any way so they could be put back in an orderly fashion. Oh no, we just stacked things willy-nilly around the place and so I had a fun afternoon of trying to work out which door went where (let's just say I wasn't successful the first few times). Picture on the left below is how NOT to hand doors. TIP - MAKE A NOTE OF WHERE EACH DOOR BELONGS.

 

painted kitchen

Obviously, the same attitude was taken with all the screws and fixings. We chucked everything in a plastic bag and by some miracle, we only ended up with a few things missing at the end. TIP - MAKE A NOTE OF WHICH SCREWS AND FIXINGS GO WITH WHICH BITS.

 

kitchen handles

Painting the walls was pretty straightforward and I painted them twice over 2 days. We had very dark beams on the ceiling and so it took a few coats to cover those and paint the ceiling. TIP - BE CAREFUL. CHEAP MASKING TAPE IS NOT YOUR FRIEND. IT WILL BETRAY YOU.

FLOORING

After shopping around, we thought that we wouldn't be able to afford a new floor. We spoke to a few outlets on industrial estates and they all assured us that we'd need a screed to level the dodgy tiled floor. Add that to the cost of the floor and then whole thing was too much. Luckily, our lovely carpenter suggested a friend of his that owned his own flooring business. Steve is friendly and efficient and sorted a new floor with minimum fuss and totally within budget. His contact details are at the end of the post. TIP - USE STEVE.

kitchen floor before and after

LIGHTS

We wanted to move the lights slightly to have them hang directly over the breakfast bar. We chose some pendant lights from Next and then some plain bar lights from John Lewis. Both fittings cost less than £200 and our very lovely and clever friend Dave came to fit them for us. Don't worry, he got a nice bottle of rum and some vouchers for his troubles. TIP - KNOW A DAVE.

pendant light from Next

WORKTOPS

Resigned to our budget, we only expected to be able to afford a laminate worktop but after some research we realised that we could order some solid oak from Worktop Express and it wasn't going to cost too much more. We chose a sink and taps from there as well.

The worktops were fitted by local carpenter Gareth Jones, who's done a beautiful job.

kitchen worktop

TONGUE & GROOVE

The tongue and groove was a late decision. As you can see from the pictures we had a wall full of yellow tiles with ahem, interesting fruit designs dotted around the place. We assumed that it would be too expensive to have the tiles removed and replaced so we'd made peace with keeping them - even though we really didn't want to. Luckily, the carpenter came up with a brilliant solution - to glue tongue and groove over the top of them! He made new windowsills too and it really finishes the kitchen off. Without it, I think the kitchen would look unfinished.

kitchen refurb

SINK & TAPS

I really wanted an undermounted sink. I hated the sink we had. It was really hard to clean around the back of the taps and I liked the idea of sweeping mess straight into the sink. We had a quick look around at undermounted sinks and could have spent much more on one but we were just after something pretty plain and simple. In the end we opted for a plain stainless steel one from Worktop Express.  The taps also came from there as well. As you can see from the picture we had two different dodgy taps on the old sink. It's such a pleasure to use the new taps!

The draining grooves were added by the carpenter, Gareth, after the sink had been fitted. Being solid oak, the worktop needed a few coats of oil before we could use it. We're a bit paranoid about damaging the wood, so we've added extra oil around the parts that get wet regularly. It's something that we'll have to do every now and again.

kitchen sink

BITS & BOBS

I'm not a big fan of shopping at all. I don't really enjoy the process of choosing things and agonising over decisions. I'd much rather be reading a book or listening to music than trawling through websites. However, there was one bit of the whole experience that I thoroughly enjoyed and it only took about 15 minutes! We visited Bath a few weeks ago and I love mooching around the shop Anthropolgie. There's so many pretty things in there - that I can't afford. I mostly just go around touching things and imagining being able to buy things. This time, I decided to treat myself! I bought two coasters (£8 each) and a knob (£6)! I absolutely love the coasters. They are my favourite purchase in a long time and go so well with the colours in the kitchen. Next time I'm in Bath, I'm going to buy another two!

kitchen accessories

SUPPLIERS

Laminate floor. Contact Steve from Hickman Flooring - Highly recommended

Solid oak worktop and breakfast bar -Worktop Express

Fitting by Gareth Jones.

Undermount Stainless Steel Sink - £140 - Worktop Express

Mixer Taps - £60 - Worktop Express

Pendant light - £90 - Next

Bar light - £80 - John Lewis

Bi-fold door - £65 - B&Q

Knob for bi-fold door - £6 - Anthropologie

Paint (incl undercoat) for cupboard doors/drawers/woodwork - £153 - Pigeon from Farrow & Ball

Paint for the walls and other woodwork - Almond white from Dulux.

All Handles and knobs - £70 - Amazon

Barstools (bought in the Sale) from Leekes

Coasters -£8 - Antropologie


Winter beach family shoot

I love taking photos at the beach all year round. This winter beach family shoot, just after the snow fall in February, is gorgeous.

The shoot was booked as a surprise for Dad's birthday. The idea was to get some lovely pictures of the three children (plus puppy) together, to be printed on a canvas. I say 'children', even though the two eldest are officially adults because you're never too old to take part in a family shoot. Just because you're in your twenties, doesn't mean that your parents don't want to look at photos of you. :)

The shoot took place at my favourite local beach, Southerndown (Dunraven Bay). If you look closely in the background you can see a bit of snow left on the hillside. It was absolutely freezing but we managed a walk around the gardens and made it to the beach in time for the sunset.

It was super slippery and myself and youngest both fell over and had a nice coating of mud. I managed to hit both camera's on the floor as well as getting covered in mud in the car park before we'd even started! Not the first time I've fallen over on a shoot and I'm sure it won't be the last either!

But, it's all worth it to get a beautiful set of images.

Have a little nosey below to see what we got up to. At the end of the post, you'll see a 9 image collage - my most popular product. Putting 9 images together from a shoot is a great way to display your favourite images. Find out more about my products on my Products page.

If you'd like to book family photo shoot - have a look at my Family Portfolio and Pricing page for more information.

I'm offering a limited edition of Mini Beach Sessions from April-July 2019 - you can find out more and book a slot directly through the website too. Be quick though as there's only a handful of slots left. Find out more.

Get in touch if you have any questions.

Gem x

 

3 siblings watching a beach sunset in the wintergirl on the beach watching the sunsetboy on the beach watching the sunsetthree sibilings and doglittle boy leaning on fenceboy and girl on the beach watching the sunsetsiblings, sea, beach, rocksportrait of girl leaning on fenceboy, leaning on wallblack and white portrait of girl3 siblings portraitcouple portraitteenage boy laughinggirl leaning on fence3 siblings portraitbrother and sister portraitgirl on the beach watching the sunsetsiblings on the beach watching the sunsetsiblings and puppyboy leaning on gateboy on the beach watching the sunsetgirl on the beach watching the sunsetbrother and sister on the beach girl on the beach watching the sunsetblack and white portrait of three people on beach

portrait of girl on beachportrait of boy on beachportrait of girl on beachteenage boy leaning on gate3 siblings on rock at the beachblack and white portrait of girl on beach3 siblings portraitgirl on the beach watching the sunsetbrother and sister