Expert Tips: Capturing Those “Perfect” Moments

We recently met local photographer Claudine Yap. As a new mum to a two-month old son, she’s making a transition in her photography career from event photography to children and family portrait photography, offering on-location shots or studio shots.


Based in Buckhurst Hill, she shoots in her bespoke studio or on location for your family.

She specialises in recording the feelings of family life: joy, wonder, happiness, quiet contemplation, and great good humour. Shooting newborns, babies, children and family, she aspires to create a fun and relaxed environment during her photo shoots to bring out the very best in people.

We asked her to give her suggestions for taking our own family photos. We thought this might come in handy as the Christmas season approaches.

  1. I always advise my clients to put plain, bright-coloured clothes on their children, especially if the pictures are taken outdoors, because patterned clothing can sometimes add distraction to the picture on an already busy background. Of course we think you should still go for the shot of the whole gang in Christmas jumpers in front of the tree, but for those special moments, less really might be more.
  2. If possible, always use natural light – near windows if you’re indoors and indirect natural light like under a tree if you are outdoors on a sunny day to avoid harsh light on your subject. Cloudy days usually offer the perfect lighting. Lucky us–we’ve got plenty of those. The light should always be in front of the subject unless aiming for a ‘silhouette’ look. Try to avoid using flash as this can cause red-eye and harsh-looking light on your subject.
  3. It helps to have another parent or “favourite” around to help with getting them to smile. Usually by talking and playing with the children helps. And try to schedule around nap and meal times to avoid erm unpleasant moments.
  4. Take multiple shots at a time to avoid missing out on capturing what could be your child’s best expression and best moments!
  5. Get down to their eye level and see the world from their perspective.
Good luck and remember to have fun! Patience is required to get the perfect shot. You know what we mean.
If you’re still not convinced that you can swing it, why not give Claudine a call. She’s running a special offer on Mumsnet Local, which you can find on our Offers page. The price in the Offer is based on photography in London and Essex. She is happy to travel further afield, and will give a quotation for that expense.

Georgia Lindsay’s Family Garden and ‘Bub Tub’ Competition

Calm and reassuring, the figure of a circle makes us think of a great big hug, and Georgia Lindsay, a finalist in  the 2014 Grand Designs Garden Design competition, created a garden full of them. We met the London-based designer during a family day out to the Grand Designs show last Spring and instantly knew we had to help her show it off!

Action man

A gorgeous metal swing seat designed by Steve Myburgh (Myburgh Designs) provides comfortable and playful respite from all the action in the garden. Artificial turf is used throughout. This can be cut in shapes to help form the lids for the tugs and circular play spaces.

The colours and shapes of this wonderfully child friendly space made my children beam, a response Georgia was clearly aiming for:

“The circles were very deliberate. Soft curves seem much friendlier and child orientated than angular lines.” I also was taken with the boldness of simple colours and shapes that were. . .well, appealing.

Georgia-Lindsay A penchant for clean lines were traded in for a family garden resplendent with circles in order to create a family friendly and appropriate design.

“I am actually known for doing very clean lined contemporary gardens but for this Family Garden I made a deliberate decision to smooth out all the edges.”

The garden upholds the circular theme, from the choice of a single proliferating bloom–a daisy–to the circular-seats of the beautiful steel swing and Georgia’s signature ‘Bub Tub’ kiddie seats to the holes dug as an interchangeable sandpit or paddling pool or trampline recess, or even a fire pit for some grown-up fun!

The seating area is inviting, comfortable, and purposeful. The softly circular theme is maintained whilst remembering that children DO go to bed (after helping to put the toys away, of course) and then the adults do not want to be sat in the middle of a landscaped toy shop. To that end, she has oh-so-cleverly devised turfed fitting lids for the play pits.

seating zone

Georgia’s “Bub Tubs”: One of the attractions of the chairs is that they can easily transform back into a storage bucket once the kids have grown out of them. They also stack easily when the cushion is taken out and look fabulous in all the beautiful rainbow colours they come in. People also love that they can store toys in the little compartment under the cushion, a little bit less clutter is always a bonus with kids!

So how did she dream up this amazing landscape? “The brief of the competition this year was introducing colour to your garden,” she tells us. “It would have been too predictable using colourful plants to fulfil this brief so I purposely didn’t use any flowers with colour and chose the white daisies and green grass as a neutral palette.”

Atop this neutral palette are the play spaces and sitting spaces: a beautiful wrought metal swing seat hovers over a dug-out circle, giving the feeling of depth. The gentle steps up and down were designed to make the terrain easily navigable for little ones.  She is a mum of two toddlers, ages 2 years and 9 months and 11months, so the well-imagined and safely realised space is a true labour of love: “The garden was really a tribute to them,” she says, and “completely designed for that age group, hence the curved lines and easy heights to navigate.”

Grand Designs Live Excel 4-12 May 2013

Kevin McCloud, of the Grand Designs Show, called the garden “innovative and practical.”

Since the show this Spring, Georgia has been overwhelmed with interest in her design and for the “Bub Tub” she designed for the garden. “The reusable quality of them really has appealed to people. As we parents all know we go through kids’ paraphernalia so quickly as they grow out of things so fast.”

Innovative yet practical. And we really like that.

Creating Your Own Garden

daisiesGeorgia’s design was purpose-built as a small show space, but you can use some of her great ideas in your own garden, large or small.

Do consider the shapes of the things in your garden–choose furniture, flower beds, and blooms with rounded edges instead of sharp, angular ones. Georgia recommends sunflowers for rapid and impressive growth.

And back to the theme of purposeful–why not incorporate edible, weed-controlling blooms? “Strawberries are another great one, not only do you get the thrill of picking the juicy fruit but also the added pleasure of putting them to bed in a little nest of straw. All veggies give great satisfaction, I don’t think anyone could ever tire of the thrill of pulling a carrot from the ground and the condensed carroty smell which fills the air.”


Play Along and Win a Pair of Bub Tubs

Grand Designs Live Excel 3-11 May May 2014

These amazing little chairs are soft, stackable, and have toy storage underneath! Perfect for toddlers and pre-schoolers, for indoor or outdoor use.

This garden is so chock full of playfulness, irresistibly so. Mumsnet Local and Wanstead’s neighbourhood pub, The Duke, would love for you to play along, so here’s your big chance.

We’d love to hear your suggestions for simple, affordable child-friendly home gardens. The winner will receive a pair of Georgia’s signature Bub Tubs, pictured here. These are valued at £45 each. If you’d like to get up close and personal with the Bub Tubs, they’ll be at The Duke in Wanstead from Friday, July 25th until the competition closes.

Entries will be accepted from Friday, July 25th until Midnight on Sunday August 3rd. The winner will be chosen by Georgia Lindsay herself.

If you’re having trouble thinking of ideas, our friend at Mumsnet Suffolk and Norfolk has some great ones on her blog.

When you’re ready, post your idea to the Talk thread on Mumsnet Local – Redbridge. You must post your entry by midnight on Sunday August 3rd, 2014.

Good luck and have a wonderful, playful summer!

  • Find your Mumsnet Local web site here–register by updating your Mumsnet account and receive a customised monthly newsletter with all the latest happenings in your area.

duke wanstead

Head over to The Duke on Thursday 31st July & Friday 1st August at 10am when they will be hosting their Little Duke’s kids club.

Meeting the Purple Pumpkin

Sometimes you meet some really lovely people on the Internet. This week, whilst preparing for this week’s newsletter, I made a terrific find:!

Blogger Michelle Ordever has an amazing photographic and writing talent, making the Purple Pumpkin lovely to look at and a worthwhile read.


We’ve used her beautiful, serene depiction of Fairlop Waters sailing lake for this month’s Redbridge home page. It’s part of her blog entry in which she woke up at the crack of dawn to watch the historic Olympic torch relay leg at Fairlop. Do have a mini-scroll down memory lane: The Olympic-Torch at Fairlop Waters park.

Thanks Michelle! And we’ll definitely be checking back in with you.

Allons Le Tour!

Cambridge / Londres

Stage 3 of this year’s Tour de France will speed through our streets on Monday, July 7th before whizzing off to France via air transport. We’d had a rather fanciful thought involving a tardis, though.  .  .

stage 3 tour

Full route details online at

Beginning in Cambridge just after Noon, le Tour will arrive in Redbridge and Waltham Forest in the early afternoon, criss-crossing the boroughs on the way into Central London. The promotional caravan–get your free Tour gear–arrives in Epping New Road from approximately 1.05pm followed by the race at approximately 2.40pm. The route continues down Woodford New Road, through the Whipps Cross roundabout, and onto Lea Bridge Road into Leyton via Orient Way then on to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, through East London and into Westminster, where Stage 3 ends.

Best viewing points in the order that the race will reach them:

  • Epping New Road (Roadside, E4)
  • All Saints Church in Woodford Wells (Inmans Row, Woodford Green, Essex IG8 0NH) is opening its doors to the community for the duration of the event (café, toilet and TV screens) as well as family activities on the green.
  • Whipps Cross roundabout—large television screen to watch the race, Waltham Forest council-run activities
  • Lea Bridge Road (no facilities, roadside viewing)
  • Leyton Green
  • Baker’s Arms junction

If you’re watching from Epping New Road or Woodford New Road, be sure to check in at either of these spots:

  • Woodford Wells Club in Monkhams Lane (IG8 ONL) is welcoming the community to bring picnics, make full use of the club’s facilities and its newly refurbished club bar.
  • The Larder at Butler’s Retreat, 12 Rangers Road, Chingford, E4 7QH Click here for their menu.

Watching at Whipps Cross Roundabout or Lea Bridge Road?

Alfred-HitchcockWalk down to the friendly Sir Alfred Hitchcock Pub and Restaurant (147 Whipps Cross Road, E11 1NP). Full facilities are available and the manager is preparing a warm welcome for racegoers, including a BBQ! Unless, of course, it rains. . .  Do expect a lovely cream teas and the manager’s Tour specials–fish and chips, steak and ale pies. Full kids menu available.

And if sitting in the afternoon sun leaves you needing a little peace and quiet, take a break and visit Hollow Ponds Boating Lake, row a boat or sit in a shady spot. Just down from the Sir Alfred and opposite. Snacks and drinks available at the outposts, minimal facilities.


A bit further afield, the Duke pub in Wanstead is super family-friendly and is the perfect spot to head to for an early supper after a full day. Plenty for the kids to do there.

Le Tour’s official web site is

Plan ahead and make it a great day out!

Check out our Mumsnet Local partner sites whoa re also hosting Le Tour 2014:

Making East London Home through Furniture Re-Use

The Quakers have always been full of great ideas. For one, they invented chocolate.

I could just stop there, couldn’t I?

qsa logoQuaker Social Action has been at work for 145 years in East London, under the moniker, “Working for a Just World Where People Put People First.”

And this is just the message East Londoners need to hear. Often. This is a high-density corner of the world. Some of us have lots of stuff, while others can’t afford it. But we all live next to each other. And the amount of ‘stuff’ that some of us have can cause problems–flytipping for one. We need people with great ideas to keep things running smoothly.

Enter QSA’s Homestore, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The furniture re-use charity project collects quality new or used furniture donations from businesses and private individuals and sells it on at a low cost to low-income East Londoners, our neighbours. Everything someone would need to fit out a decent family home is on offer at the Homestore Warehouse, at prices that rival even those of charity shops.

I used QSA’s Homestore a few years ago when I moved in with DH. He had a few items from his bachelor days that ahem needed a new home. So I sent a home office desk and a tv console their way. I called Homestore again recently as we’re renovating and have a dining table and sofas that are too small for our growing family. And I became intrigued.

Last week, I brought the girls along for a browse in the warehouse and to meet Jane Williams, who heads up Fundraising and Communications for QSA and Homestore Manager Jim Carling. It’s tucked away in a Stratford industrial estate, quite near to the wonderful new Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, one of our favourite new spots to visit. Inside, the Homestore is a cheery, bright place, welcoming for families looking for things to make their homes nicer. It’s not long before the little ones ‘ask’ if they can bounce on the settees.

warehouse floor 2013Jim explains that for every £1 in donation, the Homestore needs to fundraise £2. It is a grand-scale furniture recycling scheme staffed by full-time employees and volunteers. Homestore’s fleet of lorries shuttle between pickup points in seven East London boroughs and back to the warehouse several times a day. Donors are asked to contact Homestore about their donations and these will be pre-qualified before a driver is committed to picking up: It’s essential that any donated items are in compliance with fire and child safety regulations, and the Homestore staff will determine the suitability of your items over the phone or by email.

At the warehouse, furniture is given a quick scrubbing up, and put on sale. Customers of the Homestore must show proof of low income in order to shop here. Donors can give their items in a safe, reliable, and convenient way. And if you’re a Freecycler or EBayer, like we are, you know what this means.


Theresa is a teacher in Hackney. She enjoys a home with a lovely view out to the park from picture windows. When she was expecting her baby last year, she needed to move furniture out of her spare room to create a nursery. She chose Homestore to donate her very smart coffee table and a beautiful jumbo cord-covered sofa.

Become a Donor

In order to make its next 25 years a success, QSA is appealing for donations of more good quality furnishings from East London homes. So, instead of Freecycle or eBay, consider donating your furnishings to Homestore.

Donation guidelines are viewable and  downloadable here.

Unfortunately, some childrens’ and baby furniture cannot be donated as the safety compliance cannot be verified. Donated items can have normal wear and tear, so don’t worry about the odd scratch.

Mumsnet Local serves all of the boroughs in which Homestore collects donations. Listings can be found in the following categories–Community Organisations, Eco Services, Removals and Storage–or by clicking directly on the links below.

Local Business Chat with Vicki of Victoria’s Sponge

victorias spongeThis busy mum of two is making strides in her baking business, creating beautiful and delicious works of art for families celebrating special occasions all over London.

We pinned her down for a moment to ask some not-so-pointed questions.

Er, please read the interview before scrolling down to look at the cakes. . .

Q: How long have you been baking? 

I’ve been baking for 3 years but only taking orders for the last six months- It’s always been a hobby and a hit with my family and friends who have pushed me to take it up as a business.

Q: Which is your favourite cake, speaking, ahem, professionally of course? 

I know this is going to sound boring but my absolute favourite and speciality is my Victoria sponge. I do love making and eating this!

I also really enjoy making the tiered cakes–because at the end you stand back and have an instant WOW factor. I’ve made some huge cakes: one was 24 inches tall and the bottom tier was 20 inches in diameter. It fed 400!!

Q: What made you want to go into the baking business?

I started this as a hobby when I was quoted ridiculous amount of money for a cake I wanted and thought that I could do it myself. Ever since then I have found a passion for cake making and believe we shouldn’t be ripped off my some of these cake shops! ! My family and friends have pushed me and given me the confidence to do this as a living.

Very admirable. And we couldn’t agree more about not wanting to be ripped off. So it’s been a smooth journey in business then?

Oh no. I do have some funny stories. A bridal customer took her finished cake and promptly dropped it. I’ve burnt cakes, broken cakes, forgot to put ingredients in cakes, worked through the night because we had a power cut in the day. But it’s all part of the
fun and there’s nothing better when you see your client’s happy face!

It’s also nice when they send in their pictures celebrating their most precious moments with one of my cakes!

Oh my. You are really very dedicated to your craft and your customers. And we are happy this is all turning out so nicely for you and you really seem to be enjoying what you do. Just one last question that we can’t resist asking: Do you believe you can have your cake and eat it too?

I will take this as can a cake look good, taste good and not cost the earth- yes, you absolutely can!

And on that note, feast your eyes on some of Victoria’s beautiful and lovingly made creations.

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Victoria’s Sponge is based locally, but she serves customers in the Greater London area. You can find her business listing on Mumsnet Local – Redbridge.

Making Time to Play

acting bugsCapturing the twinkle twinkles of childhood can sometimes seem a low priority in the grand scheme of parenting. But often, it’s that magical element of play, introduced at the right moment, that can elevate a sad or grumpy mood or stop a brewing tantrum, even encourage a penchant for creativity or a lifelong love of the arts. But we can forget all of that with the stress of parenting, working, living, and the many many other things that occupy our mental space. We grown ups can–and do–forget how to play.

I recall a moment in one of my favourite films, Finding Neverland. J.M. Barrie, played by the most wonderful Johnny Depp, sits in the theatre among the patrons watching the premiere of his latest play. They are displeased. And he reminds them that it is a play. It’s a profound moment in its simplicity: stop overthinking and overexpecting and just enjoy what’s in front of you.

The connection? Well, sometimes, I need to remind myself to play with my children or to let them play and not worry so much. Among the many many words of advice I received when I became a mother was the very simple “enjoy your children” from a dear friend. This week, I made the connection a literal one.

Enter Acting Bugs, run by actress Samantha Seager. Originally from Manchester, Sam has been a Wanstead local for many years now; she started Acting Bugs (for preschoolers) and Diddy Bugs (more sensory-based and for under threes) in 2012.

sam seagerSam has acted for grown-ups and for kids, most notably on Coronation Street and CBeebies. She created the classes to encourage active storytelling in family life: a worthy cause. During the class, parents and children are meant to interact, given the dramatic prompts by Sam. These include verbal prompts to imitate animals, or a runner bean, or play pat-a-cake. These also include physical prompts like puppets or a giant canopy / magic carpet. So there’s a lot of hopping, jumping, whisker-twitching, body hugging–playing, essentially, and acting, as Sam might say, like “silly sausages” for the better part of an hour. If you’re going to be reserved about it and not play along, you might miss the whole point. And all of the fun.

As this was a one-off for us, I asked a parent who’s been coming for a while. For Bella’s mum, Acting Bugs is helping her daughter to have confidence in herself, something we all wish for our children when entering the world. Though the class uses some props, Sam mainly relies on the parents and children to use their voices and bodies to express ideas. This focus on the body and all it can do is perfect for confidence-building in children. My outgoing three-year old engaged with the activities instantly and my very shy two-year old was happy to do a little here and there. I thought the Spring Chicken song and dance were really fun. Apparently, I was caught doing that in the garden this afternoon.

The class takes place in the hall of Wanstead’s beautiful Christ Church, which has a charming garden. The hall is roomy (lots of space to run around and play) and has loads of stimulating natural light. An amazing venue for an afternoon of imaginative fun.

In addition to the classes, which are offered in Redbridge as well as nearby in North and East London, Sam offers inspiring and imaginative nursery and library sessions and story-based parties for children aged 2-7.

Mumsnet Local – Redbridge is happy to provide further information about Acting Bugs. Click on the link or find it under Things To Do > Classes > Preschool Classes > Drama.

We also list drama club and acting classes for children of school age and by other providers, so please contact us if you can’t find what you’re looking for!