Things I Love Lately: Instagram Edition – Countryside Dreaming

Hello, writer’s block, my old friend.

Actually, I’m not sure if what I have can even be called writer’s block. Usually, people suffering from that particular ailment are in the midst of writing something already, and have simply come to a standstill…but lately, I’m rarely in the midst of writing anything, because what I’m having trouble with is getting started.

You might say instead that I’m having something of a crisis of inspiration. Inspiration is the absolute essence of a creative life; it’s no wonder I feel a little lost without it. It’s a bit of a strange time for me.

I want nothing more than to be writing, writing, writing all the time, so to try to get myself started, I’ve resorted to desperately Googling variations of the phrase ‘what to write about when you have nothing to write about’. What I’ve found, mainly, is what I already know: write about what you know, what you’re passionate about, whatever you’re thinking about. Just write.

So to get myself moving, I decided to get meta and start thinking about what I have been thinking about. And one thing in particular came to mind: the fact that I’ve lately become a little bit obsessed with the idea of the countryside.

Ever since Nate and I stayed at a beautiful bed and breakfast in the Upper Hunter Shire town of Scone a couple of months ago, the countryside – especially the Australian countryside – has been playing on my mind. I’ve often found myself daydreaming of perfect pastoral views and early, foggy mornings brightening into clear days; of big, rustic kitchens and crackling fireplaces; of a lifestyle based on simplicity, clarity and the comforts of home.

Little essences of country lifestyle have been jumping out at me everywhere, too: home-baked lavender shortbreads calling my name from café cabinets; Far From The Madding Crowd bumping its way to the top of my to-read list; Women’s Weekly ‘Country Classics’ cookbooks tempting me from bookshop shelves…and, most of all, a curious trend in the bunch of new accounts I’ve started following on Instagram. You guessed it: they all feature scenes of the countryside and the life that comes with it.

So after another long stretch with no blog activity, I’ve finally come up with this post. It’s just a quick look at five of my favourite countryside Instagram accounts – the ones that fill me with dreams and inspiration. (In other words, the ones that get me feeling the way all writers want to feel, all the time.) I do realise that it may be more focussed on images than writing, but hey – it got me blogging again, so I’m not complaining!

Now, after all that ado, read on to transport yourself to some of the most beautiful countryside Australia has to offer. (All images are courtesy of their respective Instagram accounts.)

Tamsin’s Table @tamsinstable

Rolling, sun-dappled hills, wandering farmyard animals, seasonal food on long timber tables…have your eyes misted over in pure dreaminess yet? If so, you’d best snap back to reality and go check out the Insta-feed from Tamsin’s Table! It’s full of all the things that make country life so idyllic: bucolic landscapes, gorgeous interiors and delicious home-cooked treats.

All this beauty comes from a farmhouse in Gippsland, Victoria, run by Tamsin Carvan and her family. But they’re not the only ones who get to enjoy it: picture intimate lunchtime gatherings featuring homegrown produce laid out on handmade furniture, as well as workshops and masterclasses teaching you how to make the most out of what’s in season – that’s what’s on offer at the numerous special events held regularly on the 113-acre farm. Find out more at www.tamsinstable.com.au.

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The Timber and Stone Retreat @thetimberandstoneretreat

If you’re ever in need of a relaxing, rejuvenating getaway, what’s the first thing you think of? A beachside holiday? A big-city shopping trip? Whatever it is, trust me – after you’ve seen this feed, all you’ll want to do is visit a country retreat the little Victorian township of Malmsbury!

Curated by the owners of the picturesque Timber and Stone Retreat, this account paints a portrait of the perfect country escape through beautiful snaps of the house’s interiors, gardens and surrounding property. The feed as a whole has a beautiful aesthetic, with plenty of muted tones and pops of warm colour.

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Country Style Magazine @countrystylemag

This one is pretty self-explanatory! Australian magazine Country Style is the perfect coffee-table tome for lovers of the most picturesque parts of country life. Gorgeous rural scenery, stylish farmhouse interiors and homely, garden-to-plate food – you’ll find it all in both the magazine and its Instagram counterpart. Somebody please stop me from taking out yet another mag subscription…

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Gold Dust Days @golddustdays

Gold Dust Days is a blog run by friends Jesse and Kathy, who both live in the beautiful town of Daylesford in Central Victoria. Their Instagram feed documents the day-to-day imagery that inspires the pair and shows off the loveliness of their hometown.

The main word the ladies use to describe Daylesford is ‘magical’, and I have to agree with them. Everything about their little town seems to be bathed in the golden glow that their blog name suggests. Their photos reflect this as well – there’s plenty of warm, sparkly hues from all the autumn leaves and sunrise/sunset skies!

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Em and the Wild Things @emandthewildthings

I’ve hardly seen a more dreamy Instagram feed than this one. I couldn’t find out much about Emily, who runs the account, but her bio reads: ‘Grass, landscapes, flowers, kidspam, abandoned, the everyday.’ And that’s pretty much what you’ll find here: a series of beautiful vignettes of country and family life.

From what I can gather, Emily’s on Instagram purely for love, not money, business or self-promotion. It seems like she’s just super passionate about capturing and sharing beautiful moments from her rural life in Central NSW – and no wonder, when it’s as pretty as this!

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If you have any other lovely Instagram accounts you’d recommend following, leave them in a comment below or tweet me @paperbackbird!

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Things I Love Lately: Melbourne Edition

There are so many things I’m loving at the moment that I couldn’t resist another one of these posts! I’ve recently been on a lovely mini holiday to Melbourne, so I decided to run with that theme. Melbourne is one of my favourite places to visit, so it was hard to narrow down into a few snippets – but I’m sure there’ll be many more trips there in the future, and many more blog posts!

Breakfast

Of course number one on this list was going to be food. I went into my Melbourne trip fully prepared to spend most (if not all) of my money eating everything I could get my hands on. I definitely did that, so I’m going to have to narrow things down again here and focus on one meal: BREAKFAST. (The best meal of them all.) These were two of my favourites:

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This adorable spread from The Hardware Société is called The Continental. With my dodgy photography you probably can’t tell, but it consisted of a little granola and yoghurt jar, a warm croissant and some vanilla macerated strawberries.

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Granola again! I must admit it’s becoming a bit of an obsession of mine. This one is apricot, coconut and fig with vanilla yoghurt, almond milk and poached stonefruit. It’s from Twenty and Six Espresso in wonderful West Melbourne.

Cocktails

All my Melbourne drinks were not only delicious, but photogenic too. The two picturesque sippers that follow were both enjoyed in Fitzroy, which leads me to assume that it must be Beverage Photography Capital of the World.

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This tropical-looking treat was from a place called The Grub Food Van. I can’t remember what it was made of exactly, but I know it had coconut ice, some sort of sugar syrup, probably pineapple juice and possibly gin…whatever it was, it was amazing.

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This one was absolutely as refreshing as it looks. Titled ‘The Fitzroy Beer Garden Cooler’, it’s a lovely mix of Hendricks, elderflower, apple juice, soda, cucumber and mint. YUM.

Sunny weather

For a city with a notorious reputation for temperamental, often miserable weather, Melbourne absolutely turned it ON for us! Our three and a half days there were filled with warm sun, clear skies, crisp air and cherry blossoms…

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Stop it, Victoria, you big charmer.

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Men’s clothing

Men’s clothes are SUPER comfortable. This isn’t exactly news to me – I’ve been known to *borrow* many a jumper or T-shirt of Nathan’s and *forget* to return it ever again. However, I recently went one step further and bought a few men’s clothing items expressly for myself. (Best decision ever.)

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This ridiculously comfy H&M jumper is my new favourite thing. I originally picked it out for Nate, but then snuck back to grab an XS for myself…so now we both have one, and have to make sure we don’t accidentally wear it out in public together. Now, H&M, if you would please hurry up with that Sydney store of yours…

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I didn’t get this tee from Melbourne, but I thought I’d include it anyway, because a) it’s unisex and b) it’s super cute. It’s by one of my favourite brands, The Orphan’s Arms: two guys from East London who print gorgeously English things on tops, jumpers, tights, etc. I’m slowly building a collection of their pieces and I don’t think I’ll be stopping anytime soon!

Dymocks Literary Luncheon with George R. R. Martin

Earlier this week, I was fortunate enough to meet the man who inspired this very blog: George R. R. Martin, creator of one of the most sweeping, elaborate and engaging sagas in modern high fantasy.

On Tuesday, my sister Liv and I visited the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney to attend the Dymocks Literary Luncheon, which encompassed a talk, Q&A and book signing with the acclaimed American author. Delicious food, diligently topped-up wine glasses and the chance to get a glimpse inside such a prolifically creative mind – what more could you want from a Tuesday?!

We were just finishing our tiramisu when George R. R. Martin appeared onstage (how’s that for an envy-inducing sentence?). His conversation with interviewer Giles Hardie ranged from the initial inspiration behind A Song of Ice and Fire (a lone image of orphaned direwolf pups in a drift of summer snow) to George’s lifelong love of J. R. R. Tolkien’s work (and his sheer disappointment as a child when the last 50 pages of Return of the King turned out to be appendices).

George sure loves to talk! He spoke in detail and would often follow tangents further and further away from the original question, which led to some memorable and amusing anecdotes. A discussion I found particularly interesting was one involving a ‘deleted scene’ from ASOIAF: a mysterious, lavishly descriptive sequence from Tyrion Lannister’s point of view, which was removed, reinserted, rewritten, relocated and removed again. George lamented at length the exclusion of the sequence, stating that while he was particularly proud of the writing, it created paths the narrative couldn’t realistically follow. Curiouser and curiouser … what I wouldn’t give to find out what’s in that chapter!

After the interview and Q&A, everybody formed an enormous queue, clutching careworn copies of A Game of Thrones and maps of Westeros for George to bestow a signature upon. When it was my turn, I stepped forward with an overly enthusiastic ‘Hi!’ and proceeded to exclaim ‘You’re-amazing-thank-you-so-much-for-your-work’ in one breath – to which the One True God of Westeros and Essos politely replied, ‘I’m sorry, what was that?’ (‘Have a favourite author ask me nicely WTF I just said’ is now checked off my bucket list.) When I repeated myself in a less garbled manner, he replied very graciously, expressing his appreciation and thanking me sincerely for attending. What a nice guy! I take back every rude name I called him while reading the Red Wedding for the first time.

All in all, the luncheon was a unique and wonderful event that I’m really grateful to have experienced. The world of books isn’t as easily accessible as the world of, say, music – while live music presents you with the opportunity to immerse yourself in an immediate expression of the art, a book is something that is essentially experienced on an individual level, always one step removed from its creation. An event like the Literary Luncheon offers a rare and fascinating insight into the books we love and the people who create them; it’s a chance to personalise the reading experience and share in its enjoyment with other book lovers. If you’re interested (and you live in Australia), here is a list of upcoming Dymocks literary events. I hope to attend many more luncheons and make a bumbling fool of myself in front of many more authors!