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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Tailor-Made Targets: How To Actually Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year! We’re now five days into 2014, and I bet you thought you’d seen the last of the ‘Here’s what I’m going to take up/give up/change/accomplish in the New Year’ posts. If you’re tired of reading about the same old resolutions everybody makes every year, though, read on – I’m about to consider why it’s important not to simply keep making those run-of-the-mill throwaway resolutions (especially if you want any chance of actually keeping them).

Resolutions are hard to keep. The first week of the year is always the best: you’re being a real, resolution-keeping grown-up, doing all sorts of responsible shit (and making sure to tell everyone what a responsible, resolution-keeping grown-up you are). Soon, though, things inevitably start to get in the way of your new goals, and it becomes much too easy to let everything slide. Often, this can also be due to the generalised nature of your resolutions; if you set yourself sweeping, commonplace goals without keeping focus on your individual reasoning for wanting to achieve them, there’s little to no chance that you’re going to maintain the motivation necessary to succeed.

So, this year, I’ve decided that I am going to set myself some pretty general, cliché-sounding resolutions – BUT: I’m going to make sure I tailor them specifically to my own lifestyle and motivational factors.

1. I will be super organised, using all the cute stationery and handy gadgets I have at my disposal.

This year, I’ll be working two part-time jobs while also completing a Graduate Certificate in Editing and Publishing. This is going to require a fair bit of organisation and some pretty good time management. Luckily, a few of my Christmas presents will really help me out: the super pretty 2014 Frankie diary and my new Galaxy Note tab!

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I’m so excited to start my postgrad study – firstly, because I genuinely love studying, and secondly, because it will bring me that next step closer to fulfilling my career goals. It’s going to be a challenge balancing study with enough hours at work to pay my way, so I’m going to try my best to up my productivity, kick all forms of procrastination to the curb, and work as hard as I can – and the only way I’ll be able to do it is by becoming my own little personal assistant!

2. I will actually, deliberately exercise.

I’m fortunate enough to be naturally quite slim – I must have a fast metabolism, because I can (and do) eat A LOT and exercise very little without stacking on the kilos. This year, though, I think it’s about time I paid attention to that old adage quoted by wise mums everywhere: ‘Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’. Now, I am never going to be a gym junkie – actually, to be honest, I am probably never even going to set foot in a gym. (I’m far too awkward and uncoordinated for all that.) All I want to do is make sure I try to do some form of exercise every day, no matter how small. I’m really keen to look into things like yoga and pilates soon, but to start with, my exercise staple will be walking.

IMG_0188Bar Beach, NSW: my daily walk.

I’ll try to go for a solid walk every day, whether it be the few kilometres to and from the beach, the ten-minute walk to the shops for a few groceries, or simply the hike up and down the steep hill that lies between my bookshop and what seems to be the only free parking in town. (As a sidenote: thankyou, money-hungry city of Newcastle, for making parking in town both difficult and expensive; you’ve inspired [read: forced] me to keep this particular resolution every time I go to work.)

3. I will expand my very average cooking skills, little by little.

I am not a chef. It’s mainly a confidence thing: I don’t trust myself enough to try new things, and I worry that I’ll mess up even the most absurdly simple of dishes. Luckily, Nathan is excellent at cooking, so when he has a night off work he makes us delicious food (interspersed by a few simple pasta dishes from me, which are basically the only things I can make without fretting myself into a coma). But this year, I’ve decided that hey! I’m a grown-ass woman; I want to branch out from spag bol and become an (extremely) amateur chef of my own! I’ve started nice and simple: delicious Mediterranean stuffed capsicums, for which I found a great BBC Good Food recipe.

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The dish was, admittedly, pretty hard to mess up, but it turned out wonderfully and I was so pleased! I think the trick for me is going to be to start small, relish each little new achievement, and gradually work my way up in terms of complexity and range. Here’s to new culinary courage and plenty of lovely meals to try out and master!

4. I will read as many books as I can, and keep track of them all.

I have read a lot of books. I always daydream about there being some hidden counter in your brain that records every book you’ve ever read, showing you the final figure just before you’re about to check out of the big old Life Hotel. I like to think I’ve already racked up a pretty impressive count! But as an interesting way to actively keep track of my reading, tally up my total, and reflect on what I’ve read at the end of the year, I’m going to start keeping a list of all the books I read (as well as the books I want to read – working at a bookshop means that is a virtually never-ending list). 

IMG_0196My 2014 ‘To Read’ list so far.

5. I will think about getting back into creative writing.

During my Christmas shopping, I was on the hunt for books for Nathan’s 13-year-old sister. What an exciting age: the bigger, bolder world of youth fiction is just opening up to you, and you have literally thousands of new books to explore. Researching and recalling some of the titles I enjoyed in my primary and early high school years was such a lovely, nostalgic thing to do – I remembered so many that were such a joy to read and that helped to further my love of books at such an important time in my youth. Fantasy books were especially important to me; Harry Potter, of course, is pretty much the greatest love of my entire childhood, but there were also other fantasy series that really kindled my penchant for the genre. One in particular that I had completely forgotten about is the Deltora Quest series, written by Australian author Emily Rodda. Coincidentally, right after I rediscovered Deltora Quest and the myriad other fantasy books I loved as a kid, I stumbled across this Reddit post about a woman independently releasing her own children’s fantasy series. It inspired me even more and got me thinking that maybe, one day, I’d like to try my hand at writing some children’s fantasy of my own.

File:Forests of Silence Cover Version 1.png So badass.

Now, I’m not locking myself into anything concrete with this one. My resolution isn’t ‘I will write a book in 2014’. It’s very likely that I will have neither the time nor the necessary spark of inspiration to do anything more than simply think about the possibility of doing some creative writing. But I would like to make sure that I do at least think about it. I haven’t written any stories at all since I finished uni, and I really do miss writing them.

2014 Inspiration - Recyclart Image courtesy of Recyclart.

Looking back on my five main resolutions and the strong motivation behind them, I’m pretty confident that I will be able to keep all of them, and that each will help me live the hell out of the coming year! I hope everyone reading this has an amazing year ahead of them, full of dreams and lovely people.

2014, you are looking pretty gorgeous :)