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Let Us Stay Optimistic

Hi friends, sorry I've been missing from the blog but I've been co-teaching our Instagram, Photography and Styling e-course for ... I've not had much extra head space to think about writing here. This week, another teacher leads our classes for the week and I'm off the hook, so I feel like my head is above water so no more absence from me here! And you know, once my little boy is in school, it will be a manageable again to maintain my blog (and everything else) in addition to e-courses, but right now he is home full-time so it's a bit of a struggle! HollyFlowerMarket_debiTreloar

How are you doing? I'm good, just not so happy with the news lately. It's draining to wake up to so much hate and anger on the news, isn't it? When I text my friend after the Nice attack to see if he was okay (he is living in London but is French and so there is always a concern he may be visiting relatives in France) he helped me to regain some perspective. I asked him if he was okay and he said yes, he was in another town celebrating Bastille Day, but not Nice. And then I told him that I thought the attack was horrible and sad and I started to complain a little and he simply said,

"Let us stay optimistic. And enjoy an even better life!"

Maybe when you read that, you can let it sink in a bit.

At first I thought he seemed so incredibly naive! Almost a bit selfish! But then I realized that it's exactly as we should be living, when bad things happen and we were spared, we should consider ourselves to almost have a right to live an even better life because we are still alive. Why should we live in fear, sadness, in an eternal mourning?

One thing the news and internet does is that it stresses us all the F--k out. Of course we hate what's happening globally in politics, gun violence, terrorism, etc. Naturally. And Donald Trump. Oh boy, it's scary as hell.  And to hear about it all day, every day, everything else, well it's stressful. And then there is me, living in northern Germany as an American. So I have equal parts concern over what is happening in Europe and the UK AND in America. Because my family and life is in both. So what happens in America bothers me as much as what happens in Turkey, or in France, which is right over the border, Brexit, etc. It's kinda overwhelmed me lately.

Yet I almost think that the negative forces at work in the world - the many ugly people out there behind all of this sickness and sorrow - are winning BIG TIME when we pay them so much credit for ruining our day, our week, or more: Drying up our spirit of hope. And once we lose hope .... Well, one word for ya.


We are screwed.

In my perspective, my French friend has the right attitude. Sure, you mourn a loss but you have to put everything in perspective. I cried when I thought about the children who were killed in Nice or those who are left without parents and had to see a truck plowing over their family. How can you not feel terrible? Yet, you still have your life to manage and deal with, and that has to come before everything else. Our families need us to be strong, proactive and positive. If we want to fight against something we see as injustice, then take up a stand and actively go out and fight for the rights of the group you want to stand behind. Or put your money into some cause. But complaining endlessly, moping around, saying the world is going to hell... I think it's only going to make everyone's life even less meaningful if we collectively turn into one big depressed lump online. Instead of choosing a victims standpoint, let us stand strong as a victor, united in our belief that things will get better. They always get worse before they get better, right? So maybe that can be the candle, the carrot, the hope that we chase... That better days are ahead.

While I support fully acknowledging loss and suffering, I also support even more fully to live better, do better and to lead by example so others can rise up stronger too. Negativity breeds negatively. Let us spread light, love and promote peace.

I've decided to stay optimistic and maintain hope. I hope you will to.


(Photographer: Copyright )

Giveaway: Win Instagram + Photography e-course! (Updated)

Our Blogging Your Way e-course for  just kicked off yesterday with lessons going up on Monday morning, running for two weeks until July 25 with class access until August 1st. That's why I simply must host a 48 hour flash GIVEAWAY (winners picked and sent login on Monday) so 5 of you can win seats in our classroom valued at $119. In this class, called #Instapower, we have videos, podcasts and over 22 lessons with all new materials never taught before in previous classes, and three teachers -- me (naturally), Aussie food photographer Rachel Korinek and Dutch travel writer and photographer Pauline Egge.


YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS THIS CLASS. It's our last Instagram-focused class for 2016!

Here is our course outline if you are curious to see what you will learn. You will walk away with more than you walked in with, that's for sure. Look at this..

* Branding your Instagram * Community building * Branding 101 * How to lose followers, practices to avoid! * How to grow your audience * Working with brands (podcast) * What makes YOU unique? (podcast) * Earning money on Instagram * City guidebook info from Pauline * How to shoot on location, on the street, etc. Including how to shoot in retail spaces * Stay true to yourself * Using hashtags * What makes a photo attract attention on IG? * Using your smart phone to capture images for IG * Using your camera to capture images for IG, including transferring to phone and photo editing * Best practices for shooting with your camera for IG * How to shoot in Aperture Priority or Manuel Mode * How to edit your images in VSCO and A Color Story (video) * Lightroom basics (video) * Photography techniques to get the most out of your shots * Common problems you'll encounter taking photos on location and simple solutions * Styling and styling tips (video) * How to use everyday items for styling when you are out and about * Things to take with you in your handbag to style with when out * Importance of backgrounds and what to use * Case studies of 12 Instagrammers * Curating a gorgeous a IG feed * Tools to help you curate a gorgeous feed * 3 videos from each of our teachers explaining their background, passion and how they work

You don't wanna miss this!

To enter this contest: * Comment below telling us why you'd like to be in this class * Follow us on our new Instagram account: * Join our Blogging Your Way mailing list (form below).

Subscribe to our mailing list

Those are the only 3 steps that you need to take to officially enter. We will draw 5 winners on Monday morning.

Good luck everyone and have a nice weekend!

(Rules: Not transferrable to another e-course, winners will win a spot in current e-course only. One entry per person, per day. Person who wins will be registered, you cannot sell the seat or transfer to someone else unless it is a family member. Value $119. If you have already paid and registered for this e-course, you will receive a full refund for current e-course if you win this contest. Open to all worldwide. This e-course is taught in English only.)


UPDATED July 11: We have chosen our 5 winners and they are: , , , ,

7 Ways To (Sorta) Go Offline During Vacation

Confession. I went on a photography retreat and I didn't bring a laptop, , or any of the usual gear a photographer should bring on shoots and especially into a learning environment when your teacher specifically says BRING YOUR LAPTOP.

I remember packing to leave with my laptop ready to go and I intended to place it in my bag, but then I looked at it and instantly felt super stressed and a bit uncomfortable, my gut told me it would hold my creativity back. I remembered it was listed in our "things to bring" so our teacher and fellow students could look at our work each morning. Yet I still felt like I needed my journey to be without the machine that I've become so dependent on each day.

Can you believe I walked away to grab my shoes, looked right at my laptop, and without even thinking I walked away and drove to the airport? I didn't make a real decision to leave it, I just sorta flaked and started thinking about other things. In a way, my subconscious was giving the laptop the bird, like #FUlaptop, I'm outta here.

When I had to tell my teacher , one of the top stylists and creative visual story tellers in the world that I forgot my laptop, I was so embarrassed. You know when your cheeks go red? I could feel the heat in them as I spoke. I felt like it wasn't even day one and I had failed my assignment. I didn't want to let down my teacher or make her feel as though I wasn't there to learn, just the opposite. But I also felt like having a laptop wasn't going to help me dig in and really immerse myself in the materials and exercises she had planned for us.

Dietlind's reaction wasn't one of panic or irritation. Thankfully. Quite the opposite, she was encouraging and gently explained that this was the way it needed to be, for whatever reason, and that we would find a work around.

And she was right. And we did find a work around which I will explain in a post tomorrow so stay tuned... It was so great easy!

But yeah, not using my laptop for 6 days, no , just my ... was amazing. Here's how I successfully took a sorta internet vacay for 6 days in case you want to give it a try this summer.

  1. FACEBOOK. I only logged onto once or maybe twice a day to post something quickly and then I bolted. I didn't linger. I avoided the negativity and rants that I usually come across each day. Plus, the on the phone isn't as tempting to click around and end up someplace else. You can just post and run and be done with it.
  2. WHATSAPP. I checked my phone to see if my husband had left any messages about our little boy. But even that, I exercised great discipline. I only had brief conversations with 2 people. Not the usual 30 or more in the span of a week.
  3. BLOG. All blog posts that went up on cattledogs were prepared in and scheduled in advance. Didn't need my laptop to publish those...
  4. DAILY NEWS. I read the app at night after dinner. Also, I have the app set to give me a quick alert on my phone in case of world catastrophe. The app lets me know breaking news that I would NEED to know. But other than that, I didn't spend my mornings scanning the news as I usually do. No one needs to know about all of the shit going on in the world every second of the day. It's true you guys. We don't need to be so informed, my god. And to read all of this first thing in the morning from bed, well, it's a terrible way to begin your day because rarely what makes the news is positive.
  5. PINTEREST. Didn't bother with my . Why? I wasn't there to be inspired by others, I was there to be inspired and guided by my inner voice.
  6. INSTAGRAM. I love traveling and sharing with , it doesn't stress me out. You can be selfish. You can simply post and go. You don't feel the need or pressure to read, share, comment or even see other people's photos if you don't want to.
  7. EMAIL. I didn't check them. Period. If someone needed me they'd have to wait because I was there to put myself first and I was okay with that. I'm not doing a job that requires hostage negotiation or world peace. Few of us are so important that we need to be connected to everyone, everyday, every moment. It's hard for the ego to absorb that truth sometimes. We reason we are too important to log off. But it's total BS! The world, your career, none of it will fall apart if you don't read your email for a few days, even a week. Plus I have an , if it's big enough news she will get in touch with me anyway. Before I left, I told everyone that I was working on a project with that I'd be offline so I felt confident that I wasn't leaving anyone hanging anyway.

I hope these 7 ideas will help those of you with upcoming summer vacays to log off and enjoy the time away. YOU CAN DO IT. And you don't have to go cold turkey. Just be super selective and choose to connect in ways that don't stress you out. Sometimes we have to stop and realize that our joy and inspiration is often right inside of us or in a moment, we don't need Pinterest, the internet or anything else to find it or feel it. We just need to log off and tap in.

xo Holly

An Honest Cup of Coffee

I'm in the office today, for the first time in a long time, and it feels right. It's good to be outside of my home office so I can think more clearly without my little son frequenting my space, "Mama, mammmaaaaa"... And to be with others who are inspired by aesthetics and design is very nice, and to be surrounded by the beautiful things because adjacent to where I sit are showrooms with the latest collections from several Danish brands. honestcupofcoffee

But there is more to this office today than some pretty things and nice co-workers. There was an honest cup of coffee with a dear friend who surprised me with a text to stop by, and we talked from the heart, and it was enough to push me forward and onward and ahead. We shared where we are in life, for we've not talked in awhile, and spoke in a warmth and honestly that I genuinely valued. So much that I felt a lightness and joy that I hadn't felt in months.

Life is so short, so full, but so short. And it's the honest cups of coffee with people who know us and accept us exactly as we are, that makes living our short, full lives so enriching and meaningful. I type with tears in my eyes and a happy skipping feeling in my heart because I, for the first time in a long time, spoke with my friend in a way I'd not done before. I was present, I was there, I made eye , I really listened.

My retreat in Sweden with was to explore photography and styling but it ended up becoming a deeper exploration of self - because ultimately our photography IS who we are, revealing our inner world. And since that week away, I have come in with my unique voice and authenticity in a way that feels so natural. Finally. I hadn't realized for how long I stuffed all of this. I can't believe how open I always thought I was (my whole life is online!), but I learned that I'm not as open as it seems. I am selective in what I reveal and with friends, I'm always trying to stay positive and "super happy" even in times when I want to run and hide. And it's draining to maintain that strength when it's not really a strength, when it's an act. It's a defense - like when a cat arches it back. You try to pretend you are so big and can handle everything when inside you feel like you are on the verge of tears.

Release, breathe, reveal what you conceal. You will draw in the right people and those who cannot relate will retreat. Maybe they aren't ready for a "real" connection yet or perhaps they aren't interested in knowing the real you. And that's okay. Share more coffees with people who are looking to make a connection. I don't mean selfie shots and food shots and geeking out over shoes. Sometimes that's fine but why not use every opportunity you have with your good friends to make a connection that goes beyond the superficial. So many of us are just longing to be heard.


Try to pause today if you can, find someone you love, and share an honest cup of coffee. Peel back those layers. Allow yourself to be truly seen. Don't worry if a tear gently rolls down your face, please don't quickly wipe it away so your friend can't see. Who you are, what you feel, that single tear in its fragility --  it's beautiful.

(Photo: , Inspiration: Sara & Nanna ::kiss girls::)

Be Present In Your Creativity

Hello friends, how are you today? I'm sitting alone by the window, sunlight on my face, reflecting on my recent journey to Gotland, Sweden. What was only to be a photography and styling retreat (at least in my mind) turned out to be one of the greatest, most personal journeys of my life that took me far beyond my work - quite unexpected! I learned that the magic of styling and photography goes much more deeply than our personal taste, our placement of objects, the lighting or angles... Styling and photography comes alive when YOU are present in the work. DW_Gotland_01

In order to get to that place of presence, you have to allow yourself to be seen and for your deepest expressions to come to the surface. It was such an awakening for me, I always saw myself as so open and very honest with everyone about who I really am. In my eyes, I was. As we explored some deep topics in this workshop, I learned that I'm just scratching the surface and for me to be able to marry my photography and styling with words, I need to peel back many layers, and then see how much my work evolves.

It makes me think about how we are quick to say we are in a creative rut at certain points in our process. I finally know what this means. We are emotionally blocked. We need to pull out the emotion and then the creativity can flow again. It's really that simple. Work on the emotion and the creativity will return.

Our retreat was beautiful. Our teacher/guide was transporting at times, uplifting during others, a real light, magical, sensitive, caring, altogether a beautiful human being. I was more or less away from the modern world for 5 nights and it was one of the best vacations I've ever been on. I was allowed, and even encouraged, to be raw, open, freely myself. It took courage! It was hard! I cried!

It's amazing how so many of us just put our heads down and go through the day-to-day with the goal to get what we need done and not much more, isn't it? Or, some of us pride ourselves on being so free, courageous, strong or open and we are not fully any of those things - we want to believe we are, but at our core, we're not. And this is what we need to see, admit and work out. Then our art, craft, design work or whatever else we pursue becomes SO MUCH STRONGER. And better. More meaningful too.

I won't write much about the retreat, to protect the feelings of the others involved, and also to preserve the time capsule my teacher so lovingly handed to me that I want to store away for now... But I will tell you this. If you sense anything about yourself that needs work, begin that journey. Please. Find the right people to guide you. Some good friends. Save the money you need to get the best care that you can. Our life is so precious and meaningful, we each have gifts, explore what yours is and have the courage to make your gift known to the world. Don't wait.

I have nothing else to blog about today. I'm still so caught up in the magic of my retreat in Sweden. I need the fairy dust to settle a bit so I can get back into writing in this space again... I am sitting with so many feelings right now, stirring and swirling in my mind down to my core and back up again... So much to process and more than that, so much to DO! Because knowing and doing are two separate things.

See you tomorrow. xo


(Photography: Holly Becker)

My Journey: Styling From The Heart

I have big news! I have to tell you guys where I'm flying this morning... I'm heading up north to a Swedish island called Gotland. Have you heard of it? I that I was going but left out WHY... Well my friends, I'm taking a masterclass with Creative Director and Stylist . yinjang4©dietlindwolf

Dietlind is a leading stylist for 25 years in Germany, styling stories for magazines globally, but mostly German and Dutch publications. She also is a self-taught photographer and for the past several years has coupled her styling work WITH her own photos. Dietlind is also a columnist for magazine. She designs and makes a that sell in New York City's own ABC Carpet + Home too, all produced in Hamburg by her own hands, with her own paint, infused with her unique point of view.


Dietlind also does some beautiful collaborative efforts with talented people since she is more than a stylist, she makes so many of the props she uses, she is a true artist. She is the first stylist in Germany that ever caught my eye whom I've followed for years. When I moved here in 2009, I saw her work more and more in magazines and really took a liking to it. Her style just speaks to me. I am hard to impress when it comes to styling these days. I've seen it all... And most of the work I see doesn't stand out as a signature look or even as special. I feel like some work doesn't tell a real story and stylists are just showing what everyone else shows in almost the same way because it "works". I am sure this is largely driven by their clients or the magazine they work for. It's not that they are copying, it's just how they were trained. I fall into this at times too. No one is to blame! But some stylists are just fantastic, they definitely tell a story and awaken the senses bringing objects to life.


I don't find most of the styling I see in most magazines and especially in catalogs, that inspirational lately. Do you? Sometimes I believe if you've seen one issue you've seen them all. The styling doesn't change and neither do the photography angles, nor do the portraits of people who look almost depressed sitting in their beautiful houses. I don't find that beautiful or touching, a lot of times I walk away feeling empty. To see a home story with everything perfectly placed and people looking "too cool" to smile or at least show some emotion in their eyes... it's almost like showing where ghosts live.


Why bother learning to become a better stylist if what is already out there works fine though? What has become popular, mainstream, or trendy, isn't always inspirational, touching or magical. Lots of work can run very vanilla, generic, simplistic but in a negative way. It can sometimes look like everyone has the same muse and is just replicating. A home as a museum and a person as unfeeling doesn't speak to my heart.


On the flipside, there is still genuine magic out there being produced, it's just not so common. But you can spot it and immediately you'll know it's special. Like some of these stories produced by leading Aussie stylists. Or some of the Americans, especially the New Yorkers... Or you look at the work of some of the Spanish or French stylists... Or those living in the UK, Denmark and Sweden... You can't help but look at their work and feel fire in your belly and love again for interiors, home, food and family. When I stop to study a photo because the placement of objects are so interesting, then it's no longer just a photo of stuff in a home or on a table, it's a piece of art, and I love that.


That's why I admire the work of Dietlind as shown throughout this post. Storytelling through mini scenes, through objects, food, flowers, ceramics... inspires me to no end. I am excited that I will get to share nearly a week under her masterclass as a student, to soak in her wisdom and learn a new way. Starting in a few hours, I will land in Gotland and live in an old Swedish farmhouse with my friend Leslie Shewring, and we'll be only a stone's throw away from the beach, with a private greenhouse and an organic garden on the property. And we will travel to prop shops on the island and create scenes and take photographs. Dietlind will train us on how to develop all of our senses and bring them into our work more fully, making our styling more robust and magical. I simply cannot miss this experience to train under one of my favorite stylists. I've invested so much time and money into this trip, I want to make the most of it - I have a two-year-old boy so stepping out of my role as mommy for 5 nights is a big deal. I miss him already but I cannot think about that... This is fuel for my soul and good for my work, so off I go!


I've not spoken much about this course because it was something I wanted to keep in my back pocket until I felt ready to talk about it. But I'm thrilled and ready to be molded and shaped like a fresh piece of clay. I am stuck in a certain way of styling and I want to grow. I want to start styling the things my heart feels when I touch objects, I want to display them in a way that tells a story, that makes people think and feel something, I want to approach my work more artfully and create a certain intimacy but also improve my skill set. To me, creativity is an ongoing process of learning, feeling stuck, wiggling out, learning again, getting inspired, going into a hole, coming out, learning, working hard, again and again and again.

I want to learn how to put my own stamp on the work I style, because also take my own photos now and want to write, style and photograph my own book from beginning to end someday. In order to do that successfully, I must take on a new adventure, become a student, and allow myself to feel new light and breath fresh air. My 4th book, with Leslie Shewring, to publish in September, has many photos inside styled and photographed by me. But of course, not solely. I could never style and shoot an entire book at this point along with write it! Yet, this is my goal so to get to that point, I need to train hard. This is the first creative retreat I've ever been on in my life where I was the student, so I'm absolutely ready and excited for whatever comes my way and to see what results.

[clickToTweet tweet="Follow my Swedish adventure in #gotland from June 21-27 on @ @cattledogs" quote="If you want to follow my journey on Instagram, I'll be posting live from Gotland, Sweden from 21 June until 27 June so please enjoy my Swedish feed and leave comments as I go, I would love to read them. I'm @cattledogs on Instagram."]

Wish me luck and see you on Instagram!

xo Holly

(Photography + Styling: Dietlind Wolf)