Family

Eleven years

23/04/2017

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Yesterday was John and my eleventh wedding anniversary. We celebrated in style; I gave him eight cans of Carling and he gave me a night away in a Travelodge without him.

I promise it’s more romantic than it sound. The Carling was a final flourish, an evening of beer and football before what I’m reliably informed his training group have called ‘Get Ripped May’ (I know, I think they could do better too) as the first of his warm up half marathons approaches in a few weeks. Apparently Get Ripped May starts on Monday despite that being 24th of April so Saturday and Sunday night are the last chance for an indulgence.

And my night away? Every three years my college holds a dinner for every student past and present who read Jurisprudence. Its mostly people who are still in the legal profession who come back so it’s a great opportunity to catch up with old friends, only a couple of whom I ever see in a work context, and we all get to have a nice catch up and gossip while we drink something lovely from the college cellars and worry about how young the current students look when we ourselves only left five minutes ago. This year the current undergraduates were born after we matriculated which made us all feel extraordinarily old.

That I went at all, and that I got to stay over so I didn’t have to leave half way through to catch the last train, says more to me that I am loved than any big sweeping gesture ever could.

John is my rock, the person who knows me better than I know myself, and who looks out for me and supports me no matter what. He’ll tell me in no uncertain terms if I’m overthinking something or worrying about stupid things, and the voice in the back of my head that says that I can do it.

He taught me how to catch and the names of a number of now former Celtic players and I introduced him to the concept of vegetables other than potatoes and mushrooms. We are each other’s counterpoint.

Happy Anniversary love; don’t eat all the cheesecake ’til I get home.

Family Handmade

A slightly less teeny tiny baby knit {handmade}

21/04/2017

You’ll never guess what I made this week!

As it turns out, when you make a baby jumper for your teeny tiny preemie nephew, and it actually fits (unlike anything else his parents have been able to lay their hands on), you might just get a little request for another one.

Space for the Butterflies - Preemie Baby Kimono in Rowan Pure Wool DK

Fortunately for the tiny nephew he is utterly irresistible and has his Auntie Carie well and truly wrapped around his unbelievable teeny little finger, and so I cast on.

I went stash diving for the yarn this time; in part because it was the Easter weekend and I wasn’t going near any good yarn shops, in part because even I must admit that my stash is not teeny tiny and the more I knit now the fewer boxes I have to justify when it comes to the big house move.  I also have some lovely yarn in the stash in small amounts so it’s a treat to pull it out and start knitting.

Space for the Butterflies - Preemie Baby Kimono in Rowan Pure Wool DK

It’s a gorgeous soft Rowan pure wool DK which might have been called Cloud.  I’d tell you for certain but despite repeatedly reminding myself to keep hold of the ball band, and being certain that I’d tucked it into the inside pocket of my handbag to make doubly sure, now that I’m sitting down to write a blog post I can’t find it for the life of me.  It will almost certainly turn up exactly as this post goes live and I will keep it as a reminder that I really really need to tidy my desk. Space for the Butterflies - Preemie Baby Kimono in Rowan Pure Wool DK

As for the pattern and the knitting, it’s more or less a case of rinse and repeat from last week.  Feedback from Rosie was that the buttons were a bit high on the first version where I’d set them in line with the side seam; not uncomfortably so, but enough to make the neckline a bit snug, so for this version I set them as low as possible, and slightly in from the seam to make it a bit bigger.  My theory is that if the body of the cardigan it a little on the baggy side that’s not the end of the world because they can always pad out the baby nephew with a vest and babygro and he’ll still keep toasty warm, but if the sleeves are too long they get in the way and get chewed on, and are no fun for anyone, so the sleeves are all exactly the same teeny tiny two inches as before.

Space for the Butterflies - Preemie Baby Kimono in Rowan Pure Wool DK

The buttons are likewise from the button jar (formerly my Mum’s spaghetti jar, now serving a much higher purpose) and I have absolutely no idea where they came from, nor why I have only two. As I usually buy random buttons in threes I can only assume that there’s a three button cardigan out there somewhere with dove grey spotty buttons, and they’re a lovely combination of fun without being overwhelming, so if I ever spot them again I’ll have to restock.

Without such pesky things as work to get in the way this took me precisely a day to knit, it went in the post on Tuesday as planned and is now being alternated with last week’s blue version while its wearer does a stunning rotation of growing, sleeping and eating while being generally adored by all and sundry.  One of these days when he’s big and strong and nearly as tall as me I’ll get him to hold them as proof that once he was so very small, but for now he has some growing to do. Space for the Butterflies - Preemie Baby Kimono in Rowan Pure Wool DK

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On

 

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The Butterflies film festival: films we ought to have seen, but haven’t

20/04/2017

If the sudden flurry of blog posts hadn’t given it away, this week I’m on holiday.  I should have been working yesterday and Tuesday but a case settled and suddenly a long weekend turned into a whole week off.  We thought long and hard about going on an adventure, but northern France was nixed by my current lack of passport, the weather wasn’t entirely tempting for the UK, and we decided that the grown up, responsible, buying a house sort of a thing to do would be to have a staycation.  At the beginning of the week I unearthed our local Ordnance Survey map and started planning some new to us circular walks to get us all out and about in the sunshine. Yesterday we headed back to the yellow fields of my Siblings photos to see where the path went, and had a wonderful walk ending up in a picnic by the little lake, and today we’re planning on heading a little way away to Hatton, where the canal rises 45 metres through 21 locks over about about a two mile span.  It’s crazy wonderful engineering and a favourite spot of ours.

And when the children head off to bed I’ve been rediscovering what an evening without work looks like.  John and I have been hosting our very own tv and film festival.  We may not have a cinema in the basement, or something like a UHD TV Panasonic, it’s just us curled up on the sofa with a bottle of beer, a glass of pink for me, a little something purloined from the children’s Easter Egg hunt booty, and our version of cinema lighting – keeping the little spotlight on so I can see to knit, but it’s a lot of fun.  Years ago we had another mini film festival in which we watched a whole load of classics that one or both of us hadn’t seen, the sort that get quoted or referred to all the time but it turns out that you’ve never actually seen.  I can genuinely say that I’ve seen Casablanca (and loved it), and Brief Encounter (and loved the Victoria Wood spoof more), as well as Meet me in St Louis and all four hours of Gone with the Wind .  This week we decided to repeat it, albeit that some of the choices are a little bit more modern than last time.

So, this is our list for this week: another five films we really ought to have seen, but haven’t yet:

Space for the Butterflies - a festival of the films we've never watched, but really ought to see

The Breakfast Club

It’s no secret that Pitch Perfect is one of my favourite films; I love both the first film and the sequel, I’m very curious to see what they do with the third film, and the soundtrack has been the background to many a late night tapping away at the laptop.  The Breakfast Club is part of the inspiration for the Barden Bella’s finale (and yes, a plot device to get the two leads back together, but we can forgive them that).  I know very little about it, I think I only heard of it from Pitch Perfect; but surely one good film could only recommend another?

Dirty Dancing

I know what you’re thinking; I’m a child of the 80’s, how have I not seen Dirty Dancing? It’s a bit like admitting you haven’t seen Top Gun (which I have to the point that I can quote large chunks of it – sometimes it’s worrying what your brain chooses to retain), and in truth I suspect that I’ve seen snippets when I was in my teens, just not enough to have enough conscious recollection of the plot to tie together the fragments.  I suspect and hope in equal parts that it will be utterly 80’s cheese, although both John and I retain a full veto if something is just too corny to cope with.

The Ladykillers

We’re talking the original 1955 Ealing version here.  I have actually seen this before but John hasn’t so it makes the list.  I think I was relatively young when I first saw this, probably in my early teens, along with Kind Hearts and Coronets which should definitely be the second film in an Alec Guiness double bill.  It’s a brilliantly dark film and hilariously funny and knocks the 2004 remake into a cocked hat.

When Harry Met Sally

Well yes, I’ve seen that lunch scene, because you really have to have been living under a rock not to have at least encountered a clip in passing, but truly I’ve never seen the whole film so I have very little idea how it works in context.  It’s another 80’s effort, which seems to be a popular theme for this week’s festival so I’m hoping for big hair and giant mobile phones as well as a very good Nora Ephron plot.

Pool of London

Of a fairly eclectic selection, this takes the crown for unexpected. Pool of London is another 50’s film from Ealing studios; this time a drama about a heist in the City.  It gets fairly good reviews but we know if from Compton Verney.  Last year the featured exhibition was all about 50’s style and design.  It was beautifully curated, especially the mocked up rooms and the enviable collection of vintage dresses, and it only reinforced my love of mid century design.  In one corner was a mocked up 50’s cinema, complete with vintage red velvet seats and a projector showing Pool of London.  It’s not exactly a film for the tiniest among us, so we watched for a little bit and then headed onwards, and ever since I’ve had the IMDb page open on my phone to remind me that we really are going to watch it all the way through, and so it makes our list.

All we need now is for the children to sleep deeply and peacefully tonight and we can declare our festival open.  But if you were doing the same, what would be on your list? What films have you never seen but always meant to?

Thank you to Panasonic who commissioned this article. If you are interested in collaborating on a post, please take a look at my Work With Me page 

Blogging Pause for Thought

Feel the fear and do it anyway – but how?

19/04/2017

Space for the Butterflies

In the last week both the Blogtacular Twitter chat and the Act on this Periscope asked “what is fear holding you back from doing?”.  It hit a mark with me both times, and no doubt I could come up with some answers without too much effort, but it also got me thinking.  From “what is fear stopping you doing?” the logical question is “why am I so afraid in the first place, and how do I stop?”

I’ve been blogging for 11 years now, and yet the silliest things still worry me, even when I know the fear is utterly irrational and ill founded.  Last week I wrote about my favourite podcasts and when I tweeted out a link to the post I mentioned all of the wonderful and talented people who create them.  It sounds obvious and simple and yet I had to force myself to do it, to make actual twitter mentions and not just use the names of the podcasts and hope to slip my little post in under the radar.

But why? Why didn’t I want them to know that I liked their podcasts? If someone likes my posts here or my pictures on Instagram and lets me know I’m absolutely thrilled.  A comment that shows that something I have written has resonated with a reader absolutely makes my day, and I treasure each and every one. It’s a lack of confidence in myself that is at best, daft.

What exactly did I think would happen? Well fire and brimstone naturally, accompanied by a flurry of tweets all telling me that I’m never to listen to their podcasts again.  In the event I got a couple of lovely messages saying they were glad I enjoyed it and that was that.  So why did that take courage? And how do I fight a fear that has gone off on a frolic of its own?

The truth is that sending one tweet is not, from an objective point of view, the scariest thing I did last week.  Looking from the outside in, the ‘scariest’ thing I did was negotiate the settlement of a claim at work.  If I’d got it wrong then my client would have been unhappy, and that has an obvious impact on not only that relationship but my career as a whole.  But I’ve been in practice coming on 13 years and while there are still things that fill me with nervous excitement, there’s little occasion for true fear to come into the equation (though for the record, as an NQ, much of what I do now on a daily basis was the scariest part of my day).

So what’s the difference? Why is social media, and to an even larger degree, trying to actually get somewhere as a writer, riddled with a contagious imposter syndrome, when my day job provokes it so much less?

Rather flippantly, my first reaction was “well I have a certificate to say I’m a lawyer!”.  It’s true.  In fact, I get a new certificate every year, even if the glory days of elaborate crests and gothic fonts when they were issued by the Law Society are long gone in favour of something from the SRA that either certifies me as a solicitor or says I’ve got food hygiene to work in my local chippy; the design of the two are near identical.

I’m not suggesting that external validation is the key to all our dreams.  If anything I think that’s a scarier prospect than being a little over controlled by your fear and imposter syndrome.  If your entire self worth and belief in what you do depends on how many likes your last Instagram picture got (100= best photographer in the world, 50= why are you even bothering to hold a camera you unworthy fool) then life would be a horrible lurching rollercoaster of self doubt and despair.  Don’t do it.

We have to believe in ourselves, and the core motivation to follow our dreams has to be intrinsic for anything we produce to have integrity.  It’s that soul in a photo or a piece of writing, or even a teeny tiny knitted baby cardigan that people respond to.

But I think there’s a trick we can borrow from my chippy food hygiene certificate. It’s been 15 years since I last sat an exam, and almost 13 years since the last time that someone submitted a formal report of my capabilities to the Law Society, and yet every year they keep issuing me a certificate assuming that my skills have only improved year on year.

Clearly to be a blogger or a writer or a whatever your dream might be you don’t need a degree, blog school, a training contract, and annual certificates, but I think that we could borrow the cumulative aspect of it.  If we don’t allow our work to compete against itself by getting mired down in comparing why one post did so much better than another, but add them together as an ever increasing record, couldn’t that be that ‘certificate of competence’ to hold onto with white knuckles as you do whatever it is that scares you?

When I submitted a story to a writing competition a few weeks ago, the ‘certificate’ was every comment ever posted here; when I put something on Twitter it’s every time someone has liked or retweeted me.  It’s never going to stop the silly worries or the butterflies in my tummy, but it doesn’t need to; it only needs to be just enough to take that step off the cliff edge.

 

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Clothes for tall girls

18/04/2017

My mother made my final primary school summer dress.  At the time I thought that she just loved making clothes for me, and as the apple never falls far from the tree that’s probably fairly true, but looking back I’m beginning to wonder whether it wasn’t more than that – in all the trousers and shorts and sundresses, why did she make a school dress.  Blue gingham and white piping isn’t exactly the first thing you’d reach for as a creative outlet.  I strongly suspect that the answer is that she couldn’t actually get a school dress that was long enough for 10 year old me.  We’d already done the letting down of every available millimetre on my winter pinafore and moving the buttons on the shoulder straps (and the “just pull it down a bit if you walk past the headmistress and I’m sure you’ll be fine”), desperate to eek it out until the end of the Lent term. The previous summer’s dress, which would go on to drown my younger sister, just wan’t going to cut it.

Space for the Butterflies - clothes for tall girls

The benefit of hindsight comes with the realisation that I’m at that stage again, only this time as a mother of a very tall daughter.  I don’t know exactly how tall Kitty is right now, but she’s easily chest height on me and I’m 6’0″. Her Dad is 6’1″, her Grandpa 6’2″ and her Grannie (my mum) was regularly called ‘Little Mama’ coming in at 5’8″.  Kit was never going to be petite, and if she stops anywhere shorter than me I’ll be very surprised.  Last year she started the school year in age 7-8 and finished in age 9 summer dresses, and now, while she doesn’t have a uniform, she’s rapidly growing out of age 10 clothes.

Space for the Butterflies - clothes for tall girls

Which means two things.  Firstly, she’s growing out of the awesome clothes with penguins and robots and yellow submarines. And secondly, it’s becoming really difficult to find age-appropriate clothes that do actually fit her.

I can’t dress her in glittery tweeny clothes, not just because they’re just not appropriate and bring out just a smidgen of feminist rage at the conditioning of young women by the clothing choices available to them, but because they dictate the way in which people react to her.  If you’re out and about with a six year old who looks like she’s a six year old and she started being very six, especially at the end of term when she’s a bit overwhelmed, I imagine that people will give you a wry smile if they’re fellow parents.  A six year old being very six, who looks like she’s easily 10, and you get the looks and all the silent judgment you don’t need.  I’m fairly resilient when it comes to being judged on my parenting by strangers, but it isn’t fair to her.  If she’s having a wobble, the last thing she needs as she tries to get back in control of her emotions is to feel people watching her, and she’s aware enough and smart enough to pick up on that.  I would do her a disservice if I dressed her up to be all grown up before her time.

Space for the Butterflies - clothes for tall girls

To date she’s been forced to continue wearing despite serious shortages in sleeve length grown through some of my favourite baby brands, and it’s always taken me slightly by surprise because in my head she’s exactly the size a six year old ought to be.  When she grows out of her current bits and bobs from Frugi that’s it, there are no more sizes. There’s one more size to go in most of Boden and we’re out of most of the Scandinavian brands, although thank goodness Mini Rodini run on the large size – this penguin shirt is a size 116/122 (usually branded as age 6) and it still just about fits. Just. About. If you don’t look too closely.

Space for the Butterflies - clothes for tall girls

shop Mini Rodini clothing (especially the Unicorn dress which I shall have to hunt down for Kitty – we’re in a very unicorn phase!)

Suddenly I have a lot of sympathy for my mother, who did all of this without the internet, and with fairly limited options nearby (though I had some awesome tie dye thanks to living near Totnes).

I wonder whether it ever crossed my mum’s mind as she taught me how to sew, that one day I might need those very skills (and her very own overlocker) to make clothes for another very tall little girl? I’m very glad she did, though I’m equally glad I’m not called to tackle gingham.

Space for the Butterflies - clothes for tall girls

Space for the Butterflies - clothes for tall girls

And now I’m throwing open the comments for your help.  What do I not know about, what brands are there out there that make gorgeous colourful kid clothes that come in size tall?

Space for the Butterflies - clothes for tall girls

Thank you to Ladida who commissioned this article. If you are interested in collaborating on a post, please take a look at my Work With Me page