Family Photography {the ordinary moments}

On Kinver Edge

21/05/2017

With the girls in school only until lunchtime on Friday it scarcely seems worth it to drive there and back only to turn round and drive there and back again, so for several weeks John and Pip have spent Fridays exploring this new part of the world that is going to be our home before we know it.  I get photos of them wandering through bluebells, taking a detailed survey of the new village playpark and having a coffee and cake, all in the name of research or so I’m told.  It sets a nice unhurried feel to their Friday morning and I suspect makes it a favourite part of their week.

I took Friday off work so that John could have an early weekend, heading off with friends on Friday to play a couple of rounds of golf on Friday and Saturday as a warm up for the worlds ugliest golf trophy competition, but Pip and I saw no reason to change the normal Friday morning routine.  As soon as we’d dropped the girls off at school we hopped back in to the car and headed to Kinver.

Where I come from in Devon, Kinver would be a decent size town. According to John, who grew up in Yorkshire next to the largest village in Europe, it’s practically a hamlet.  However you designate it, it is lovely, and at one stage we seriously thought about trying to move there.  The town centre itself has lots of proper shops, unlike say Stourbridge, which alternates charity shops with coffee, including a great bakery, perfect for midmorning cake.  But first we had to earn the cake.

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

Kinver Edge is a sandstone ridge sitting high up above the western edge of Kinver, and it’s one of those places where you can feel that you’ve climbed to the top of the world, even if you only have little legs.  Pip and I headed up the eastern end, first wandering along the path and then my tiny boy determinedly climbing step after solid step, throwing his legs up as if he were hurdling them.  When we finally reached the viewpoint, he was more than ready to perch up on the map and trace out rivers and hills only vaguely visible under grey skies.

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

Even with the map to help, I’m not sure I could have particularly recognised Droitwich over Bromsgrove, and while I know Pip’s eye sight is better than mine, his instant “I see it!” response to my pointing out the direction for New York, rather suggests that he was just enjoying the view wherever it may be; that or he thinks it’s a sort of sheep.  (Forgive me American readers, but I suspect that we do talk about sheep more than we talk about cities in the USA).

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

Along the top of the heathland we found a herd of longhorn cattle, with some impressively long longhorns.  So far as we could work out it seemed entirely a quirk of nature whether the horns went up, down or out, I wonder if it’s the cow equivalent of whether your resting face looks cheerful or on the edge of being irritated? Imagine being the most upbeat cow that ever moo-ed only to have droopy horns.  Pip was more interested in their breakfasts; he was utterly convinced that cows eat cowpats and nothing I said could convince him that the cowpats come afterwards – these are the joys of two year old boys.

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

Past the cows we found the puddles, and Pip set to, splashing through even the tiniest drop of water before declaring himself all tired out and ready to be hoisted up onto my back.  He’s a tall and sturdy boy, and neither John nor I can carry him for long in our arms, and he makes an awkward weight on your shoulders, that and he tends to hang on around your throat, so we both wear the Ergo if there’s even a chance of him needing a lift.  Once onboard he’s quite happy, and at just the right height to either snuggle in for a little rest, or lean forward to chat into my ear, and I definitely had the chatterbox version with me for the day.

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

As we headed back down into the trees we heard a cuckoo; I’m not very good at bird noises but that’s one I can recognise, and further on we found a pair of chaffinches hopping up and down the path looking for breakfast.  You’ll have to take my word for it because toddlers are not the best accompaniment to stealth photography!

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

And then we came to Nannys Rock.   There are rock houses excavated out of the sandstone up on Kinver Edge, and on the north easterly end they’re preserved and renovated by the National Trust.  Pip and I were there two hours too early to actually go inside, so we peered through the gate and they’re high up on my list of places to visit once we’ve got settled, but Nannys Rock, down at the other end, was left just as it was; a series of three caves carved out of the rock and open to the elements and to casual explorers.  They are eerily beautiful, and the sandstone is so soft that they’re completely covered with carved graffiti, but it only adds context.  One day, even the names dated this century will have softened and faded away into the sand on the floor.

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

For Pip and me the photos were enough, and soon we were back on the trail home with Pip walking the last little bit, singing the final round of the Grand Old Duke of York to bring tired little legs back to the car.  He always sings “neither down nor up” at the end, however many times we sing it the right way round, and it’s endearing in its wrongness, his voicing singing out with full heart and hot little hand clasped in mine.

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

We did make it to the bakery before it was time to pick up the girls, and we did have a gentle domestic sort of an afternoon with them, but while I treasure that time, because frankly there is no job in the world that would let me spend as much time with them as I’d want, there was something so very special about our morning’s adventures; time with Pip that felt as if we had all the time in the world to stand and stare, and give full reign to toddler flights of fancy.  I can see why it’s become a Friday favourite.

Joining Katie at Mummy Daddy Me and Donna at What the Redhead Said for The Ordinary Moments

 

Family Handmade Kitty

Kitty and the amazing technicolour shorts {handmade}

19/05/2017

This week I’ve learnt how not to make shorts. Or at least, how not to make the kind of finished product that I’m aiming for.

The truth is that tiny person shorts are pretty easy to copy, and so my fudged ‘got lucky first time’ pattern from last summer was always in with a decent chance of working, especially as I could try last summer’s pair on both Pip and Elma to check the fit.  I knew that last week’s shorts were probably going to turn out ok before I first took scissors to fabric.  But when it comes to making things for Kitty she’s so much taller and just a generally more grown up person, that the margins for error were always going to be tighter.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts

It meant I procrastinated a fair bit after I’d finished the pairs for the little two, but as all mothers of more than one child know all too well, you’re never going to be allowed to leave one of them missing out for too long.

The fabric came from two batik fat quarters we found buried at the back of one of my fabric boxes; they are similar but not matching, but as I’m certain you could have two completely different shorts legs cut from the same length of fabric, these two felt near enough, and I’ve tried to make it so that the fronts at least are vaguely similar.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts

For pattern I tried to draw around one of Kitty’s existing pairs of shorts, but found that the fabric wasn’t quite wide enough.  I also came in a bit too much at the waist on the first leg, and decided to widen it on the other, so they aren’t exactly the same.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts

In construction I sew the legs first, then the two legs together, and then fold the waistband and fold again to make a casing for the elastic waistband, so from that point of view it’s all very easy.  The exposed edges are all overlocked; the more I use it the more I can’t believe it took me so long to pull it out and have a go, it’s almost easier than my main sewing machine and it doesn’t half speed up clothes construction.  I’ll always love the beauty of a nice French seam or a bit of flat felling, but I’m at the stage of life where speed is a good thing if I want the children to wear their clothes and not simply grow through the available sizing and for now the overlocker rules the day.

An hour or sew at the machines and all that was left was for Kitty to wake up and try them on.  I’ll admit I was properly nervous about them; for one thing a six year old has a much more determined view about what she herself is prepared to wear, and much as we’re doing well on the ‘mama made is wonderful’ brainwashing, if she doesn’t like it, it doesn’t matter who made it, she’s not going to wear it.  The fit was the other issue; I knew the shorts I’d measured off were a bit on the big side, but by how much, and these shorts were most distinctly smaller than the originals. Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts

In the event, they fit for exactly right now.  Kitty loves them, is comfy in them, and wore them to school (always a serious compliment) but by the next growth spurt I can see they’ll be in the pile waiting for Elma.  They are probably best described as a wearable muslin, and that’s OK, it would be boring if everything worked first time, and probably be an indication that I wasn’t stretching out of my sewing comfort zone. But now I know that I can’t fit a pair of Kitty-sized shorts out of a fat quarter, I know I need to remember how much shorts need to stretch to be comfy coming off and on, and I know that when I do she’s going to love them.

And speaking of things I know she’s going to love

I’ve made it to the sleeve!  Kitty’s *mumble* Christmas *mumble* cardigan is still on the needles, but this week I finished the body and started a sleeve.  There are two of them, and she has the long arms to go with her long legs, but we’re getting there, slowly but surely!

(the scrape to her head comes under the heading of “how I learnt to take my glasses off before pulling a jumper over my head!)

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

Family Photography Siblings

Siblings 2017: May

15/05/2017

I wonder whether projects like this, and Me and Mine, the ones that force you to be very clear and very real as to how far through the year you are, somehow contribute to the feeling that it’s speeding up?  I couldn’t stop either now if I tried but I definitely had to do a double take when I came to write in the month. May, how is it May?

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a monthly portrait project

But May it is, in all it’s glory of sunny days and long evenings.  Without wishing to jinx us all to a June filled with wall to wall thunderclouds, it has been rather lovely so far this month hasn’t it.  And my little trio have been making the most of it.  They all three love being out in the garden, and it’s so nice to have got to the time of year when we can just let them outside and they’re not going to get so cold, or muddy, or covered in sticky seed pods.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a monthly portrait project

Well, actually muddy might be a bit too much of a stretch.  Pip’s lifetime project appears to be digging a hole in the ground under the playhouse.  He’s always love doing a bit of digging and we’ve given him free reign on most of the flowerbeds, but it was only when John was playing football with him the other day and the football rolled under the playhouse and disappeared that we realised exactly what he’d been up to.  The excavated soil gets put in a plant pot at which point Kitty and Elma start to take an interest in his schemes; one or other of them, usually Kitty, will try to sneak oh so subtly around the corner of the house to the garden tap, fill up a bucket and smuggle it back to him for the making of mud pies and to the general detriment to all of their clothes.  If I had to choose one reason to look forward to the summer right now it’s entirely possible I’d go with “because they can wear swimsuits and then we can hose them down”.  We’ve got a baby wetsuit somewhere from when Elma was little and I’m half tempted to shoehorn Pip into it.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a monthly portrait project

Laundry aside, if they’re happy then the garden can take it, and I love watching them plot together.  They have to come around the studio to get to the tap, and even though they can clearly see that it’s glass on all three sides, somehow they forget to look to see if John or I are in there. So there’s all this creeping, and careful glances back to the patio doors to check we’ve not spotted them, and yet we can both be sat there watching them and they’ll never notice until we call out to turn the tap off properly.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a monthly portrait project

They’re a mischievous little team if ever there was one.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a monthly portrait project

The big change for the girls this month has been Elma’s move up to join Kitty in Kindergarten.  At the girls’ school Kindergarten stretches from usually the term after you turn 4 to the summer term that you’re six. Elma would have moved up last term but as she started nursery two terms late because there wasn’t space for her before she had an extra term to get her really settled in.  I think it probably helped Kitty to settle as well to have those two terms by herself before Elma joined her.  Elma herself is little Miss Independent; she ran into nursery last September without a backwards glance and the same was true of her first Kindergarten morning.  I think she’d have been fine without her sister, but it was very sweet to see Kitty show her where her peg was and where her slippers should live.  As one of the oldest it’s Kitty’s job to help her new class friends to settle in, and from what they tell me of their days Kitty took extra special care with her little sister, made sure that all her friends came to say hello and got to know her Elma.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a monthly portrait project

It’s become a bit of a May tradition around here to take my Siblings photos among the bluebells (last year’s here, and if you want a real blast from the past – 2014’s pictures with a just walking Elma!) and who am I to mess with tradition, so we headed out on a sunny evening to see what the golden hour was doing to the bluebells.  On an aside, tell me I’m not the only one who loves the summer as much for the ability to head out on a little adventure after work as much as for just the general loveliness of it!

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a monthly portrait project

As a largely evergreen wood, the bluebell season sees it in full showing off mode, with the wood anemones as a warm up act in the weeks before.  There are bluebells everywhere, and when the sun sparkles through the trees and it all lights up in a blue, green and golden haze it’s the sort of magic trick that makes a fairy enchantment seem slightly less far fetched.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a monthly portrait project

Most of the big patches of bluebells are buried deep in the trees, but just by one of the little stick shelters the ground is thickly carpeted, and the kids loved running down the little paths between them.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a monthly portrait project

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a monthly portrait project

Every month I try to get a photo where all three of them are looking at the camera, and only occasionally do I get one – possibly because this is what happens when you ask a 6 year old, a four year old and a two year old to look up at the camera!

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a monthly portrait project Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a monthly portrait project Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a monthly portrait project

Little monkeys all three!

Two little sisters, and their brother, in May:

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a monthly portrait project

Do go and say hi to my co-hosts: Donna at What the Redhead Said Natalie at Little Jam Pot Life,  Keri-Anne at GingerLily Tea, Amber at Meet the Wildes, Katie at Mummy Daddy Me and of course the mastermind behind the whole thing, Lucy at Dear Beautiful.  And then link up your Siblings posts below, and if you’re joining in on Instagram if you use the hashtag #siblingsproject and tag @siblings_project_ we’ll be able to see them too!

 



 

Family Working Mum

Early Morning Walks

14/05/2017

The sun crept over the horizon a little while ago, but it’s still in the sleepy waking up stage of the daylight and golden light floods across the meadow.  The dew in the long grass dances and twirls, while the daisies sleep on, still furled up with their arms above their heads, and the birds sing out.  It’s 6.15 and it’s time for a walk.

Space for the Butterflies - Early Morning Walks

It started three weeks ago, or perhaps a couple of days before.  I was listening to a podcast about setting yourself a morning routine to kickstart your day and get up and going, and it really hit home.  I’ve always been a morning person, but I found I’d been drifting into staying up later and later (usually to make sure that I’d had some time of my own after working all evening), and then sleeping through several alarms in the morning and ending up in a tearing hurry, getting into work later than I wanted (I usually get in at about 8 to get ahead on the day) and then that would mean that there was more work to bring home and the whole thing was a vicious cycle and it was time to stop.  Or rather, start.

Space for the Butterflies - Early Morning Walks

So one Sunday night I simply said to myself that the next morning I was going to get up and go for a walk first thing.  Just round the village, just one walk each working day of that week, and if I hated it or it made me stressed or late I’d stop.  It was going to be a mental boost, a bit of fresh air and sunshine that’s sadly lacking when your job involves sitting behind a desk all day, and just the tiniest bit of exercise, which is better than my default setting of none.

Space for the Butterflies - Early Morning Walks

In my head it was just going to be me, sneaking out of the house while the children were still asleep, walking up to the meadow, once around and back home, but on that first morning, and the one after, Pip was awake before me and adamant that there way no way he was going to be left behind, so we got him dressed and slung him up onto my back.  By the Wednesday Kitty had got in on the act, and by Saturday I had all three with me.

Space for the Butterflies - Early Morning Walks

It’s turned out to be one of my most favourite parts of each day.  Even when it’s raining.

When it’s just Pip on my back he snuggles into me and we have silly little conversations as we walk around, about hockey, or playgroup, or whatever he’s going to do that day.  If the girls are with us then we tend to go a little slower and linger a little longer running up and down the BMX track at the far end of the field.  They don’t always come, but I’ll take whoever is up and dressed (and oh do they get dressed quickly if they want to come too!), and even if I do walk further and faster when it’s just me, I miss the company, and the conversation, and the being asked to pretend to score a goal through the basketball hoop.

Space for the Butterflies - Early Morning Walks

When they’re with me it’s my chance to talk to them and to really find out what they’re thinking about and I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed that connection with them.  When you’re the working parent, and you leave on the 7.21 train and don’t walk through the door again until 6.15 at the earliest the uncomfortable truth is that you just don’t get to spend that much time with your children during the week, and the time that you do have in the evening is ruled by the bath and bedtime of tired little people who are not at their best, and a mama who frequently isn’t at her best either.

First thing in the morning, once they’ve blinked the sleep out of their eyes, I feel I’m getting to see the best versions of themselves, which usually seem reserved for school and Daddy, and pushing back against a work life balance that had become horribly out of kilter in the last nine months.

Space for the Butterflies - Early Morning Walks

I’ll admit it’s easy to do on the light sunny mornings and I’m not sure quite what will happen by the time we get to the winter, but for now, it’s the time for our morning walks, and a habit that I can’t imagine is going to prove hard to keep to.

Joining Katie at Mummy Daddy Me and Donna at What the Redhead Said for The Ordinary Moments

 

 

 

Family Handmade

Blossom and Stars {handmade}

12/05/2017

The pile has been sat on the corner of my desk since the Easter holidays.  On a rainy morning I let the children have a gentle ransack of my fabric stash to remind ourselves that sunshine and warm winds were on their way by pulling out a few options for shorts for all three of them for the summer.  Given that my attempts at making baby trousers resulted in three pairs of Anna Maria Horner’s Quick Change Trousers, all of which had a propensity to fall down as the baby in question crawled out of them (note to anyone who arrived here by googling – use half inch elastic several inches shorter than the pattern calls for and you’ll be fine), the idea that I could happily attack a plan to make 6 to 9 pairs of short before we get to the end of June, might seem somewhat fanciful. But last summer, when I had nothing to loose but a bit of spare fabric and an hour or so of a humid evening, I made Pip a pair of shorts to match his sisters’ skirts, and they worked.

In fact they more than worked, they were a roaring success last summer and they still fit this year, even if the young man in question has shot up more than a little. They also fit Elma.  It’s not quite the surprise it seems, she is after all only 1 1/4 lb heavier than him, and height doesn’t matter so much in shorts.  Which means that I have a pattern of sorts, sketched and cut out of a bit of the children’s drawing paper, but carefully preserved in my desk tidy for just such a day.

Whenever people ask me how I find the time to make things, I tell them I need to be creative more than I need to sleep, and I’m only half joking.  I probably need to be creative as much as I need the sleep, but there is a rest and contentedness when it’s just me with a sewing machine, or knitting needles, or even just words, that I don’t get even from something like reading for pleasure.  Last week was a tough one in the working world: nothing bad happened, it was just a steep learning curve that left me lurching between confidence and an all pervading and very irrational fear, but by Sunday I needed some studio time. Preferably something that I didn’t have to think about too much, that would be nice and easy to start, and if at all possible, finish.

Shorts it was.

I was only going to make Elma’s.  As the member of the household with the most clothes in her drawers and the most handmedowns awaiting her, she was clearly in desperate need of more clothing. Clearly. Desperate. So I’m claiming that the fabric made me do it.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts for Elma and Pip

It’s a remnant that we bought in Lil Weasel in Paris last summer, the most beautiful soft floppy organic cotton and if they’d had it by the metre I’d have been wrapping it around myself like a toga if it had let me fit it in the car.  As it was, not such self sacrifice was necessary, and this little bit yielded enough for a pair of shorts and probably a future quilt block or two.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts for Elma and Pip

The fabric is from a line called Madame Mo, who seems to be a Japanese-inspired French cartoon character who has inspired a very lovely line of fabric.  This print is like looking at cherry blossom and a pond through a kaleidoscope so I can see how it fits.

For Elma’s shorts I followed my earlier pattern of basic shorts plus sewn on waistband, with a bit of help from the overlocker along the way (I still can’t figure out how I went so long without using it), and all in all the shorts came together start to finish within my washing machine’s mixed fabrics cycle, so about an hour and half.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts for Elma and Pip

Elma tried them on, jumped up and down for a full five minutes without pause, and dashed off into the garden.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts for Elma and Pip

I turned back to the pile.

For Pip, and in order that we continue the international theme, I picked up the starry print that he chose in Innsbruck last summer.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts for Elma and Pip

For those who are concerned that I seem to spend my summers on a massive fabric haul around Europe, it’s really truly only the tiniest part of our European Adventures, which you can read about here, and watch our videos here.  But back to the shorts.  I have no idea who made this fabric, it’s a border to border print, but Pip loved it, I liked it, and it makes a great pair of “dorts”.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts for Elma and Pip

For this pair I added some extra height to my draft pattern and then folded it down to make an integral waistband.  It’s definitely quicker, and probably a more efficient use of fabric and I’m certain I shall continue to tinker until they’ve both grown out of all of them.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts for Elma and Pip

The next challenge is to somehow size it up and/or copy and existing pair of Kitty’s shorts, but I have a bit of a batik print that I’m happy to experiment with so there’s really no excuse not to keep having a little play.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts for Elma and Pip

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