Monthly Archives

November 2015

Books Elma Family Kitty Motherhood Pip Video

Five things for a Tuesday


One: To Be Held in a Good Light 

I love Lucy’s posts on parenting over at Lulastic and the Hippyshakes; I might not always agree with every conclusion she reaches (I think there is absolutely a value to learning Latin, though there’s more than one method of doing so!), but she always makes me think and remember to challenge the status quo.

Her post this week about stopping to look for the good intentions in our children’s actions really hit home, and I wonder how often I’ve jumped in to say no to my three without taking the time to work out what it is they’re actually trying to achieve.  I strongly suspect there are more than a few times when their only objective is to stop their sibling having something that they want, with not an ounce of higher purpose to it, but there must be times when they’re trying to do the right thing but they just don’t know how to do it because they’re five/two/one.  Thinking about it, I do give Pip that benefit; if he hits Kitty over the head with a magnifying glass I know he’s not trying to hurt her, he’s actually trying to both give her a hug and show her a magnifying glass and it’s just gone a bit awol in the execution, and I want to think that way about the big sisters too.

Motto of the week: “what are you trying to do?” not “stop!” unless anyone or anything is about to get broken.

Two: Oddsockasaurus

Space for the Butterflies - Oddsockosaurus

Did you know that there’s no such thing as a pterodactyl? Dinosaurs have arrived in the vegetable garden at Kitty’s school and her class are doing their best to look after them and make them welcome.  The useful pub quiz knowledge comes courtesy of her weekend project to find a fact about dinosaurs and draw a picture and write a sentence about it; pterodactyl is used to refer to both pterodactylus and pteranodon but doesn’t mean anything distinct itself.

Space for the Butterflies - Oddsockosaurus

With perfect timing the lovely peeps at Sweet Apple Books sent us a review copy of one of their latest treasures so we’ve been reading about dinosaurs at our bedtime story too, only these ones maybe aren’t quite so paleontologically correct! Oddsockasaurus is a very sweet story of a little boy and all the dinosaurs he dresses up as depending on his mood.

Space for the Butterflies - Oddsockosaurus

There’s Oddsockasaurus who appears either in times of laundry crisis or just for fun, Mudiraptor who has an irresistible attraction to muddy puddles, Readabookadocus who definitely appears in my girls’ repertoire from time to time and a whole load of other friends.Space for the Butterflies - Oddsockosaurus

The aim of the book is to give children a voice for some of their feelings and actions, or rather a dinosaur, and to sneak in the unspoken message that they aren’t any one of those things, they’re all of them at different times and sometimes all of them bundled together.

Space for the Butterflies - Oddsockosaurus

I think it’s a really lovely idea, sweetly illustrated and it’s been top of the bedtime story pile for some time now.

Three: Magic Lessons

I devoured Big Magic in one sitting. While sitting in the bath.

It’s Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book (she of Eat Pray Love which I have neither read nor watched the film but rather want to now) and I absolutely loved it.  In making Magic Lessons she simply says that she just wasn’t finished with the idea so she made a spin off (can you have a spin off from a book?).  Twelve podcasts, usually 15-20 minutes long, taking some of the practical tips and advice on pursuing your creativity from the book and talking them through with real life people.

Even if you haven’t read a sentence from the book it’s just so full of joy and enthusiasm and “why not” that it’s infectious, and it’s essential listening if you read the book, got to the end and thought, “oh no, it’s all gone!”. Not that that would happen to any Readabookadocus you might find around here, oh no!

Four: YouTube Thumbnails

And now from thinking to doing. Kate Rushworth’s session at Blogfest on being a YouTube superstar had me scribbling furiously to catch all her top tips in a canter through the inner workings of YouTube.  There are lots of things that I now know I need to tweak but according to Kate the most important thing you can do to make your videos shine is to get the thumbnail right.  Make it a high res image, with lots of contrast and cropped closely so that it still makes sense when it’s shrunk down to teeny tiny on your phone and you’re putting your best foot forward.

The other thing I didn’t know about is the YouTube Creator Academy which can tell you everything you never knew you needed to know and a whole heap besides. How to put a little image watermark on your videos? How to make an introduction video to sit at the type of your channel? How to add subscribe buttons? It’s all there.

Five: Cute Girls Hairstyles

And finally, and speaking of YouTube, have you come across the Cute Girls Hairstyles channel? Kate mentioned it as a worked example and I knew at once that Kitty would love it.  She adores having fancy plaits, even if they all fall apart quite quickly, which is a good thing because anything too complicated and I will fall apart quite quickly (although many hours of practicing means I can do a smashing Belle from Beauty and the Beast).

We sat down with hairbrush and bobbles on Sunday morning and the video for the Tuxedo braid and not only did my finished version look not entirely unlike the one in the pictures, it even lasted all the way through church.

Space for the Butterflies - Tuxedo Braid

H is going to start watching in the hopes that it can teach him how to do a ponytail.

Elma Family Kitty Living Arrows Photography Pip

Living Arrows 2015: 47/52


Living Arrows: a little moment of the week to pause, savour and treasure

We got home from church on Sunday morning, walked in the front door, and straight out into the garden.  This week I’ve really missed the sunshine, as we rattle towards the equinox I’m definitely at the point where I can spend an entire day without being outside in the daylight, I don’t even know what the weather was like on Thursday because the building I was in didn’t have windows, but from the way Kitty, Elma and Pip reacted, I don’t think I missed much either.

I rescued a garden chair that had blown to the end of the patio in the gales and we had a little search in the shed for garden toys that hadn’t already made it into the garage.  There, sat in the corner, was Elma’s Toddlebike. It was perfectly Elma-sized in January and just about still fits her now, but it’s always made Kitty look like a giant in a world of Lilliputians.

Elma was quite happily scooting up and down and I could see that Kitty was desperate for a go as we didn’t have her bike or scooter out, but she just couldn’t work out how to distract Elma for long enough.  She tried offering her hula hoop, and Pip’s car, and just asking, but no dice.  So there was only one thing for it: tandem toddlebiking!

Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows

Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows

Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows

They were surprisingly fast, especially once they worked out that it worked better if Elma sat on the cross bar so that Kitty’s knees weren’t quite digging into her chin at every scoot and they whizzed around and around and around, much to Pip’s very great amusement.

And as for that young man – well after the girls had decided that they’d had enough running around and went inside to cuddle up on H and warm up before lunch, Pip Squeak extricated himself from his beloved car, crawled over to the bike and sat there, arms outstretched with that baby expression that can only read “you know what I want, why haven’t you done it yet Mummy? Are you really going to make me ask?”


So I hauled him up and on and he sat there, prodding it, trying to figure out how it worked and why the big sisters love it so much.

Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows

He just about managed to make it go forward before sliding off the crossbar and deciding that he’d rather it was cuddle and nap time than sitting on the floor under a bike time, but I think it won’t be too long before he masters it and there’ll be three of them bombing up and down the patio!

Blogging Elma Family Inspiration Kitty Pause for Thought Photography Pip {the ordinary moments}

Why Blogging? {Blogfest 2015}


In the last few weeks, as the return to work has started to make itself felt in the long days and the late nights, I’ve started to question why I’m blogging, not spending the evenings sitting on the sofa knitting. Am I truly writing my children’s baby book if I’m just not with them as much as I used to be? Is my story of motherhood still valid if I’m spending more time with my colleagues than actively mothering? And most importantly, am I truly motivated to blog, or have I just got myself onto a treadmill and forgotten that an off switch exists.

So I took a day out. A day to not even think about work (OK, to try not to think about work, that’s the best I can offer), and a day out of the precious time that I do get to spend with my family to give my brain proper space and time to unravel, to think and to be inspired.

I went to Blogfest. And hard though it was to leave the family (and miss the school Advent Fayre which sounds like it was completely incredible) it was a wonderful thing to do.  I’m writing this on the train home having spent a day with incredible insightful creative women (and a few men) who were funny and touching and knew a lot about YouTube and if I knew morse code I’d have been clapping out “yes, this!” every single time.

Space for the Butterflies - Blogfest 2015

the Mumsnet team had put together a truly phenomenal line up, and it’s not everyone that could persuade the Margaret Attwood To be on a live video link from Toronto at 4 o’clock in the morning and that’s before we’d even got to the rest of the first panel; Bryony Gordon, Meera Syal, Bridget Christie, Polly Vernon and Catherine Mann discussing the balance between motherhood and creativity and whether the two can ever happily co-exist.  The general consensus was that yes it can but maybe not all at the same time, and that it requires determination, planning and a little bit of a ruthless challenge to the “good mummies sacrifice themselves” myth.  Food for thought and I could have listened to them, and laughed with them, all day.

The tone was set for the day, from the main panel speakers to the smaller practical sessions; we want you to think and we want to challenge you just a little bit.

Space for the Butterflies - Blogfest 2015

Sandi Toksvig spoke of her vision for the political party that she co-founded, The Women’s Equality Party and the unlikely inspiration for making it a political party not a lobbying group (Nigel Farage if you’re curious),

Space for the Butterflies - Blogfest 2015

David Baddiel shared with such humour the trials and tribulations of putting yourself out there on Twitter and other social media, and the fact that, as he put it, “raising a little flag of self” opens the floor to other people taking your agenda and trying to supplant it with their own,

Space for the Butterflies - Blogfest 2015

and the very wonderful Val McDermid spoke about the importance of story telling, the fact that it is by stories that we make sense of the world, that stories existed long before writing, and possibly my favourite quote of the day:

“Creativity is the way we fight back against the people who would oppress us”, which has never seemed truer when we look around at the unquiet in our world.

The final panel discussion, about how much we share in public of our private lives was about so much more than should you share pictures of your children in the bath or whatever is the latest Instagram controversy, but was beautifully chaired by Fi Glover to cover issues of authenticity, the fact that none of us are ever sharing the whole picture of our lives, and the degree to which we write for ourselves and write just to process things, versus what is fit for public consumption right now.

And as I sit here on the train home in a happy buzzing glow that has nothing to do with the small glass of prosecco at the drinks party (honest) and everything to do with having used and stretched the really creative bit of my brain, the answer seems so obvious.

Why am I blogging? Because quite simply, I love it.  I love to write, and I need to write.  I love to take photographs and video and I love that through blogging there is a whole world out there of people who completely get it; the lovely friends I got to hang out with in person today, a whole heap of new faces, and you.

And I know that this seems a strange choice for an ordinary moment, because I don’t get to spent every Saturday listening to award winning comedians and internationally acclaimed novelists and it probably wouldn’t seem as special if I did.  No, the ordinary and everyday treasures that I want to cherish and celebrate are every other day of the week, the moments on trains spent tapping away at my iPad, or evenings playing on the computer after the children have been tucked up in bed, the snippets of daily life that Instagram captures and the conversations with friends on Twitter, and most of all, the memories and the milestones recorded over the years.

I might not have quite figured out how it is that I can fit blogging into this brave new topsy turkey world that H and I have made, but that I am a writer and a blogger, as it turns out, was never even a question.


Elma Family Kitty Photography Pip The 52 Project

47/52 {The 52 Project}


Linking up with Jodi with a portrait of each of my children once every week for 2015.

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project

Kitty:  late on Sunday afternoon, when the sun was sinking fast, we wrapped everyone up and headed out to the windmill to blow away your cobwebs and get out your wriggles.  It was incredibly windy and very nearly dark but you ran around playing hide and seek between the pillars. Very silly and lots of giggles.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/50, f/1.8, ISO 640)

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project

Elma: my smiley little girl with a smudgy chocolate grin.  This week you told your Daddy he ought to go to training so that Mummy could come home to be with you.  I love the logic even if I can’t quite make it come true.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/80, f/1.8 , ISO 800)

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project

Pip: well “Da!” to you too little man.  This week you’ve been walking more and more and while we’re not quite at the stage of walking more than crawling it won’t be much longer now.  You love tottering around and even when you come down to earth with a bump, it’s with a chuckle.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/80, f/2.2, ISO 800)


Baby Knitting Elma Family Finished Handmade Handmade for Pip Kitty Knitting Photography Pip

A pixie in the garden {handmade for Pip}


Babies may have disproportionately big heads compare to the rest of them but even those heads grow, and master Pip Squeak is no exception. His oh so cute little Golden Pear set from last year are just too little for this, and as his favourite trick is to pull it off his head and throw it over the side of the sling it was time for a little knitting before winter truly arrives.

Browsing through Ravelry I found the pattern for what must be the cutest baby hat ever. A little bonnet made from a nice stretchy ribbing with a button to do up under the chin and a little pixie peak at the back. I was sold even before I realised it’s a free pattern.

And so early one morning while the others were sleeping, Pip, Elma and I consulted the yarn stash. The pattern is written for Socks that Rock medium weight which is somewhere between a thick 4ply and a thin DK so we pulled out the sock yarn and, by the very technical method of draping skeins over Pip’s head to see how they looked, we made our choice. As luck would have it, STR medium weight in Pebble Beach (which seems to be a discontinued colourway and tells you everything you need to know about the age of my stash!).

It’s soft chocolatey brown, swirled with sea green, the sand that collects in the bottom of your shoe after a day at the beach and the deep turquoise of the ocean on a summer day; very definitely boy colours, but not in the “bright blue and fire engines” way, it’s a little more subtle than that.

It’s also a dream to knit with. I’ve still got a little stash of Socks that Rock from way way back in the pre children days. I half jokingly said to H at the time that I was laying in an investment against the possibility of a world without sheep in it, but I am glad that I laid in a stash then so that now I have little supply of some really lovely wool to knit to take the edge off after another trip to the children’s shoe shop.

Space for the Butterflies - the Stella Pixie Hat

But back to Pip’s new hat. The pattern essentially keeps the same number of stitches but moves a horizontal rib into a vertical, leaving you with a sort of parabola shape that you then fold in half and graft up the back. My top tip is to end after you have done the first row in the next block of three, then when you fold it in half and add the grafting the join blends in perfectly (and yes I did discover this after I’d grafted a hundred or so stitches without thinking about it and then had to pull it out!)

Space for the Butterflies - the Stella Pixie Hat

My second top tip would be to sew the neckband on with whip stitch (oversewing). Be careful to be consistent with which line of knitting you’re sewing through on the neckband to keep it looking smart and then when you open it up the whip stitches will blend into the bottom of the hat and it makes a completely flat join, no seam to rub and irritate soft little necks.

It’s an easy pattern to knit up, but there is an error in the online version of the pattern in the buttonhole instruction. I think there’s a row missing because if you’re knit it as written you end up with no buttonhole and not enough stitches. Even if you pull it out and knit it several times over (not that we know anyone who may have done this, oh no).

The pattern should read:

Row 1 (RS): Work 4 sts, k1-f/b, p1, pass second st on right-handed needle over last st, k1-f/b, pass third st on right-handed needle over last 2 sts, work to end.
Row 2: Work 3 sts, p2tog, TURN, CO 4 sts using Cable CO, TURN, k2tog, work to end.
Row 3: Work 3 sts, p2tog, kl, p1, k2tog, work to end.

(With thanks to Mellifico on Ravelry whose very helpful notes saved me from banging my head on the desk with frustration)

Space for the Butterflies - the Stella Pixie Hat

And then with a little wooden button from my button tin as a final flourish it was finished.

Space for the Butterflies - the Stella Pixie Hat

To say that Pip loves it would perhaps be over egging the pudding. When I first put it on him in the warmth of our cosy lounge he gave me a look of Churchillian thunder that could only be interpreted as “Take This Off Me Mother!”, but snugged up in his snowsuit and let out into the garden to dig in the veg beds and eat some mud he was more than happy to have it keeping out the wind.

Space for the Butterflies - the Stella Pixie Hat

Which can only be a good thing because there is a very real possibility that I’ve just made Pip the hat that will last him until secondary school. The pattern is written for two sizes, the upper of which goes to 24 months so I added in another four stitches to bring it up to what I thought would be Pip size.

And it is Pip size. But it’s also Elma sized and Kitty sized and it will even do up on me although it was a bit snug. The girls are already placing their orders and I think I’ll just make this slightly increased size for them too. It has to be done doesn’t it, I mean how cute would it be to have three little ones in matching but not matching pixie hats!Space for the Butterflies - the Stella Pixie Hat

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday, Frontier Dreams for Keep Crafting On and Make Do and Push for Funky Kid Friday