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December 2015

Christmas Elma Family Kitty Me and Mine Photography Pip

Me and Mine 2015: December


Christmas Day dawned grey and dark. And even when the sun had struggled up over the hidden horizon, the thick banks of cloud hovered so low that you could almost reach up and touch them.  It was a day for nothing more important than celebrating and curling up inside our little haven of twinkle lights to chase the gloom away.

A day for candles and sparkle and the glimmer of a rainbow as a crystal bead ornament twirled from a branch; quilts and fluffy socks and the cosyness of a family drawn even closer.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine

What it was not, was a day for photography.  No natural light, even for our house, which is dark to the point of underground even at the best of times during the winter and plenty of better things to do (at least if you ask H and the children anyway!).

But while so much of capturing Me and Mine shots for me is the push to capture the family in our ordinary everyday sort of months, I don’t want to not capture the big high days and holidays either.  Last year’s December Me and Mine comes from Christmas Day, the girls dressed up in their festive finest and Pip sporting a reindeer babygro and the all important “My First Christmas” t-shirt, and I wanted this year’s to be the same – weather or no weather.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine

And so they may be grainy because I had to ramp the ISO through the roof but to me they are the perfect way to round out another wonderful year of Me and Mine.

My little family sat down to a table groaning under the weight of what I think must be the biggest turkey we’ve ever bought (it’s the first time I’ve put it in the oven before church anyway!) and all the rest of the trappings that make our Christmas dinner.

Kitty wearing a beautiful lace dress bought for her in the summer by her Grandma and which I was delighted and ever so slightly relieved to find still plenty long enough, Elma wearing the dress that Kitty wore for Christmas the year she was two that I think is one of the prettiest Christmas dresses ever made, and Master Pip Squeak looking every inch the smart little boy in his Sunday best.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine

He keeps pointing at the camera because as much as he’s used to seeing Mummy’s camera, I’m not sure he’s ever seen it standing on its legs in the middle of the lounge floor, and I’m pretty sure he was trying to tell me to go and do something about it!

Photos can be beautiful works of art that anyone can fall in love with and respond to, regardless of whether they have any connection to the place or people in the photo, and then there are the photos that are really no more than snapshots, but that hold open the connection in our minds back to the memories which were being made.  Sometimes the two collide it’s true, but these are not one of those occasions, nor I suspect will December Me and Mine photo shoots ever by in that category.  But they are wholeheartedly the second.  For me these pictures echo with laughter, and cracker snaps, and Pip eating three portions of Christmas Pudding while Elma was completely unable to contain her excitement and kept dashing off to touch her presents and then run back again.  It’s the girls running around in circles, just because, the squeaky full volume renditions of Santa Claus is coming to town, and the smiles and the joy.

They hold the feelings of ‘hygge’ that seemed to so perfectly describe our ‘slow Christmas’ and the certainty that the very best times in my life will always involve we five being together.

This merry little family of mine, in December:

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

dear beautiful

Christmas Family Finished Handmade Knitting Photography

High speed socks {handmade for Christmas}


Space for the Butterflies - Handmade Dreidel Socks

On the evening of 23rd December I cast on for a pair of socks.  There’s nothing entirely surprising about that, I like knitting socks and I’d just finished my little bits and bobs of knitting for the children’s Christmas presents, the challenge, for such it was, was that these were a Christmas present.  Now I can warp the space time continuum with the best of them and I know I knit like the wind, but a whole pair of grown up socks, in 4ply still takes a goodly chunk of time. And in the last few hours before Christmas, and to be honest, in the normal daily life of a family with three small children, big chunks of time to just sit down and knit are few and non-existent!

But I’d made my peace, I knew that they didn’t have to be finished for Christmas but the following Sunday and I figured that I could probably get one finished and wrapped up to give to my Dad and the other one I’d either finish while he was staying or it would just have to follow by post.  All sorted. I picked up my lovely pointy purple sock needles, grabbed the yarn (one of my precious skeins of Socks that Rock lightweight in the now discontinued Dreidel), and starting knitting.

Space for the Butterflies - Handmade Dreidel Socks

And then, magic. Now I know in my heart of hearts that it’s really not possible to sleep knit.  I can and have been known to knit with my eyes shut, I don’t need to look at a sock unless I’m doing the heel or the toe and so I knit and read, knit and watch the cricket or just occasionally knit and let my eyes have a little rest, but properly asleep, I don’t think so.  And yet I think that must be the only rational explanation for what happened next.  I knit in odd moments, any time we went out in the car, while the children were finishing their lunch, around the sleepy warmth of a little Pip who just wanted to spend an evening sleeping in my arms, in the last hours of Christmas Day and through our quiet sleepy Boxing Day, and my sock grew and grew, and far more than I was expecting. First a single sock, flying off the needles, and then as we turned in on Saturday night, all but the toe of the second.

And by Sunday lunchtime, as Dad battled his way through the traffic to meet us, and with just a little fudging because of a slight yarn shortage, I finished the toe, wrapped up the pair and tucked them under the tree.

It seems that for all the times when I’ve knit and knit and knit and my sleeves have stayed exactly the same length, for every time I’ve knit an incredibly intricate beautiful sock that doesn’t go on my foot, for every yarn tangle and missing vital needle, the knitting fates have balanced the scale, in the form of one perfectly soft and squishy and beautiful and very very finished socks.

Space for the Butterflies - Handmade Dreidel Socks

(all the details are over on my Ravelry page)

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Crafting On

Elma Family Kitty Milestones Pause for Thought Pip

2015: the year that was anything but simple


Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Last year I told myself that this was going to be the year of Simplicity.  A year to declutter and organise, to focus on being truly present for my three little ones, on my own health and fitness and most of all to recognise those moments when we feel balanced as a family of five and to grab them with both hands. Looking back I’m not honestly sure that “simplicity” is exactly the key word I’d use to describe 2015! It’s more like “unexpected,incredibly busy, blissful, adventuring, hard work, and a lot of fun” but that doesn’t exactly fit neatly into an inspirational Pinterest quote.  I think it’s probably fairly telling that I actually couldn’t remember what my word was for this year, I had to go back to my January archive and look it up!

I think a lot of my plans for last year tied into my expectation that by the end of the year I would be being a stay at home Mum; we already knew that one of us was going to stay home with the children and as at last January we both thought it would probably be me and the biggest decision of the year was to turn that completely on its head.  It gave us a wonderful summer together as a five, including all of our adventures around Europe and an autumn that was all about finding out way, dancing through the minefield as Kitty adjusted to school, I got myself up and got on the train to work every morning and waited for the moment when I would stop feeling like I was ripping my heart out, abandoning my children and completely failing as a mother every time I stepped out of the front door (it did come eventually!), and H tried to juggle looking after the house with taking care of three little ones including a certain young man whose middle sister rechristened “Chaos” this week.  Simple? No not really. A little bit more like a white knuckle rollercoaster to be honest.  And a lot of my intention to bring simplicity to our lives were rather shoved to one side in favour of just hanging on and figuring out the day to day, especially in the second half of the year.

Space for the Butterflies - A postcard from Zermatt

But that’s what real life looks like isn’t it, not a neat and tidy checklist all figured out on 1st January and ticked off in gloriously neat technicolour as the weeks and months roll tidily by.  And much as there have been times when a nice little picture perfect life has sounded oh so terribly appealing, I wouldn’t change it for the world.  Without biting the bullet and accepting that going back to work was going to hurt I would never have got through that to the point where it all feels normal and I can embrace the fact that I’m good at my job and I enjoy it, and more importantly we would never have had a whole summer together.  The “grit your teeth and get one with it” moments are the counterpoint to saying “why not” and getting on a ferry to Europe with three pre-schoolers and a car full of camping kit, to standing on top of Gornergrat in a snow shower in the middle of August, to discovering a wonderful new playgroup for Elma and Pip, and then seeing H so happy and welcomed and at home in the same group, or to seeing my eldest daughter burst out of school clutching the card she’d written all by herself, “Mummy, I luv yo”.

Space for the Butterflies - five little words

They are the memories that I hold tight, that I treasure, and the truth is that they wouldn’t be half so special if there were no ups and downs.

As an word of intention for my 2015, “simplicity” didn’t work, but I don’t think any other word would have worked or stuck with me unless I’d chosen “hold on tight and brace yourself” (again not very Pinterest worthy!). Maybe we should have retrospective words for the year, in which case that’s definitely my choice!  But it makes me wonder whether or not to choose one for this year.  I think a word for the year can work really powerfully if it’s the right word and you hold it front and centre in your thoughts and your decision making and your actions but it requires a bit of commitment and dedication to remember to do that.

I’m finding as we come up to the start of 2016 that I’ve actually got quite a few very defined plans for the next year.  It’s a strange feeling because I’m usually scrabbling around on New Year’s eve thinking “I’m sure I should be resolving something” and then having another mince pie and putting it off to think and plan my way through January.  Some of them are carried over from last year (I really need to build some more exercise into my week) and some are new (I really want to finish my fishing net quilt and my cosy cottage ripple blanket), but I know exactly what I want to be snuggling under by the time we get to Christmas 2016!

So before we bid goodbye to a wonderful, and quite literally life-changing 2015, I need a little help for my January planning, I have the intentions and the plans but I’m quite open as to how I set them as resolutions or intentions or whatever you want to call them – so have you made New Year’s Resolutions, and if so, how?

Christmas Elma Family Kitty Living Arrows Photography Pip

Christmas 2015


You know that you’ve stepped up a gear into the next level of Christmas when Christmas Day starts, not with a leisurely waking up cuddled up in our bed, with sleepy eyed children gradually joining us as and when the light brings them to the morning, but when two very excited, very bright eyed and wide awake little girls dash into your room while it’s still dark outside.

“Mummy! It’s really Christmas!”

It was 6.10. Later than I get up on a working weekday I grant you but definitely a sign of wrigglish energy bursting to get out given that every other morning this week they’ve barely been awake by eight.  Pip snored sonorously from the centre of the bed and the girls tucked up on the foot to chatter in barely hushed whispers and try very very hard not to bounce too much.  They lasted until 7 at which point all of the general commotion had woken up their baby brother and with much fanfare we all headed downstairs to find out whether Father Christmas had paid them a visit.  And there under the tree lay a pile of presents and five enticingly lumpy stockings set out in a row.


Well not for long.  The girls dived in and sat in a happy sea of wrapping paper showing each other their new treasures and exclaiming with beautiful surprise every time they turned out to have something the same (gold coins and penguin socks) or nearly the same (ink stamps and some really sweet wind up music boxes that play Mozart).  Pip tried to get into the idea and even pulled a few things out of his stocking, but then he realised that Elma was much better at opening the wrapping paper than he was and crawled over to ‘help’ her with her presents.

Needless to say she was not overly enthusiastic about the assistance and so he and I cuddled up to do a little unwrapping of our own and discover what colour of face flannel Father Christmas had brought for him (sunshine yellow!)

I love the innocence of my little three at this age.  I don’t think it’s that they necessarily truly and wholeheartedly believe that Father Christmas landed a sleigh on our front lawn, magicked himself through our patio doors to fill their stockings, definitely did not go anywhere near them or their room and then whisked himself away again, it’s just that they don’t question it, they’ve never even thought to sit down and think about it.  It didn’t phase them that Father Christmas had applied the same washi tape coding system to their wrapped stocking presents as Mummy and Daddy had to their main presents, nor were they at all bothered that they’d chosen half of the things in my stocking, chosen and wrapped and written the labels!  I love that they did – they’ve chosen some brilliantly quirky presents for me over the year, including this year a set of Rice melamine spoons and a melamine tumbler that Elma has been trying to tell me about for weeks (“it’s flowery on the outside and inside it’s green Mama!”).

Every year we open our stockings by the glow of the tree lights and somehow it just builds the quiet magic of the morning, a sense of something special and something shared before the day really begins.

Breakfast was H’s domain; smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and toasty bagels definitely hit the spot, as did a little Buck’s Fizz in Pip’s present to me, a pair of fabulously festive Christmas champagne flutes.

And then to church to worship, to sing with joy, to catch up with dear friends and of course the annual sharing of the children’s Christmas presents to start the service.  Kitty, far too shy and scared to even take part in the crib service as a non speaking and slightly processing sheep, was more than happy to go up and confidently tell everyone about her music box – I was quietly amazed!

Back home Pip napped while H and I cooked and the girls played with a couple of their presents and then after turkey and stuffing and yorkshire puddings and pigs in blankets and potatoes and carrots and beans and cranberry sauce and sticky toffee pudding and christmas pudding and the Queen we settled down into a happy fug of contentment, tummies full, smiles fit to burst, all sat on the floor around the bottom of our tree, handing out presents one by one.

It’s my favourite moment of Christmas, when all the organising and the planning and the being at the butchers at 6.45 in the morning finally pays off.  The food has all been cooked and what seems like only a tiny amount has actually been eaten, the children are surrounded by presents that they’re excited about and I can sit back and just enjoy their smiles, and know that we cemented in another layer of our family traditions, that this is what Christmas looks like to our children, and I love it.

Christmas Elma Family Kitty Photography Pip The 52 Project

52/52 {the 52 Project}


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

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project

Kitty:  If ever proof were needed that you’re growing up fast it’s right there in that gorgeous gappy toothed smile.  How are you old enough for one of your teeth to have fallen out? I’m really sorry we hadn’t got around to telling you that teeth fell out but I thought we had another year! Apparently not.  But after the initial shock wore off, and your friend’s big sister sat down and pointed out all of her gaps and told you the stories of how they all fell out you were much cheerier and now it’s definitely a point of pride for you and you tell everyone we meet.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/500, f/3.2, ISO 250)

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project

Elma: My sweet little elf – this week has been all about the music and the dancing for you – it’s rare to find you still and even this shot was caught mid-twirl.  Being home this last week I can see so clearly how you’ve grown up and into your big sister role while Kitty’s been at school, and you are incredibly sweet to your boy – most of the time anyway!

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/800, f/3.5 , ISO 250)

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project

Pip: And to complete my little trio of Santa hat pictures – Pip, whose expression can only really be saying “What are you doing to me?”  Not a fan of hats our wee boy.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/125, f/3.2, ISO 250)