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October 2016

Family Me and Mine Photography

Me and Mine 2016: October


It was the month that the leaves turned, the weather became cooler, we stopped being bale to get laundry to dry on the outside line, and we started to hunker down.  At least, that’s the reason I’m giving for having spent the afternoon making Swedish cinnamon rolls and devouring far more of them than is truly good for me.  Welcome to October, with only one month standing between us and the official start of the winter, and I’m-not-counting-and-I’ve-got-my-fingers-in-my-ears-la-la-la days until Christmas.  And though the month has whistled past as usual, for once I think my internal clock of the passing year is in time with what’s actually going on outside the window.

It feels autumnal, and after a wonderful chilled out two weeks of half term, the children at least feel rested and calm and really excited to be going back to school/nursery/playgroup and seeing their friends and throwing themselves into whatever comes between now and the end of term.  I’ve loved being able to see a little bit more of them than usual, and taking a couple of days off to declutter the house has left us just as untidy as usual (I’m claiming it’s the natural consequence of a house full of five creative people), but with places to put everything so that tidying up doesn’t take as long and isn’t as much of a hassle.  Spring cleaning obviously has its traditions, but perhaps autumn cleaning could be a thing too; after all, if you’re about to spend the best part of your days inside for the next few months it makes sense to sort it out while you still have a glimmer of daylight.

With the clocks turning back, that glimmer of daylight has well and truly gone and if there ever were a time of year to take photos inside, now is not it, not in our house anyway.

Which posed somewhat of a challenge for us this month, because when I said I wanted to take our Me and Mine photos this weekend, John, firmly backed by Kitty, suggested that we wear Halloween costumes.  And as it’s (a) funny and (b) makes up for the fact that I’ve failed on most counts Halloween as we haven’t got a pumpkin, haven’t gone on a pumpkin trail and haven’t even made spider cupcakes, I agreed without a second thought.

We gambled and headed up to the windmill at roughly about lunchtime, hoping that everyone else who owns and walks dogs and is usually up there would be sat down tucking into their roast beef.  It worked; for the first 20 minutes we had the entire place to ourselves, which is so much fun because you can run around and set up whatever angles you like without worrying about being in someone else’s shot, or ending up with them in yours.  So with our further ado, may I present the Halloween version of my little family:

Space for the Butterflies - a Me and Mine for Halloween

The girls’ costumes are the easy ones; Kitty is a cat (complete with tail) and Elma is whatever Sainsburys think a Halloween Princess looks like, complete with sash and some extraordinary pink and grey hair that she adores for reasons which are entirely beyond me.

Space for the Butterflies - a Me and Mine for Halloween

Pip, well Pip was also on the very same costume buying expedition with his grandparents that saw the girls so spectacularly decked out, but while he now owns a pumpkin outfit, as soon as we put it on he looked up at me, “No like it Mama! No like it!”. We took it off and offered him an Olaf snowman instead, but with the same result.  So if you’ll lend me a bit of your imagination, Pip is a pirate. The shorts and stripy shirt are his own, the pirate cap is John’s from another hockey tour and the sword belonged originally to my aunt who celebrated a big birthday with a pirate party.  In it’s time it has been swung by Kitty and Elma to great effect and while Pip may have been embracing his inner Poldark and using it for a little light scything of the long grass, it was more than ample bribery and corruption that he’d wear the hat.

Space for the Butterflies - a Me and Mine for Halloween

And John and me? Well John is a cat-penguin, a sort cat-woman, but penguin, thanks to a cat mask donated by Kitty and a penguin onesie from a Secret Santa at work a couple of years ago.  I am, well I’m not exactly sure.  The cape was originally made for John to be Professor Chaos on another hockey tour and the mask was from our dressing up box, so I’m claiming to be Batman’s Mother – all the powers and the person who got Batman to tidy his room.  I’ve never actually watched any of the films, my Batman is from the Lego movie so if I’ve missed something crucial let me know!Space for the Butterflies - a Me and Mine for Halloween

As a set of photos they are crazy and silly and I love them unashamedly.  One of these days these three little people of ours will look back on these photos and know that their parents were utterly daft, and completely prepared to look silly for their entertainment.  They are us in those moments when everything is just exactly right and I know that in them is my happiness found.

Space for the Butterflies - a Me and Mine for Halloween

Just as they are; crazy senses of humour and all – my little family, in October:

Space for the Butterflies - a Me and Mine for Halloween

The Me and Mine Project


Family {the ordinary moments}

Lunch for five


Half term is a funny time for me; being the only one in the house getting up and out the door, occasionally before the girls have even woken up, all in aid of being on the first possible train home to spend as much of the evening with them as I can.  Add in the increasingly dark mornings and it feels like I’m leaving in the middle of the night.  And I miss them.  When we’re all getting up and out in the morning it doesn’t feel quite so hard to leave.  Last week I was working, and then we were tidying but this week has been harder, even if (by virtue of a well planned Friday morning site visit) I’ve managed to be working from home a little more than usual.

So that was two lunches together but this half term we made it three.  On the basis that we have done it twice, it is therefore (according to Kitty) a half term tradition that John brings the children up to Birmingham to meet me for lunch one day.  We know this because she started asking “when” she was coming to my office, rather than “if”.  And if you’re going to have a half term tradition, I can’t think of one I’ll more happily embrace.

They came up to say hi to some of my colleagues, mostly I suspect because once I came in to have a chat with my boss about my return to work post-Pip and he lent them his highlighters to colour with, which they did with gusto – all over themselves – and I suspect they’re hoping for a repeat performance.  He was out, but my swivel chair was considered ample substitute.

Space for the Butterflies - half term lunch treat

Birmingham does pretty well for nice places to go for lunch, and you’ll have to trust me that transformation from Birmingham New Street to Grand Central means that the popular choice of “that place in the train station” actually is a lot nicer than it sounds.

Space for the Butterflies - half term lunch treat

Five Guys is sinfully delicious, a fatal blow to any healthy eating kick or bank balance, but if you’re going to do a half term treat you might as well do it properly.  We had burgers and chips and strawberry milkshakes that are the right colour of palest pink, and I remembered exactly why I keep planning to bring in a cool bag, order a meal for all of us, and bring it home on the train for a treat.  The only thing stopping me is that I’m certain I couldn’t make it home without tucking in first.

Space for the Butterflies - half term lunch treat

But for all the merits of the food, the fun was being together; stealing those treasured extra minutes out of my working day to spend with my very favourite people.

Space for the Butterflies - half term lunch treat

Pip, who is developing a train obsession to rival his love of hockey, arrived clutching a “test print” ticket (a present from the ticket office in Leamington) that he’d been clutching all the way from home and so excited to tell me that he’d been on a “train station”.  He asks me every morning what colour train I’m catching so I asked him the same, and the answer came back: “It pink!”.  Not unless Chiltern were trialling some new paint jobs it wasn’t – but perhaps he should put it in the suggestion box!

Space for the Butterflies - half term lunch treat

Kitty and Elma, both just as excited about going on the train, had apparently been playing I-spy almost all the way.  Kitty’s was mostly based on what was out the window, but Elma’s clues were all “M”; she claims to have been able to see me from at least Solihull, which is remarkably impressive.

Space for the Butterflies - half term lunch treat

It was an hour (and perhaps a smidge but who’s counting) that flew past, and all too soon it was time to head back and leave them to go on to do some vital shopping at Cass Art, and I absolutely loved it.

Roll on next half term.

Joining Katie at Mummy Daddy Me for The Ordinary Moments

Elma Family Kitty Photography Pip The 52 Project

44/52 {the 2016 portraits}


A portrait of each of my children once every week for 2016.

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project

Kitty: Watching the three of you hanging out together this half term it’s noticeable how effortlessly you are the ringleader in all plans both parent-approved and otherwise.  This first half of term at school has given you courage and confidence and you are thriving.  Striding out along the path you were completely in your element, and very keen to get pond dipping even if it isn’t exactly the time of year for it.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/100, f/2.8, ISO 100)

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project

Elma: Another one who couldn’t wait to get to the pond dipping.  Even if the net was taller than you, and leaves the only thing on the water today you had your pink jacket and your bug box and the water trays and you were going to pond dip until there was nothing left to dip.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/125, f/3.5, ISO 125)

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project

Pip: And speaking of pond dipping … where the girls lead, you happily follow – and your collection of lake leaves was very impressive!

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/125, f/3.5, ISO 125)

Handmade Handmade for Pip Pip

Nautical and Navy {handmade for Pip}


If last week I was getting predictable, this week this leggings addiction is getting silly.

I suspect it may be because they’re pretty much the sewing equivalent instant gratification; a little bit of cutting out, a couple of seams and ta da, you have a pair of leggings.  Or two.


The first of this week’s pair is from the last of the lengths of jersey bought from Innsbruck, it’s such a gorgeous blue and perfect for my obsession with dressing Pip in blue and yellow.


It’s not exactly the same pattern as his monkey pair; I started with that pattern, and cut it freehand to be a little bit wider in the leg, and then traced around the one leg to make the second to match.

20161026-dsc_0022 20161026-dsc_0046

To make sure that this pair last for more than five minutes before he grows out of them I added cuffs by cutting strips of the same fabric 4″ x the circumference of the bottom of the leg, overlocking them to form a tube, folding the tube in half wrong sides together and overlocking that to the bottom of the leg.  It’s given me another couple of inches so this pair is comfortably long enough, and I’ll probably do something similar to the monkey pair when he grows out of them.


Other than that they are exactly as before, and seem to be just as comfy cosy for Pip to wear while he tears around the garden.

That really should have been it as far as leggings were concerned, I’d used all the fabric I had piled up, the kids all had leggings galore, except…


Well last winter John well and truly wore through the sleeves of his then favourite, very nice, very warm, very cosy wool jumper.  And when we say “wore through” we mean holes big enough to fit a flock of sheep through.  The body of the jumper was still in pretty good nick though so I’d held onto it with the thought of using it for something for the children.  And so when I finished one pair and looked around to see what else I could make, there it was.

It feels incredibly naughty cutting into clothes, even clothes that would otherwise be destined for the recycling bin. With a bit of extra length, and using the existing jumper hem for the bottom of the legs, I had just enough length to get a Pip-sized pair of leggings out of the front and back.


I cut them to the skinnier of my two patterns because I think these are most likely to be worn as long johns underneath waterproofs in the winter and so I wanted them to be a little bit fitted and they fit him beautifully.


For the top I just overlocked the top and made an elastic casing as with all the other pairs, with a little snip of elephant ribbon in to mark the back.


And so, with a ceremonial flourish, I shall now remove the twin needle from my sewing machine, and tuck my overlocker back on its shelf. There is nothing more in my stash to turn into leggings and far too much stash to justify doing any shopping and so the leggings obsession will have to have run its course. For now anyway.

Tell me I’m not the only one who things Christmas leggings could be a pretty awesome thing to find under the tree when you’re 6, 4 and 2?

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday, Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On and Make Do and Push for Funky Kid Friday
A Postcard From Europe 2016 Exploring Family Video

a postcard from Innsbruck


The foothills of the Bavarian Alps build steadily on the German side, tracing the road up through the valleys until suddenly you round the corner, the road falls away beneath you and there, several hairpin turns below you, is Austria and the Tyrollean plateau.  It’s completely unexpected and breathtakingly beautiful, even half smothered in mist.

I think I thought of Innsbruck as being a larger version of Zermatt; tucked into the side of the mountain, nestled among the Austrian Alps, but they’re more of a fence, soaring hundreds of feet into the sky wrapped around the valley below.  Perhaps they’re not quite so awe inspiring as their Swiss cousins, but they still dominate the sky line; a solid wall of rock  and snow capped peaks to the south and west, with little green swards appliquéd on to the side, looking utterly flat compared to the mountains behind.  They looked completely inaccessible, and yet more often than not there would be a little village and a church tower perched up on top; dropped there by giants playing at keeping house.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Innsbruck

Innsbruck itself is beautiful.  We headed for the old town and its famous gold roof, meandering along the riverside as all of the past few days worth of  thunderstorms washed away downstream.  I’d started taking pictures of the pretty coloured buildings before we got anywhere near; they were the perfect oranges and golds to brighten the sky on a misty grey day while we waited for the clouds to clear, and reminded me so much of growing up in Devon where we paint out houses the colours of ice cream and think its totally normal.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Innsbruck

But by the time we found the gold roof all thoughts of beautiful buildings were entirely forgotten, even though we were in the heart of the pretty bit.  On the way in we’d been stopped by an actual traffic policeman (a first in itself) and redirected to clear the road to allow the police marching band to go past. I love marching bands, they’re definitely one of my guilty pleasures, and it seems that Kitty has similarly excellent taste in music as she insisted that we rolled the windows down and listened for as long as possible.  To our huge delight, as we turned around the corner to see the gold roof, we could hear a solid brass oompa-oomp-pa.  There’s something about that music that makes my toes itch to be moving, and Kitty and I sped up as we headed forward and around the corner to see the band set up in front of the old town hall.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Innsbruck

Exploring to do? What exploring.  John and Elma went for a little wonder but while Pip was busy batting out a beat on my back, Kitty was mesmerised.  She found a spot on the cobbles and sat in front of them, immersed in the music and utterly in the moment.  And with a bit of time to stop and look around we finally worked out what all the little white banners were about; we’d come to Innsbruck in the middle of Music Festival.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Innsbruck

Having thoroughly enjoyed one impromptu concert we lucked out again when our stop for a picnic in the Innsbrucker Hofgarten turned out to be just outside the Musikpavillion where a group of students from the Innsbruck School of Music put on a more classical concert to a packed pavilion and a good number of people just outside the door.  We couldn’t stay for the whole concert, but to hear just the start, and be able to watch the children running around quite happily outside was a serious treat.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Innsbruck

The reason for our scuttling away, despite the very excellent tree climbing trees, and the discovery of the princess and the frog in a fountain, was a castle.  Not the Habsburg Palace (beautiful though it is), but a gorgeous castle adventure playground, complete with tower, battlements and a nice swirly slide.  One of the two was always going to get the majority vote in our family and much as I would like to go everywhere and see everything when we travel, the priority for travelling with little kids has to be making sure that they’re having as good a time as you are, so play parks and good spaces for running around  have as much merit as very pretty palaces.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Innsbruck

The funny thing about being in Innsbruck is that it doesn’t feel like an alpine town when you’re just walking around the gardens, or along one of the main roads.  It’s completely flat, and it’s not until you suddenly look up about the roofline of the streets, or something that isn’t quite a cloud catches your eye, that you realise that you’re surrounded by these stunning peaks.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Innsbruck

In a day we were only ever going to scratch the surface of Innsbruck, and tempted though we were by the idea of a cable car up the mountain, or a visit to the Alpine Zoo, we opted to spend what time we had pottering around and soaking up the atmosphere.  And paying a visit to a yarn and fabric shop of course.  If you follow my handmade posts you’ll know that I have developed a serious addiction to making leggings for the children.  It meant that after owning it for four years I finally got around to figuring out my Mum’s overlocker (and promptly wondered what on earth took me so long) and it all started in Innsbruck when a window display of Christmas table cloths caught my eye and before I knew it we were standing in the middle of one of the biggest and loveliest fabric shops I have seen in years, facing a wall full of rolls of cotton jersey.  That I only came home with four lengths for leggings for the children, a starry cotton print to make Pip shorts next summer and the most eye-popping sock yarn I’ve knit for John to date I see as a testament to my restraint, though I agree that may not be a view entirely mirrored by everyone else within the household.  I have made all of the leggings though!

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Innsbruck

When the family finally tore me away, there were still little winding lanes to explore; grockle shops filled with miniature dirndls and lederhosen and every souvenir you’ve ever thought existed.  Splurging our pennies on ice cream instead, we peeked into a glass blower and became appropriately dazzled by the swarovski crystal displays in front of the museum; enough sparkles even for my glitter loving lot.

Space for the Butterflies - Walchensee, Germany

Down Maria-Teresien Strasse we found a wonderfully pink church, and a little further on the Annasaule (St Anna’s column), also in pink, this time of the marble variety and therefore much admired.  By the time we arrived it was mid afternoon, the skies had mostly cleared and the sun shone; perfect timing because this is one of the views of Innsbruck; the street, the column, the church and the mountains.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Innsbruck

I know we want to explore more of Austria some day and we couldn’t help but love what little we did see, but this was the far point of our trip, the furthest we were ever going to be from home, all 866 miles of it, and I think we were all a little reluctant as we turned for the hills; back to Germany, and an acknowledgment that for this year at least, it was time to start making our way home.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Innsbruck

I loved filming in Innsbruck and got slightly obsessed with the Police band and recorded quite a few snippets of their performance, so it seemed only appropriate that for our little film postcard home, I should turn the soundtrack over to the very talented Polizeimusik Tirol.

If you’d like to read some of our other postcards home from this year’s adventures check out:

Enzklosterle and the Black Forest