Monthly Archives

October 2016

A Postcard From Europe 2016 Exploring Family Photography Video

a postcard from Walchensee

25/10/2016

Walchensee is a landscape painted in blues; all turquoise, teal and midnight.  We arrived on a scorcher of an afternoon, having taken far longer than we expected to drive the width of southern Germany and we were all hot, tired, and more than ready to arrive.  Curling our way down the mountain pass, dodging hairpin bends and bicyclists in equal measure, suddenly a glimpse of water opened up and through the trees, there was the lake, and it was all we could do not to jump straight in it to cool off.

Space for the Butterflies - Walchensee, Germany

The lake is Walchensee, as is the village half way down the western shore, but the campsite (also going by the same name) is around the corner, over a bridge across the stream that could have been lifted straight from the Lake District, and along the side of a low spur pointing its finger out into the water.

Living in our beautiful island, a beach holiday means going to the coast; even from the very middle of the country it’s only a couple of hours drive to the nearest beach, and it wouldn’t take much effort to find a campsite somewhere near the seaside, and when you’ve grown up with that as your default setting you forget that it’s not the norm.  If you live in southern Germany, proper seaside holidays are two countries away down by Venice and so if you want to hang out on a beach, you go to a lake.  Walchensee is where the Germans go for their holidays, and in contrast to Enzerklosterle where we met mostly Dutch and British travellers, here we were the only foreign car in the car park, and 71% of the Brits on site.  And because of that, people potter about on site and get chatting to their neighbours; even if it is to take the mick out of the size of our tent; “Ist Buckingham Palace?!” (es is nicht Buckingham Palace, es ist beeindruckend

Space for the Butterflies - Walchensee, Germany

While the carvans have set pitches, the tent section of Walchensee is two grassy sections down by the water.  You pitch your tent anywhere you can find space for it, and when we showed up there was just about room enough to squeeze our lovely big green tent into the remaining gap, even if we had to forgoe pegging out large sections of the guy ropes.  With the rest of the space being filled with the teeny tiny sort of tents that people take up mountains, we did stick out a bit, and I definitely felt a lot less self conscious the second night when another nice big family tent came and made its home next to us.

The plus side of course was that we were mere metres from the water; beautiful deep clear water, blissfully cool and perfect for swimming; shallow enough at the shore line that the kids could paddle and throw pebbles and deep enough that we could swim properly without having to wade out for half a mile.  We were in the water less than 10 minutes after we finished pitching the tent.

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The lake was stunningly beautiful at all times of the day and night.  Our first evening we went for a drive to see if there were any other options to pasta and sauce (plenty of restaurants, no shops so pasta it was), and we stopped up at the northernmost point to turn back around.   All but the palest pearly pink light had faded from the sky, and the hills were midnight as they put on their cloak of darkness, and there was a stillness and a calmness that seeped into your bones.

Space for the Butterflies - Walchensee, Germany

If last year was a “doing” holiday, this year’s intention was for a “being” holiday; just being together and not trying to bat round a million miles a minute, conscious that when we got back home I’d be straight back into work and the girls wouldn’t have that much of a gap before school and nursery started. Walchensee was where we embraced the just being.  We went on a day trip to Innsbruck, and we did the occasional run to Edeka and the petrol station, but mostly we sat on the beach and enjoyed that view; no circumnavigating the lake, no trying to climb a mountain to get a better view, just watching the children play along the water’s edge while I knit and John snoozed, or going for a swim, and then another swim because it was just too lovely to get out.

Space for the Butterflies - Walchensee, Germany

Space for the Butterflies - Walchensee, Germany

Each night the children would go to sleep worn out from being waterbabies all day, and John and I would crack open the secret supplies of various German beers and catch up on the Olympics.  We were in Walchensee when the women’s hockey team won gold, willing the phone battery and the 4G signal to hold out as we went through to penalties.  Gold medal winning aside, it was lovely to have that bit of time together, just the two of us.

Space for the Butterflies - Walchensee, Germany

And then, about eleven o’clock, every night, the show really started.  Our first evening we looked up at the weather, saw the beginnings of a clear night sky and the twinkle of the first stars, and decided to leave our swimming cozzies out on the guy ropes.  It was not a mistake we’d make twice.  Just as we were turning in, the first drops began to fall, and out of the corner of my eye I caught a flash of light that might have been from a camera.  It wasn’t.  Thunder ripped through the valley and the storm started up with a vengance.  I’ve not heard thunder in the mountains before and unless you ever experience it yourself it’s had to imagine.  There’s no build up of humidity, or low rumble from miles away as the first sign, just a crack that sounds like the very earth is being wrenched in two and forged into a new arrangement.  The acoustics of the hills bounce the sound around, but there’s no mistaking when the storm is right overhead; rumble after rumble interspersed with sheet lightening and the rain pelting down on the roof of your tent a few inches above your face.  The tent did us proud though; not a drop inside, and very few wobbles when we considered how little pegged out we were.

Space for the Butterflies - Walchensee, Germany

Space for the Butterflies - Walchensee, Germany

For every gently glorious day, the nights were a reminder of the violent beauty of stormy weather, and we came to expect them and even enjoy the storms, as we checked that the children were try and warm, and cuddled them in close.  They for their part slept right through every single storm; such is the power of paddling and rock throwing to wear you out.

Space for the Butterflies - Walchensee, Germany

Space for the Butterflies - Walchensee, Germany

It is a truly beautiful spot, and if our little film postcard home suggests that we spent nearly every moment in the water – could you really blame us?

 

Family {the ordinary moments}

Clutter be gone

23/10/2016

I’m absolutely certain that the word “life-changing’ gets hugely overused, but I’m equally sure that our adventures in Europe last summer genuinely were life changing.  Not just because it showed us exactly what we want to be doing with our long summer holiday for as long as we’re still allowed into Europe, but for what it showed us about when we really need to be happy.  When you strip your life down to what fits in the back of your car, even if it’s a nice family friendly generous sized sort of car, you begin to see how little it is.  When we travel the happiness essentials, the things that we pack in around the edges of all the camping kit, are books (of both the reading and writing variety), a bag of art supplies, a bag of yarn and needles, the children’s favourite snuggle toys and a quilt or two, a bottle opener and occasional access to a wifi connection. That’s it.

When we came home last summer, even though we’d tidied and cleaned it to within an inch of its life before we went, the house felt over stuffed; having been used to so little, it felt oddly uncomfortable to have so much.  And so gradually, over the last year and a bit, we’ve been reducing what we own.  We’re not exactly Konmari-ing the house, at least in part because I could never quite get behind her theory on books, particularly the unread ones (which she says to get rid of and buy again if you ever truly feel like reading them), but she doesn’t have small children, and I doubt can truly appreciate that you can buy a book, read the first chapter, put it down, and not pick it up again for a month despite having every intention to do so, unless you’re still deep in the baby days.  I do think she has some great points, and a genius method of folding and storing clothes which we’ve used across all five of us; and sent several bags to the charity shops along the way.

It’s been getting there, but slowly, and as I had a couple of days holiday spare as we come to the end of the year, this week I took two days holiday, and didn’t spend either of them with the children.

It’s completely counter to my gut instinct, which is to spend as much time with them as possible, but with the grandparents drafted in to babysit it means we can get a lot more done, and so we have spent the latter half of this week blitzing the house in a decluttering whirlwind.  We’ve tidied the girls’ bedroom, and reorganised it a bit, and excavated so much stuff from underneath their beds it’s unbelievable (but does explain why we could never find any socks or hair bobbles), and we’ve hung pictures and put new batteries in their fairy lights, and it feels restful and soothing, and everything I want it to be for them.

Space for the Butterflies - coffee table repainted in Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Antoinette

We repainted an old coffee table of ours in Annie Sloan’s Antoinette and it’s been sat in the studio for ages waiting for John to put the new handle on (still waiting!), and for us to have time to sort out the space and move one of the bookcases out to Pip’s room.  It means that they’ve both got space to build lego or do jigsaws or colouring side by side with only a minimal amount of nudging, and I hope it will be the perfect place for one or both of them to retreat to when they want a little quiet.

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Almost all of Thursday’s effort was devoted to clearing out a little study/room we keep the cross trainer in, that the previous owners built into the roof of our garage. Because we don’t want the children to mess about with the cross trainer it’s also become the place we put all the things to get them out of the way; to the point that actually getting to any of the shelves would have been a bit of a challenge.  There are things that we put in that room when we first moved in 10 years ago, that may never have been out in the interim, but now we’ve sorted DVDs and CDs and finally got rid of John’s university textbooks (and he claims I’m the hoarder – we’re 36!).  Our shredder went so far into overdrive getting rid of 15 year old bank statements that it collapsed, and it was a lesson in how much we now keep track of electronically (thank goodness for paperless billing!). Our entire family’s filing is now half of one filing cabinet drawer; it’s amazing.

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I’m writing this on Saturday while John’s been playing hockey (they won – yay!) and I can see the difference that two days has made.  The garden has been emptied of it’s pile of “things we must take to the tip”, mostly broken fence panels thanks to last year’s storms. Technically, as I’m in the lounge, it seems to have made this bit of the house a bit messier, because we’ve got a few piles of things that need to get put back where they belong and a huge box to send off to Music Magpie, but the whole house feels like it has a little bit more room to breathe. We can get to the things in our study, and while the studio still needs quite a lot of work, I also emptied two rubbish bags and a bag of recycling out of there on Friday and it means I’ve got the space to cut and sew that fires up my love of making things (and as soon as I’ve finished writing this I’m off to make another pair of leggings!)

In two and a bit days it was never going to be finished top to toe, and we’ll still have work to do (and we still have the skip for another week and a half), but it already feels a big step back towards how home should be.img_3773

Joining Katie at Mummy Daddy Me for The Ordinary Moments

Elma Family Kitty Photography Pip The 52 Project

43/52 {the 2016 portraits}

22/10/2016

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

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project

Kitty: We had a skip delivered this week which now contains huge amounts of broken fence panels, a garden seat that we took down to make room for your playhouse, and not a little bit of extraneous clutter. The day it was delivered you were just about bouncing off the walls with excitement; it was the most entertaining part of your half term thus far, and so you asked to have your photo taken in front of it. Well why not!

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/400, f/3.2, ISO 200)

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project

Elma: never has a skip been quite so photographed, or two little girls so thrilled to see it arrive!

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/160, f/3.2, ISO 200)

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project

Pip: My champion monkey rascal; you were mildly interested in the skip, and a lot more interesting in pulling funny faces at all and sundry!

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/400, f/3.2, ISO 200)

Finished Handmade Handmade for Pip Pip Sewing

My little monkey {handmade for Pip}

21/10/2016

If it seems that all I’m making at the moment is leggings, you might just have a point.  I am doing a little bit of secret knitting on the side, mostly because you can’t take a sewing machine and overlocker on the train without getting some seriously funny looks; although now that I think about it I’d love to take a sewing machine on one of the big trains that has charge points by the table and sit there sewing – I think the looks would be on a whole new level to the sideways glances you get for knitting!

Anyway, back to the sewing. I actually have a huge pile of sewing sat next to the machine but it takes me so long to thread all the needles and get my desk organised to be able to overlock and use the twin needle on my sewing machine that I’ not moving them, or fitting another needle until I’m fully up to date on the leggings front.  And, if I make the leggings before I get to the point of needing to do a big proper grown up declutter and tidy up of the studio then I don’t have to find somewhere for the fabric to be stashed.  It’s slow tidying at its very best.

And with the girls’ pairs all finished, and worn, and sat in muddy puddles, and washed and worn again, it was time for some for Pip.

I love leggings for little people, they’re so cosy and they’ve got room to wriggle and move and stretch and do all the things that babies and toddlers should do, while also looking incredibly cute.  We’ve had some gorgeous pairs over the years (and if you’re not planning on getting to grips with an overlocker I can happily enable a legging addiction by pointing you in the direction of Lottie and Lysh and Maybelle & Bo!), but that little boy of mine possesses spectacular abilities to grow both out of and through his trousers.  Perhaps three children is what it takes to wear holes in the knees or perhaps he just does it in style!

Space for the Butterflies - Monkey Leggings for Pip

So, back to Innsbruck and the wonderful wall of jersey: we chose two prints for Pip on the basis that if I was only having half a metre of each then we could stretch to two.  There’s still a nautical pair in my future, but I couldn’t resist starting with these monkeys.

I seem to have developed a bit of a habit of underestimating my son’s height on all available opportunities.  I know I held up a tape measure vaguely in Pip’s direction and half a metre seemed loads, even allowing for shrinkage, but somehow when I got that half metre home it just didn’t look that big any more.  I’d tried Elma’s elephants on him and while baggy, they weren’t ridiculously huge, and that’s an age 5. Only when I laid the age 5 pattern piece over the fabric did I remember that they’d fitted nicely into 3/4 of a metre.

Space for the Butterflies - Monkey Leggings for Pip

This patten started out life as the age 5 size of that Oliver + S pattern but with some fairly heavy macgyvering to end up with something that fits him more closely but without being too stretched, so he can pull fleecy waterproof trousers over the top without them bunching up.

Although I knit while the children are up and about and awake, sewing tends to be a nighttime pursuit for me, and if I’m making something for one of them I always start second guessing how big they’ve got and wondering whether it’s too big or too small or just too too. With Pip’s monkeys I was worried that the ankles would be too tight; I was so tempted, not to wake him up exactly, but maybe to sneak a little foot out of his sleeping bag and just try it on.  I’m sure he wouldn’t have woken up; well maybe not.

Space for the Butterflies - Monkey Leggings for Pip

The sewing fates were on my side though; the ankles fit, and the chosen length of ‘this is the longest I can make it’, turns out to be just about long enough, at least for the next five minutes.  The hem on them is absolutely tiny though; literally the ends finished on the overlocker, flipped under and sewn down so for the next pair I’m going to cut them slightly wider and put cuffs in.

Space for the Butterflies - Monkey Leggings for Pip

And the verdict from their small wearer:

“Mine monkey trousies!”

Space for the Butterflies - Monkey Leggings for Pip

He wouldn’t let me take them off him when it was bedtime; and so after we’d washed off the mud, and his sisters’ efforts at decorating, back on they went – I think that makes them a hit!

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 Family

A postcard from Bad Wildbad

18/10/2016

It wasn’t perhaps my brightest idea, but every now and then you should do something that scares you, shouldn’t you?

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Bad Wilbard

Bad Wildbad, a fifteen minute drive to the north of Enzklosterle has the honour of being both the location of the nearest supermarket, and the nearest place to pick up 4G signal on your phone, big steep valleys in the middle of nowhere not being renoun for their phone signal.  So for much of both this year and last year’s trip it was where we went to Edeka and where went to plan our next steps. But every time we came out of the mountain tunnel and rounded the roundabout I’d wonder why there was a funicular train sat in the middle of the roundabout.  The answer of course is that Bad Wildbad’s pride and joy is the Sommerbahn; a little railway right up to the top of the mountain behind.

And so on our last Sunday in camp we set off, walking down into the middle of town, on a beautifully warm sunny morning, to climb a mountain the really easy way.  We knew our three were too little to manage the climb up, but thought that they would be ok doing the downhill version, so the plan was to pop up, have a quick look around the top of the hill, and then walk back down again.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Bad Wilbard

We were in for a surprise.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Bad Wilbard

As we climbed out of the station, all of Bad Wildbad appeared beneath out feet.  It is a stunning view, and well worth the ride for that alone.  But the top of the hill? Well I think in my head I expected something a bit like the top of a Lake District fell; lots of walking routes and the Sommerbahn station, but as soon as we stepped out we realised that we may have underestimated.  There’s a hotel and a restaurant and tourist information and about half the town seemed to have come up for their Sunday morning stroll.  There isn’t exactly a top either, the Black Forest doesn’t go in for distinct peaks so much as rolling mounds of mountain so there’s never exactly one point that marks the summit, and lots of places where you can look out across the valleys.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Bad Wilbard

But everyone seemed to be heading in one direction, towards a little wooden hut, and the start of a decking walkway out into the treetops.  People were going with buggies and little kids in backpacks and it seemed like such a lovely idea; to stroll out among the tree tops and have a good look at the view.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Bad WilbardI will claim to this day that I was lulled into a false sense of security by the German mamas and their buggies.  The truth is that I am not very good at outdoor heights.  Indoor heights are fine as long as you’re not asking me to stand on a pane of glass and look down through my feet, but outdoor is where I start to feel, shall we say, a little tense.  It’s not vertigo exactly, it’s the fear that my glasses will fall off and I won’t be able to get down because I am quite spectacularly shortsighted without them.  A short walk not too high up off the ground really shouldn’t have been a problem, I was absolutely fine on the one at the Eden Project, and I barely thought about the height before we headed off to explore.

The slight hitch in this otherwise excellent plan was twofold.  Firstly, there is a lot more wood easily available in the middle of the Black Forest than in Cornwall, so the walk was higher and longer, and went out over quite a drop (20 metres off the ground at the highest point), and secondly, this was the day when we forgot the sling.  It shouldn’t have been a problem; Pip is a pretty good walker and if he doesn’t want to walk then we pop him on our shoulders.  Except that having him on my shoulders way way up high off the ground seemed like a completely crazy plan, and letting him walk, whilst keeping his head below the parapet, also involved him trying to rattle the wire mesh fencing below.

Now I know that they’ve probably tested it so that you couldn’t drive a tank through that fencing, it’s a German tree top walk for goodness sake, but apparently my subconscious did not get the message.  I became utterly convinced that given half the chance my beloved baby was going to somehow throw himself off the decking. He was understandably less than thrilled at being clutched to his mother in the tightest hold known to man and started wriggling to get free, which made me clutch him all the tighter.  Oops.  Fortunately, H is much better at heights than me, so he and Pip enjoyed the view and I walked on with the girls holding my hands, far more for my comfort than their own.

I may not have taken many pictures, and spent more time than is ideal swallowing down my fears, but I did enjoy the view, and it is a brilliant tree top walk if you’re not being irrational.  As well as the main pathway (wide smooth, completely wheelchair and buggy accessible), they had little detour routes at various points which seemed to involve an adventure playpark high up above the trees and only a wire mesh beneath you.  By the time we were headed back inland, and with the return of terra firma not too far beneath my feat, all my worries evaporated, we found one of these alternate routes which we thought the girls could manage, and they and John scrambled through to their evident delight.

And then we turned the corner.

Space for the Butterflies - the tower at Baumwipfelpfad Schwarzwald

And no, that’s not quite the bottom either.

Baumwipfelpfad literally means “tree path” but this is a tree path with a difference.  The end of the Baumwipfelpfad Schwarzwald is a path that goes up and up and up in an every expanding spiral until you find yourself 40 metres from the top of the hill, with the forest rolling away beneath your feet.  I gulped.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Bad Wilbard Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Bad Wilbard Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Bad Wilbard Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Bad Wilbard Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Bad Wilbard Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Bad Wilbard

It is a point of honour for me that I made it until the penultimate layer, and I’m certain that Pip and I didn’t really miss out on that final bit of height.  John, Kitty and Elma made it all the way to the very top, and I’m told enjoyed the view; though he did later tell me that to take a photo over the edge he just held the camera out and hoped for the best.  It is an incredible view and I would have regretted not climbing up, almost as much as I was glad to be heading down.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Bad Wilbard Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Bad Wilbard Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Bad Wilbard Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Bad Wilbard Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Bad Wilbard Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Bad Wilbard  Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Bad Wilbard

And had I not had Pip with me, getting down could have been very quick – for an extra €2 you can go down the slide.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Bad Wilbard

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Bad Wilbard

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Bad Wilbard

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Bad Wilbard

Yes, seriously, a spiral slide from a couple of layers down, all the way to the bottom.  It looked like so much fun, and the gentle murmur of the tower was every now and then overlaid with a muffled whoop and someone went spinning down.  To go back when the children are bigger and we can all slide down is definitely on my travel wish list.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Bad Wilbard

Even if I make no promised to be any less scared.

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

Enzklosterle and the Black Forest

Stuttgart