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November 2016

Family Me and Mine Photography

Me and Mine 2016: November


Sunset at the playpark is beautiful in the winter.  It’s on the top of the hill so the light lingers, sinking down into the trees as its final glimmers brush over the birds who swoop and swirl over the houses as they get ready to head south.  We don’t get up there very often anymore, it was always a detour on the way back from school last year but now the school run has changed and it takes a bit of effort to get us all up there.

And on our last trip we had it all to ourselves, despite the sunshine of a beautiful afternoon.


Pip has got so big and so confident since the last time that I watched him play; he jogs solidly around between all the play equipment, sort of following his sisters, but then getting distracted by climbing up to the slide or trying to persuade me to join him on the see-saw.  Kitty went to join him in the end but even she is just that tiny bit heavier than the smallest member of her family.  Had it been Elma though, I’m not so sure!


If you’ve been reading my blog of late, or rather not reading it because there hasn’t been anything new here to read, you’ll  not be surprised that November has been a month that has been all about snatching time as a family with both hands and holding tightly on to it. Life’s been busy, mostly in stress-inducing sorts of ways.

Which is why these are all iPhone pictures, and not even good iPhone pictures from the camera on the back, but selfies, shot with me holding the phone at the end of my arm.


Or at least, I tried to take them holding the phone at the end of my arm, but it turns out that a certain someone rather liked the idea of holding the phone himself, and possibly running off and taking pictures himself.


Cheeky monkey.


And as when you are two, having the phone taken off you is a cause for much wailing and gnashing of tiny teeth, that is precisely why Pip looks more than unimpressed in these pictures.


Happily, such squalls are easily remedied, and a picture or two later, our smiley wee boy was returned to us.


It would be easy to remember this month as the month of estate agents and viewings and big decisions, and ridiculously large amounts of work, and stress and headaches and clinging on to the thought of Christmas and some time off work, but that’s not what I choose to treasure, or I want to focus on.

So, this month:

  • the girls had their first advent spiral at school (utterly magical and they loved every minute);
  • Kitty got to light the first advent candle on our ring in church on Sunday, which she is more than excited about;
  • I spent a happy afternoon decorating the school with vast numbers of greenery swags adorned with red ribbon curls as part of the preparations for the advent fair;
  • John, Elma and Pip went on several playdates with friends from school, a lovely sign that we’re settling into our new school community;
  • I went to a conference in my particular professional field that is thought-provoking and interesting and in the Caledonian Club in London, a gorgeous venue for a day out of the office if ever there was one;
  • Elma is getting more and more excited about her birthday, the first year that she’s really shown any anticipation this far in advance;
  • I’ve finished her birthday jumper apart from washing and blocking it;
  • Pip’s constant companion is a little Thomas the Tank Engine that speaks, so he’s going around the house at the moment saying “I’m Thomas! I’m a really useful engine!” which is so cute that it’s still funny; and finally;
  • I’ve brought a strawberry tart home from London for John!

Now that’s a month to cherish.



Working Mum

The Slimpod Diaries: all journeys start with the first step


March 013
Before I had children I was considerably smaller about the circumference (this is from 2008, I was 27 – ah youth!).  After Kitty arrived and my previously sedentary days were filled with long walks with the pram, a fair amount of housework, and lots of rolling on the floor, the baby weight disappeared, if not without a little effort, at least well in time for her first birthday.

When Elma arrived I think I expected the same thing to happen again; I’d just pop back into shape and then need to loose a few pounds.  Except it didn’t.  I kept expecting my tummy to start heading back in again and yet everything stayed pretty much where it was, despite expending even more effort in the manner of exercise and eating healthily.

So when Pip arrived, to be honest, I didn’t bother even thinking about getting back into shape; I knew it wouldn’t happen easily and I wasn’t going to sacrifice the time I did have with my teeny tiny baby and my big girls for anything, not the mental space needed to be beating myself up over what I was eating, or the physical distance to do some serious exercise. And so I went back to work a year and a bit ago a little bit larger than when I’d gone back after Elma, but not too much.

The problem is that in the last year and a bit I’ve got larger still; it’s the combination of missing the children desperately, so bribing myself to stay at my desk with the promise of a really nice lunch, and then dipping into the office goodie shelf chocolate stash to keep me awake through the afternoons. It’s a wonderful and irresistable temptation, especially in times like now when I’m in a working every hour I have and not sleeping anywhere near enough kind of phase where I become almost entirely fuelled by sugar.

And I’d got to the heaviest I have ever been while not pregnant, which was never part of the plan.  It’s not great. And right now I am not as healthy as I would like to be, or as I need to be to be a good role model to my children.

In the past I’ve had two stints at Weightwatchers, I’ve tried shovelling exercise into my day until I was too tired to eat, and I’ve tried just not eating very much all with varying degrees of success; none of them long term.

The problem is that I simply don’t want to go through food purgatory, with some far off goal of “when I can go back to normal”.  If this is going to work, then I need to find a new normal, one that doesn’t feel like I’m missing out, depriving myself, makes me constantly fixated on food, or hungry.  The hungry is the worst for me,  every time I’d tried to reduce what I eat I’ve just felt starvaciously hungry the whole time, and that is just not how I plan to live the rest of my life.  And when all those success stories came up in the leaflets that claims they’d lost the weight of a baby elephant and never felt even the tiniest bit hungry, I’d be deeply suspicious.

I need change, and I need to try something different. And so when I saw a post on Facebook looking for bloggers to try out Slimpod, I thought “why not?” and filled in the form.  The idea behind Slimpod is that to make a wholescale long term lifestyle choice that leaves you happy and content and eating in a healthy and sensible way you need to reprogram the bits of your brain that are leading you astray; in my case the comfort eating and a sweet tooth.

There’s no counting of calories or point or syns or carbs or anything else, or weighing yourself, or any of the things that get you fixated on food or failure, but each day you listen to a 10 minute podcast and write down three successes for the day; changes that you’ve noticed, or decisions that you’ve taken that are steps towards the lifestyle that you want.  You set yourself goals; a long term visual one, one for the first six weeks, and the ones you need to get yourself through the day, and then you’re off.

The idea is the by focusing on what you want, not what you can’t have, your brain starts to help you work towards that goal, and the podcasts help your brain along.

So does it work? Well yes, I think it might be, and in ways that have surprised me.  While the podcast is speaking to your subconscious, you could only proove that it was working entirely subconsciously by playing the podcast to people who were asleep and watching to see whether they lost weight without intending to, but I suspect there may be just a few ethical issues in that one!  My consicious brain is of course aware that I’m trying to make changes, and I can only hope that the two working together, are going to get the end result.

I’m two weeks in so far, and I’ve listed to the podcast every night bar two (when I fell asleep before I could even turn it on) and on those days I listened to it first thing in the morning.  My long term goal is a visual mashup of my wedding pictures and the Duchess of Cambridge’s style (she does have some gorgeous clothes that I would totally pinch for work!); the six weeks goal is a combination of fitting back into a dress that I bought when I went back to work after Pip, and the short term goals have been avoiding the work goodie shelf, and not grabbing a snack on the way to the train home.

I’ve done well on the goodie shelf (bar one nightmare of a day when biscuits seemed the only answer – and I bought the biscuits), full marks on the train snacks, and the dress that I couldn’t do up now does up; it’s not wearable yet, but it’s progress.

Most importantly, I haven’t starved myself.  If I’ve been hungry I’ve had something to eat, but more importantly, if I haven’t been hungry, I haven’t.  I’ve left food on my plate for the first time possibly ever (at least when it comes to food I like), I’ve eaten smaller portions of chocolate and ice cream but have still had them, I’ve grabbed fruit for a snack, and I’ve had soup and a roll for lunch and not been climbing the walls for something more to eat at 3pm.  Half these ‘successes’ I’d seen mentioned in other people’s reviews and written them off as something that would never actually happen to me, and yet here I am.

I’ve still got a long way to go, and this is only the start, but so far, so good.

Thanks to Slimpod who provided me with a Gold Membership to try out. I’m not being paid and they’ve not told me what to write.

Family Photography Siblings

A belated November Siblings


I’m going to cling to the spirit of better late than never on this one.  These pictures were taken on the 18th and now finally I’ve managed to get around to posting them.  I really wanted to be only a teeny bit late, or preferably not late at all but it is what it is and here we are. What’s ten days between friends.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in November 2016

My crazy, noisy, wonderful little trio, running around in the garden in ten minutes between going to look around a house and heading off to watch John play hockey.

Writing this on Sunday evening, on a day where the three of them seem to have been the most picklish children that ever made a pixie look like an angel, while, and quite probably because, we’re batting around trying to prink a few bits of the house in the hope that someone wants to come to see it soon, it’s soothing to look at these pictures and remember that actually for the most part they’re pretty awesome.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in November 2016

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in November 2016

My girls are so sweet with each other, especially when no-one’s looking.  On Sunday afternoon they had their school advent spiral, a first for both of them, and while I saw Kitty walk the spiral, Pip’s ability to sit still and watch had been tested to its limited by an hour of sitting and watching and so we had to scoot out before it was the turn of the Nursery class and so I didn’t see Elma’s.  Kitty’s teacher came up to me afterwards to say how well Elma had done, and how Kitty had been rooting for her, and that’s their relationship to a tee.  They can press each other’s buttons like no-one else in the best sisterly style, but they look out for each other as easily as breathing, and I think they’re really enjoying the shared connection of being at the same school, just across the hall from each other.Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in November 2016

When you add Pip to the mix, oh that boy! The girls have realised that in his sweet and innocent two year old self they have the most persuadable accomplice.  So often I find him innocently engaged in mischief, proud to own up to it because he thinks we’ll love highlighter pen all over the walls of a house we’re trying to sell, and when we ask where he got the idea; “Litty told me do it!”.  I’m sure she did, and I’m equally certain that he’s got a better sense of what is mischief than he’s letting on, but as the baby of the family he’s cute enough to get away with almost anything.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in November 2016

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in November 2016

The three of them together can be incredibly sweet; on Saturday morning, John had a very early start to hockey so we were still pottering around in pyjamas when he left, and I climbed back upstairs to find Kitty sitting in the rocking chair in Pip’s room, telling her sister a story loosely based on Pip’s Wimmelbuch.  Pip scrambled up onto his bed to listen, and as I sat in the corner and tried to make a start on Elma’s Christmas cardigan they went around in a circle, each reading or telling a story (even Pip with an unparalleled version of That’s Not My Teddy).  It was calm and lovely and wonderful and all the things that life with three children dreams to be.  I’d be misrepresenting the situation if I claimed that they were angels; they’re very human little people, who are using us and each other to practice for the real world, which hard though it is at the time, is a good thing in the long run.  But for every squabble there are moments like this, of pure unbridled joy.

Two little sisters, and their brother too, in November:

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in November 2016

and of course – the outtake!

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in November 2016

Family Video Working Mum {the ordinary moments}

Enforced happiness


Well hello again! It seems I’ve taken a reluctant and unintentional blog break, and with no better reason for it than real life being all consuming, or to be more precise, real work.  I know I mentioned in previous posts that work had gone a little bit bonkers and that’s probably the understatement of the year.  It was bonkers at the end of September and for the past two months a perfect storm has been building and building; individually each knock would be manageable, taken together it’s pushed my team from ‘take a deep breath and just keep swimming’ to ‘I can’t remember the last time that my evening wasn’t flat out working from as soon as the children fall asleep to when I can’t keep my eyes open any longer’.  It’s not been great, and something had to give.  Well everything had to give; time with the family, cooking, doing my share around the house, and all the things that make me me, including writing and photography and just joining in and feeling part of the communities online.  In the last month I’ve done a teeny tiny bit of knitting, and that’s about it; very little blogging or Instagram or anything and I’ve really missed it.

It’s going to get better (it has to get better) and hopefully soon, and then I can get back to being slightly more well rounded than I am at the moment.  I managed to turn my laptop off at the end of the working day, and I haven’t opened it more than once since (it’s baby steps!).  And on Thursday I had the loveliest treat/enforced happiness.

Sat at my desk at quarter to five on Thursday it took a little while for the sound to break through my concentration and underlying worry about making a train that was actually going to get me home early enough for John to head out to training while also being fully prepped for a meeting the next day.  But then there it was again, persistent, and oddly familiar:

“Mummy! Muuuummmmeeeeee!!”

And as I turned a page of notes and refreshed the station departure board on my screen, I smiled to myself, and thought “so it’s not just my children that stand in the street and shout up then.”

But they did sound familiar, and in that moment a colleague said “that isn’t your kids is it Carie?”

So we all looked out of our windows, and as faces filled the sixth floor windows, three tiny people and their Daddy started waving madly up at us.  In the spirit of ‘if Mohammed won’t put down her laptop and come to the mountain’, the mountain had come to take me out to the German Market for an evening and a bit of time together as a family that didn’t involve domesticity.  There are many many reasons why I love that man, but his ability to rescue me from myself is right up there.

They all came upstairs while I finish getting ready, and did as well as six, three and two year olds can be expected to do in a gently silent office.  I have a new picture for my board from Kitty, and several pens down the side of my desk and under the radiator, a very colourful to do list from Elma, and Pip’s occasional chirrups of “what doing Mama?” were I’m told, sweetly entertaining to my team (but then I am their boss…!)

And then we were off.  The Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market is apparently the biggest German Market outside of Germany.  It is vast, and this year is the 50th anniversary so it’s even more vast and staying for even longer.  It fills the whole of New Street top to bottom, and up by the Floosie-no-longer-in-the-Jacuzzi-because-the-council-planted-up-the-fountain and around the corner.  On a crisp winter night it is light and sparkle against the darkest of darkness and it is beautiful, and noisy, and warms your soul, even before you get to the mulled wine.  The kids started dancing even before we turned the corner into Victoria Square, and then of course they saw the carousel.

It’s becoming a bit of a tradition with us now – all carousels spotted on family outings must be taken for a spin, so while Elma sailed along regally, Pip and John, Kitty and I pulled her sleigh from the three horses in front; Ellie, Penny and We-forgot-to-look.


I’d love to show you photos of the market but for once the camera staying in my bag; my brain was tired and I didn’t want to think about lighting, and persuading the children to stay still or anything more than just being with them – and eating an amazing pork schnitzel and a white chocolate marshmallow (yum).  What I do have is a tiny snippet of video that John took, that captures a little of the fun of our evening.

a very precious evening in the crazy of this autumn.

Finished Handmade Sewing

Crystal gnome, crystal gnome {handmade}


Crystal Gnome, Crystal Gnome,
Living in your crystal home.
Up the stairs and down the stairs,
Up the stairs and down the stairs,
Wherever can he be? Wherever can he be?

I’ve always said that making things is my multivitamin for my soul; a need not a want in everyday life to keep me happy and healthy and sane and these past few weeks I’ve been putting it to the test as the real life job kicked up a notch from crazy busy to bonkers and my time for everything non-work, up to and including sleeping, revealed itself to be nothing more than a will-o’-the-whisp and a figment of my imagination.

It’s part and parcel of what I do in real life, and I get a huge degree of satisfaction from my job, just so long as I can keep my eyes open long enough to enjoy it.  But oh do I miss creating.  I miss blogging, the writing, the photography, the having the brain space to think of things to write, I miss knitting and sewing and I’m starting to get ever so slightly twitchy about Christmas and I know I need to carve out time in the day, even if it’s only five minutes.

The proof of the pudding turned out to be gnomes. Ten of them to be precise.

Space for the Butterflies - Felt gnomes

The girls’ school advent fair is tomorrow, run by the PTA with all of the parents chipping in to do something to help get ready and my contribution, along side a bit of decorating help, was 23 decorated star shaped gingerbread biscuits for the cookie house, and those gnomes.  What’s the collective noun for gnomes do you think? a garden?


These gnomes are bound for gardens; one of the activities at the fair is to make a garden.  The children start with a slice of tree trunk, roll out air drying clay across it and then add leaves and conkers and foliage and paper snowflakes to make the scene, finished off with a little gnome to live there.


It means needing a couple of hundred gnomes and John came home from school one day with a little packet of pre-cut felt and a picture on his phone of the finished article and as they came with a very definite deadline I had no excuses; for a little while the laptop had to go away while I sewed them all up; it was bliss.  And I felt it the next day too; I was less tired and my brain felt as if it had a little more thinking space again; despite having as little sleep as ever.  As good a reason as ever there was to make sure I spent a little time each day knitting or sewing or something that just isn’t words for once!

Space for the Butterflies - Felt gnomes

It’s comfort sewing at its best; both red and green gnomes came from the same shape felt; the red ones are blanket stitched all the way up their fronts and the green ones just have the top corners overlapped, and then stuffed with a little bit of merino top that I had in a bag in the bottom of my rather neglected spinning stash.

I think they’re rather cute and the kids wanted to adopt the lot of them.  Pip picked up my first finished gnome, instantly recognised it (which was very reassuring) and started singing Crystal Gnome.  It’s his absolute favourite playgroup song and he loved having an actual real gnome to sing it with – to the point that when I said we had to put them all in the bag and take them to school he was most unimpressed with that idea.  He gave his gnome a cuddle and a kiss and put it in the bag and if he doesn’t come home from the advent fair with one of my gnomes I will be very surprised.

Space for the Butterflies - Felt gnomes

In the meantime, I have felt, I have some more merino – and I’ve traced the pattern!

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