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February 2017

Family Me and Mine Photography

Me and Mine 2017: February


This February’s Me and Mine pictures are brought to you by the tale end of Storm Doris.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine, a family portrait project - February 2017

I actually managed to miss the entire thing; I left on the 5.47 train on Thursday morning headed north, arrived before the speed restrictions were in place on the trains, and then was in court from 9.30 to 5.30.  The court didn’t have any windows, and by the time we got out there was a little damp on the pavements and a light breeze rustling the trees.  Meanwhile back down south emails circulated my office to the effect that all trains had been cancelled going in and out of Birmingham, the Premier Inn next to our office was fully booked from early afternoon and several of my team had some adventurous journeys to get home.  Sat in my nice comfy hotel room I started to think it had been a rather well timed two day hearing.

At home it wasn’t too bad; the barn behind our house has lost a row of tiles, and a tarp blew down the hill and plastered itself to a few cars before making a bid for freedom, but most of the trees around us are still standing.

Friday was a lull but on Saturday and Sunday the wind and rain returned.  We caught a glimpse of a sunbeam and headed up to the windmill to capture a very windswept portrait of our family for February.  I know I’ve taken goodness knows how many shots of us all up at the windmill, and it will always be a favourite spot for photos, but it’s also quite hard to get a sense of the scale, and how proudly it stands on the peak of the hill so for this month all our photos are from lower down the slopes.  It also reduced our chances of getting blown away which was definitely a good thing.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine, a family portrait project - February 2017

Life this month has been busy as always; when February disappeared in no more than a moment I’m beginning to expect that this is just how life is at the moment.  I’ve been travelling a lot for work, and that’s going to keep going for this week at the very least, but we loved loved loved having half term together; time for the slow mornings and the big adventures both.  It felt very strange to go back to work and be without them, especially for Pip who was definitely discombobulated by the Mummy at home then Mummy goes to work and doesn’t even come home combination.  He was my little limpet at the weekend and I loved it, even if my biceps do feel like they had a serious workout.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine, a family portrait project - February 2017

I’m not going to tell them to say sausages next time – these are all expressions of great delight I promise!!

They got a week and a day thanks to a teacher training day so the first day back for Kitty is today and Elma tomorrow.  They’re both really excited to see their friends; Kitty has finally lost the tooth that was wobbly for ever so she has a whole new look to show off, and she spent Friday afternoon making a get well soon card for her friend who was too poorly for a playdate that I hope we will find in time to take in.

We’ve also got Kitty’s parent teacher meeting this afternoon, which I’m equal parts curious and nervous about.  To us it seems as if she’s settled in really well and is loving school, so I’ve got all my fingers crossed that the school thinks she has too.

So before we move into March, in February we have loved:

  • Half term! No school run (John), two days off (me) and their half term treat (the kids)
  • Our trip to the Chatsworth Farmyard;
  • Watching the carpet fitters lay our new lounge and stair carpets – if you’re two it’s the most exciting thing that’s happened in weeks, only closely ousting pavement chalk from top spot;
  • Adventures fuelled by white chocolate buttons;
  • Being woken up by a small boy two inches from your nose saying “Wake up! It morning Mummy!” and discovering that it is in fact half past seven.
  • Carpet picnics (on the old carpet!) and lazy pyjama Saturdays.

March looks likely to be similarly busy, especially this week when I’m in London two days out of five, so perhaps these are very apt photos as we continue to be blown through the year!

For now though it’s my little family, in a very blustery February:

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine, a family portrait project - February 2017

I’ve also just realised I was wearing the same outfit in January’s photo, I genuinely do own more clothes, I promise!!
The Me and Mine Project

Family {the ordinary moments}

Halfterm in the rain at Chatsworth


On the sunniest of all of my half term long weekend days, it seemed somehow both inevitable and quitessentially British that I decided we ought to go to the one place in the country where the clouds were lowered and grey drizzle stretched across the horizon.  John’s theory is that that’s what happens when you decide to go to a National Park on any form of school holidays, some sort of precipitatory predestination, but whatever the reason, it was as we crossed into Derbyshire that the first drops hit the windscreen.

Chatsworth has been on my must visit list for ages, and even with the house and gardens still shut for the winter it’s still set in some gorgeous countryside just perfect for exploring.  And in some ways it was a good thing, becuase there is so much to see and do at the Farmyard that if we’d have been trying to see house and gardens and farm all in one day we’d have felt hurried at best and probably had to skip something.

As it is we’ve already decided that we need to take the tent north for a weekend’s camping so we can keep exploring; but under sunnier skies.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

The Farmyard was perfect for a half term treat.  It’s sort of separate from the main house and garden; you still park in the main car park but it’s a separate entry fee (£22 for a family of five ticket) and then everything through the gate is included.

We started with the animals and the most adorable 10 day old saddleback piglets, squeaking and jostling each other to get to their mum, who lay there, eyes half closed, expression entirely familar to any mother of many.  Every now and then one of the piglets would just fall asleep, only to be woken again by one of its siblings treading on its head.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

Despite the rain all three of mine loved the tractor in the yard, to the point that Pip was quite prepared to hide away and spend the night there, just so he could keep driving it around his imagination.  Only the promise of a real tractor ride lured him out of his seat and up the steps.

The tractor and trailer ride is a brilliant set up.  Firstly you get to go in a tractor and trailer, which is Pip’s idea of seventh heaven.  Then you get views down to the roof of the house and across the valley to the other side, probably more of a plus for the parents but still pretty cool, and last but by no means least, every child is equipped with a pump action water pistol as they climb aboard.  The rules are fairly simple: shoot out of your side of the trailer and don’t shoot at any walkers.  What you can shoot at are targets and cut out cowboys lined up along the side of the route; Pip shot indiscriminately until he ran out of water, smiling fit to burst every second of the way, while Kitty got tactical, lining up her sights on the next target and surveying the route for the shots she could make.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

It was over all too quickly for all of them.

Back in the barn we hid from a rain storm with some colouring and sticking and making (horses and cowboy hats), and when the reptile show and tell started at the same time that Pip and I went on a little wonder to allow his sisters some more drawing time, he found that he’d stroked a dragon (just a little one) before deciding that the better part of valour was letting other people pet the snake (sensible boy).

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

From there we found sheep and goats, an enormous wild boar and his equally huge pig stablemate with a fabulous turned up snout, and a gorgeous Jersey cow who was very unimpressed with our arrival given that in her world we really ought to have been her afternoon feed.

But even with the tractor ride and the piglets and all the animals, the highlight (once we’d lured the children away from the pedal tractors) was the adventure playground.

Now adventure playgrounds of my youth had a tendancy to consist of exactly the same things as an ordinary playground, but made out of wood, along with a zip wire and one of those things where you have to get from one end to the other without touching the ground all made up of wobbly wires and oddly placed tree stumps.  They were fun, but they were nothing to this.  This is an adventure playground and a half.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

For starters it’s vast; the girls and John ran off to one corner to climb up into the tree houses and try out the slides, and Pip and I couldn’t see them as we headed down past swings and slightly more toddler sized climbing frames to what is the nearest thing you will find to a beach in Derbyshire.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

A stream runs through the easterly side of the playpark, and not only does it have a bridge to stomp over, and some low banks to let you in to paddle your wellies, but there are two Archimedes Screws fitted to run from the stream up to the top of a series of channels and basins.  You turn the handle to pump the water up and then lower and raise gates to let it run out into a sand pit via the water wheel or a big flat dish.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

If you can pump enough water it then runs down to a little climbing frame at the far end of the sandpit so you can make a good puddle, or nice damp sand, perfect for turning into castles with all the buckets and spades on hand to help.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

Watching Pip, and later his sisters, respond to it by making castles, or big heaps, or trying to dig a channel to run the water all the way down to the bottom, was seeing my childhood all over again. This is what we used to do at Gara Rock with the stream; we’d try to dam it, or divert it to make moats for our castles, or just dip hands and feet in the icy water running off the hillside.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

And it was with great reluctance that we dragged them back to the car, damp and sandy and in dire need of their spare clothes.

Later on in the week, working from home on a sunny afternoon, I realised from the fact that I couldn’t see my laptop screen for the glare, just how long it has been since it’s been sunny, and so I think a wet adventure was exactly the right way to celebrate half term and blow more than a few cobwebs out of the way as we go back to the run up to Easter.

Joining Katie at Mummy Daddy Me and Donna at What the Redhead Said for The Ordinary Moments

Handmade Quilting

To and Fro: September in the SugarBlock Club {handmade}


Amy named the September Sugarblock to represent the busyness of the back to school month; everyone going here, there and everywhere while the patterns of a new academic year shake down into normal.  I may have only got to it in February, but it’s been apt none the less; a busy block for a busy month.

Space for the Butterflies - Sugarblock Club September Block: To and Fro

One of the biggest challenges I had with this block is that I’m starting to run out of fabric.  At the start of this quilt I went through my scraps and my stash and pulled out anything that seemed to vaguely fit “blue, yellow, green, white background, Spring” and I ended up with a tote bag of fat quarters and scraps and bits and bobs, but a I went through it each month to pull out fabrics for the block I found I was naturally editing towards one particular version of blue, yellow and green.  And I think as I got further into the quilt the edit became stronger; there are blocks that I made in the first few months that I’m still itching to go back and do over (and pretty certain that I will).  But it meant that the bottom of the bag is a puddle of scraps that really should be going back in to the scraps box, and an ever diminishing collection on top.

I have lots of teeny tiny little bits so the little triangles in To and Fro were perfect for sneaking in the very last little scraps of some of my favourite fabrics, and some of the fabrics that fit best in teeny tiny amounts.

Space for the Butterflies - Sugarblock Club September Block: To and Fro

The smaller triangles are flying geese made with half square triangles across each corner but the bigger ones were foundation paper pieced.  I suspect if you were ever going to make an entire quilt of these blocks you might do better with the tri-recs tool that I used to cut all the triangles for my Fishing Net quilt.  They’re just a larger version of the same block and it’s definitely more economic on the fabric than foundation piecing.  I love foundation piecing for the precision when handling teeny tiny bits of fabric, but amount of fabric wastage on the bigger blocks is still a little eye watering!

Space for the Butterflies - Sugarblock Club September Block: To and Fro

And speaking of precision..

Space for the Butterflies - Sugarblock Club September Block: To and Fro

OK, so they’re not quite all perfect, but for me that’s a pretty good triangle point survival rate!

I think if I’d made every full size quilt that I’ve loved from the SugarBlock Club I’d be buried under a small avalanche of quilts, and as it’s February and I’m sewing up September, it’s probably a good thing I never started or we’d still be on March, but the Razzle Dazzle quilt is seriously tempting.

Space for the Butterflies - Sugarblock Club September Block: To and Fro

If two of the blocks look like this, should I not just throw in the towel on the rest of the quilt and make more of these?!

Fear not, with only four more blocks to go (I’ve already done October’s) I’m not backing out yet and I’m really looking forward to seeing all 24 together, and it being dry enough to lay them all out together as we’ve easily reached the critical point at which I need to do my laying out on the lawn!

But Razzle Dazzle‘s going on the list!

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


While the mice are away …


Space for the Butterflies

This weekend I learnt two things.  The first is that I can drop adulting sooner than you can say “the children have gone for their half term treat with their grandparents” and the second is that the reason why I feel like I never get anything done has nothing to do with the children.

I know it was a little while ago, and as I approach 37 this summer perhaps I should start to expect my powers of recollection to dim with what appears to be some quite considerable passing of the years, but I’m certain that before the children arrived John and I had managed to be good responsible grown ups for quite some time.  We cleaned our house and folded our laundry (occasionally) and cooked delicious meals from scratch and washed up after them, and we got the house things done before we did the playing things.  Clearly it was just a phase because the abandonment of these principles started the moment we were alone together in the house.

Meals were, well I’m going to say “invented” but scavenged is probably the more appropriate description; if we were both hungry we’d have a look in the cupboard and make whatever we could out of the contents and I’m pretty sure that when John left to play hockey my lunch consisted of a cheesy nacho ready meal side dish thing that I found in the fridge, a hot cross bun and a slice of cheese cake. It was amazing.  We had sausage butties for our supper, on the understanding that I’d make us pancakes later if we were hungry again, and we ate snuggled up on the sofa together watching the telly that had made a rare appearance back into the lounge.

Even as students we had more decorum.  But oh did we need it.  What with the crazy of work and the crazy of house hunting and house selling and the joyful crazy of life with three small children, pure unadulterated down time is a rare commodity, and it’s hard to day who enjoyed their time more, Kitty, Elma and Pip, who came back happily exhausted, or their parents, happily slightly less exhausted.

But the other thing that I realised is that when I think I haven’t got anything done, or enough done, it’s not because of those three gorgeous little monkeys of mine.

When I first became a mother one of the hardest things I had to get my head around was the loss of autonomy.  For me the sharpest distinction between my life pre and post the arrival of Kitty and her siblings wasn’t the lack of sleep or the explosion of baby toys in my house but the inability to make concrete plans.  It was hardest with Pip; even when we finally got into some sort of bedtime routing the incredible non-sleeping baby used to fall asleep and be tucked up in his cot sometime between 7 and 8.30 and he’d next wake up sometime around 10.30 onwards, and sometimes earlier.  And that wake up was my bedtime.  There were no two ways about it with Pip, no-one but Mummy would do, and Mummy was not allowed to leave until the morning.  He could be sound asleep, deeply floppy in my arms, and even snoring, and he’d still wake up the second his bottom hit the mattress. The only alternative was to put him on my back in the sling, and there are pictures of him fast asleep and drooling into my hair as I press on with some work that just couldn’t wait. But most of the time I’d go to bed, leaving half open blog posts, half written comments, clutching at the ideas trying to spill out of my brain, trying to mentally decode and order them with every upward stair so that they would still be there when I had time to get to them.

Even now, when Pip sleeps, if not well, at least acceptably, and the girls often don’t wake up until after we do, time to do exactly what I want without having to renege on obligations to anyone else in the family is so incredibly precious.  From the moment that I booked my days off for half term I have been planning exactly what I would do in the time I had while the children were on their treat.

To whit:

  • Spend time with John including planning our strategy re house selling and house hunting and not panicking about the former or the latter;
  • Finish all of my quilt blocks from the 2016 SugarBlock Club (September, November and December) plus make some sample blocks to consider in the overall layout;
  • Knit on Pip’s Christmas jumper until I run out of yarn, and then order more if necessary;
  • Place yarn orders for a couple of new projects;
  • Listen to all queued podcasts and telly I haven’t watched yet;
  • Write the next few chapters on my current story;
  • Read and comment on lots of blog posts;
  • Crochet several rows on the never ending blanket.
  • Have a long bath.
  • Read my new magazine.

I know, when I write it down on paper it’s laughable.

In reality I spent lots of time talking to John, we went on a trip to Homebase for stuff we need to prettify the house for selling and then when he went to play hockey I did a little bit of quilting. I wasn’t procrastinating, I didn’t have to keep stopping to sort out any one of a hundred things that I usually would when the children are home and I didn’t do any housework, and yet I barely touched my list.

I have never been able to achieve all of this inside a week, and all I can think is that my memory has been lying to me, replacing the real evenings pre-children, get home late from work, cook supper, do a little knitting, collapse into bed, with some paradise of perfect creativity, in which I whizzed off a quilt in one hand while doing the laundry and washing up with the other.

It’s not envy or even rose tinted nostalgia for a life that I’ve never had, but instead I’m diagnosing the product of several months of overworking and underplaying.  All late nights and very little knitting apparently makes Carie overly optimistic.  That list right there is everything that I’ve wanted to do probably since Christmas, and possibly a little bit before.  And the feeling might be the same as those early baby days of bedtimes dictated by a tiny bundle of squish, but the cause is not.  I’m oddly happy about that, even if it is a stark reminder that the balance in my life is clearly well out of whack.

It’s time for a little evolution; I don’t know quite what it will look like, and writing this I don’t even really know where to start yet, but it seems that if I’m ever to get to the bottom of that list, I need to start with pulling back a little more time for me.




Family Sponsored Post

Decluttering and a moving house update


When we first put the house on the market I was certain that we’d sell ours in a heartbeat and then have nowhere to go.  Now that we’re a good couple of months into this house selling malarkey I lurch between abject fear that we will never ever sell our house never ever ever (highly unlikely given that the viewings haven’t even started to slow down), and we’ll sell it but the perfect house will elude us, or possibly never existed in the first place.  It’s what keeps me glued to RightMove, despite knowing that anything in our price bracket and criteria will pop up on my email, just in case there’s something we’ve missed.  After spending a good chunk of an evening looking at every property for sale in the entire of Worcestershire I was forced to concede that we know the houses on the market right now, we know the ones we want to look at, and the rest will have to wait.

Space for the Butterflies - Wooden Dolls House from Myriad

Truth be told that’s the slightly less daunting side of the coin, if we needed to we would pop some of our things in storage and find a little house to rent near where we need to be and wait for the perfect house rather than just buy something because it had walls and a roof.  The focus now is on making the house look as near as possible to the shiny new show homes just up the road.  We started with the massive decluttering and skip filling last October half term and that did make a huge difference but even after that it’s been amazing how much stuff five people can have tucked away in nooks and crannies.

The next stage was to repaint and we’ve tidied up the garage door (now Oxford blue) and the hall and downstairs bathroom and kitchen and our bedroom all got a lick of paint a couple of weekends ago.  I should say that this is “we” in the matrimonial sense; I haven’t so much as touched a paintbrush, my special skill is trying to hide the kids toys before viewings.

Space for the Butterflies - Wooden Dolls House from Myriad

We’ve got a new carpet coming for the lounge this week which I think should help too; part of me is a little bit nervous because I didn’t choose the colour, and I haven’t seen the colour, and it’s not simply a newer version of the blue we have at the moment.  The carpet we do have has done 11 years in the heart of our home and despite many of my best efforts and the temporary theft of my parents-in-laws’ carpet cleaner, it’s looking more than a little tatty.  The new one is called Barley I think, and will hopefully make our nice bright sunny room even sunnier.  And then no one will be allowed to eat at the dinner table until we move.  After all, it’s going to be summer soon and it’s been mild the last couple of days, I’m sure we could start eating at the garden table in February, no?

Space for the Butterflies - Wooden Dolls House from Myriad

But after painting and carpet the only thing left to do is to have another round of sorting out to see what sparks joy.  It’s not a quest for minimalism; I can see beautiful minimalist homes and think they look incredible, but at the same time I know it’s not a look I could ever pull off.  By the time we count the sports kit (John), enough art materials to launch a shop (also John) and enough fabric, yarn and fluff to launch another (yours truly) all of house searches have included looking for a room to be our new studio and the majority of what is in our house right now probably will come with us.

Space for the Butterflies - Wooden Dolls House from Myriad

But some of it won’t.  In October we skipped, recycled or took things to a charity shop, and as much as I thought about trying to sell some of it either at a car boot sale or online, we both knew that all that would happen was it would sit around in the corner of the garage until we moved out, and then we’d take it to the charity shop.  It was definitely the right decision for then, but I wonder if we come up with a smaller collection of things that do actually have some value, it might be time to have another look at selling things on Ebay.Space for the Butterflies - Wooden Dolls House from Myriad

Perhaps it’s one of those markers that means I’m definitely not a millennial but I’ve never sold anything on Ebay, and only ever bought a couple of things at most.  The things I have bought have all arrived safe and sound (one knitting kit and one vintage horse brass showing a train) but I still read stories about people who’ve sold things and then they’ve got lost in the post, or the buyer says it never turned up and you have no way of knowing where it got to, and wonder if that’s really worth all the hassle.  I suspect I’m hearing about the exception rather than the rule, and companies like Shiply, that get you free quotes from couriers who bid to do the job for you, would definitely add in an extra level of security so if I can convince John that it’s as easy as it looks, that might just buy us a pot of paint for the new house, wherever that turns out to be.

Space for the Butterflies - Wooden Dolls House from Myriad

And in the meantime we love this little house of ours, even in all its new clothes it’s home, our little haven, and it’s no hardship to be here while we wait for the next chapter to start.

While we wait, tell me your success stories about Ebay, and help me convince John that it would be worth all of the effort: what sort of things have you sold, and was it as easy as I think it’s going to be?

Thank you to Shiply who commissioned this article. If you are interested in collaborating on a post, please take a look at my Work With Me page