Monthly Archives

May 2017

Family Me and Mine Photography

Me and Mine 2017: May


There were supposed to be penguins in the back of my Me and Mine photos this month.  Technically, if you look really closely in the middle far left of this one, you can see a bit of a penguin underwater so that will have to do.

It was just after feeding time, they’d all been waddling around in an adorable little line following the keeper with the fish bucket and the diving and splashing each other and being generally cute as penguins are, but clearly, when the camera came out they all scarpered!  What was it about never working with children or animals?

Well, as you can see, this month’s Me and Mine photos don’t come from home, or even from one of our favourite haunts (I’m saving all of the lump in the throat moments for next month’s set!), but there does seem to be a theme.  Last May’s photos were taken when we went on an adventure to meet up with some of our dearest friends, and this year we went to meet the same friends, just somewhere a little bit different.

I’ll admit when I heard we were going to the Cotswold Wildlife Park, I was thinking ducks and geese and the occasional swan but the ducklings we saw were just a smidgen more exotic, there was a train that had Pip mesmerised all afternoon, and I got to see a giraffe up close for the first time in years as well as the penguins that hid.  More on all of which another day when I’ve had a moment to process the photos.

So what have we been up to this month? Well a highlight was definitely meeting up with our friends, and not just because they know how to work my camera and don’t mind taking the occasional snap, it’s just lovely and relaxing to see them and catch up on all of their news and fill them in on a bit of ours.

Other than that …. we sold our house, sort of. We’ve exchanged and we’re due to complete in a few weeks, so by the time we get to the end of June we will have moved, though possibly not into our new house.  Remind me never ever to move house again.  It’s definitely stressful, and definitely dominates everything your do for a little while so much as we’ll miss this house, I think we’ll be glad have done the big move.

For now you’ll have to excuse me as I disappear off into a flurry of packing the things that aren’t going into storage and trying to divine just what the weather’s going to be like for the next few weeks, all while trying not to perform ancient English rain dances by accident.

So here we are, my little family, in May:

Family {the ordinary moments}

In which we have a date


We exchanged contracts on our house this Thursday.  A week ago we were still batting back another silly question from our buyers, and then suddenly we got an email asking if we could complete by the end of the month.  Well no, that would be ridiculous, but in a flurry of phone calls and organising we went back with a date, and suddenly our days in this house are numbered to a little less than three weeks.

It’s very exciting, and very real, not least in the prospect of sorting out all of our things for packing.  We’re not actually moving into our new house yet.  The purchase is all still on track, it just had to sit around and wait, and wait, and wait again, and finally the letter the mortgage company needed arrived and we’re all systems go.  With the best will in the world, that’s not going to be in three weeks’ time, so we have a masterplan.  My lovely aunt lives a stone’s catapult from the *fingerscrossed* new house, and so while most of our stuff goes into storage, the five of us, Buckingham Palace (the tent*) and the important things in life are going to camp in her garden until we complete our purchase.

The kids are very very excited; they adore their auntie and uncle, and Bob the cat, and their swimming pool, and their strawberry fields! John and I are definitely looking forward to shorter school runs, a shorter and easier commute, and just a little bit, the simplicity of our camping life.  It’s not going to be exactly the same as our summer adventures, for one thing we’ll be staying put, and for another I’m still going to be working, but the truth is that when you have to boil your life down to what will fit in a tent, even a really big one, it’s a lot less than tends to build up in a house.  I suspect that we’ll take a bit more than we cram into our family car for travels, but only as much as we can fit in the other car.

So that’s the exciting bit, and we’re all looking forward to the house at the end of the journey too.  It has a compromise or two, and it’s a bit of a fixer upper, but they were compromises that weren’t on the really important things (garden, not too far from school or a train station) and it’s got some seriously beautiful bones.  Touch wood now because I can’t wait to show it to you or to start to get to grips with making it truly ours.

But at the same time, it’s starting to feel just a little bit too real.  We moved into this house 11 1/2 years ago.  It’s the house we moved into on an impossibly cold and foggy November day, when even the hottest curry that could be delivered couldn’t keep out the chill as we made trip after trip from our rented house with all of our things in the back of a van.  It’s the house we came home too as newlyweds, and the house that was a first home to each of our three children.  It holds so many memories and will always be precious.

We’re not just moving house though, we’re moving county, all the way over to the other side of the middle, and I think that lends the whole thing an air of standing on the edge of a precipice.  We’re more embedded here than perhaps I think we are, and there’ll be a good bit of finding our way around and making new friends before it feels as much like home as our little village here.

I went into town yesterday afternoon, and the thought struck me that this might be the last time I go into town living in this house, and while that’s not a big deal, and with John still playing hockey over here I can be back every other weekend all through the season if I want to be, it brought it home that there are going to be lots of lasts to come in the next few weeks.

As it turns out, I have already bought my last monthly season ticket.  The next one I buy will be a weekly, and then that will be it and my commute will be totally different all over again.

So while we pack up camping kit, and try to work out what needs to come with us, and remember to buy new air mattresses because three little trampolinists appear to have fatally wounded our one remaining one, I’ve got a definite plan to make sure that we cram in as many memories of our favourite places as we can possibly manage, before the day comes that we pack up and drive away to our next adventure.

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

*so named despite our original intention of calling it Wendy, when a German guy crawled out of his tiny take-it-up-a-mountain sized tent as we were putting it up on the shore of Walchensee and exclaimed “Ist Buckingham Palace”. Nicht ist Buckingham Palace but the name stuck!

Family Handmade Kitty

The emperor’s new sleeve {handmade}


One of these sleeves is not like the other!

But let it be known far and wide that this week I have finished the first sleeve on Kitty’s cardigan.  In abstract, the phrase “this week I knit a sleeve on the cardigan for my six year old” doesn’t sound too impressive, but when the six year old in question needs you to knit a size 10, and for reasons that can only be attributed to yarn fumes, you decided to knit it from 4ply, I promise it represents many hours of knitting round and round.

I took these pictures yesterday evening, just as the sun started to finally fade away, and then I went back inside, picked up the needles and the rest of the ball of yarn, and started on the other side.  We’ve got a sleeve and the collar and button band to go and whilst collars and button bands can be deceptively time consuming, I think I’ve got half a chance and a bank holiday weekend to see if next week’s crafty round up can see Kitty modelling a properly fully finished cardie.  I did think I was going to spend most of the weekend churning out shorts, but as the weather forecast has resisted all pleading and is being resolutely British (which means rainy), I think I’ll have more than enough opportunity to curl up on the sofa with some knitting while we watch raindrops trickle lazily down the windows.

Does it sound strange to say that I love the scruffiness of a project at this stage? Perhaps scruffy is the wrong word, it’s all neatly knitted and, apart from the addition of an extra inch here or there, knitted exactly to the pattern.  But it doesn’t look right; the sleeves and the body are pulling in too much, and the leaf patterns at shoulder, wrist and waist, are throwing the fabric into odd bumps and curves; gorgeously textural, but certainly not the intended finish.

It’s an act of faith to knit on, trusting that when it’s all finished and bebuttoned, I can give it a little swim in a bowl of lukewarm water, gently squeeze it out, and then carefully arrange everything as it should be, and leave it to dry on a towel in my studio, and know that it will stay that way. But it will.

In the yarn countdown, I’ve still got at least half of the second of my three skeins of Wollmeise, so it’s looking more than likely that there could be a matching pair of socks in there for Kitty.  I’ve been planning on making all three of them socks for their Christmas knit this year (I know, but knitters have to at least plan early, even if the execution happens in a flurry at the end of November), and I’m sorely tempted to see if I can make Kitty a pair of toe up socks and use exactly the same pattern as her cardigan.  What do you think, is matching your socks to your cardigan going a step too far?



Family Photography {the ordinary moments}

On Kinver Edge


With the girls in school only until lunchtime on Friday it scarcely seems worth it to drive there and back only to turn round and drive there and back again, so for several weeks John and Pip have spent Fridays exploring this new part of the world that is going to be our home before we know it.  I get photos of them wandering through bluebells, taking a detailed survey of the new village playpark and having a coffee and cake, all in the name of research or so I’m told.  It sets a nice unhurried feel to their Friday morning and I suspect makes it a favourite part of their week.

I took Friday off work so that John could have an early weekend, heading off with friends on Friday to play a couple of rounds of golf on Friday and Saturday as a warm up for the worlds ugliest golf trophy competition, but Pip and I saw no reason to change the normal Friday morning routine.  As soon as we’d dropped the girls off at school we hopped back in to the car and headed to Kinver.

Where I come from in Devon, Kinver would be a decent size town. According to John, who grew up in Yorkshire next to the largest village in Europe, it’s practically a hamlet.  However you designate it, it is lovely, and at one stage we seriously thought about trying to move there.  The town centre itself has lots of proper shops, unlike say Stourbridge, which alternates charity shops with coffee, including a great bakery, perfect for midmorning cake.  But first we had to earn the cake.

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

Kinver Edge is a sandstone ridge sitting high up above the western edge of Kinver, and it’s one of those places where you can feel that you’ve climbed to the top of the world, even if you only have little legs.  Pip and I headed up the eastern end, first wandering along the path and then my tiny boy determinedly climbing step after solid step, throwing his legs up as if he were hurdling them.  When we finally reached the viewpoint, he was more than ready to perch up on the map and trace out rivers and hills only vaguely visible under grey skies.

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

Even with the map to help, I’m not sure I could have particularly recognised Droitwich over Bromsgrove, and while I know Pip’s eye sight is better than mine, his instant “I see it!” response to my pointing out the direction for New York, rather suggests that he was just enjoying the view wherever it may be; that or he thinks it’s a sort of sheep.  (Forgive me American readers, but I suspect that we do talk about sheep more than we talk about cities in the USA).

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

Along the top of the heathland we found a herd of longhorn cattle, with some impressively long longhorns.  So far as we could work out it seemed entirely a quirk of nature whether the horns went up, down or out, I wonder if it’s the cow equivalent of whether your resting face looks cheerful or on the edge of being irritated? Imagine being the most upbeat cow that ever moo-ed only to have droopy horns.  Pip was more interested in their breakfasts; he was utterly convinced that cows eat cowpats and nothing I said could convince him that the cowpats come afterwards – these are the joys of two year old boys.

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

Past the cows we found the puddles, and Pip set to, splashing through even the tiniest drop of water before declaring himself all tired out and ready to be hoisted up onto my back.  He’s a tall and sturdy boy, and neither John nor I can carry him for long in our arms, and he makes an awkward weight on your shoulders, that and he tends to hang on around your throat, so we both wear the Ergo if there’s even a chance of him needing a lift.  Once onboard he’s quite happy, and at just the right height to either snuggle in for a little rest, or lean forward to chat into my ear, and I definitely had the chatterbox version with me for the day.

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

As we headed back down into the trees we heard a cuckoo; I’m not very good at bird noises but that’s one I can recognise, and further on we found a pair of chaffinches hopping up and down the path looking for breakfast.  You’ll have to take my word for it because toddlers are not the best accompaniment to stealth photography!

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

And then we came to Nannys Rock.   There are rock houses excavated out of the sandstone up on Kinver Edge, and on the north easterly end they’re preserved and renovated by the National Trust.  Pip and I were there two hours too early to actually go inside, so we peered through the gate and they’re high up on my list of places to visit once we’ve got settled, but Nannys Rock, down at the other end, was left just as it was; a series of three caves carved out of the rock and open to the elements and to casual explorers.  They are eerily beautiful, and the sandstone is so soft that they’re completely covered with carved graffiti, but it only adds context.  One day, even the names dated this century will have softened and faded away into the sand on the floor.

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

For Pip and me the photos were enough, and soon we were back on the trail home with Pip walking the last little bit, singing the final round of the Grand Old Duke of York to bring tired little legs back to the car.  He always sings “neither down nor up” at the end, however many times we sing it the right way round, and it’s endearing in its wrongness, his voicing singing out with full heart and hot little hand clasped in mine.

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

We did make it to the bakery before it was time to pick up the girls, and we did have a gentle domestic sort of an afternoon with them, but while I treasure that time, because frankly there is no job in the world that would let me spend as much time with them as I’d want, there was something so very special about our morning’s adventures; time with Pip that felt as if we had all the time in the world to stand and stare, and give full reign to toddler flights of fancy.  I can see why it’s become a Friday favourite.

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


Family Handmade Kitty

Kitty and the amazing technicolour shorts {handmade}


This week I’ve learnt how not to make shorts. Or at least, how not to make the kind of finished product that I’m aiming for.

The truth is that tiny person shorts are pretty easy to copy, and so my fudged ‘got lucky first time’ pattern from last summer was always in with a decent chance of working, especially as I could try last summer’s pair on both Pip and Elma to check the fit.  I knew that last week’s shorts were probably going to turn out ok before I first took scissors to fabric.  But when it comes to making things for Kitty she’s so much taller and just a generally more grown up person, that the margins for error were always going to be tighter.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts

It meant I procrastinated a fair bit after I’d finished the pairs for the little two, but as all mothers of more than one child know all too well, you’re never going to be allowed to leave one of them missing out for too long.

The fabric came from two batik fat quarters we found buried at the back of one of my fabric boxes; they are similar but not matching, but as I’m certain you could have two completely different shorts legs cut from the same length of fabric, these two felt near enough, and I’ve tried to make it so that the fronts at least are vaguely similar.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts

For pattern I tried to draw around one of Kitty’s existing pairs of shorts, but found that the fabric wasn’t quite wide enough.  I also came in a bit too much at the waist on the first leg, and decided to widen it on the other, so they aren’t exactly the same.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts

In construction I sew the legs first, then the two legs together, and then fold the waistband and fold again to make a casing for the elastic waistband, so from that point of view it’s all very easy.  The exposed edges are all overlocked; the more I use it the more I can’t believe it took me so long to pull it out and have a go, it’s almost easier than my main sewing machine and it doesn’t half speed up clothes construction.  I’ll always love the beauty of a nice French seam or a bit of flat felling, but I’m at the stage of life where speed is a good thing if I want the children to wear their clothes and not simply grow through the available sizing and for now the overlocker rules the day.

An hour or sew at the machines and all that was left was for Kitty to wake up and try them on.  I’ll admit I was properly nervous about them; for one thing a six year old has a much more determined view about what she herself is prepared to wear, and much as we’re doing well on the ‘mama made is wonderful’ brainwashing, if she doesn’t like it, it doesn’t matter who made it, she’s not going to wear it.  The fit was the other issue; I knew the shorts I’d measured off were a bit on the big side, but by how much, and these shorts were most distinctly smaller than the originals.Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts

In the event, they fit for exactly right now.  Kitty loves them, is comfy in them, and wore them to school (always a serious compliment) but by the next growth spurt I can see they’ll be in the pile waiting for Elma.  They are probably best described as a wearable muslin, and that’s OK, it would be boring if everything worked first time, and probably be an indication that I wasn’t stretching out of my sewing comfort zone. But now I know that I can’t fit a pair of Kitty-sized shorts out of a fat quarter, I know I need to remember how much shorts need to stretch to be comfy coming off and on, and I know that when I do she’s going to love them.

And speaking of things I know she’s going to love

I’ve made it to the sleeve!  Kitty’s *mumble* Christmas *mumble* cardigan is still on the needles, but this week I finished the body and started a sleeve.  There are two of them, and she has the long arms to go with her long legs, but we’re getting there, slowly but surely!

(the scrape to her head comes under the heading of “how I learnt to take my glasses off before pulling a jumper over my head!)

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