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Me and Mine: February 2018


Hello? It’s been a little while hasn’t it.  It’s nice to be back.  Even if it does feel a little bit strange.  So then, let’s cover off the elephant in the corner before we get started.  I’d love to come up with some fantastical story for my internet disappearance; I was the Pyongchang mascot? the real life job sent me to somewhere deeply exotic but with no internet connection? we had so much snow I made myself an igloo and moved in?  Nope, I’m not sick, not pregnant, not sworn off technology and gone to live off grid, or been abducted by aliens.   The truth is that in the middle of January my real life job got insanely crazy busy again, weeks went by when I couldn’t remember not working, I bust my wrist and elbow with a combination of over-laptop and over-crochet (an injury from the car accident we had the summer before last that’s now horribly easy to aggravate) and something had to give.

What went was my blog and my social media and a lot of things I really truly love.  When we got to the end of January and I started to think about rounding the family up for a Me and Mine shoot and it just felt like too much pressure and too much hard work and the antithesis of everything that it ought to be, I simply stopped, and found that once I had stopped it was horribly hard to find the motivation to push myself to get going again.

I love my blog, I love taking pictures and telling stories, but they are not the heart of my family, only a distillation of a tiny moment or two; savoured, treasured, but ultimately never a replacement for the real thing, and so it was time to step away, if even for a little bit.

Truth be told, I sometimes feel a little lost in this great big world of blogging; I’ve always flitted between niches, not quite fish nor fowl nor good red herring, and there have been times of very obvious change as real life moves into another season, and the blog has an uncomfortable wriggle or two before I can quite catch up with where I want to be and I’m definitely in a wrigglish frame of mind at the moment.

I do know that I don’t want to entirely abandon the habit of keeping this space as my online version of a baby book for the whole family, but not to the point that it becomes a source of stress; back to the good old days of blogging where stats was simply a module from my maths A-level.  For this year’s Me and Mine, if I have a picture then I have a post, but if I don’t have a picture then we’ll just wait for another month, and for someone who is usually very motivated even by voluntary rules, I’ve surprised myself by how relaxed that decision made me feel.

Anyway; this month, I have a picture.  Well I have several, and they’re all just as wonderfully silly as each other.

Over half term the mother of one of the girls’ school friends ran a pop-up yoga class, and as I’ve taken a yoga class with her before and loved it, it sounded like the perfect way to get everyone out of the house and off for a little exercise and stretching, and with John’s lovely cousin come to visit we had enough adults to make it achievable.

Pip was, quite frankly, rather baffled by yoga.  He’d never seen it or done it before, but he definitely liked the bits where Mama laid down so that he could climb up on me and have another cuddle.

We worked through a few basic positions, many of which I still can’t do, but he and the girls came alive when we started to try paired up yoga poses – more excuses to climb on Mama and Daddy.

The final challenge was to find a way to Yoga pose the entire family group, with, varied degrees of success. None of us is a natural yogi, except possibly the incredibly bendy Elma, but for me it was one of the highlights of half term; all of us together, filling the sunshine with laughter.

Me and Mine, in February:




Family Handmade

Red hats {handmade}


It started, as the best things often do, with Swallows and Amazons.  All three of my children are audiobookworms and while I’m determined that a good many of my childhood favourites will remain tucked away, ready for the three of them to discover for themselves when they’re older, I wanted to dip their toes into the water, to establish the places and characters as woven tightly into the fabric of their childhoods, just as they were with mine.  Years ago, before even Kitty had arrived, I looked for Swallows and Amazons on Audible but the reader at the time was just so terrible (the only word she emphasised was “and” and the rest of it was delivered in a half asleep monotone) that it wasn’t worth parting with a credit even to re-live fond memories.  But while I will never quite be able to forgive the recent film for over-embellishing a beautiful story with some utterly unnecessary plot changes, it does seem to have renewed enough interest in the (infinitely superior) source material that the books have all been re-recorded, this time read by Gareth Armstrong, who has exactly the sort of grandfatherly tones to make listening to it like snuggling down under your favourite blanket.

We have two of the twelve; Swallows and Amazons and Swallowdale; the next books Kitty has to read for herself and then when she and Elma and Pip have all finished the entire series, we’ll add the rest to our long car journey selection.

For those not in the know, (a) get you to a bookshop at once and (b) when you’ve read it you’ll see why my girls adopted the Amazon Pirates, Nancy and Peggy Blackett as their own personal role models.  For several weeks Kitty took to saying “aye aye” in response to any request and “shiver me timbers” in response to any request that she didn’t like, and she and Elma play extensive “Swallie-Ammy” games, with Pip along as a sort of additional ships’ boy that seems to have stumbled into the story.

When her most recent tooth fell out she wrote a letter to the tooth fairy asking for a red knitted cap just like Nancy, and the tooth fairy, who had not received any notice whatsoever of this request, wrote back to suggest that she ask her Mama to knit her one.  At Yarndale I had my eyes peeled for just the right colour red yarn and found it, I think at Laxations, who were selling off some of their test dyed aran-weight.  Two skeins, at the bargain price of £4 each, was more than enough to knit up three red hats for my three Amazon pirates.

To keep the knitting interesting, and to be able to tell whose was whose amid the Christmas chaos, I decided to knit a different pattern for each and spent several happy lunchtimes browsing Ravelry on my phone and favouriting the nicest hat patterns.  And this is what we came up with:

Kitty’s hat is the Clever Cables by Stitchnerd Designs and it was a joy to knit.  The pattern is very logical and it swoops to a beautiful point at the top where the diamonds all meet so that it looks as good from the top as from the front.  It’s the only one with a fold up brim, but as Kitty is the most prone to extraordinary growth spurts that end up with nothing in the house actually fitting her, I’m hoping that it gives me a little bit more longevity.  It’s a one size fits all adult hat which would just about fit me, but my head is on the larger size of average anyway, and should keep her going for a while.

For Elma I needed something smaller, and chose Magnolia, partly because it’s pretty and partly because the small size turned out to be a perfect fit for my dinky little girl.

And last but by no means least, I knit a Declan’s hat for Pip; it’s a free pattern that’s sized from baby to grown up and basically it’s the same pattern every time, just using more or fewer segments depending on the size of head in question.  Pip has a fairly substantial head, or at least it feels that way when it crashes into you, so a small fits him perfectly even though he’s only three.

The girls knew I had the yarn to make red hats for them, but hats are small enough to be knit stealthily on the train to work and, unlike when I make them jumpers, they hadn’t a clue until we handed them a round of very squishy soft little parcels on Christmas morning.

Because they are 7, 5 and 3 the chances of them all wearing them at the same time are relatively slim, but Kitty has taken hers as her school hat almost every morning this term, and as I write this she’s snuggled up in bed upstairs, hat firmly pulled down around her ears, just to feel that little bit extra snuggly.

And with that, this year’s minimalist Christmas knitting was finished.  I’d love to be able to give them all a Christmas jumper every year but I think I’ve finally (see ages of children) realised that it’s just not going to happen.  They love their hats, I loved knitting them, especially keeping them secret, and even better, because by next Christmas they’ll be 8, 6, and 4 (seriously, how!) they’ll still be abandoning hats in all sorts of strange places, which is the perfect excuse for knitting more.

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



Now you are Five


To my littlest girl, admittedly a bit belatedly.

And now you are five.  You have in fact, at the time of writing, been five for nearly a whole month but I know that you’ll forgive me both for not managing to write about you in the same month as your birthday, and for not managing to take your portraits while your giant gold five balloon still had some puff in it.  Next year we’ll do better, I promise.

As I sit here in the snug of our new house, lit by fairy lights, you’re asleep (I hope) almost immediately above my head, tucked up in the bottom of the bunks which you share with your sister.  You love your bunk beds, and your sister, though on occasion I think the bunks might win out.  You’re sharing a room here in our new house just as you were before, only this time you’ve got double the space and it’s given the pair of you room to spread out a bit and have a real say in how we arrange your room, rather than just us putting the furniture wherever it would fit.  We’ve set you both up with your own desks and I love seeing the little bits and pieces you create; when we wrote thank you cards for your birthday presents you made a tiny coloured picture as a present to go in each any every one, and I treasure all the little snippets tucked into my handbag as I head out to work.

Your creativity spills over into your dancing too; you were absolutely obsessed with Strictly this year and cried actual genuine inconsolable tears when Debbie lost to Joe.  Every n0w and then you just decide that it’s time to dance and start whirling away to the tunes in your head. You’ll dance to any music that’s going, especially if you can persuade the rest of us to join in – and we’ll always want to join in.  You, more than any of my children, have the ability to be completely lost in your own little world, and your Dora-Daisy nickname came about from so many moments of calling your name and knowing that even though you were standing next to me, you couldn’t hear a word I was saying for wondering whether all crowns were gold or whether there’d be peas for dinner.

You’ve always been my storyteller and that’s only increased this year; you make up such imaginative stories for your Lego people and your animals and your teddies that I’d love to be going on adventures with them, and I’ve found myself lingering outside your door more than once, not wanting to interrupt you, but unable to tear myself away.

This year’s cross country move was the biggest change of your life, let alone just this year, and though you’re not usually very happy with the idea of change, you took it all in your stride, settling into tent life without too much trouble (I suspect that the presence of your much adored Auntie and Uncle, the swimming pool and the strawberry fields helped just a bit with that one) and then running into our house as if it had always been home.  You’ve loved being nearer to school and to all your friends, and we’ve loved having them over to play and hosting your second ever birthday party, now that we’ve got the room for more than just the one friend.  This house has given us all the space that we hadn’t known we needed and you make the most of it, I can usually find some evidence of your trail through the house in just about every room.

You are an incredibly loving little girl, and you have a cuddle for anyone who seems a bit down, and you’re so kind with it, you would never see anyone sad without trying to fix it, and you’ll happily hand over stickers or chips or whatever your brother might want to make him happy, and he adores you in turn. Some of my favourite memories of this year have been my time spent just with you, either because you’re the first awake, or the others are off on their own sort of mischief, and we can cuddle up to chat, or sit and draw together.  You are very much Daddy’s little girl, so I take my chances when I can get them.

Compared to your brother and sister you’re still the dinky one – you now have the same size feet as your brother and there’s not a lot between you in inches; he’s all muscle whereas you’re more of a ninja warrior, hidden strength and pointy elbows.  You’re actually still well above average height, and I suspect you’ll end up tall compared to the UK average, but the only member of our family under 6′.

On your last birthday you were still in Nursery and one of the biggest changes for you this year was the big move across the corridor to Kindergarten; you loved the term you shared with your sister, but now that she’s moved up to the Lower School it’s been wonderful to watch you step out of her shadow and take your own place within the class.  You’re a most determined little soul, and I know that your teachers have seen that strong will come through, in all the good ways, and, I suspect, on a few occasions where they’d rather you’d done what they asked.

It’s very much the same at home; there are times when remind myself that what is challenging in a little girl, is exactly the characteristic that means that you will never be easily led as an adult, and there are times when your determination to master something sees you keep at it long after your brother and sister have wandered off.  You love wholeheartedly and fiercely, and in an ideal world you would have every single family member living at our house all of the time just so that you can hug them all repeatedly.  You are definitely a people person; happiest whenever there is someone to chat to and to hug. Earlier this year we went up to school at the weekend for a fundraising science fair and it was so sweet to see your friends rush over to claim you, and to watch your little group go exploring around the hall. When I was little I was never right at the heart of all goings on, and quite happy in that position, so I love watching you dive headfirst into your social life just as much as it baffles me.

But above all you are funny and sweet and our pride and joy and a blessing in all our lives.

We love you little one; enjoy your sixth trip around the sun.

Love Mama


Family Me and Mine

Me and Mine 2017: December


I know that I am no longer a mother to babies, or even toddlers, because on Christmas morning, it wasn’t until 7.30 that the first of my fully fledged children woke up and came tottering into our bedroom, sleepily rubbing at his eyes.  As he climbed onto my back and snuggled down again between my shoulder blades I murmured a “Merry Christmas” in his general direction and, after a small but audible yawn, a voice replied:

“Merry Christmas to you too Mummy!”

As I said, not even my baby boy is even the slightest bit baby anymore.

And while I might have the occasional minor lament about the fact that not one of them fits into even the biggest of the baby clothes departments any more (why oh why did John Lewis stop the adorable yellow puffin jumpers at age 3?) it feels fitting that this year has been such a universal step forward into the next part of our family adventure.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine 2017: January

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

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine photo project, March 2017

This year we sold our house, we asked my aunt and uncle if we could move into a tent at their farm for ‘a couple of weeks’, we moved into our tent at their farm for eight weeks, and then we moved into something that is pretty near enough close to our dream house that we are never ever ever moving again. Ever.

The house is a bit of a fixer upper – and I promise that there’ll be a blog post about the before and tiny bits of after that we’ve put in sometime in the new year – but it’s a fixer upper that has a good 10 year plan attached to it, if not more, so there will be plenty of stories to tell along the way.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine, a monthly family portrait

And for my little trio this September marked Kitty’s step up into Lower School (with an assembly that I could easily have sobbed my way through – but just about managed to hold it together), and with Elma in Kindergarten and Pip starting and eventually coming to love his Nursery mornings we’ve had that first sense of the children all being off on their own adventures together that will be the hallmark of many years to come.

Even though we moved into the house in August it still feels as if we’ve only just got started, and I have so many plans for what we’re going to achieve in 2018 I’m really excited for the months ahead. After a fair amount of upheaval this year it will be nice to be doing things at our own pace and on our own timescale – we hope.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, because it isn’t 2018 yet, it’s still 2017 for a few more hours and that means that it’s time to complete the set and add December’s pictures to my collection of Me and Mine in 2017.  Which of course means Christmas.

Unusually for me I didn’t take many photos at Christmas this year; by the time that we’d come back from church and I’d got the Christmas dinner under control I didn’t have the heart to ask the children to sit for more than a couple of shots before we could get on with the all important task of opening the pile of presents you can’t see behind us.

This year, more than ever, it felt so important to me to be living Christmas not just documenting it; for all that I love having a record of our family life, and I love taking photos, I didn’t want to be fussing over ISO or focus, I just wanted to be sat on the floor underneath that gorgeous 8 foot high tree watching the children open up the little bits and bobs we’d bought for them.

Magical is a horribly overused cliche for this time of year, but it’s how Christmas felt to me this year; a break, finally, from a long autumn and early winter when my workload just kept building and we all suffered for it, a chance to draw breath and to just be, here in our dream house, with these three incredible little people who are hilarious and grown up and challenging and sweet and everything in between, and who are the heart and soul of our home.

We’ve spent our days eating leftover turkey, doing colouring and stickers and all sorts of craft projects both new and unearthed from the cupboard, playing make believe with the every growing collection of Sylvanians, and heading out for an afternoon walk in the sunshine.  We drove up into the hills and found ankle deep wonderful snow, and met up with friends to explore the footpaths out of our village.  I’ve read new books, squished new yarn and John and I became so addicted to our jigsaw map of Oxford (a Christmas present from my Dad) that we could both see map imprinted on our retinas whenever we closed our eyes.  It’s a 1000 piece puzzle and we finished it in 24 hours; it was awesome.

Looking back across the whole year of pictures I can see the changes in the kids (and in us!), and while I know that I don’t (yet?) have the skills or, on occasion, the camera to take the kind of stunning portraits that would make every one a calendar shot, I love that I’ve pushed myself even in the months when we were hot or tired or stressed to get everyone rounded up to take pictures and process them and post them here; our 2017 in all its crazy blurry wonderfulness.

So from my little family to yours we wish you a very Happy New Year as 2018 rolls in; crazy faces and all!


Family Siblings

Siblings 2017: December


When I was little I longed for winters that was sharply cold, where every cloud meant snow and the greens faded under a blanket of soft white that lasted for weeks.  I lived in Devon, on the coast, it was a tad unrealistic, though it did hail a lot one Easter that we could almost have counted it as snow.  When I moved about as far away from the sea as you can get I thought we’d get more snow and in truth we’ve had a few good dustings over the years, but nothing, nothing in my whole life has been as snowy as the last weekend.

On Friday morning when I got up the world was the dark black of winter sky and cold wet ground.  I peered out of the windows hoping to convince myself that the stripes in the variegated ivy at the bottom of the path were really tiny clusters of snowflakes but even my snow optimism can only go so far, and I tucked myself up in the studio to get on with the day’s work.  When we opened the curtains an hour and a bit later the world was white.  The cars were frosted with a thick coating, the grass had vanished, the bones of the trees had started to be revealed with sharp white highlights and the traffic on our road had all but stopped moving.

The last time my three saw proper snow they were on top of a Swiss mountain, and it was August.  They just couldn’t get into their coats and hats and wellies fast enough and I’m not ashamed to say that breakfast that day was a picnic in the garden.  No one wanted to come inside, not when it was snowing harder every moment.  All through that day it snowed and we smiled, noses pressed to the windows, then the sun would come out and I’d worry and will the snow to stay, desperately hoping that it would still be around to play with in the afternoon and when the three of them got back from school I’m not sure they spent a moment inside.

The body of the snowman was made before breakfast, and after lunch they rolled and rolled him around the front garden to pick up all of the morning’s snowfall until we could see the grass again, then made his head and raided the veggie box and the barbeque for eyes and a nose.


He was their pride and joy, and Elma was gutted yesterday when she realised that he’d melted.

Is it a mark of being British, of having no confidence that the snow that was there then would still be here later that we’d saved the back garden snow for the afternoon, and so when they’d used up all of the front garden snow on Mr Snowman, they went to explore the rest.

Our garden is basically flat but there’s one little slope where the garden has been landscaped up and away from the level, where in the summer a gentle grassy path will take you up to an arbor underneath the apple trees.  In greener days Pip uses it as a bike run, pushing off at the top and freewheeling all the way to the bottom lawn and now it proved the perfect spot for some very gentle tobogganing.  It’s a short run, but it gave all three of them the chance to feel what real sledging might be like.

By the time I finished work it was dark, but Pip and Elma were still game to be out and about in the garden; the snow was all but gone underfoot, scooped up into sculptures and snow runs and bundled aboard sledges to be dragged around the garden – as well as one tell tale snowy smudge mere inches away from the kitchen window.  It was perfect and as we tucked ourselves into the house on Friday night I thought how lucky we’d been to have a proper snow day.


That’s the second mark of being British – even then we didn’t really believe the forecast for Sunday.

But Sunday was when the magic happened.  This time the world was muffled in white; the snow had covered the road and the cars and the snowman and everything under a thick blanket.  Our sledges, left in the middle of the lawn the night before, were barely visible lumps and the snow just kept on falling.

A friendly tractor ploughed a single pathway down the middle of our road but the tarmac was barely visible before the white whirl started to fill it in again.  We postponed Elma’s birthday party and made plans to spend the day in our own snowy bubble.  It was perfect.

Eight inches of snow fell that Sunday, even if they’ve all melted away now, and in the afternoon we went sledging down the road just outside our house, all five of us flying down the hill and then climbing back up to do it all over again.  Just for a moment, it was the winter of my dreams, and Kitty’s and Pip’s and especially Elma’s.  Elma’s one true birthday wish was for there to be snow and she just couldn’t believe that it had come true.  Early on Sunday morning John found her standing behind her curtains, staring out into the garden, willing the snow to fall, and it clearly heard her call.


Kitty wasn’t far behind her, and it was wonderful to see how confident she has become in these last few months; jumping on board her sledge and pushing off downhill; her only complaint was that she struggled to steer, a far cry from the little girl who would have been nervous about getting on in the first place.

And as for my Pip Squeak, where there was snow he wanted to roll in it and jump in it and generally just be outside in it until his gloves were sodden and the snow trickled down into his boots, and even then he’d take some persuading to come back inside and warm up.  Pip played in the snow right to the very end, when wind and warmth turned it all back into rain, and for a first real experience of a proper snow day, I think it’s going to take some topping!

Two little girls, and their brother too, in the snow in December

(because what else do you do with snow but taste it!)

Do go and say hi to my co-hosts: Donna at What the Redhead Said Natalie at Little Jam Pot Life,  Keri-Anne at GingerLily Tea, Amber at Meet the Wildes, and Katie at Mummy Daddy Me. If you’re joining in on Instagram if you use the hashtag #siblingsproject and tag @siblings_project_ we’ll be able to see them too!