Family {the ordinary moments}

Picnics in the rain

05/03/2017

Space for the Butterflies - Picnics in the rain at Compton Verney

I grew up in a family where weather was an accompaniment to adventures, never a factor in their existence.  Only when the rain was spirit level horizontal, and the gale hurtling around could it be suggested that perhaps we didn’t really fancy a walk, and even then it would probably have had to be winter.  You were planning a walk and it was raining, you put on your waterproofs; you’d thought about going swimming, well you were going to get wet anyway; and if it happened to rain while you were already at the beach you’d never think of heading home but rig up a tent from driftwood and beach towels and weather out the storm.

It’s left me with a resiliance to getting wet that served me well when I did DofE, and which I think I may be instilling in our children because when we had to scarper from home to allow for some viewings and I suggested a picnic, all three children looked at me, at the gloom of a thundery sky then gathering outside the window, and brightly declared it to be the best plan anyone had had all week.

And so with a swift detour to the supermarket for the makings of a picnic and new wellies for Kitty whose feet (now an adult 2) seem to grow every time I look away, we found ourselves drawing in to Compton Verney’s carpark as the first drops of rain plopped onto the windscreen and trickled lazily down the bonnet.  For one moment I seriously considered having the picnic in the car, but they were all far too excited about the prospect of proper outdoor picnics to be in any way worried about something so trivial as rain.

Space for the Butterflies - Picnics in the rain at Compton Verney

The gallery itself is closed over the winter and as there was unlikely to be much about in the water for pond dipping we decided to skip the potential to get the children soaked through in favour of tackling the orienteering course.  Given the number of times we’ve been over the years I was surprised we’d never done it before, but little legs only have so many steps in them so it’s probably seemed like too much on top of the pond dipping and visiting the house.  Kitty loved it; she took charge of the map and pencil and was off searching for posts and writing in the letters and her enthusiasm for the whole concept stayed strong all the way to the end, so at some point we’re going to need to go back to do the really long version.

Space for the Butterflies - Picnics in the rain at Compton Verney

The course starts easily enough, with lots of markers within a very short space of time, and we had seven letters entered on our map before we stopped for lunch on a damp bench underneath the drippy shade of two deciduous trees.  At which point the rain, which had eased when we started walking, decided to revisit the situation.  But we had waterproofs and sausage rolls and cartons of apple juice and the rain didn’t matter.  Somehow that feeling of doing something against the ordinary, something slightly crazy, adds excitement to a fairly mundane picnic.  Dodging rain drops made it feel like we were on an adventure, not merely picnicking and the giggles became infectious as Kitty and Elma acted out a sausage roll dance while Pip and I applauded curiously.

Space for the Butterflies - Picnics in the rain at Compton Verney

Despite extensive explanations I’m not certain that Pip or Elma really got the point of orienteering, but they very much got the point of chocolate biscuits (bribery and corruption will get you everywhere) and puddles.  While Kitty headed off in search of the next marker, they tracked down every dip and every dimple that might possibly have water in it, to make sure that when they’d finished there wasn’t a drop that had not been redistributed.

Space for the Butterflies - Picnics in the rain at Compton Verney

They navigated a treacherously squelchy puddle in the verge with only muddy knees to show for it (on a not unrelated point, when did welly boots start being so short?) and so when Pip ran ahead to a wide mischievously serene example further up the drive I wasn’t anticipating any problems.  More fool me.

Two steps in he lost his footing and plunged down, arms outstretched, coming to rest tummy down into the deepest part.  I scooped him up in seconds but the damage was done, and before us stood one very unhappy little boy loudly protesting the uncomfortableness of his wet trousers while muddy water trickled down his face.  We were at almost the furthest point of the walk and if we walked back to the car and the spare clothes then my chances of persuading Pip and Elma all the way back out again to finish the route were slim to non existent, which in turn would have left Kitty bereft of half of her letters.

Space for the Butterflies - Picnics in the rain at Compton Verney

There was one thing we had to try before we gave in, and with an impending sense of cold and damp, I lifted Pip onto my shoulders (please note the change of colour of his trousers!).  The puddle had soaked all the way up the inside of his trousers and as he settled around me the water hit warm skin as rivulets ran down the back of my neck.  It got better when we both warmed up, and Pip decided that this was a perfectly acceptable substitute for dry trousers and proceeded to direct the expedition from on high.

Space for the Butterflies - Picnics in the rain at Compton Verney

The final leg took us out into the park, and then back under the avenue of enormous Wellingtonia trees to finish up at the Ice House.

Space for the Butterflies - Picnics in the rain at Compton Verney

A little knowledge of Compton Verney history solved the anagram for us and Kitty was thrilled to have it confirmed right.  All the way home she talked about the orienteering and Pip and Elma talked about how he fell over in the puddle; a memorable adventure, if not for quite the reasons I’d planned.

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

 

Handmade Quilting

Editing the SugarBlock Club {handmade}

03/03/2017

Making a scrap quilt has taught me the importance of editing my blocks.  Editing in writing makes sense; even though I’m loath to part with words that are hard won in time and inspiration, the finished piece will always be tighter and read better for a bit of care and attention and the brutal cutting of some of my lovely words.  I’d not really made the connection to quilting before these scrap quilts (for there are now definitely going to be two – see my last SugarBlock Club post for the plan), my quilts had been made with variations on a colour, or were bought together as a bundle and then added to, or simply had a really clear visual style from the get go.

These blocks, scrappiest of the scrappy, did not. In the first few months I simply pulled the fabrics that I thought looked good together, looking at the existing blocks for a bit of reference, but not overly fussed about finding a cohesive whole while I had so few to put together.

Space for the Butterflies - Editing the SugarBlock Club blocks

As the months have gone on I’ve found that the precise colour scheme started to reveal itself, and the more I lifted and laid out the blocks, and moved them around and put them back, the more one or two started to niggle at me, and I knew they needed a do-over.

I tried to leave it as long as I could bear it, but with the end clearly in sight, and only two months’ left to go, it was time to tackle the miscreants so that I would no longer try to hide them in the corners where it might not matter.  If you’re going to go to all the trouble of making quilt blocks and then turning them into a quilt then that’s a serious investment of time, so they need to earn their keep and be perfectly beautiful, not hidden.

On careful examination, three were up for the chop.

Space for the Butterflies - Stitchery Dickory Dock Sugar Block Club

The first was this one from February, and in it’s original incarnation it was fine apart from the corners.  The quilts I’m making are warm colours and the green is cool, and it just jars. I know I’ve written before that I was going to pull it apart and do it again, and now I really have:

Space for the Butterflies - Editing the SugarBlock Club blocks Space for the Butterflies - Editing the SugarBlock Club blocks

Blue spotty corners and it all works perfectly.  The pulling apart wasn’t as bad as I thought either; I just took it back to its constituent elements and added in new half square triangles on the corners, which gave me confidence to tackle the next candidate, and another of the blocks with the pretty but all wrong green print.

Space for the Butterflies - Orange Peel Blocks

This wasn’t so much a problem with the colour clashing as the colours being too close; you can’t really see all those pretty triangles, they just blur into one big splodge no matter how much I convince myself I can make it pop with the quilting (is that the quilting equivalent of a knitter’s “it’ll all block out”?).

So off the borders came. I only needed to remake the central flying geese, everything else stayed the same and put back together quite happily, but you can see the difference when I overlay two of the old flying geese; there just wasn’t enough distinction between the two fabrics at that sort of scale to make it work.

Space for the Butterflies - Editing the SugarBlock Club blocks Space for the Butterflies - Editing the SugarBlock Club blocks

The final editing was a block that I thought I liked, and I do still really like, even though I’ve redone it.

Space for the Butterflies - Orange Peel Blocks

It’s the other block from March and as soon as I’d sorted out those borders it became the one that I was hiding at the bottom of the pile, and so it had to change.  It wasn’t bad per se, it just didn’t quite sit right, and as the seam ripper and I were old friends by that point, off came the borders and on went new ones.

Space for the Butterflies - Editing the SugarBlock Club blocks

This is probably the most dramatic of all the changes and it gives it a lightness and a freshness compared to its predecessor.

And so we’re all ready to power through to the finished, there isn’t a block left that I try to hide away without realising it and that puts me a good step nearer to turning them all into quite.  I’m trying to tell myself that the first versions weren’t failed blocks, so much as teachable moments; for all that sometimes it feels like treading water to go back and redo the blocks I’m certain that I’ll be able to pick fabric for a scrap quilt with a much more intelligent eye than when I started this one, so the earlier versions are just part of the evolution of these quilts.  Now on to evolve the final months!

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

Family Me and Mine Photography

Me and Mine 2017: February

28/02/2017

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

26/02/2017

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}

24/02/2017

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