Following my dreams; slowly


My biggest ambition for 2018 is to write.  More specifically, it’s to finish the novel I’m writing.  And by finish we really mean finish the start, start the middle and finish the end. Then it’s going in a virtual reality drawer for several months before I even start to think about editing it. I know roughly where I’m going with it, even if over the course of December the prologue got itself tangled up in knots, and it’s a story I’m enjoying, a daydream I’m writing down, 500 words at a time. On week days I write for as long as I can in the morning before the children wake up or it’s time to go to work, and then I write in the evening for as long as it takes for the word count to tick over. And then I stop.

It isn’t the traditional picture of someone following their dreams is it?  If you read any newspaper article on keeping your New Year’s resolutions, or pick up the vast majority of personal development books they all seem to subscribe to one model, one construct of a success.  Scrolling through Pinterest the other day I saw a quote that summed it up:

“Entrepreneurs work 80 hours a week to avoid a 40 hour work week!”

Conventional wisdom would tell you that if you are really serious, if you have the drive and the passion and the tenacity that will see you reach your goals, climb your mountain and push past every obstacle, then you’ll throw everything you have at it.  You will not stop, you will not rest, you will not let go until the prize is within your grasp.  You will sacrifice everything possible to follow your dreams and to live your best life.  And if you say “but I can’t” then you’re obviously letting the fear of failure block your path, not opening up yourself to the life you could be having.

I know there is truth in there, and I know that for some people the only way to get to where they want to be is to take an enormous crash-or-burn leap, but when you look at it all written down in little black and white letters it strikes me that it’s actually a very linear approach and, dare I say it, an inherently masculine approach; “me see big stag! me take!”.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there is absolutely a time and a place for selfishness and singular focus, particularly as it pertains to your life’s best work, but I don’t think it’s the only way; just the one that gets the most noise.

If I were writing a book with that level of wholehearted breathtaking whirlwind intensity, I should be writing every moment I get; I should write before dawn, head out to do the day job and write on the train, write at lunchtime and on the way home, and then I should write on into the wee small hours of the morning before it all starts again.  Better yet, I should give up the day job and ‘take a chance’ on myself to be discovered as the next JK Rowling.

Believe me there are times when holing myself up in a hermitage to simply create sounds incredibly tempting, but I’m a 37-year old working mother of three, and that’s just not an option for me.  I can’t throw in the day job, because we have bills to pay.  I can’t spend my every waking moment writing because I want my children to remember me as more than a big pile of paper.  I can’t entirely neglect my husband and expect my marriage to thrive.

And yet my biggest fear is that this tiptoeing towards a goal in tiny increments, somehow means that I’m lazy, or that I don’t want this or any other goal ‘enough’, or that I’m not as driven as I think I am.  My head whispers it to me in the middle of the afternoon when all of my get up and go has got up and gone, an invidious thought, curling softly through my thoughts like smoke from a blown candle.

But my life is not made up of one single thread that runs through me that says “Writer” down the middle like a stick of rock. My life has so many threads I lose count, all tangled tightly together so that to pull on one snarls up the rest.

I am a Writer, and a Writer with goals and dreams and ambition and drive, and I am also a lawyer who wants to advance in her career as far as possible and help to shift a few preconceptions about working mothers along the way.  I am a Wife, a Mother, a Daughter, a Sister, and Aunt and a Niece, a Knitter, a Crocheter, a Quilter, a Reader, a Singer and a follower of Jesus, and every one of those is precious to me.

I know that I will finish this novel.  I know that I will write more short stories, and I have faith in myself that one day I will finish a novel that I think is good enough for proper publication.  But I’m not prepared to miss out on my life in the meantime.

So I think there needs to be another model; one that doesn’t require sacrifices that are too high a price to pay, and one that doesn’t involve boiling back our lives to the bare minimum either. One that says that we can live our best lives now, and be chasing down our goals. One that recognises that I’m following my dreams; slowly.




Ironheart for Elma {handmade}


At 8.37pm on 11th December, a damp little bundle of wool sat on top of the Aga.  Elma’s birthday jumper, cast off while her Daddy wrapped the final presents, hung the bunting, and tidied away the day’s detritus from the lounge, was finally finished and ready for blocking while our soon to be five year old lay upstairs in her bed and pretended to be asleep.

In October I’d started the Christmas knitting, wanting to make sure that even in some of our busiest days yet there would be time for two pairs of socks, and in November I finished both, remembered to take pictures of both, and even wrapped them up before one squishy holly covered parcel had to be handed over to my Dad on the last weekend before Advent.  I can’t even remember the day when I decided to go for it, I know it was December and I know I was too busy to put any record whatsoever of this project into Ravelry (I’d claim it was because I was being stealth but let’s face it, that’s not a great excuse when the intended recipient is four, can’t read, and isn’t allowed to use the computer).  I weighed up the yarn, the deliciously soft Knit by Numbers DK from John Arbon Textiles that came home with me from Yarndale (you can see their wonderful wall of yarn in my vlog), I downloaded TinCanKnits’ Ironheart pattern from the Heart on Your Sleeve book, I looked at Elma, who despite a ferocious amount of growing in the last year is still rather diminutive, and I went for it.

I even knit a swatch.  Well, I started the sleeve, knit for a few inches, gave it a swish in some warm water and blocked it to dry, but it counts.  Really it counts double because I changed needle size and had to start again.  I know there are some knitters who count swatching as a pleasure, an amuse bouche to get the full flavour of the yarn before they take that first bite of a new project, but I’ll freely admit that I’m never going to be one of them, no matter how much I might want to be.  I think they may also be the sort of knitter that has a very sleek, organised and minimal stash,  who keeps their DPNs in complete sets and not one in the handbag, two in the office desk drawer and two in the car, and who, rather predictably, has sweaters that always fit.

In my defence, I swatched the last time I made a sweater for myself and the first iteration could have got John in there with me so I maintain that they are not infallible.  In this case however, happily the knitting faeries were not conducting war dances around my needles and the newly re-knit sleeve worked up a treat. As did the next one.  It’s a great pattern, even the body (work the ribbing, knit straight for a long time) was the sort of work that make my fingers fly and lurched between secret certainty that it was going to be finished in time, and conversations with Elma in which I tested the waters as to just how upset she’d be if her birthday jumper still had needles in it.

It was no hardship, this yarn is soft and fuzzy, would be perfect for colour work, and even sitting with it on my lap to darn in the ends, I could feel how warm and cozy it is.  If you’re very particular about jumpers not pilling then it would not be the yarn for you; it started to pill the first time Elma wore it, but I loved every stitch.


By the eve of her birthday I knew I was in with a chance.  I thought if I could finish the ribbing on the train in to work, and I could darn in the ends on the way home then maybe I could get it blocked and drying overnight so that I could at least show her a finished jumper, even if she couldn’t wear it to school like she’d been planning all week.

The faeries cackled merrily.  It snowed, I had no commute, I had no intention of missing out on playing in the snow with any of my children, and as we finished supper I was still desperately casting off on a neckband that showed no sign of wanting to stretch enough to pass over the wearer’s head.  I gulped at the glass of wine which seemed to have magically appeared in front of me, and John took the children off to get changed for bed as stitch by tiny stitch, I put it all back on the needles.

The second attempt was incredibly stretchy.  It did in fact fit over my own head with some room to spare, but much as I prize the ease of getting jumpers off and on, particularly in wrigglish children, I just couldn’t spend all that time knitting and leave her with a collar that looked like a misshapen vase for the sake of a bit of reuniting.  Tink, tink, tink.

And that’s how I found myself in the kitchen jumping up and down on the towel wrapped bundle of the previous fortnight’s hard work, and wondering how and where I was going to block it before the morning.

In truth I never truly realised the full potential of Aga ownership until we moved into bought a house that came around one.  It makes delicious food don’t get me wrong, but it’s absolutely brilliant for last minute laundry crises.  If I were to tell you the number of times that we’ve done a last minute load of laundry in the evening, hung it all on the pan hooks above the stove, and popped it on nice and warm first thing in the morning I’d loose any chance I ever had of convincing you that I’m secretly Martha Stewart; so I shan’t.  What I can tell you, from first hand experience is that you can make a blocking board by balancing two cold plain shelves (big metal sheets you shove in the oven of an Aga to tweak the temperature) on top of the hobs.  Carefully lay a towel across the top and you have a blocking board that’s just (and only just) big enough for a jumper for a little person.

But this isn’t any blocking board; because the two hobs give off a decent amount of heat, even through the little mats that sit on top, the plain shelves get nice and toasty, the towel warms the knitting from underneath and by the time we went to bed, one little rosy pink jumper was wrapped up and sat at the front of the birthday present pile.


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!