Monthly Archives

July 2013

Elma Exploring Family Kitty Uncategorized

Sandy toes


There are beaches, and there are beaches.  And if there is one beach that encapsulates my childhood summers it’s here;


Gara Rock.

On the basis that something required a little effort to be worthwhile, we subscribed to the theory that it isn’t a real beach unless it you had to scramble up or down cliff paths for at least 20 minutes in order to get there.  Beaches that you could just drive to, with their handy car parks, ice cream vans and other evidence of civilisation were for a quick swim, but to meet my youthful criteria a proper beach had to have a stream to dam, rocks to scramble, a decent stretch of sand for tide fight castles and some body boarding, rock pools to wallow in, and if at all possible, a cave.

Of the tiny handful that passed the test, Gara was our favourite, and I don’t think there’s a year that passes in our family album without a photo of my sister or I on its familiar sand; a six month old Zee being fed a bottle by my older cousin, her hair still wet and salt tangled, me, that same summer, examining the catch from a rockpool which what H would easily recognise as my ‘concentraty face’, or any number of either of us jumping from the big rock, whose height varied from summer to summer with the shifting sands.

Where else was I going to take Elma for her first trip to the beach.


I’ve not been myself since well before Kitty was born, fates and tides having aligned to keep us away, but it hasn’t changed.  It hasn’t even shrunk, like so many familiar childhood haunts seem to do with the passage of time.  There was our favourite cranny in the rock for making camp, with that ledge that was always perfect for drying swimsuits, the stream sputtering down the valley, pooling at the bottom, just waiting for the onslaught of buckets of sand.  The jumping rock was the right height for climbing (though I’m afraid none of us did), and while a springs tide kept most of the rock pools under water, the sea rippled out from the breakers all the way to France.DSC_0302


And once we had Elma tucked up inside her little sun tent to roll, chatter and peek at us through the portholes, and Kitty occupied with the very important task of digging the biggest hole ever ever ever, I did what we always did, persuaded Dad to come for a swim (although as he tells it it was closer to badgered).


Bear in mind I’m a little behind myself and this is early July.  Before the heatwave.  At the end of many many weeks of pouring rain.

I’m not going to lie.  It was cold.  Really cold.  The cold that requires my patented sea swimming technique – run in, swim 20 strokes, check nothing has fallen off due to frostbite, relax and enjoy it.  But once I’d acclimatised, or possibly just gone numb it was truly lovely.  No splash pad or pool can ever really rival the sea.


So we dried off and warmed up to eat our ham sandwiches, tomatoes, apples and a good hunk of Auntie Zee’s lemon drizzle cake, we snoozed in the shade and rolled in the sun,

Beach Collage

and jumped wave after wave – with just a bit of help.




And after we got home and bathed the salt off two warm and sleepy little girls and tucked them up in bed, there in the bottom of the bath, as there always used to be, was that tiny swirl of sand, the true marker of a lovely day.


Elma Finished Sewing

Vive la Liberty


I’ve got a new excuse for not knitting.  It’s not that there’s no time, though time is still a rather precious commodity around here, or even that the current design I’m working on has hit a fatal flaw at the yoke, namely that despite a gazillion swatches it looked utterly rubbish.  Fortunately for Kitty, for whom it’s intended (assuming I come up with a yoke design and finish it before she has another gargantuan growth spurt), I don’t think there’s exactly a pressing need for aran weight tweed coziness.

Those three words, “aran weight tweed” are in a nutshell, my latest excuse.  When picking up that weight of wool and sitting with it nestled up in your lap is entirely unappealing, even if you could procure a cool bath for my feet, a minion to waft me with a giant leaf, and a ready supply of something lovely over ice, you know it’s time to give in to the allure of sitting under the studio ceiling fan and commune with the sewing machine.

Well that and Elma needed a new dress.  And be “needed” we of course mean, “Mummy wanted to make one”.

I had a little falling down in the Liberty’s sale the last time we were in London.  And by little falling down I mean metre long cuts in four different prints.

I’ve got plans for three of them, and a couple of options for the fourth, and as my fabric storage is suffering from a bizarre form of internal disarray characterised by a tendency to explode out of the cupboard all over the floor of Elma’s room whenever anyone looks in its direction, I am quite determined that I’m going to be a sewer and not a fabric hoarder; well at least for the duration of the heatwave.

I’ve never actually cut into Liberty print before; I’ve played around with hexagons from a pre-cut pack, and I’ve unfolded the two lengths I already own, stroked them, imagined tiny girls running through wildflower meadows in them, folded them neatly again and tucked them back on the shelf.  That way lies not the provision of clothing for tiny people.

And then one thing changed, I made a dress for Elma that had such a beautiful cut, and such a lovely finish that it was worthy of repeating, and took away some of the nerves of making that first slice into something lovely and precious.

Music Box Jumper, Oliver + S, Little Mari, Liberty




It’s exactly the same size and version as the previous Music Box, cut out on Wednesday, sewn on Friday, finished and bedecked with buttons on Saturday, and worn to ward off the heat at Sunday’s cricket.


Little Mari, an English cottage garden in Liberty print for my English rose of a daughter.


I’m in equal parts pleased and relieved that I got the pattern centralised on the front yoke, now I just need to work on a seamless pattern overlap on the back but I’m starting to figure out how to measure off the pattern to get that effect (although if anyone has any top tips, please let me know).  Given that to have the pattern matching at the buttons I’d have had to have it off balance at the shoulders I’m not sure I would have gone for it anyway.


If we can base client happiness on the amount of time said customer spends chewing the hem of her newly finished creation, I think we can safely say that she too is thrilled.

It seems that my sewing stint is set to last too; Elma has two new dresses and has just about grown into an ice cream print dress originally made for Kitty and as that young lady keeps being discovered sneaking into the studio and draping herself in fabric, it might just be time for Mummy to even up the score.

Books Family Kitty Reading

Stuck {what we’re reading}


It all began when H got his brother’s frisbee stuck in a tree. He tried pushing and pulling the tree but it wouldn’t come unstuck.

The trouble really began when he threw his ball to knock the frisbee loose … and that got stuck too!

He grabbed their cans of Dr Pepper and hurled them up the tree one by one, and unbelievably they all got stuck as well.

I think Oliver Jeffers may have stalked my teenaged husband.

stuck, Oliver Jeffers, what we're reading

The boys’ story happily concludes with the return of both toys in circumstances involving the degeneration of knicker elastic and the use of a 20′ pole found in a car park; although somewhere in the world six cans of Dr Pepper still nestle into the bristly foliage of a palm tree.

As for Stuck‘s Floyd, well he has to try just a little bit harder to get his kite back.  It’s a genuinely funny book, rapidly setting aside all rules of physics with a wonderful child-like imagination that makes it seem not only reasonable but probable to throw a little boat into a tree to knock down an orang-utan, and then a big boat to knock down the little boat.


There’s a lot of the whimsy that I’d associate with Edward Lear, but with just enough of a fingernail grasp on reality, at least at the beginning, that this could just perhaps have actually happened.


And as her Daddy reads it with all the sympathetic verve only a not so small boy who has also lost his toy up a tree could produce, Kitty thinks it is absolutely hilarious.


That’s really the aim of all these stories.  I know my girls will learn to read in due course, but for me that’s not enough.  I’m trying to teach them to love reading, to devour books purely for pleasure, to see that stories are the window to your own imagination, to know that for every book that you find a bit ‘meh’ there will be a hundred that you can’t bear to put down, and to have a little library of favourite friends.  The day I find them finishing ‘just one more chapter’ under the bed covers by torchlight, or squinting in the evening sunshine peeking around the corner of a blackout blind because the morning is too long to wait, I’ll know I’ve got it right.


And to see what else has been pulled off the bookcase this week, do go and visit Kelle at Maggie Stone and Lucy at Dear Beautiful to see what they’ve been reading.


Elma Family Kitty

The Second Week That Was – according to Instagram


This was the week that was hot, gloriously sunny, filled with cuddles, tiny milestones, a little crafting, as little cooking as I could get away with and not enough sleep. The week that we were …


Blog post: The Week That Was – according to Instagram

…Basking in glorious sticky hot sunshine, and sneaking off to spend the tail end of the afternoon demolishing ice-cream and finding some more fish in the lake at Upton House (one of our favourite National Trust properties).  The pool was such a gorgeous deep inviting turquoise but sadly out of bounds for all toes, tiny and tall.  I would love it if the National Trust would run an event to open up their swimming ponds and pools just once in a while.  I know you’d have to have lifeguards and probably some sort of health and safety nonsense but I’d happily pay to swim with that view, and on such a warm day it was almost irresistible.

PicMonkey Collage10-2


Blog post: The survivor’s guide to taking two small daughters to the cricket in 33C

…Giggling our way around the supermarket with both little girls sat up in the trolley for the first time.  And just as with her sister before her, I spent much of my time trying to persuade Elma that the bars of the trolley are a vital part of its engineering and not a handily placed baby chew toy.  Kitty thinks it’s wonderful having Elma next to her, although that may be mainly because Elma can no longer pull Kit’s hair with her toes.



Blog post: Pride and Prejudice {what we’re reading}

…Snuggling up at home. We made a tower from Playdoh bricks and Kitty put her Duplo fireman in ‘time out’ at the top of the tower and Elma played hide-peepo with the fabric for her new dress.

PicMonkey Collage14-2


…Having another quiet day. Kitty’s “ouchie on my chinny chin chin” turned out to be a poorly throat so we took her doctor’s advice and administered a little strawberry ice cream with butterflies for added healing powers.  That (or just possibly the penicillin) seemed to do the trick and she was back to herself in double quick time.



Blog post: Once upon a time …

…Playing in the garden in the early morning before it became too hot to do more than think about running around.  Kitty’s trampoline is Elma’s new favourite place to lie out in the garden; she rolls from side to side to get it bouncing gently and then chats to me as I peg out the laundry, punctuating her babble with vigorous feet.

PicMonkey Collage13-2


Blog post: {this moment}

…Chivying through our chores in the morning so that we could watch the Ashes in the afternoon.  I did a little sewing as Elma snoozed, and then curled up with my sweet little girl to cuddle and tickle and play and sing and celebrate every wicket falling in the background.



Blog post: This season of roses

…Sewing buttons and snipping buttonholes to finish Elma’s new summer dress while Kitty, who dropped a regular afternoon snooze about the time she turned two, decided that a little sleepy was just the thing, and curled up in bed with most uncharacteristic compliance.  She was fast asleep inside three minutes.  And Elma, whose nap time it really way, came to help me sew, all smiles and bouncing. Or perhaps she just wanted to know the cricket score.

PicMonkey Collage11-2

But what really made me chuckle is that that picture of my sewing, all floaty Liberty print, flower headed  pins, and beribboned boxes, the epitome of pure girliness … was ‘liked’ by Cricket Australia!

Family Kitty

This season of roses




Having two tiny children has somewhat of a detrimental effect on my gardening.  Actually, I think just being me might have a bit of a detrimental effect on the garden; I have wonderful visions of a gorgeous flowers and dozing in a whole nest of cushions while lovely calm relaxing smells waft around me.  The cushions, I’ve got, I’m still waiting on the free time to doze, but I’m sadly lacking the green fingers to make the rest of the daydream much of a reality

I might get away with it too with a little careful picture staging, and a few fuzzy backgrounds.  But when my parents gave Kitty a rose that shares her name for her first Christmas present, I knew that I wanted a chronicle of both rose and daughter, year by year as they grew and bloomed.  And this year that means taking pictures on a slightly weedy patio, with a little bush whose pruning was not top of the to-do list in the tiny fragments of my free time that shattered across our long cold spring.

As much as I like my pictures to be beautiful and lovely, it matters more to me that I catch and record these fleeting moments, even if it means being known across the internets for having a sycamore seedling nursery sprouting across my patio, than that there be no record of the two Kittys’ third summer (and on the plus side, at least the Christmas tree is out of shot).

Fortunately Kitty the rose is a hardy little thing, and in that brief window after the garden recovered from the weeks of continual drenching from wall to wall rain, and before it all sizzled into a crisp, it rewarded us with a handful of blooms; enough to scent the breeze at the end of the day and peer invitingly around the back door.


As far as Kitty’s concerned, that’s an invitation to play confetti, and therein lies the reason why there might not have been quite as many petals on the rose when we finished as when we started.



It seems like it’s Kitty the girl whose sprouted the most again this year, even if you include the one stem that’s still taller than her (which I probably should have pruned).  Because she’s changing more slowly than in previous years, and more slowly than Elma, I don’t see it as clearly.  It’s only when the trousers that I bought in the sale but put away because they drowned her are suddenly the perfect length, or she climbs into the bath one evening not just all by herself, but by herself and without bothering to find her little step up, that I wonder when all this growing was going on.

Rose Collage-2

There’s such a change, not just from the baby, only a couple of months older than Elma is now, still a bit wobbly sitting up, who was just starting to stand as long as there was someone to hold on to, but even from the little girl she was last year. Still on the cusp of baby to toddler, dancing with her Daddy, and chatting away in Kitty-babble.

Rose Collage2-2

Twelve months or so later she’s taller, stronger, chatty, giggly, just as adoring of her family, for the most part caring and careful of her baby sister, and very very two.

And so I’m glad to have this marker in our family’s year, not a birthday or any specific date at all, just a season of rose petals in which to step back from the intensity of daily life and pay attention to my little girl, this moment right now, before she changes again.

PS – In other news, I have now de-weeded the patio. Apparently photography is the one motivating factor that actually works where garden tidying is concerned.

PPS  – H does own more than one jumper, I promise.