Monthly Archives

September 2013

Baby Elma Family Kitty Me and Mine Photography

Me and Mine – a family portrait for September


I was going to use some of our pictures from Spain for my Me and Mine this month, but I thought better of it.  Mainly on the grounds that in all of our family group photos from Spain, I’m wearing not only the same clothes on both days, but also the same clothes as August’s Me and Mine photo, and the same top as July’s photo.

What can I say, I really like that top! But I promise I do own more clothes, and did not spend July, August and a week in September wearing the same clothes, at least not without washing them frequently.

When H came home early on the day before Kitty’s birthday to help with the last minute bits and bobs and her birthday portrait photo shoot it was too good a chance to miss, so we packed tripod, remote and copious chocolate buttons as well as that all important giant pink three balloon .

But that makes this the first month since we started taking Me and Mine photos that I have a choice, even if it was an easy choice to go for these photos.  It seems like perhaps the impulse to take family photos is starting to become ingrained with all of this practice.  I’d decided before we went to Spain that I wanted to take some group shots while we were there, and not necessarily for Me and Mine, mostly because I wanted to have photos of all of us together.

And so I do.  As well as my Me and Mine pictures, this month I have photos of the four of us on the battlements of Vejer de la Frontera (as taken by Grandad), of all of us in a golf buggy (also by Grandad), and a grainy evening photo of all six of us together on the terrace of a hotel in Conil (by remote trigger).  It’s becoming second nature to see a white marble raised flowerbed or the seat of a golf buggy and think what a good tripod it would make, and I’m gradually getting the hang of the remote trigger and of composing a photo that I can’t actually see.

Perhaps this is going to be the most lasting benefit of Me and Mine; that in challenging myself to take twelve pictures of our family throughout a year I’m getting wonderfully and willingly pulled in to taking so many more.

We had a lot of fun taking Kitty’s birthday pictures; she was in seventh heaven with a balloon only a smidgen shorter than she is, although I swear I’m not doing a shoot like that again until she turns eight. Or eleven.  The number of outtakes I have where that three is a determined “E” would try the patience of a saint, and I’m certain canonisation is not in my future.  But the results are worth all of the effort.

And so we turned to our Me and Mine photos, fortified by chocolate all round.  Kitty loves the Elephant Circle in Jephson Gardens, and as that Friday, well that whole week really, was all about cherishing and celebrating our eldest girl, that’s where we headed. Me and Mine - September

Because of course, elephants are the first thing to come to mind when you think about rural Warwickshire.  Truly, truly elephants used to live in Leamington.  In the 1840’s Heigler’s Equestrian Circus was based here, and when they weren’t on the road, their elephants lived in a building in the centre of town. Me and Mine - September

The Elephant Circle is part sculpture, part bench; the three elephants and their boy were originally higher up the town by the old Elephant House to remember the circus’ part in local history, but when the shopping centre was expanded they needed to be moved and so they came down to the gardens by the river to overlook the place where the real elephants used to come to wash each day, and the concrete circle was built around them. Me and Mine - September

It’s perfect for tiny people to run around, and play at riding an elephant or two, and so it seemed ideal for a family portrait, to encapsulate memories not only of our afternoon running around taking these pictures, but all of the other trips to the park; from picnics with friends and their children under the trees earlier this summer, to visits in the winter when the fountains in the lake cascaded down onto snow on top of ice, and all the other ordinary runarounds in between.

My little family, in September.

Me and Mine - September

And as no Me and Mine would be complete without a favourite out-take, I present “my family, when asked if one of them would mind very much getting in shot so that I could set the focus”!

Me and Mine - September




dear beautiful
Baby Elma Family Milestones {the ordinary moments}

If you’re Happy and you know it


Today is a very unordinary ordinary day.  It’s an ordinary day in that it’s Sunday. We’ll get up, go to church, negotiate with Kitty over the amount of Doc McStuffins she can watch, nurse Elma, cook lunch, maybe go to the playpark, play Duplo or playdoh or jigsaws, eat supper, bathe the little ones and tuck them up with bedtime stories and kisses.

But it’s a milestone day for Elma.  As of today, Elma has been out in this funny old world of ours for just as long as she was tucked up in my tummy. Forty-one weeks and four days.  Every one of her days in the world has gone faster than that last week and four days!

She has grown and changed so much since I first held a tiny mewling little girl with her fluffy shock of dark brown hair.  So much bigger, crawling all over the place, rapidly emptying every bookcase and cupboard within reach, and showing a most determined interest in all of her sister’s toys, rather to Kitty’s dismay.  But those big grey-blue eyes are still filled with wonder, and her smile still has me reaching out to scoop her up for a big cuddle.

And so it seems only appropriate that it is one of Elma’s latest developments that should be my everyday ordinary.

It’s only been an everyday moment in the last couple of weeks and it’s still far from ordinary; Miss Elma has started to clap.





Elma clapping

It was while we were in Spain that we first noticed that rather than just flailing, she was quite deliberately reaching out and bringing both hands together.  They never quite meet perfectly, just close enough to grab each other in a little starfish hand splat, fingers all splayed out.

She’s just so pleased with herself every time she manages it, she sits there holding one hand with the other, bouncing up and down and looking around as if to say

“Look Mama! Look what I did!”

She loves to copy me if I clap or blow kisses at her, but she’s also just getting to the age where she can tell if I’m mirroring her.  It’s one of my most favourite games, especially if we can persuade Kitty to join in.  We sit on the floor facing Elma, and whatever she does, we copy.  She’s getting ever quicker at picking up on it, but it’s usually a couple of moves before she realises, and then her eyes light up, and she starts to really focus, wiggling little fingers and then staring to see if I clap too, with squeal and giggle of joy and recognition when I do.

It’s a simple thing to cause such happiness, but one I think I could play all day.

mummy daddy me



Cooking Recipes Uncategorized

Mmmm! Blackcurrant or Red Gooseberry Ice Cream Recipe


Once upon a time (that would be August), on one of those lovely hot days currently fading from our memories, a girl looked in the fridge.  A packet of blackcurrants looked back.  Red gooseberries peered over their shoulders, and in the door sat a little pot of double cream, bought to splosh over apple pie and sadly overlooked in favour of vanilla ice-cream.

Well I didn’t want any of it to go to waste, especially the blackcurrants, and so on a whim I decided to make a little ice-cream.  And while I think I might own an ice-cream maker, if I’m right it’s (a) the sort that needs to be pre-frozen, which isn’t exactly conducive to impulse cooking, and (b) in a place that involves discussing the minutiae of cupboard ownership with the family spiders.  I went without.

So, just in case you fancy clinging onto the last vestiges of the summer, I have a little treat to share:

Red Gooseberry or Blackcurrant Ice Cream Recipe

Blackcurrant or Red Gooseberry Ice Cream – Ice cream maker optional

At its bare bones this is a recipe for a custard ice cream base, taken from a River Cottage recipe, which is mixed with a stewed fruit puree.  The custard recipe makes enough for both purees, or you can substitute anything else you fancy having in an ice-cream from a drop or two of vanilla extract to the ends of your imagination.

Part 1 – The Custard

Note: this makes enough custard for both purees.

You will need:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 200ml double cream
  • 200ml whole milk

Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and creamy.

Heat the milk and cream in a pan until it’s just about to boil.

Pour the hot milk/cream over the egg/sugar mix, whisking as you do. (You need to do it this way around to stop the egg being scrambled).

Pour it all back into the saucepan and place over a low heat, whisking gently but constantly until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Take it off the heat and allow it to cool, stirring occasionally to stop a skin forming.

Divide into two roughly equal portions.

Part 2 – The Flavours

For Blackcurrant you will need:

  • 100g blackcurrants, washed
  • 25g caster sugar

For Red Gooseberry you will need:

  • 100g red gooseberries, washed and top and tailed
  • caster sugar to taste

For each puree, put the fruit in a saucepan and add just enough water to cover the base of the pan.



Place on the heat, bring to the boil and then simmer very gently until the fruit has softened, usually about 5-10 minutes.

Blackcurrant Icecream Recipe, Red Gooseberry Icecream recipe

Push the softened fruit through a metal sieve to make the puree.

Return the puree to the pan.

Taste. How sweet or tart it is will depend entirely on your fruit.  Blackcurrants are notoriously tart so you will probably want to add most if not all of the suggested amount of sugar.  Red gooseberries are naturally much sweeter than their green cousins so I would taste first and then add sugar a tablespoon at a time until you think it tastes sweet enough.  If you’re havering over a final spoonful it is better to be a smidgen too sweet than too tart as the big freeze will take the edge off the sweetness.

Stir the sugar to dissolve, you can place the pan briefly on a very low heat to help dissolve it, but you shouldn’t need to, the warmth of the fruit puree should do it all.

Part 3 – The Ice cream

Pour a puree into each of your portions of custard.

Taste again. (Note I said taste, not eat – try to resist the temptation to deny all knowledge of ice cream and retreat to the sofa with the pan and a spoon). You want the molten ice cream to be a smidge too sweet.  This would also be your chance to tone things down a bit if you find the flavour is a bit full on.  Personally I like my blackcurrants to have a punch but you could add up to another 50ml of cream to either if you wanted to.Blackcurrant Icecream Recipe, Red Gooseberry Icecream recipe

Place each in a plastic freezeable pot with a lid, leave to cool then place in the freezer.

Every hour or so, bring the pots out, beat vigorously with a fork and return to the freezer.  Do this at least four times, then leave it to freeze.  Or use an ice cream maker if you have one.

Red Gooseberry or Blackcurrant Ice Cream Recipe

Part 4 – Mmmmm!

Serving notes: You will need to take it out of the freezer 10-15 minutes before you want to eat it (depending on the temperature of your house).

Also, small children will approach you with spoons and pleading expressions while you try to take photographs for your blog.  If you give in to them they will wolf it down with only an occasional break to exclaim:

“Mmmm! Tasty!”

Get your own spoon ready first.

Family Kitty {this moment}

{this moment}


Checking Daddy's Heart-Beep

Pausing at the top of the climbing frame to check Daddy’s “heart-beep”

Joining in with {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary  moment. A moment I want to pause, savour and remember.

To see more, check out  the comments to Soulemama

Elma Exploring Family Kitty

Postcards from Spain: Conil


I may be back at work today but that’s no reason to wave bye bye to all my saved up sunshine, so to lift the gloom it’s time for another postcard from Spain.


Conil was everything you could want a little Spanish seaside town to be, all white houses, narrow steeply sloped streets running down to the beach and an alarming abundance of mopeds and coaches, both of which seemed to pay no more than lip service to any semblance of traffic regulations.  Next to overtaking the tractor, I rank my first drive into Conil up there with the best of my driving accomplishments.




We spent several days pottering around the old town, and cooing over the beautiful clothes in the children’s shops (well that may just have been us girls, but the boys were happy enough to play along if it got them back out of the shop and on to the golf course in good time), and Grandma and Grandad treated the tiny twosome to some gorgeously beautiful outfits for the winter.

One morning we drove to the market on the outskirts of town to pick up a cheap beach towel (Minnie Mouse flavoured, and now one of Kitty’s dearest posessions) and a little Spanish culture.  On the whole there was far less tat than you would expect to see in an English street market, and while Kitty was torn between eyeing up pretty sparkly bracelets and wondering whether to turn her full charm on Grandad in the small matter of the sweetie stall, we were both stopped in our tracks by the olives.  Row upon row, bucket upon bucket of the plumpest most luscious olives you could imagine.  Bliss.


Cornil5 20130906-DSC_0296

H’s parents have been travelling to this area for years and took us to their very favourite spots for lunch; we ate Spanish tortilla, fresh chips, and Elma added another new taste to her repertoire when she filched a bit of fresh sardine from my plate, and upon the discovery that I had in turn filched it from Grandad, happily snuggled into his arms with the express purpose of having another bite, and another, and another.

These daughters of mine have all of their grandparents wrapped around their little fingers, but grandfathers appear to be particularly susceptible.  My Dad knows all too well the affection that Kitty has for a good ice cream, and it seems that H’s Dad is no different.  We ate “sandwich mixto” in a little coffee shop on one lunch break but all that a rather hot Kitty really wanted was an ice cream.  She asked with her very nicest manners but alas and alackaday the shop sold no icecream.

Not one to be so easily defeated her adoring Grandad popped around the corner to the nearest supermarket and returned minutes later bearing a cornet, and the other three that came in the packet.  The rest of us were all too full of sandwich to contemplate anything iced at that point but we didn’t want them to go to waste.  Outside on the terrace sat a small boy with his family, a little older than Kitty I suspect, but not much bigger, he’d seen the ice creams arrive, and he could see Kitty enjoying hers.  So we asked his parents, and all got to enjoy the ravishing smiles of a very delighted young man when my father in law made him a present of the rest of the box.

We tried out two beaches on those hot sunny afternoons, the first in Conil itself, and the second a little way along the coast.

Just as at Barbate, the sand was soft and golden, but this time the wind had dropped, the sea was quieter and both girls came in in turn.  Kitty’s swimming quite often seemed to be as necessary as it was fun given the amount of sand attached to her person at any given time.



I don’t have any pictures myself of Elma’s first swim, as the baby is wriggly, waves go up and down and the camera is not waterproof, but I think she enjoyed it.  She seemed more puzzled than smiley; she liked all the bobbing up and down but I think she wasn’t too sure about this strange swimming pool that just wouldn’t keep still.  But it is a milestone none the less; on 5 September 2013, my baby swam in the Atlantic Ocean.

And on that very same day I started to teach her sister the very important skill of constructing tide fight castles.  We lost, as you always do, but not before we’d outlasted everyone in sunloungers around us (though sadly on the very wave before I was about to take a photo).

She has mastered sandcastle building though, and possibly discovered rather a taste for sand construction in the process.  First she buried everyone’s feet in the sand, then her knees, and then she tried pouring sand on H’s head (which was not met with approval!), and then, well we’re not quite sure what happened next, all we know is that Grandad started out the day with two socks, but came home with only one.


The second beach was a little way south of Cornil, down a narrowing dusty track of the sort that can only lead to a really wonderful beach, and it didn’t disappoint, rolling dunes giving way to miles and miles of sand and delicious breakers.  It wasn’t a day for small daughter swimming, and only H and I went for a dip, but it was my favourite swim.  I love it when the waves are cresting when it’s just about deep enough to swim so that rather than just hopping up and over or elbowing your way through the surf you swim up up up to the pointy peak where it teeters on the cusp of breaking, and then slide down the other side as it rolls away behind you.  I’ve been swimming waves like that since childhood and the pleasure has never diminished.

We finished up with the kind of supper that that amount of swimming deserves, at a hotel notable both for its size, and my complete and utter inability to find it by car on our second visit.  I pride myself on having a good sense of direction based on a very visual memory, and I don’t think it’s a lie to say that if I’ve been somewhere once I can usually find it again by familiar landmarks.  But when the non-golf playing members of the party led an advance party to Conil for supper, leaving H and his Dad to finish up and catch up, I couldn’t find it for the life of me.  I knew where it must be and yet every time we drove past where we thought it ought to be we couldn’t find it.

We consulted Google maps, to no avail.

I drove yet another loop of Conil’s squeaky tight one way system, passed all of our familiar landmarks and seriously began to wonder whether the staff had moved it overnight.

But just as we’d caved, and H’s Mum had called to ask him to come and find us, we turned a corner from a different direction and there it stood in front of us, one massive white hotel and a big carpark out front, released from its invisibility cloak at last.

My only defence, and it’s more of a plea in mitigation, is that on the crucial night when we first drove to that hotel I was rather sleepy, and so I’d closed my eyes, and missed out on what happened between the roundabout you turn off on to get to the supermarket, and the road out of town turning into a dirt track.  For the record you turn left.

But it was worth it. Elma ate a spectacular amount of a delicious beef casserole, and kicked back between courses,


and Kitty found a bowl of her favourite strawberry ice cream.


Sunkissed and happy – Conil in a nutshell. And for those keeping score, it is de la Frontera.