Monthly Archives

August 2015

Elma Family Living Arrows Photography

Living Arrows 2015: 35/52


Living Arrows: a little moment of the week to pause, savour and treasure

Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows

We signed up to Jennie Maizels’ wonderful Sketchbook Club as soon as it opened and set to drawing our houses, but we never quite found the time to do more than sketching while we were away.  Since we’ve got back we’ve been making up for lost time with early morning drawing sessions.  Kitty is about half way through hers, H has finished inking in his houses and it just waiting to do the background, and thanks to an early morning with Miss Elma, mine is finished.

Elma at two and a half isn’t really up to drawing houses, so she’s been colouring in our inspiration sheets, and then painted them, and herself, wonderfully blue with my leftover paint, before helping me out with some French clouds and some very excited scissoring.

Elma Family Kitty Me and Mine Photography Pip

Me and Mine 2015: August


When we left home in early August I was absolutely certain that I was going to have no trouble getting this month’s Me and Mine photos.  In fact, so thought the naive, new to camping with children me, I’d probably have pictures of the five of us everywhere we went, I’d have too many to choose from.  Oh optimism you are my dear friend aren’t you.

It turns out that when the tripod is at home, as is the back up tripod (the buggy), and there are an awful lot of people about in all the lovely beautiful ever so slightly touristy places that you’re visiting you might not actually get a whole heap of photos.  I could see places to balance the camera, but then I could also see the next hoard of coach trippers bearing down on us just ready to turn around and whallop my camera into Honfleur harbour, and after I suffered a serious case of camnesia in Paris brought on by it being far too hot to even contemplate trying to get the camera out of the backpack, we reached Annecy, a whole week into our trip, without a single group shot.

So I did what anyone else would do.  I rounded up the family on the one and only sunny afternoon we had, stood them next to the shower block, attached my phone to the shrubbery via GorillaPod and set the timer app ticking.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine

We are looking directly into the sunlight, which might just account for the littlest two determinedly facing away, or it could just be that that was the first time we’d seen those mountains without at least the top third being shrouded in mist.

The next set come from Switzerland.  We’d taken the train to Zermatt, and then then little train to Gornergrat, all in the hope of seeing some seriously impressive mountains, and as we slithered and climbed up from the station, a very kind man asked whether I’d like him to take our photo.  Yes, very much yes please I would.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine

And yes, Kitty is holding a snowball.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine

Now this picture you need to look at carefully.  Possibly blow it up at bit sort of carefully, because this is us with the Matterhorn. I know it looks like it’s us in falling snow but if you look very closely just above H’s head and just above the wall by his right hand, faintly visible through the cloud, is a mountain!

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine

My last picture from Zermatt is another family selfie; towards the end of the day the girls were getting tired so H and I were carrying them.  Pip is the small blue triangle in the left hand corner, snoozing in the Ergo on my front, I’ve got Elma on my shoulders and Kitty is on H’s shoulders.  And as we walked along the road we could both feel that something wasn’t quite right with the balance.  And as we turned to look up we realised that the girls were holding hands as we walked along, and giggling ten to the dozen at the same time.

But before you worry that you’ve slept a bit longer than you intended to last night and it’s December, or that Europe is being plunged into another ice age, my last picture for August comes from our last afternoon, sat on the beach waiting for a ferry, and enjoying every last drop of sunshine.  I’d been for a little wander and found an ice cream stand to relieve me of a few Euros and everyone had tucked in, even Pip, who has this holiday perfected the art of looking woeful if anyone has an ice cream and doesn’t offer him a bite.  It’s another iPhone tripod timer app photo and I love it.  It’s sandy and ice creamy and ever so slightly silly, and it’s the smiles on all our faces as we reach the end of our three weeks that says that this trip was really something very special.

My little family, in August:

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine

dear beautiful


Family Kitty Motherhood {the ordinary moments}

Stepping back just a little bit


We sat outside the tent on a gloriously hot summer morning; the sun shining through the bluest of Black Forest blue skies, warming my skin and doing a very nice job of drying out the night’s condensation from the roof of the tent.  H was writing up his travel notes, I was knitting, scribbling a few notes of my own and chatting to Pip as he pulled up on a tree stump, and the girls were off playing in the little play area a few feet away.  Elma, as always, was on the roundabout, for once not surrounded by a group of older girls who wanted to make her their pet, just sitting, lazily spinning and looking up into the trees.  And Kitty had made friends.

All through France the girls had very much kept to themselves, perhaps put off a little by some of the French kids’ tendency to march up to you and demand “what is your name!” (Kitty, telling me about it in the tent later turned with a conspiratorial glance, “I didn’t tell her Mummy!”), and perhaps happy just to be with each other when everything else felt new and different. But in Switzerland there were smiles and by the time we got to Germany it was lovely to see them falling in with the group games in our car free camping.  A lot of the others were also English which probably helped but I went to find Kitty for supper one evening and found her sat quite happily with two other girls doing some colouring in.  They didn’t have a single word in common but perhaps there is a universal language of sparkly glitter pens and pictures of unicorns.

The next morning she was eager to go and find her friends again, and we kept half an eye open as they played on the swings or piled on the roundabout.  And then it was clearly time for the stream.  The car free camping (truly a genius idea when you have small children) was the other side of a stream from the car park and while there was a bridge, the little brook and its stepping stones were oh so much fun and at most times you’d find at least some of the children jumping back and forth or wading in the cool water.

The leaders set off, and Kitty, walking alongside, suddenly realised where they were headed and looked back and over to us.  And oh how I recognised that look and the silent entreaty that came with it.  It’s the look and the thought that I remember from childhood all the way up into my teens, the “please Mum may I and also please be cool in front of my friends”.

Space for the Butterflies - stepping back

I smiled back, and with the tiniest of hand gestures waved her on, down to the stream with her friends, and out of our immediate line of sight.

And then ever so coincidentally I just happened to need to get my scissors from the car, and on my way back, well it was just so lovely up on the bank above the stream that I thought I’d sit on a tree stump and drink it in for a while while I wrote a few notes.  Far enough away that I wasn’t really there, and near enough that I was there if she needed me, or at least as a depository for wet clothes when the inevitable happened so she could keep on playing.

Space for the Butterflies - stepping back

And saying yes and letting go suddenly made almost five years feel like it had gone past in a flash.   The little voice in the back of my mind whispered “that’s your baby, wasn’t she just a few months old yesterday, isn’t she actually tiny and bumbling and so very young and fearless”.  And so I looked and looked and my heart sang back “yay, look, she’s having so much fun.  She’s strong and tall and surefooted and not bothered when she slips and lands in the stream on her bottom, and this is exactly the sort of experience we wanted her to have while we travelled! yippee!”.

Space for the Butterflies - stepping back

I know that in a few years it won’t be memorable, and in a few years she and I will both have grown enough that I won’t even follow at a distance, I’ll have faith that she is big enough and has enough common sense not to get into too much trouble.  But this was the first time we stretched that safety net a little bit, the first time that she wanted to run off and play and the first time that I’ve had to make good on my mental promise to myself to give her (and her brother and sister) the kind of freedom to explore that I had growing up.

And hearing her sheer joy and enthusiasm when she told us all about it later on, I’m so glad I didn’t bottle it.  Now I just have to do it again, and again, and again.


Birthdays Elma Family Kitty Photography Pip The 52 Project

35/52 {The 52 Project}


Pip’s birthdayLinking up with Jodi with a portrait of each of my children once every week for 2015.

Space for the Butterflies - The 52 Project

Kitty: you were so proud of your choice of birthday card for your brother you just couldn’t wait to give it to him, or tell him, and everyone else, all about it.  I can understand why, you wrote it all by yourself, it had Thomas the Tank Engine on it, and it comes with a badge, which you were very very keen that Pip should wear on his pyjamas.  You were incredibly exciting for his birthday, and now that the next birthday is a certain little girl turning five, you are very keen on “when it’s my five birthday” conversations.  It will come soon enough I promise sweetie.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/100, f/2.2, ISO 800)

Space for the Butterflies - The 52 Project

Elma: On the afternoon of Pip’s birthday we went up to the park for the first time since we got back from our trip.  All the way around Europe you’ve been making a beeline for the roundabouts, especially at our last campsite where they were just opposite our tent, and it was funny to see how your usual favourite (the swings) were spurned in favour of twirling in circles.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/200, f/7.1 , ISO 100)

Space for the Butterflies - The 52 Project

Pip: You spent most of your birthday wreathed in smiles.  Well why not, there was Mama and Daddy and your sisters and aunt and your cousin and our friends to play with.  We’d tucked your presents up in playsilks and tea towels (not because of a lack of wrapping paper but because we’ve found babies can’t open wrapping paper so they ignore it but they will explore tea towels with enticing corners poking out) and you pulled and pulled to find wooden animals, a snuggly dolly, and other treasures.  But I think the highlight may have been the helium balloons tied to your chair and your big silver 1.  You spent ages pulling them down, patting them and then giggling when they popped up again and it was so much fun for us all to watch.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/80Pictures , f/2.2, ISO 800)


Birthdays Family Finished Handmade for Pip Knitting Pip

A birthday Livingston (handmade for Pip)


The yarn pulled through the hole on the button, round two turns around the base and was fastened off.  And with that, somewhere near Bussy Raputin in the middle of France, Pip’s birthday jumper was finished.  Even with all of my traditionally ridiculous levels of optimisim I’d known it wasn’t going to be finished before we went, no matter how many times I snuck in a couple of rounds on car trips for camping stuff, so I packed all the wool, two choices of buttons, and a couple of other knitting projects for when it was finished.

Space for the Butterflies - Livingston

And while my dreams of sitting outside the tent sharing a cider with H and watching the sun set while the children slumbered peacefully behind us very rarely came to fruition, I often found I was the first up in the mornings and there’s something very special about sitting in the cool of an early morning watching the world come to life with a little yarn for company.  And when you add in the long transfer days (five hours of driving down a very long very straight very flat road to get from Paris to Annecy) I probably knit more than I do when I’m at home.

Space for the Butterflies - Livingston

So by the time it was finished it had been knit in Normandy, knit on the way to Monet’s Garden at Giverny, knit by the banks of the Seine outside Paris, and knit heading south.  It was washed and blocked in the Black Forest in Germany, and I realised when we got home that the pattern designer is Swiss, so it has ties to all the countries of our adventure.

Space for the Butterflies - Livingston

The pattern is Livingston, after Jonathan Livingston Seagull (awesome book) knit up in one of my go to yarns for little ones; Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in Mist.  It’s soft, it rarely pills or breaks, it comes in some lovely colours and most importantly, it machine washes.  Space for the Butterflies - Livingston

And yes, it is technically grey, albeit a steely blue sort of a grey.  But I think it works.   I love to dress the children colourfully and I love to knit with beautiful colours, which usually means vibrant rainbows.  But red didn’t seem quite right, and none of the yellows were quite golden sunshine, and little boys already wear quite a lot of blue and I kept coming back to the grey, holding the ball up to Pip, squinting at him a bit and holding it away again until finally I gave in to gut instinct and just bought it.

Apparently I could have saved myself several minutes because I love how it’s turned out.  It’s such a great colour on Pip, and, and I am turning into everyone’s mother when I say this, it goes well with everything.  I can’t believe I just said that, but it’s true, and with a wee boy who grows an inch every time you take your eyes off him for a second, it’s a very good thing as unfortunately I don’t have quite enough time to knit a jumper to match every pair of stripy trousers.  Not that that in any way shape or form happned with his eldest sister or was handed down to his middle sister.  Poor third baby.

Space for the Butterflies - Livingston

Space for the Butterflies - Livingston

But best of all, better than the colour, or the fact that it fits despite my not swatching, or Pip’s superb jumper modelling poses, he is just so so snuggly when he’s wearing it, you just don’t want to put him down.

Space for the Butterflies - Livingston

Roll on the autumn and even more baby cuddles.