Linking up with Jodi with a portrait of each of my children once every week for 2015 and a bit of a Halloween theme!
Kitty: You’re coming to the end of your first half term and I think you’ve had a blast and a much needed break. You were so tired coming home on your last day of school but a visit from Grandpa over the weekend and then your birthday treat surprise with Grandma and Grandad (lunch out and a trip to Disney on Ice) means that your finishing the week brimming over with happiness. You loved our trip to the pumpkin farm, spent a lot of time carefully weighing up the merits of each pumpkin so that when we asked you to choose one you’d had it picked for half an hour. As I write this it’s sat on my desk next to me and I know you have some very specific plans for carving it, let’s hope Daddy and my carving skills can match up to them!
(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/200, f/4, ISO 100)
Elma: I do have pictures of you among the pumpkins for this week too, a matching set to go with your brother and sister, but there was just something about this shot that I couldn’t resist. We were walking down the hill at Charlecote on the pumpkin trail and I’d been taking pictures of your silhouette sat up on Daddy’s shoulders when you turned around to smile at me, sharing your joy in the moment and I think a little bit checking I was still there. You’ve not always understood why I’m not around as much as I used to be, and jobs don’t mean much to a two year old, but I promise I am here as much as I possibly can be, not a minute wasted.
(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/250, f/4 , ISO 100)
Pip: apparently when you are 14 months, and your favourite thing to do is climbing anything and everything, a pumpkin farm is just the most exciting place ever. We’d barely stepped into the big barn before you were wriggling to be put down and start exploring, climbing and crawling and rolling off them. I think you may have invented crowd surfing pumpkins!
(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/125, f/5, ISO 100)
How are we in October already? The way I perceive time is never going to slow down is it? I feel like I’m always saying this but really this month has whistled past. It’s the combination of working weeks and school weeks and the winter darkness starting to close in at either end of the day and suddenly before we knew where we were it was half term, and the end of the month and a tiny moment to pause and take stock.
We’re no longer new to the school, H has got the school run down to a fine art, including a bit of time for Kitty to get some fresh air racing around the playground in the morning before the bell goes, he’s settled in to the routine of playgroup and gym club and doing the shopping and looking after the house, although he claims that the laundry is his nemesis. The children are thriving and he’s loving getting to spend so much time with them. He’s got two more videos of their days out under construction; everything he’s absorbed about blogging and videos over the years is paying off!
With half a term under our belts I can see a difference in Kitty from the little girl that first walked through the gate on a sunny September morning. She’s made friends, been to birthday parties, and runs in every morning, wreathed in smiles and usually without a backward glance. Miss Elma is enjoying her time as sole big sister, and Pip’s chief source of entertainment. The other day she spent ages building wooden block towers for him and rolling on the floor laughing whenever he knocked them down with his nose.
And as for me, well I’m still finding my groove in our new normal. It was never going to be easy to adjust to being away from the children, however much I love my work and I’m making the most of every moment at home. Which right now means throwing ourselves into a little Halloween silliness.
All of these pictures came from our trip to the pumpkin farm. Last year we tried to go to a pumpkin farm that we found on google and we drove and drove and drove, round and around until finally we conceded that we were in the right spot, but without a single pumpkin in sight. This year, we followed the truck with the giant inflatable pumpkin on top to a barn filled to bursting with absolutely giant pumpkins. It was perfect, and such a relaxed happy atmosphere, lots of people were choosing pumpkins and taking pictures but there was plenty of space to wander around and take all the time you needed, and a haunted castle to explore that the girls thought was hilarious, especially when H, carrying our whopper pumpkin, got tangled up in the curtain across the doorway and all we could see was a floating pumpkin saying “help! help!”
And from a photography perspective it really was such a great backdrop. We were getting towards the golden hour when we turned up, but the autumn’s just one long golden hour and in a barn covered in plastic sheeting it was the perfect sort of diffused sunlight that my camera loves. And with my Dad visiting for the weekend, we even had a real person behind the camera which means that the children have half a chance of being looking in the right direction. I could have easily taken double the number of pictures and spent the entire rest of the afternoon chasing Pip to catch his funny expressions but we were on a mission to choose our giant pumpkin and we did finally tear ourselves away from the camera(s).
But the result of all that photography indulgence is that we have some of my favourite pictures of the five of us yet, pictures that caught Pip’s chuckle when Kitty tickles him, or the face that Elma pulls at the moment when you ask her to smile. They are the next pictures to go on my desk, my whole world, my family, in October:
It’s no secret that I think babies should be welcomed with knitwear; soft cosy little bits and pieces to keep out the chill and to welcome them to the world wrapped in the well wishes of the friends who love them before they ever met them. But sometimes I get to knit for babies that are extra special. Babies whose parents’ road to parenthood has been paved with bumps and rocks and giant chasms that threatened to steal their joy and their hope.
It is a privilege to knit for those babies, to knit and have faith in the happiness that is coming, to put into every stitch the courage their parents showed, the love which surrounds their entire family, and all the good wishes I can muster for the future. There is nothing I’d rather make, for all the technical whiz trickery in the world.
And at the end of September with the arrival of a dear friend’s little one rapidly approaching, I knit my favourite sort of knitting. It was finished the evening before he was welcomed to the world, but I wasn’t going to spoil the surprise until I’d handed it over.
Because of course, it was a Baby Surprise Jacket. From experience with my three I know it’s a really practical baby knit but the baby’s mama had her needles busy with a magnum opus of her own and wasn’t going to get to knit one, so it seemed the perfect choice.
The yarn is Cascade 220 Paints in Tropical Seas so it can be bunged in the washing machine when necessary, and in my button stash I found just enough of my favourite yellow fish buttons to do it up.
Earlier this week I got the chance to meet the young man and congratulate his very proud mama on making such a beautiful little person. He is so small (by which we mean perfectly newborn baby sized), with teeny tiny hands, silky soft hair, and those dark newborn eyes that looked up at me with a frowning curiosity.
I am really pleased with how his jacket came out, and in time it will fit him (right now it looks like it might drown him) But the truth is that nothing I could ever make is as wonderful as seeing him safe and snug and here, and my friend blooming in motherhood.
Linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday, Frontier Dreams for Keep Crafting On and Make Do & Push for Funky Kid Friday
I fell in love with Switzerland ten minutes after we crossed the border. We’d driven up from Annecy through the Alps, ignoring our sat nav’s incessant pleading to take the junction for Geneva and done a detour to have a look at Chamonix and Mont Blanc. Well try to have a look at them anyway, Mont Blanc was shrouded in cloud, and we had no idea in what direction we should be peering.
Only driving out of Chamonix heading north could we turn back and feel the might of something looming just beyond view and catch a glimpse of the glacier descending from on high.
The border itself was uneventful, I’d never driven across a proper country border before (The UK borders don’t count) so I think I was expecting a little more. There was a hut in the middle of the road, a sign, and not a soul around. As it turned out, that was our most marked border crossing of the entire trip but that’s a story for another day.
Through the border village and up at the top of the next ridge we stopped to let the girls stretch their legs. It was sunny, which in itself felt pretty amazing after four very wet nights in Annecy, the air was fresh and clean as it only is when you’re miles away from any major roads, the little village was chocolate box pretty, and as we stepped out of the car we heard bells. Cow bells, around the necks of the herd in a pasture just over the road and a little way up the mountain. It was all my dreams of Switzerland come true in one tiny car park; love at first moo.
We drove on down a road that climbed and twisted high, then gently curled back down again, taking us further and further into the Bernese Alps and it was here that the ‘snow or no snow’ debate got serious. The hills above Annecy topped wooded slopes with brilliant white rock that sparkled and gleamed in the sunshine in a very snowy sort of a way, but these were real mountains, that made Annecy mere hills, and we found ourselves craning our necks trying to work out whether that white blob high above our heads was rock or powder. In hindsight the answer was probably always rock, but there were a couple that we convinced ourselves could be snowy peaks.
We reached the peak of the road, turned a corner, and there laid out before us like a child’s toy mat was the Rhone valley. Fortunately the powers that be had decided that a car park at the very top might just be a good idea, presumably to stop everyone wanting to stop on the side of the road and just stare for a bit, and we duly pulled over.
For H it was as if his school geography textbooks had come to life, behind us lay steeply sided pointy gorges made by the rivers that hurtled along at the bottom of them and here in front of us lay not one but two big rounded glacial valleys, wide and flat across the bottom and then swooping up to the sky. And while my knowledge of the different types of valleys has now improved, mostly I just drank it all in; and then went back to the car for the camera.
Zigzagging our way down the hill felt like we were coming into Martigny-ville by plane; with every turn the little tinker toys became larger and more real and what had seemed to be teeny tiny cottages from the top of the mountain were revealed to be five storey apartment buildings. And as the buildings got bigger, so did the surrounding landscape, revealing what I’d thought to be a ploughed field to be vineyards.
Vineyards absolutely everywhere. Apart from the bits that were apple orchards. Every outcrop that would hold soil was planted up, often leaving us scratching our heads as to just how they got the vines up there in the first place, and how on earth anyone returned to harvest them without falling off the sheer, and often unfenced drop behind.
I had no idea Switzerland even produced wine, let alone on such a scale.
Our campsite was located about half way down the valley towards Sion, a beautiful and largely empty site hidden behind an industrial unit. I think the industry must have been wine related, there were some odd shunting sort of noises from the little trains occasionally but other than that it was easy to forget that you were anywhere other than a big orchard in the heart of the mountains. Everywhere you looked the was a peak soaring into the clouds, including right behind us. On the first night we were walking back from the shower block and noticed a light up in the sky ahead of us. Expecting it to be a plane we watched to see where it would go, and only when it didn’t move did we realised it was the lights of a house, high up on the hillside above us.
With all that space to play with, and the first site where we were really happy to let Pip crawl and explore we spent quite a bit of time just enjoying our views and one memorable morning at the resort pool, deep and blue and cool, it was bliss to swim in and accessorised by the most insane water slide that I think I have ever seen.
Imagine a giant King Kong, about the right proportion as the one in the films, with two steep straight slides at right angles coming from his neck. You flew down the slide, shot out over the water and landed with a splash six feet from the end. Crazy and wonderful.
Our big expedition was to Zermatt and that deserves a post all of its own, by which we mean that I have far too many photos and if I put them all in one post it will probably crash the Internet, and the rest of the time we just enjoyed being in Switzerland.
Odd as it sounds, Switzerland felt far more familiar, far more like home than France ever did. Travelling should broaden your horizons and make you experience new and different things but by this point we were approaching being two weeks into the trip, and a little familiarity was a very welcome thing, even if it was only that the supermarket was laid out like home, with the fruit and veggies first rather than the bakery.
But it was more than that, I think it was the people. The Swiss people that we met were, without exception, friendly and welcoming, especially to the girls and Pip, and I got the sense that there is very much a culture of acceptance, be it of foreigners, or just diversity within their own population. We never felt that we were foreigners, some unknown and inexplicable entity, we were visitors. The scenery is simply breathtakingly beautiful but the reason I know we will be back, despite the extortionate prices for tomatoes, is the kindness we experienced there.
As we packed up on our final morning and chatted to Jean-Nicholas (the campsite owner) he was telling us how beautiful it all looks in the snow, how the royal family ski on the hill just behind us, how we’d absolutely love all the winter sport. And I looked around at our tent, little plastic poles and thin tent, and then at the permanent caravans dotted around wearing corrugated sheets as extra roofs, or the shower block, sturdy with big overhanging eaves. We will definitely be back, and I would absolutely love to see a Swiss winter, but maybe not in the tent!
And what postcard would be complete without a little film, so I’ll leave you with what may or may not have been Mont Blanc and a little snippet of our time in Switzerland.
The music in an irresistible in joke – our camp site, located the furthest I have ever slept away from the coast in my entire life, was billed as a “Campsite and Beach Resort”!
To celebrate the start of half term we went hunting for a ginormous pumpkin to carve over the weekend (and found one at Wasperton farm for anyone vaguely nearby). Halloween is nearly here, and while it’s amazing how much more of a fuss is made over it than when we were little, and I’m very much into the cute babies in costumes and cake side of things than anything truly scary or supernatural, I am completely in favour of anything that gives us a good excuse for the kids to dress up and have a feast, especially if it involves cake.
Kitty and Elma took Grandpa on the National Trust Pumpkin Trail at Charlecote on Sunday (a much harder one to solve than last year, possibly because they aren’t real words, but a witchy phrase), I’ve taken Friday off work just to do crafts in every colour of orange and black with the girls, and I’m really looking forward to a chance to lighten the darkness now Autumn is truly here.
So here’s what we have planned:
Decorate! H and I have gradually been adding to a little stash of Halloween bits and pieces over the last few weeks. We’ve got the pumpkins to carve, orange and black streamers, orange and black stripy straws, chocolate popping candy spiders (from M&S), marshmallows dipped in green sprinkles and even some American candy corn (I’ve no idea what it tastes like but it looks pretty). I think I know where the Ghostly Bunting ended up too, but we might just spend a little time updating it and adding Pip’s footprints. I really want to make these glow in the dark balloons too; it’s just a glow stick inside a white balloon with a face drawn on but would be so much fun to hang outside.
A feast! The current menu is Roast Butternut Squash and Bacon soup (because it’s orange), Spaghetti Meatballs (Eyeballs and Innerds) and then molten chocolate puddings. The girls will need no persuasion to dress up, Pip should fit the glowing skeleton shirt worn by both his sisters before him, H does technically have a penguin onesie and if push comes to show I’ll borrow a set of wings from the girls and be a fairy. I’d love to make a giant net tutu but I’ll have to see whether I get enough time.
Making things! Our bats are currently hanging out in the corner of our lounge ready to be dangled from the light fitting over our dinner table, and the girls have plans for ghosts, lots of paper folded pumpkins and vast amounts of glitter. Jess has an great round up of eight of her top Halloween crafty plans, some of which are seriously scary, and I think the girls are very keen on her masking tape ghost necklaces.
Set up for trick or treating. Most of our trick or treaters go to Kitty’s school, we don’t get too many older kids and we’ve always blown our pumpkin out fairly early because of small people’s bedtime. Historically I’ve asked everyone for a joke in exchange for their treats, but this year I’m wondering whether to make it a bit harder; you can have a treat if you can pick it up with chopsticks? Have you ever done something like that, and if so, how did it go?
Bake! It wouldn’t be Halloween without Magic Star Smiley Spider Cupcakes but I’m also very very tempted by these Spider Cookies using peanut butter cups – they look so cute!
Silly games! Becky’s Ghost Bowling is hilarious and would be so much fun down our hall.
It’s going to be so much fun, I can’t wait! So what do you have planned?