Monthly Archives

December 2015

Christmas Elma Family Kitty Photography Pip

Merry Christmas


Space for the Butterflies - Merry Christmas

May the joy of the angels,
the eagerness of the shepherds,
the perseverance of the wise men,
the obedience of Joseph and Mary,
and the peace of the Christ child
be yours this Christmas

Elma was too small at 12 days old to have a handprint bauble made for her very first Christmas so Peace is the first of her bauble collection.  And it’s what I wish for most for all of us as we put the finishing touches to all our preparations for tomorrow. There will be mince pie baking, prepping veg and stuffings, carols and our Christmas playlist on all day long winding up to the crib service at church in which Kitty I believe will reprise her fabulous role as a sheep – and possibly be joined by her brother and sister if I can make their headbands in time!

From all of us, have a very peaceful, joyful Christmas!

Christmas Crafty Ideas Elma Family Handmade Kitty Photography Pip

A gentle sort of Christmas


Space for the Butterflies - a gentle sort of Christmas

Before I was married, when I was still travelling home to Devon for Christmas I always used to take the week before as holiday but be back in the office between Christmas and New Year.  I just didn’t want to miss out on any of the build up to the big day; the carol service, walks on the beach, carol singing around the village, it was as much Christmas as the turkey and the stockings.  When we got married it became much easier to take the time between instead but this year I had enough holiday that I’ve got both; I finished last Friday and I don’t go back to work until next year.  And for all that early December didn’t feel very Christmassy because the thermometer said it was more like early October, now that we’re here it’s feeling very festive and very chilled out.

And yet on paper we’ve not really done very much. We took the children to have tea with Father Christmas and we’ve been to friends’ annual gluehwein and gingerbread party but we didn’t stay to carol singing in the pub, and we missed the carol service because out little trio were just too tired to take out of the house of an evening.  Pip and I set off early one morning and did the big supermarket shop, and I pottered around town one afternoon to put the final touches to the Christmas shopping and now we only have to leave the house to pick up the turkey on Christmas Eve.  We’re ready. Even the knitting that needs to be finished for Christmas day is at least finished even if not currently dry or wrapped.

Space for the Butterflies - a gentle sort of Christmas

I think for the first time in years it doesn’t feel like Christmas is happening in a rush.  Right now the time together stretches out in front of us like an ocean and it means that there’s time for the little things.  Time to sit on the sofa and read stories together, time to work with H to put up a new section of garden fence – very festive I know! – and time to just enjoy being back together as a five, just as it was in the summer.

We hosted Kitty’s first playdate where her friend’s Mummy didn’t stay, and I loved having another little girl in the house running around with our two and all three of them trying to entertain Pip. Definitely the more the merrier.  We had homemade pizza for lunch, the girls played dancing and dressing up, H showed them the disappearing handkerchief magic trick, they built a fabulous Duplo castle for all the Duplo princesses and we pulled out the pipe cleaners and mini pompoms to make some mini Christmas trees to hang on our tree.

Space for the Butterflies - a gentle sort of Christmas

There’s that lovely Danish word of “hygge” that defies literal translation but gets used to mean a sense of cosy contentment, the feeling you get when everyone is happily playing and you have the whole family wrapped around you.  It seems to put people at the centre of the order of importance not trappings or meals or presents and I think that’s how it should be.  As much as I love my Christmas tree and the decorations and my homemade mince pies, they are not what makes my Christmas.  My Christmas started the minute the five of us walked through the door last Friday night.  It’s in the dancing around the lounge to our Christmas playlist, hearing Kitty sing the songs from her nativity play and noticing how Elma has heard them so many times she joins in perfectly, the snuggles with a Pip who is clearly very glad to have his Mama back home again, and time spent with H without feeling the pressure of a to do list a mile long.  And for our family it’s in the re-reading of the nativity story and the celebration of the birth of a very special baby.

This afternoon I think we’re going to make sugar cookies, or maybe go to the park, or maybe get the clay out to make some more ornaments.  They’re all fun activities and which one we do doesn’t actually matter, it’s more about being together. We’ll also probably do a couple of loads of laundry, cook meals, wash up, hoover and put another fence panel in because that’s what family life looks like, and that’s OK too.

Space for the Butterflies - a gentle sort of Christmas

In looking for a good definition of hygge I found this: “a feeling or mood that comes from taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary everyday things simply extraordinary”.  And I think it hits the spot quite perfectly.  That’s our magic of Christmas.  But it’s also the magic of everyday, and with a bit of luck and a following wind, the magic for the rest of the year too.



Baby Knitting Family Finished Handmade Handmade for Baby Kitty Knitting Photography

Another little pixie {handmade for baby}


With the end of term came our first ever round of teacher presents.  I don’t honestly remember giving my teachers presents at primary school, and only occasionally and towards the top of senior school but I think it’s a sweet idea and a great way to say thank you for Kitty’s lovely first term at school.  And this time at least it was easy to choose what the presents should be.  For her teaching assistant we went down the route of chocolates because frankly you can never have too much chocolate at Christmas, but for her teacher it had to be something handmade.

Space for the Butterflies - Another pixie hat

Or rather not exactly for her teacher.  Kitty’s wonderful, lovely, talented teacher headed off on maternity leave at the end of term and while part of me is a little gutted because Kitty adores her, we’re mostly delighted for her and the excitement that lies ahead, and a little bit impressed that she made it until the end of term given she’s due in the first week of January.  And with a sort of knitterly pavlovian response to the phrases “baby expected” and “present needed”, I pulled out needles and yarn (my favourite baby knit standby Baby Cashmerino), and, by Kitty’s request, the last pattern I knit for her baby brother.

And so as soon as I’d finished Elma’s birthday cardigan and with the help of a few long commutes for work on trains that only seem to run late, I knit and knit and knit some more.  The centre seam was grafted together on my lunch break, the neckband knitted while a clingy Pip snoozed in my lap but finally it was finished and it just needed one final adornment.

Space for the Butterflies - Another pixie hat

The button is the last of a set of china buttons that I bought on a whim at Waddesdon Manor years and years and years ago, definitely pre-Kitty and possibly by quite some way.  They’re the buttons that I’ve looked at for dozens of different projects and always said “no, not yet”, the nearest I’ve ever got to button collecting rather than simply keeping a stash of beautiful buttons on hand.  Two went on a blouse that I made for Kitty and which now sits in Elma’s wardrobe, one went on the cushion I made for Elma earlier in the autumn and now this final special little heart has gone to show just how much Kitty loves her teacher; I would not have parted with it for anyone less deserving.

Space for the Butterflies - Another pixie hat

And so it was wrapped up and taken into school and I watched as Kitty, reaching up on her tippy tip toes almost unnoticed, placed it gently on the top of the pile of parcels in her teacher’s arms before dashing off and in through the door for her last day of term.  And it almost doesn’t matter if she doesn’t like it.  It does a little bit because I like things to be liked when I’ve put all that effort in, but it told me that my daughter gets the value of knitting, that when thinking of something for a special present she wanted to give, she thought of a hat.

joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Crafting On

Christmas Elma Family Living Arrows Photography Pip

Living Arrows 2015: 51/52


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

The German market arrived in Birmingham in early November, little wooden chalets popping up in the early morning and the smell of spice and sausages drifting down the street, but it wasn’t until I was counting down the last couple of weeks to my Christmas holiday that I realised that we just weren’t going to make it up at the weekend and H decided to bring the littlest two up to see me.  Elma was beside herself with excitement.  Not only was she going to go on a train but she’d see Mama’s office too and Mama’s friends – and the last time she came to my office my boss let her colour herself and a lot of paper with his highlighters, I think she may think that’s what I do as a job.

And so when the phone rang and I looked down out of my window, there next to H was a very excited little girl hopping up and down.

Pip on the other side was less than impressed with my lovely colleagues.  He flung himself into my arms from which vantage point he proceeded to eye them all warily.  Then the sceptical look turned to a frown, and then, as he realised that these were the people who STEAL MUMMY EVERY DAY the full Churchillian stink eye was deployed in full force.  Pip does not share Mummy and he was adamant that they should know it.  And as his displeasure turned to wails we scooted him out and off in search of some lunch.

Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows 2015

I’ve lived in this part of the world for eleven years now and I associate the German market with steaming mugs of mulled wine, hot sausages, cold feet and a decided nip in the air.

Space for the Butterflies - Here comes Santa Claus

This week I wondered why I’d brought my jacket and even the work-appropriate non-alcoholic hot juice seemed unappealingly warm.  But in nod to tradition we did tuck into hot sausages (full marks from Pip, less certain reviews from Elma), a waffle and Elma’s favourite, grapes on a skewer drenched in chocolate.Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows 2015

It was so lovely to spend that little extra time with them during the week and just wander around and enjoy the Christmassyness of it all, but my highlight, and I’m certain Elma’s too, was the carousel.

Thanks to a summer spent whirling around French towns and cities we’ve become connoisseurs of a good carousel and the one in Birmingham (a permanent feature rather than part of the market) is a lot of fun.  Pip and I opted for a ride in the sleigh because horses and nice work dresses do not mix, and Elma decided to come and join us, while H found a horse called Kate from which to survey the scene.

I think we may have been the only people on the ride at the time, I couldn’t see anyone else and the guy running it had time to come and take some photos for us which was very kind.

Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows 2015

We spun around and the market whirled past in a blur of Christmas lights and gingerbread, the music of the carousel dancing with the carols from across the square.  One look at Elma’s face said it all.  This was her idea of perfect.

Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows 2015

And as I waved them off across the square and got back to the important task of helping the rest of the team decimate the Christmas sweetie box on our goodie shelf, my last sight was of Elma, skipping and jumping and dancing her way down the path; happiness personified.




Christmas Elma Family Kitty Pip {the ordinary moments}

Here come Santa Claus {the ordinary moments}


What better way to start the Christmas holidays with a wonderful blast of festive spirit than to go to have tea and games with Father Christmas.  Two years ago we accidentally took Kitty and baby Elma to meet Father Christmas when we went down to Upton House to see their beautiful decorations and the house trimmed top to toe and it was such a wonderful experience that it cemented itself in our traditions on the spot.  Last year was just a chance to sit by the fire in the snug and ask questions about reindeer and again be recommended sprouts for lunch but this year Upton changed it up to a proper festive tea party.

We kept it a secret for ages, only telling Elma when we were on our way up the hill to pick Kitty up;

“Oh WOW! The REAL one!!” came back the reply.  And as we drove through the darkness with three very excited little people in the back of the car it certainly felt as though there was enough magic in the air.

Space for the Butterflies - Here comes Santa Claus

Upton always goes to town on Christmas decorations; it’s how you’d want to decorate your own house but then you’d never have enough room to walk around the house, right from the beautiful wreaths on the front door and the door to the restaurant, transformed for the occasion into Christmas and crafting heaven.  The girls were ticked off at the door, labelled with names and ages because Father Christmas’ memory only works perfectly on Christmas Eve and as they set off with a National Trust volunteer in suitably festive jumper to go and make jam jar tea light holders (glueing and sticking galore), H and I, with a sleeping Pip cuddled up in the sling, settled in to do justice to a cream tea, a mug of mulled juice and an incredible clementine gingerbread cake.

Space for the Butterflies - Here comes Santa Claus

There were six or so other families there, with children from two to about eight, and there was a merry hum to the room as the children happily covered themselves in glue.

Space for the Butterflies - Here comes Santa Claus

When they’d all finished sticking themselves to the table there was a story (The Night Before Christmas, with audience participation) and a big shout of “Merry Christmas” before the door opened and Father Christmas appeared from the darkness.  Dressed head to toe in red velvet, with a fabulously fluffy beard, and, to fit Upton’s “a Country House at War” theme, the addition of an ARP tin hat, he was the Father Christmas of a thousand picture books.


So while Father Christmas settled in to the comfy chair beside the tree the little ones tucked into Christmas lunch boxes.  The lunch boxes alone would have made the day for my girls, for some reason they have an obsession with packed lunches, particularly Kitty, and she loved unpacking her box, eating a bite of sandwich with one hand and a snowflake shortbread with the other while at the same time trying to do some colouring in and play the word search.  And when our turn came to go and have a chat with Father Christmas the girls had been so caught up in what they were doing they’d practically forgotten about him.


I think that’s what made it so lovely, because all the children were happily occupied you never felt that you were queuing or that you were holding up people in the queue, so it was relaxed and gentle and there was time for the girls to get over their initial shyness and actually enjoy meeting Father Christmas.  Just like last year he told them not to bother with turkey and trimmings but have a nice big bowl of sprouts for Christmas lunch, and they told him that they hoped they were getting crowns for Christmas (entirely possible), dressing up shoes (Elma – maybe) and a microphone so she could sing Frozen songs really loudly (Kitty – and not a chance I’m afraid).

And as for my Pip Squeak, when he was asked what he wanted for Christmas, he knew instantly – “Mama!”

Well I’ve got two weeks on holiday little boy, that might have to do.

Space for the Butterflies - Here comes Santa Claus

I don’t know whether Father Christmas remembered that he’d met my little trio before, but I love looking back on last year’s photo and the one from our very first Upton Christmas and seeing the changes over the years and the constant that is a very lovely Father Christmas.

And when everyone had had their turn and we’d all sang  We Wish You a Merry Christmas, with a final “Merry Christmas” off he went, back to the North Pole to keep an eye on the elves.

Space for the Butterflies - Here comes Santa Claus

So we gathered up tea light jam jars and colouring pictures and their presents from Father Christmas (a fox and an owl finger puppet) and carried off our little ones home to bed, their eyes shining, but not over tired or over excited, just properly brimming over with happiness.  Starting the Christmas holidays as we mean to go on.

mummy daddy me