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January 2016

Elma Family Kitty Me and Mine Photography Pip

Me and Mine 2016: January


In the back of your mind you always know that your family is more than the sum of it’s parts. A family isn’t just five people of varying sizes living under one roof, it’s more than that, it’s a unit, an entity all of its own.  But knowing in the back of your mind and seeing it put to the test are two different things.  For us, this month has been the toughest since I went back to work full time.  My job has always had the occasional “rocket launch’ moments, when working every minute of every hour of every day (sometimes literally) starts to become all you’ve ever known, but it’s been a while since I was at the forefront, and even then I was cushioned a little by only working three days a week.  It’s been hard work.  Good work though, the kind of work that I want to be doing and to build my career with, but even when you know that something has long term payoffs it can make you tired to the point of speechlessness.

I’m, if not exactly used to, at least aware of the impact that has on me, but it’s the impact on us as a whole family that has been so both perfectly logical and completely surprising.  In an ideal world you’d think hardworking breadwinner has to up the ante so supportive spouse pulls out all the stops, healthy nourishing suppers, encouraging notes sneaked into the pack lunch, children entertained during rare moments of downtime so that you can get all the rest you can find. But it doesn’t work like that.  Poor old supportive spouse is left parenting without any meaningful break, without the chance for adult interaction of an evening, without really knowing whether they’re coming or going because little mrs breadwinner is at the beck and call of other people, and with three small children who thrive on a rhythmn that has been shaken out and upended.

It isn’t a yin and yang situation, if I’m stretched thin, so is H, and not only can the children sense the exhaustion, but they’re discombobulated too. Pip can’t work out where Mama has gone, but only knows that he wants her back, he wants her now and he’s not prepared to let her out of his sight, or be put down, even when soundly asleep (which only lengthens a late night working into the early hours), Kitty looked crushed when I said that I couldn’t do the school run, and Elma quickly got overtired by staying up late to make sure that I came home.

It’s such an odd balance to be making; on the one hand this is good for me professionally, and that in turn is good for the whole family, but in the short term we all feel the strain as the pressure bites down.  And thankfully this last week I snatched an afternoon to work from home and collect Kitty from school, I was home on time-ish (I was late but it was the train’s fault not mine) on Friday and there’s just a glimmering of blue sky and calmer days ahead.  We didn’t snap, but oh am I glad to be walking away from the moments when it felt like we might.

And so this month’s portrait of the five of us is brought to you by Failure to Prepare (I forgot to bring the tripod) and The Eleventh Hour (taken yesterday).  Our heads are half chopped off because the camera slipped, everyone except me seems to be playing one of those “guess whether I’m smiling or not” games, and to be frank, H and I look properly shattered.  But I’ve never regretted making the effort to take a Me and Mine photo, never once looked back and thought I’d be better having not bothered, and I’m not planning on starting now.  It is us, holding on to the rollercoaster that’s been January and still together as my little family of five:


And I can’t go without showing you just one more photo – while H and Kitty were at the opticians, Elma, Pip and I had a picnic snack at the park, and thought we’d dummy run a set up for our family photos – Peekaboo world!


The Me and Mine Project


Elma Family Kitty Photography Pip The 52 Project

5/52 {the 2016 portraits}


Linking up with Jodi and Living Arrows with a portrait of each of my children once every week for 2016.

Space for the Butterflies

Kitty: Concentrating hard on your first attempt at needle felting. I’m still not sure either of us have quite got the method right, and we did seem to keep trying to felt the wool to the cushion, but I love how much enjoyment you took from it.  Years ago when you were a tiny baby I had to keep telling myself to hold back, to wait until you were truly ready, even though I was itching to share with you all of my passions, and usually all at once.  And now you are big enough, big enough at least to be handed the needle felting punch and the fibre and left to experiment while I set your sister up wet felting.  You made a beautiful pink and purple and blue sort of heart shape but shh, don’t tell Daddy, I have some plans for that for next weekend.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/100, f/2.8, ISO 320)

Space for the Butterflies

Elma: You had a tough time this morning; we’d played up the excitement of going to the optician for an eye test so much to your sister that you were positively affronted to be left out, especially when your sister told you it was because you didn’t know your letters yet, so when you’d calmed a little and we dried your tears and had a cuddle, we took off for the park to wait for the other half of the family.  Walking through the door you asked straight away if we had any bread for the ducks, absolutely certain that I’d find something in my “workhandbag”, but unless ducks like business cards I was all out. Salvation came in the form of a generous mama with a little girl of her own who handed you a good chunk of their sliced brown, and I watched with such pride as you handed some straight on to Pip, before setting out to feed Mama goose, Daddy goose, two little sister geese and a brother goose.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/250, f/4, ISO 200)

Space for the Butterflies

Pip: Digger trousers, a dinosaur coat and a smile that says everything about what you think of feeding the ducks.  I think the geese were starting to get a bit full but you weren’t too impressed by the one that didn’t want your bit of bread. After all, Mama had stopped you eating it just to give it to the ducks; how could he turn it down? But fortunately a friend gobbled it up and everything in your world was right again!


(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/250, f/4, ISO 125)

Crafty Ideas Designed by me Elma Family Finished Handmade Handmade for Elma Photography Sewing

A twirly princess skirt {handmade for Elma}


A few weeks ago I got an email in my inbox that practically had me bouncing off the ceiling in excitement.

It started innocently enough; would I, by any chance, be interesting in working together on a craft project? – I love craft projects, so I would, and I read on.


Would I, in fact, be interested in working with Laura Ashley to see what I could come up with to make from their packs of craft fabric fat quarters? Would I? – well never have my fingers felt so slow moving over the keys as when I typed out my ‘trying to play it cool but barely smothering the super-excitement’ reply.  We talked about ideas, I spent so long eyeing up the fat quarter packs on the website that the cookies kept advertising them to me on every other website for at least a week, and then last week a little silver parcel plopped onto the doormat and in it was treasure indeed.


Laura Ashley was, I suspect, the Cath Kidston of my mother’s generation.  The fabrics were fresh and new and sought after and I still remember the matching Laura Ashley dresses that my sister and I had as our Sunday best for a couple of years (and she had again a couple of years later – the joys of being the younger sister!).  But while I may have a serious weak spot for Cath, nothing has dimmed my affection for Laura, so to get the chance to just play in their fabric collection.  I could have made a hundred different things with such pretty fabric but in the end I knew that for a whole host of reasons, perhaps in an effort to right the balance from my childhood, it was my littlest girl who should be the beneficiary.

I’d originally thought of making some sort of sundress, but when Elma and I opened up the parcel there was just one thing she wanted; a twirly princess skirt.  It was to be long, and it was to be twirly, and that’s all she cared about.  My plan was that if I was going to make something that couldn’t be handed down to Pip then it would have to last for as long as humanely possible.  And so I planned an adjustable waistband, echoing the maternity elastic of some of my pregnancy jeans, so that for now it could be a long twirly skirt, but one with definite room to grow!



And this is the result: One almost a full circle skirt, made up of 14 panels cut from fat quarters (using all five from the duck egg pack and the two palest purple from the amethyst pack), and sewn together to create a spinning whirl of soft floral colour.  All the details on how to make it, what I used and how the waistband worked are over in my tutorial on the Laura Ashley blog (together with a fabulous tutorial for making a sewing machine cover from the very talented Esther at Inside Out & About that I really ought to try)


Elma adores it.  She wore it, newly finished, for the photos, and then all that day, and then all the next one so that she could take it to show her playgroup teacher, and I’m pretty certain it’s done duty as part of pyjamas too.20160124-DSC_0056

Her happiness with whatever I made was always the chief motivation behind the project, but I’ll admit that when on Tuesday, when my tutorial appeared actually on the actual Laura Ashley website, I was ready to burst with happiness too – twirling all round!

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday, Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm Craft On and Make Do and Push for Funky Kid Friday

Crafty Ideas Elma Family Handmade Kitty Photography

Candles for Candlemas


On Tuesday it will be Candlemas day. I think in years gone by it must have been a better known festival than it is today, I certainly remember having stories as a child that had Candlemas in the title though nothing I could find in a quick search on Amazon sounded quite right.


As a Christian festival it marks the presentation of Jesus at the temple, told in the gospel as the moment when an elderly Simeon, long promised that he would meet the Messiah before he dies, sees Jesus, recognises him, and burst forth with what, attributed to him in Ancient Greek, translated into Latin, then into English and then into English that would sound nice chorally, became the Nunc Dimittis:

Lord lettest thou thy servant depart in peace According to they word
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation
which thou hast prepared before the face of all people
to be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel

I sang this and Mary’s song, the Magnificat, every week throughout my university career in our college chapel choir and for all the twirly anthems and soaring descants over Christmas carols, it’s these two pieces of music that most bring back the smell of woodpolish, the feel of the panelling at your back, the way that with dusk the pictures in the windows would loose their brilliance for us as they became a beacon of colour to anyone outside, the feel of a choir knitting their voices together as the music pours through, and of course the lights. Reading lights so you could see the music outshone by candles as far as the eye could see, a memory for once not bathed just by the rosy glow of days past.

And it must have been that focus on light in Simeon’s words, an old man meeting a tiny new baby and seeing him as a new flame to go leaping on ahead of him, that made it the day to celebrate and bless all the lights to be used in the church for the forthcoming year, literally the candle mass.

I rather suspect that, as with a good few church traditions, a feast day or festival that fit the right sort of date was superimposed upon underlying folklore traditions and certainly it seems that everyone from the ancient celts onwards had some sort of festival of light at about this time. It makes sense too, we’re not yet into Spring, but we have reached the point where I get to see the dawn as I arrive at work (I get in about 8) and after the dark days of winter, particularly this winter just gone, it really does feel like the return of the sun.

Which brings me to our candles, and a craft I’ve been wanting to do with the girls for ages.  We love candles in our family, we light them for every meal when we sing our blessing and most evenings we’ll have a little tea light flickering away in the salt lamp, so the girls were very excited prespect of making their own.


And it really is incredibly simple. So simple I was kicking myself for not trying it before.  We started with two sheets of beeswax, a little packet of wick and a nice warm room.  The latter is actually very helpful; sheets of beeswax become more flexible if the room is warm which helps get the first rolls nice and tight.


Kitty had no problem cutting our big sheets of wax into two and then lengths of the wick an inch or so longer than the wax, but Elma struggled a little. I think she may have found it easier going with children’s scissors but we couldn’t find ours and the kitchen scissors were a bit big for her hands.


We pressed the wick down into the very edge of the wax and just gently moulded the very edge up along side, and from there we rolled.  A nice firm tight roll, going gently to give the wax the chance to adapt to the curves.


We found that keeping it all flat on the dinner table and pressing gently down as we rolled really helped, and while Elma and I did a bit of a joint effort, Kitty’s was all her own beautiful work.



A sheet and a half made three tall taper candles for our candlesticks and as we were having far too much fun to want to stop we cut up the last half sheet to make some mini candles; a really dinky little one for me, a short fat one for Elma and a tall skinny one for Kitty.20160123-DSC_0301

So that we could tell them apart we pulled out our modelling beeswax and added some little dots of colour, hence the hearts and the random spots, they just melt a bit and fall off when you burn the candles and the girls had so much fun making them.


I made them thinking of Candlemas, and maybe even thinking about saving them for Candlemas, but that was never going to wash.  We made them on Saturday, and just about managed to wait for supper to light the big candles but the little ones, tucked into cored apples as impromptu candlesticks, lit up our lunch, soaking up every ray of honey glow and the gorgeous scent of summer that comes off them.


The perfect way to celebrate even slightly lighter mornings!

Blogging Working Mum

All worded out


It feels so strange to me to step away from my cosy little corner of the internet, even for a little while. I think it was back in August since I last went more than a day without posting and to be honest it’s vaguely uncomfortable, a nagging sort of feeling like having your socks on inside out, you still have warm feet but it’s somehow just different.

And it’s funny too because I have so many things I want to write about. I can sit at work and be crowded with all the craft projects I did with the girls that I want to tell you about, the big ideas that have been circling the back of my mind just waiting for me to grab at them, and the silly little moments of motherhood that I try to record. I miss telling stories, I miss the connection with people I may never have met but cherish nonetheless, I miss reading everyone else’s posts too.

But when I sit down at the end of the day the words are gone and all that’s left in my mind is a big barren emptyness under a scorching blue sky.

Work, of the sort that pays bills, has got busy. Properly seriously late nights, early mornings and a couple of joining the dots between the two all ramping up and up and up. We’re a tiger coiled to spring, and spring we shall. It’s hard work but it’s the work I want to be known for so I’m trying to embrace it and ride the wave out.


And I think that might be where all the words have gone, washed away on a tide of professional jargon and poured into work.

They and I will be back before we know it, it’s always darkest before the dawn after all but in the meantime I’ll be the one in the corner falling asleep over her knitting. See you soon.