Monthly Archives

February 2016

Family Kitty Photography

Glasses. In triplicate.


Space for the Butterflies

It may not have escaped your notice that lovely Miss Kitty is now sporting a very fetching pair of glasses. Or to be more accurate, three very fetching pairs of glasses.

given that I’m shortsighted, so is H, so are all of the grandparents and aunts and uncles, with our children it’s always been a question of when they got glasses, not if. I think I’d rather hoped that they’d be nearer to H and not need them until they were teenagers but for now Kitty needs to wear a pair for a few months and then we’ll know whether she just needs them for “concentrating work”, though quite how a five year old is supposed to be able to tell when she’s concentrating enough to need her glasses I have no idea.

She had her eyes tested just before half term and we duly surveyed all of the frames in the rack, rejected half a dozen and chose a couple that she liked and looked good in and took them off to be measured.  The first pair was the wrong fit, and the second the arms were too long and our lovely assistant returned with what appeared to be the only pair of frames in the shop that was the right size for Kit, and which we’d already discounted. Kitty, having been promised glasses, and I suspect fearing that she might end up with nothing, latched onto them as her newest favourite favourite ever, and I, now exhausted with the combination of keeping three children occupied in an opticians and an impressively horrible cold, said yes.

The guilt set in before we got home.

I’ve worn glasses since I was Kitty’s age.  I’m now horribly shortsighted, to the point that there’s only a very small distance at which I can see something in focus without my glasses on without double vision kicking in for being so near to my face.

I tried contacts in my teens but the idea of fingers touching eyeballs makes me shudder and despite many many efforts I only ever got one contact in one eye and even then I think it was more by accident than design, so glasses it has been for the last thirty years.

And when I was Kitty’s age, and at the opticians where we lived, glasses meant choosing between pink or blue.  Big plastic NHS frames in a slightly Dame Edna Everage pointy corners style.  I think I alternated between the two colours for most of primary school, although I do remember having a pair with red stripes on the corners by the time I made it to Form 6. High fashion they were not.  Looking back at the pictures now I don’t look too silly, although my primary and early teen years had a definite gawky ruffled baby chick vibe (especially while I was growing out my bowl cut – what can I say, it was the 80’s), but I remember the first day of going into school with my glasses and it was not my favourite day by a long stretch.

I was quite spectacularly shy at the time so anything that drew attention to me was a not good thing, and as you cannot wear glasses and not look different and as fellow five year olds love to point out the new and the different, you can see where this is going.

It’s not that they were mean, I don’t think I’ve ever been called names for wearing glasses, but to a shy and self conscious child, “Look! Caroline’s got spectacles!” might as well have continued “and is therefore an alien, let’s tease her and look at her and be mean to her forever”.  I ran to the end of the playground and stood looking out through the corner of the fencing so that no one could see until the bell rang for school.

Even before I had children I knew that I would do anything and everything to try to save them from that feeling, or at the very least, to give them the confidence to face the world through glasses unabashed.Space for the Butterflies

Hence the guilt.  I felt bad that I’d allowed myself to be talked into glasses that maybe Kit didn’t like, and bad that she would associate glasses with desperation and a lack of choice. Shades of the 80’s all over again.

And so we went out the next day and went around all the other opticians near to us, and bless Specsavers in Solihull, they were lovely, they were kind, they took time with us and with Kitty in particular, and they helped us find not one but two pairs of glasses that Kitty really truly loves, and as we would be buying them from scratch because we’d already used the NHS voucher they even let us have the adult buy one get one free scheme.

So now we have three pairs. The original, which turned out to be not as bad as I’d remembered them once we got them home*, and are blue and purple, a magenta pink pair with Tinkerbell down the sides and a steely blue pair which have Elsa on them.  The latter two both look lovely on her, and the branding is actually fairly subtle (although where glasses are concerned I’d probably have put aside my usual veto on the children wearing anything too heavily branded if it made Kitty like them).

And so far so good. She’s been happy enough wearing whichever takes her fancy, usually with a fair amount of changing over the course of the day, and we’re getting to the point where it looks funny to see her without them rather than with.  She is as always, confident and very much her own person, and I when I got home last night she was happily wearing Tinkerbell and told me how she’d shown them off to another boy in her class who already has glasses and they’d together decided that hers were just as cool as his minion ones. Phew.

*Though in having them less than a week one of the nose pads has already fallen off so I’m not very impressed by the quality or service – hence not naming them – we’ll be going straight to Specsavers next time she needs a check up .

Elma Family Kitty Motherhood Photography Pip Working Mum {the ordinary moments}

Windows into memories


Whenever I pick up my camera I tend to flick back through the last couple of photos, sometimes to remind myself whether I’ve uploaded them onto the computer and whether I ought to clear the memory card, but quite often just as a bit of a reminder as to how long it’s been since I picked up the camera, and what I was capturing.

Being out of the house four days a week and with the light only just beginning to creep into either end of the day, I’m finding that during the dark days of winter I’ve at most taken photographs at the weekends and on my work at home day.  I can use the tripod and try to set up favourable lighting for an evening shot, but I’d so much rather have natural light, even if it has occasionally meant standing out in the rain to take a photo of a quilt block balanced precariously in the doorway!

The the rest of the time my camera lives tucked away on the back of the dresser, or upstairs on my dressing table, or in the studio; wherever happens to be the nearest place where we can put it away from tiny fingers.  The girls are pretty careful with it but my little Pip Squeak is both fascinated and somewhat less than gentle, so away it goes.

But it seems that the photography bug has finally become contagious. Or it’s possible that it always was but I was hogging the camera all the time.  Whatever the cause, I’m finding that every now and then, I flick back into my pictures and find a handful that I didn’t take.

It might be the girls, grinning wildly, flour smeared across their cheeks, presenting their latest batch of cupcakes, or Pip sat joyfully digging in a sand box.  Or this week, a whole series of their trip to our “Kilimanjaro” (a big hill in town with a lantern post on the top).Space for the Butterflies

We go to that park fairly often, but it’s been a while since we climbed the hill up to the lantern post.  H and I have very similar views on how to handle children having ratty mornings (get out in the fresh air with lots of space to run around as quickly as you can) and earlier this week, when we’d reached screeching level before I’d even left the house, he decided it would be a good place to go and run off some steam.  So off they went.

Space for the Butterflies

Pip, who must have still been up in our arms the last time we were there, walking and stumbling and picking himself up to keep on going. Elma dressed as a very warm little fairy, climbing steadily, and Kitty, whose long legs propel her up at high speed.

Space for the Butterflies

And as I flick back through the pictures there’s Pip at the top, trying to push the lamp post over, and the view out across the town, so familiar from so many expeditions, and then back down the hill to the playpark, and all three of my little ones running around together exploring.

Space for the Butterflies

Every day while I’m away from them I wonder what they’re up to and how they are, and I love the moment when I get home and sit down with at least one child in my lap and they can tell me all about it.

But the photos tell me so much more than their words ever could.  I can see from their body language how each of my trio was feeling, can almost hear their conversation and I know instantly who was tired, who was bouncing off the walls with energy and whose giggles you would have heard a mile away.

Space for the Butterflies

I think we take photos to prompt our memories for the moments when we were there, for the things that we don’t want to loose to time, and I know that there are photos that I’ve taken that will instantly transport me back to that time and place just as surely as the smell of wooden floor polish makes me 18 again and standing in the school chapel on my final speech day.

But being the person who takes most of the photos, and is in a lot of the rest of them I don’t think I’d realised just how much of a window they can be to times when I’m not there.

It’s brain magic of a sort; my mind will take all of the knowledge it has stored about my children and bring back all of the memories of the time I spend with them to fill in the gaps between photos; to put voice and smell and movement to tiny moments frozen in time.

Space for the Butterflies

I love that photography, and digital photography in particular has meant that I have been able to capture so much about my children’s childhood; I love it for them and I love it for my memories, but I think that it’s only now that I’m not always there, that I begin to realise just how very special the photos are from the times when I’m missing. And that, lovely family, means that you need to take even more!

Joining Katie at Mummy Daddy Me for The Ordinary Moments

Elma Family Kitty Photography Pip The 52 Project

8/52 {the 2016 portraits}


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

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project

Kitty: in my mind I look at that climbing frame and remember you as a tiny girl, sildenafil utterly certain that you could make it to the top and determined to make your legs follow suit.  You didn’t get very far that time but now you can scamper up and around and down with a long legged confidence that makes you seem every inch your five and nearly a half years, sales and quite a bit bigger too.

(Nikon D80, purchase 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/250, f/8, ISO 100)

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project

Elma: Only you would decide that you’re going to climb a mountain in your brother’s hat, odd mittens and fairy wings.  But actually it sums you up so perfectly at the moment; out and about in the fresh air, with roses in your cheeks, living wonderful make believe adventures in an intensely practical and down to earth sort of way.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/250, f/8, ISO 100)

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project

Pip: the most outdoor of all of my fresh-air loving children; as soon as the door is open you’ll drag over the nearest pair of shoes (even if they belong to your Daddy) and start making your bid for freedom.  We’re not outside often enough as far as you’re concerned, but patience my little one and soon, soon it will be warmer, and hopefully, slightly less like a swamp.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/250, f/4.5, ISO 160)

Crafty Ideas Elma Family Finished Handmade Handmade for Elma Handmade for Kitty Handmade for Pip Kitty Knitting Photography Pip Sewing

Hearts and Butterflies {handmade for Kitty, Elma and Pip}


As of the end of last week I became the poster child for the power of subliminal messaging.  Or possible the power of liminal messaging, is that a thing? Anyway.  Ever since the calendar flipped over into 2016 I have spent my working days happily ensconced below Emily Quinton’s gorgeous pictures in this year’s Mollie Makes calendar.  They’re all lovely inspiring pictures (I may have taken a sneak peak into the year ahead) but February’s picture is so pretty and the crafting idea so simple, that after two weeks sat staring at it I was powerless to resist.

And so with Valentine’s day rapidly approaching I spent last Friday evening happily immersed in felt and ribbons and thread; listening to an audiobook and stitching away.

Space for the Butterflies - Valentine Hearts

The girls gave me some stacks of lovely soft wool felt for my birthday  (which I’m 99.99% sure came from Berylune) and I loved dipping in to it to choose the perfect colour combinations for each of my three, fairly heavily influenced by what they’d made a grab for the last time we were all playing felt.

For Kitty, a pale rose and a deep coral, for Elma, jewel-like pink and purple, and for Pip the same coral as Kitty but matched with a darker orangey red.  The ribbons are all from my stash too; I can’t remember where Elma’s purple velvet came from but in a moment of beautiful kismet I realised that the ribbons I’d chosen for Kitty and Pip were both free cover gifts from old issues of Mollie Makes.

Space for the Butterflies - Valentine Hearts

I cut little hearts from one of their pink and yellow watercolour paintings to write them little valentine messages, and when the hearts were sat on the breakfast table there were three tiny chocolate eggs in each (we’re just not that organised to have actually managed to buy hearts so H went for Easter as a fall back!) but somehow and quite mysteriously, by the time I came to take pictures of the hearts, all of the chocolate had disappeared!

Space for the Butterflies - Valentine Hearts

And the butterflies? Well Kitty and I have started to do a little finger knitting again.  We tried back in the autumn but unfortunately, tucking it back into a basket just wasn’t enough protection from the “assistance” of small siblings, and it kept being pulled undone, or tipped out all over the floor when the basket was needed as some crucial part of a castle or something.  We started again after Christmas with a new and very pink ball of yarn, kept safely wrapped up in a paper bag and tucked into my knitting bag between times, but I wanted Kitty to have somewhere of her own to keep it, and for that somewhere to be beautiful, just to add to the already great charms of all things wooly.

In short she needed a project bag, and armed with the great tutorial at In Colour Order I had a quick stash dive one afternoon, spent one evening armed with a rotary cutter, and another evening sewing, and made this:

Space for the Butterflies - Drawstring Butterfly Bag

A lined drawstring bag, with two strings so that (a) it stays shut and (b) it can also act as a backpack on a five year old.  The main fabric came from a fat quarter I bought in a little craft barn on the road to Edinburgh (which dates it as at the very least, pre-Kitty).  I loved it at first sight and love it still and I’m so glad that I finally found a project that didn’t involve cutting it up too much. It’s been rejected for goodness knows how many projects over the years as being just too pretty to water down the impact of such a glorious flutter of butterflies.

Space for the Butterflies - Drawstring Butterfly Bag

The accent fabric (and the fabric ties) are leftovers from a quilt that I made for one of our NCT friends, Heather Bailey Swing Toss in pink, and then the lining is what in yarn I’d call a semi-solid, is that the right terminology for fabric? Whatever it’s called, it’s a variegated pink and just the thing for my pink loving girl.

Space for the Butterflies - Drawstring Butterfly Bag

It’s a great tutorial and really easy to sew up and I love how polished it looks as a finished bag, from the matching ties all the way to the nicely boxed off corners that make it so very good at standing up by itself.

Space for the Butterflies - Drawstring Butterfly Bag

I left it on Kitty’s chair the morning after I’d finished it, tucked in so she wouldn’t see it until breakfast and as I got to the office a little video pinged in my text messages. Never has a bag been hugged so hard.Space for the Butterflies - Drawstring Butterfly Bag

So now all I have to do, is make one for Elma.  Déjà vu, coming to a blog near you, probably next week!

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm Craft On

Elma Family Garden Kitty Photography Pip

The pocket handkerchief garden in winter


Space for the Butterflies - Winter gardening

For all my grand plans of the Autumn, it turned out that just as joining a gym can convince your subconscious that you’ve actually got terribly fit and healthy so you don’t ever actually need to go, writing a blog post about winter gardening plans will shortcircuit your plans to get out there and actually do it. Also, it rained. A lot.  I don’t mind gardening in the heat, or the snow, or the wind, or the cold, but I draw the line at rain.

Space for the Butterflies - Winter gardening

And so the garden sat and waited.  The onions and garlic that we planted in November broke through the soil, tiny slivers of green reaching up and out to whatever sunshine they could find, but with them came the grass, and what does rather look to be a row of tulips, despite my being certain that there were no tulips planted in that bed for at least the last couple of years. I suspect a squirrel.

And in the other bed the Autumn leaves made claim to being an unintentional mulch, blown up around the strawberry plants like a dusty scarf, while a single row of surprise daffodils danced bright and fresh in the wind.

It was time to get back out there.

Space for the Butterflies - Winter gardening

My eldest two assistants came for a bit, and having successfully weeded only slightly more grass than onion stems, retreated back to the warmth inside, leaving just a snow suited Pip and me to enjoy a blast of fresh air.  Together we pulled up the rest of the grass from around the onions, determined that this year at least they’re going to have all the space they could possibly need to grow (last year they got somewhat abandoned and I think a little choked by grass). The red onions and the garlic have come through beautifully but we’ve had a lot less success with the white onion in the middle section. Hopefully they’re just going to turn into massive onions, village show winning style.

Space for the Butterflies - Winter gardening

And when we took the covers off the other bed, and pulled out the bean vines Pip discovered that we had the perfect spot for a little digging.

Space for the Butterflies - Winter gardening

So we settled into a happy rhythm; he shovelled and dug holes, and tried to eat the soil, and did all the sorts of things that babies should do in mud, and I worked down the other end, clearing leaves, picking all of the rest of the rainbow chard (which we rinsed, then wilted and fried in butter for lunch – yum) and replanting some of the strawberry plants that I’d lifted from what’s now the onion and garlic bed.

Space for the Butterflies - Winter gardening

Space for the Butterflies - Winter gardening

The blackcurrant bush has new shoots growing from last year’s pruning, and I’m pretty sure I need to do some more ‘I hope this is right’ pruning to help it fruit so I’ll need to find the label or look it up online.  And when the daffodils have finished I’ll lift the bulbs to give the currant a bit more space, they’re just too pretty and bright to move when we’ve still got a while to go . This is going to be entirely a soft fruit bed; the blackcurrant, the strawberry patch and for the spare space I’m thinking of either raspberry canes, or just possibly a gooseberry bush – I love gooseberries and the prickliness would definitely put the cat off!

And then I’m planning for a bed I don’t have yet, but probably ought to send H and the children to acquire over half term.  Carrots, parsnips, beans (whatever last year’s were, they were yummy), and peas, because there’s nothing better than eating peas straight from the vine.Space for the Butterflies - Winter gardening

But for all the fun of planning out our garden, I think the very best fun was just being back out there in the sunshine; watching Pip’s intense concentration as we worked companionably along side each other, often quite quietly.  It’ll be a while before the garden season really starts but this year, even more than last year, I’m really looking forward to it, and I think, so might be Pip!