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June 2016


Little bits and bobs {handmade}


I almost have a finished quilt. Almost but not quite. The quilting is finished, seek the binding is sewn on, view all I need now is a good audiobook and a whole heap of hours to sew it down and we’ll have a quilt large enough to pitch camp under.

And as most of my crafting time has been spent hauling fabric through my sewing machine when I’ve needed to give my shoulders a bit of a break I’ve been playing with little bits and bobs.

Space for the Butterflies - paper primrose from A Petal Unfolds

I’ve actually lost one of the most favourite things that I made this week. The lovely A Petal Unfolds was at the Blogtacular West Elm Paper Maker Party last Friday showing everyone how to make the sweetest paper primroses. Mine was white with a deep orange centre and I pinned it to my dress on Saturday rather than risk it getting squashed in my bag, only to discover towards the end of the day that all I was wearing was a pin. On the plus side, I do now know how to make them and maybe when the girls are a bit bigger we can load up on crepe paper and floristry wire and make a whole bunch.

That party might turn out to have quite a lot to answer for too – I tried calligraphy for the first time since I was in my early teens and I’m teetering on the edge of falling completely in love with it. Even though all my lines were wobbly and I clearly need practice it was just so very soothing to sit and make pretty writing. And when I finally decided I’d had enough practicing and I wrote “Space for the Butterflies” out on a little postcard it just looked so pretty, and oddly familiar.


It took me a little while and a little checking of the internet to work out what is probably very obvious to you – yes, I wrote my blog banner – no wonder I liked it.

Somewhere in his art stash I know H has some pens and ink, and even though I can’t think of anything I do that really needs calligraphy, I know I’m going to need to get them out and have a little play.

But my final make of the week, and probably the simplest, is truly my favourite, because it’s the one I’m still wearing now. A bracelet to remind me of Blogtacular, and of sitting and chatting with friends while I made it.


It’s just seed beads strung on tigertail, with a little “C” pendant” and a repeating pattern of five blue beads for every orange; simple but very effective, and as I know that I’ve got tigertail and beads in my craft supplies I don’t think it will be too long before the girls’ current deepest wishes come true and I make them bracelets to match.


In the growing garden: 23 June


This week’s garden is brought to you by the colour green.  In the middle of winter when every colour is muted by the all pervading grey, or when it’s spring and you spend all your time desperately trying to protect the tiny slivers of seedlings it’s easy to forget just how green the garden is in the summer.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden 23 June

Despite the rain, despite the muggy looming skies, or perhaps because of them, my garden is in full riot.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden 23 June

It’s the spinach that really took off this week, it’s gone from a sprinkling of seedlings to a carpet to a full on hedge, and right now we are definitely not eating it at the rate it grows.  I’ve pinched out the tops to stop them flowering, mostly because I have a recollection of Mum telling me to do that with some spinach that I grew years ago.  I didn’t at the time and it bolted, grew leaves that could easily have doubled up as umbrellas, and I spent a solid morning cutting out the stems before we could eat any of the leaves.

I’m thinking that either I need to see if anyone in my office likes spinach, or I need to freeze a few portions for the winter; it’s far too tasty to let go to waste, and the birds and minibeasts appear to be leaving it alone for now. Actually, looking at that picture again maybe I need to do both.

Even the peas and beans have deigned to do a little growing this week.  The beans are definitely emulating the tortoise rather than the hare; despite being one of the first things planted this year we haven’t got to the point of needing stakes just yet.  The peas on the other hand have definitely started that grasping search for something to cling onto; reaching out and patting the neigbouring soil like someone trying to find their glasses on the bedside table of a morning.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden 23 June

I know I’ve got some wigwam holders and some more canes somewhere in the shed, but for now I’ve borrowed some stakes and the hosepipe arches from the soft fruit bed to rig up two pea arches.  Hopefully the peas will approve.

For the root veg I hope I have done my final thinning.  It feels completely sacrilegious to be pulling up perfectly good vegetable seedlings, especially when, like the parsnips, they’ve actually been doing pretty well.  Petite little parsnips, and doll sized carrots just starting to turn from white to orange as if touched by the dawn.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden 23 June

But my new garden mantra is “quality not quantity” and I know if I want proper full sized veg it has to happen to give the others room to grow.  I’ve gone by the highly scientific method of gut instinct and just pulled what looked like it was struggling or would soon run out of room if I imagined a full grown carrot beneath the surface.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden 23 June

The thinnings I’ve left for the birds in the hope that it will distract them from my strawberries.  We’ve been having a very successful strawberry harvest so far, growing lovely big juicy red berries – which promptly get snatched from beneath our less than watchful gaze by a highly intelligent blackbird with excellent taste.  We haven’t eaten a single one.  It’s entirely my own fault; I haven’t netted them and I haven’t mulched them so frankly what was I expecting to happen.  Netting and straw are top of the agenda for the weekend though; I will have my homegrown strawberries and cream before the summer’s out.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden 23 June

Which just leaves the onions and garlic, now looking less like a riot, and more like the morning after.  They had their moment of glory in the spring, when all around was merely dark earth and promise, and now I’m just waiting until the right moment to lift them; which from memory is usually the point at which we realise that we need an onion for supper and we’ve run out.



Blogging Photography

The Renegade Photowalk {Blogtacular 2016}


On Saturday I went to a writing workshop – and yet now I have no words.  Blogtacular was completely, overwhelmingly amazing and I’m still thinking my way through everything and trying to take it in.  I promise I’ll be back before too long with all the things that made it special (because it’s too good not to share), but for now I wanted to share a little snapshot in the form of what I fondly started to refer to as the renegade photowalk.

Having been on the photowalks on both previous Blogtaculars (a) I know just how much fun they are, (b) I really couldn’t complain about not making it onto any of this year’s official walks and (c) I was just a little bit gutted anyway.  So I did a crazy thing with a strong element of compulsive volunteer in it and that’s how I found myself briskly walking around Primrose Hill at 1.30 on Friday afternoon, just checking that the route I’d sussed out from 100 miles away actually worked.

It could have been an absolute disaster.  Right up until we got started my biggest fear was loosing people, and my second biggest fear was there being no one to loose.  I’d never actually been to Primrose Hill. Or even knew where it was until Kat sent me an Instagram link to pictures of Chalcot Square and with one sigh of “ooo pretty!” our fate was decided.

But the sun shone, the skies were mostly blue and mostly clear, and our little band of intrepid explorers met at Chalk Farm tube station ready and willing to become the Blogtacular Photowalk North.  There were fifteen of us in number, which turned out to be the perfect size both to be slightly silly without feeling too silly about it, and to really get the chance to chat to everyone else and get to know each other before the big day itself.  Most, if not all of the group were new to Blogtacular and the official sort of photowalks, and I think that it takes a certain type of confidence to decide to go unofficially photowalking around North London with someone who isn’t a big name blogger or photographer and is basically just a friendly looking stranger on the internet.  But it’s why I suspect everyone was really keen to throw themselves into it, and why we had such a blast.

If you’re after a nice gentle photowalk route, from Chalk Farm tube we headed over the railway bridge (snapping the very cool grafitti and persuading a very kind passerby to capture the first of our group shots), then wandered down Gloucester Avenue (past blue houses and purple alliums), around the corner onto Fitzroy Road, then right again onto Chalcot Road and up into Chalcot Square; home of a blue plaque for Sylvia Plath (currently covered by a building site), and a pink house with sunshine yellow front door and pom poms in the windows that we all fell in love with.

It was the perfect place to break out all of our umbrellas, as props and sunshades rather than because we actually needed them, and the Mary Poppins impersonations got even sillier in the best possible way.  There were houses in colours to match any outfit, a rainbow of front doors, and if we learnt nothing else, we all now know what colour we want to paint our own houses. Some day.

From Chalcot Square we headed down Chalcot Crescent (more pretty ice cream coloured houses with gorgeous window boxes) to Primrose Hill itself, and one steep climb later we were up on top of London, looking down to the zoo and out over to the city’s skyline.  It’s a beautiful spot, made even more dramatic by the slatey clouds building in the distance, and caught our breath and spent a bit of time drinking it all in before heading back to the station (with quick detour for swing off the lampposts (more umbrellas and Singing in the Rain style posing) and a group photo made possible by timer app, mobile tripod, and a small suitcase).

And only as we crossed back over the railway line did the first drops fall.

(All of these pictures are from the walk – and there are even more over on Instagram under #blogtacularphotowalknorth if you want to see pictures of me impersonating a graffiti yoga pose among others!)

Birthdays Family Photography

Now we are 36


Space for the Butterflies - now we are 36

On our first birthday together he claimed he’d forgotten to buy me a present, and then as the day went on little packages and parcels kept appearing from here there and everywhere; the glove box of the car, or behind a cushion on the sofa, culminating with a watch in a little wrapped box sat at my place at the dinner table.

Space for the Butterflies - now we are 36

On our second birthday together we were still in term time, and my family came down to Oxford to help us celebrate. Mum baked me a chocolate cake in the shape of a 20, but I suspect it was mostly for him.

Space for the Butterflies - now we are 36

On our third birthday together he gave me a sewing machine; an unusual 21st birthday present I grant you, but one that spoke all the words a proper Yorkshireman would never say about how much he understood me and valued me and loved me.

We’re university sweethearts rather than childhood sweethearts; we started dating when we were 18 and we’ve not quite reached the point where we have been together longer than we were ever apart, but this year our birthdays draw level. Today I have spent as many birthdays with H as without.  It made for some interesting logistics at times, and some of those early birthdays did seem to be largely spent in thrall to railway timetables, but for some part of every 21st June since we met, we have been together.

Space for the Butterflies - now we are 36


I can remember when we first found out, sat in my tiny little college room with the tiny window and the giant evergreen tree right outside; me sat at my desk, finishing something or other, and he perched on the edge of my bed.  We weren’t dating then I think, just friends hurtling headlong to becoming much more, though neither of us knew it then, and talking about summers turned into talking about birthdays.  He didn’t believe me at first, though I’ve no idea what sort of joke he thought I’d be planning by pretending to share a birthday.  I contemplated pulling out my birth certificate to prove it, but settled for chucking a hole punch at him, which either convinced him of my good faith, or put him in fear of more flying stationery.

And thus began years of confusing people with official forms (“I just need to double check – is your date of birth really…?”) and answering “Happy Birthday” with “Happy Birthday!”, rather than the possibly more traditional “thank you”, and probably really befuddling our children just as we did our families.

And now we are 36.  It means that today, instead of marking the milestone of having been an adult as long as I was a child (which is optimistic anyway because while the 18 year old me was absolutely adamant that she was all grown up, the 36 year old me is equally certain that I was not.  Very much not), I’m celebrating again with my best friend.

Space for the Butterflies - now we are 36

Eighteen birthdays together, and many many more to come.

I’m working today, and Kitty is going on a school trip, and H and the little ones will still go to the supermarket and probably still do some laundry, just like any other day.  But we’ll have cake for pudding, and possibly steak for tea (yes, please if you’re reading this my love), and it will be in every respects both extraordinary and terribly ordinary. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy Birthday to us!

Space for the Butterflies - now we are 36

(with thanks to Kitty for the brilliant pictures, and Elma for starting that tickle fight)





Elma Family Kitty Photography Pip The 52 Project

25/52 {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: I remember when you were teeny tiny and we carried you as you hopped from stump to stump; now you’re off an at it without a backward glance, and needing very little in the way of assistance.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/100, f/5.6, ISO 400)

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 Project

Elma: Never has chocolate been given quite such an adoring look!

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/100, f/3.5, ISO 100)

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 Project

Pip: Off in search of your sisters; where they go, you go, and whatever they do, you are certain you can do too!

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/160, f/3.5, ISO 100)