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December 2016

Family Me and Mine Photography

Me and Mine 2016: December

31/12/2016

It’s the last day of 2016.  Time to finish the year, and finish another year with December’s Me and Mine.  These photos mark our fourth December post, and our third complete year and even when we’ve been taking pictures in dusk on the last but one day of the month, to take a family portrait has become ingrained in our lives in the loveliest way.  They say it takes ten repeats to form a habit, well we’re well past that now, and I think the addiction had taken root after the shutter clicked on that first portrait.  It would take a lot to stop us from taking a photo now.  Right up to and including dodgy light.

In the last couple of years it’s become a bit of a tradition to take our Me and Mine photos on Christmas day itself, and while Christmas morning was bright and light and lovely, by the time we’d finished chatting after church, opened a present or two before the girls exploded from excitement, and did assorted things around the kitchen, we’d been tucked up in a celestial blanket and the light dimmed to a cosy glow, perfectly Christmassy but requiring the best endeavours of my camera in the matter of ISO.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine, a family portrait project

They are more than a bit on the grainy side but they’re my windows into the memory of a near perfect Christmas.  All three children were the most excited they have ever been and their awe in the magic and joy in the celebration was everything I could have wanted it to be.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine, a family portrait project

And so another year draws to the close, and we complete another year of family photos.

I have loved having time at home with the family this month.  There’s been time to knit and sew and make Hama beads with the girls, and to just simply relax and switch off.  For John I think he’s rather liked having me at home too, and not just because he’s managed to fit two rounds of golf in around all the festivities.

We’re both glad to have some viewings for our house and have all fingers and toes crossed that we get a good offer, not least because at least half of the things that usually live on our kitchen counter tops are now living in the boot of the car under a quilt.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine, a family portrait project

For the girls the first half of the month was all about Elma’s birthday.  She had a wonderful day and especially loved her ‘school birthday’ at nursery where she got to wear a cape and a crown and hand out slices of her birthday cake, and even now I can’t quite believe my little girl is four.  She’s taken to starting with “when I was three…” as if it was a lifetime ago which is incredibly cute.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine, a family portrait project

And then all Christmas let loose, and they both started their wind up to the big day itself.  Kitty loved being old enough to come to the carol service with me, and catching up with some of her friends, and Elma’s highlight (and one of mine) was her star turn as littlest angel at the Christmas Eve Nativity Service.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine, a family portrait project

As for Pip Squeak, he loves having his Mama home, and has spent much of the month holding on to me to make sure I don’t vanish again, but was more than adequately distracted by his Christmas present, a bright red fire engine balance bike which he adores, and rides very very slowly.

Which that brings us to the end of another year.  And as most of my December photos are taken from roughly the same place I thought it might be fun to look back over the last four years of festive Me and Mine:

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade lifestyle and parenting blog

December 2013: Kitty is a little younger than Pip is now, I’m newly pregnant with Pip and even though it’s logical, I still look at the photo and see someone missing.

December 2014: and now there are five, though the fifth member of the family seems more than a bit confused.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine

December 2015: a break from our traditional tree shots with our giant turkey and the Duplo nativity scene.

And finally, my little family, in December 2016:

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine, a family portrait project

The Me and Mine Project

 

Family Finished Handmade Handmade for Kitty Kitty

Toy Box Skort {handmade for Kitty}

30/12/2016

Now that I’ve caught up to date with the before-Christmas making, I think it might just be time to have a little look at the Christmas makes.  As I said in an earlier post, the plan to knit the children each a Christmas jumper went by the wayside long before Christmas, and so I had a good hunt through the projects waiting list to find something that I could make for Kitty inside the one sewing day I knew I’d have between stopping work and the day itself.

Space for the Butterflies - the Badminton Skort Oliver + S

And while I lingered over a beautiful party dress that will be hers before Easter if I have to spend a week not sleeping, for once my common sense prevailed and realism overruled eternal optimism.  Well almost. I still thought I was going to be finished by lunch. I chose the Oliver + S Badminton Skort pattern, and a blue quilting cotton (Toy Box II by Sara Morgan for Blue Hill Fabrics) that she’d picked out earlier in the summer.  It’s such pretty fabric that I’d picked up the very end of a roll at Darn it and Stitch in Oxford years ago but never found the right project for it but there was just about enough with a bit of jiggery pokery.

I didn’t help myself by adding a few inches to the skirt length either but I’ve sewn for Kitty before and she is (a) very tall and (b) likes to wear her skirts on the long side so extra inches it is.  The front waistband facing and the hem facing had to be cut from a fat quarter of pale pink ice skates print but when she’s wearing it you’d never notice and I rather like the secret pop of pale pink, plus it means that she knows which way round they go, which isn’t always obvious.

By construction it’s one of the more complicated pieces of clothing I’ve ever put together, but Oliver + S patterns have the knack of making you feel very clever and in the end it all came together quite easily, especially now that I’m not avoiding the questioning gaze of my overlocker and happily serged up all the seam finishes.  I genuinely wonder what on earth I was doing without it, it makes life so much easier!

Kitty loves it; she’d suspected I was making something for her when she was barred from the studio for the entire day but I think she must have forgotten exactly what we’d chosen together because on Christmas morning she tore into the wrapping paper to find out what I’d made.

Space for the Butterflies - the Badminton Skort Oliver + S

Waist-wise it fits perfectly; there’s enough give that she won’t grow out of it in a week but not so much that it’s in any danger of falling down when her little brother rugby tackles hugs her.  I think if I were making it again right now I wouldn’t add quite so much extra length, perhaps only one inch rather than three, but give her until the summer and it will be perfect.

The shorts underneath fit pretty well too – even over reindeer leggings so it seems!

Space for the Butterflies - the Badminton Skort Oliver + S

These pictures were taken in the gorgeous sunshine of boxing day and I had no idea she was still wearing her leggings underneath until I asked her to show off the shorts.

But back to the pattern; the shorts are a great fit and I’ll happily swipe it for some simple shorts for the summer.

Space for the Butterflies - the Badminton Skort Oliver + S

The only bit about the pattern that I’m not wholly keen on is the back waistband.  The front waistband is a deep faced band; there’s a complete lining to the front that you can see and it sits nice and smart against her.  The back on the other hand is a single thickness waistband with the top folded over on the inside to make the elastic casing.  And because the casing is only an inch deep it leaves an equal section sort of in limbo.  It’s not part of the casing but it’s not part of the skirt either.  It’s not a fundamental flaw don’t get me wrong and it definitely passes the galloping horse test but if I were to make it again I think I’d draft a bigger pattern piece and make a complete casing and then use really wide elastic to avoid the feeling of a high-low waistband.

I know it looks horribly crumpled in these pictures; she kept carrying them around with her on Christmas Day and tucking them into her stocking to keep them safe, and as anyone who has ever made for a child knows, that’s true love.

The t-shirt is from Sainsbury’s this summer (and is the same one as she was wearing with her camper van skirt) and the shawl is my Icarus shawl which may have gone the same was as my very nice Angora hat – how old are your children supposed to be before they start filching your clothes?

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

Elma Family Handmade Handmade for Elma Knitting

Camilla {handmade for Elma}

29/12/2016

As soon as I finished making the little purple Camilla Bebe for the baby who turned out to be Cora I knew I wanted to make a Camilla Kid for Elma.  My littlest girl hits the 75th centile but next to her brother and sister she has always looked dinky, and I suspect that when they’re all fully grown she will be the only one in the family not topping 6’0″.  She’s the snuggliest of ever moving little girls and I wanted to wrap her up for winter in a nice chunky jumper to keep her warm and cosy and ever so cuddly.  And it had to be sea green.

The joy of making anything yourself is that the possibilities are endless; you should be able to make anything in any colour and any size; the reality is that sometimes you dream something up that just doesn’t quite exist.  With me it’s usually yarn colours; I get a vision in my head of the very perfect colour and then struggle to find a yarn company that actually makes it. But this wasn’t one of those times.  I walked into Lil Weasel at the end of August (on the Parisian stop of the trip home from Germany) certain that I was only going to buy just the one ball of yarn I needed to finish Pip’s birthday jumper, and there, sat right on the shelf at my eye level, was the most perfect sea green yarn in soft merino aran.  It was fate. I bought five balls and pretended that I’d never intended to do anything else.

This most unicorn of yarns is by DMC (who I associate more with embroidery thread than wool), in their Woolly 5 range. It’s pure merino, very soft and incredibly bouncy with a lot of loft and if I could get it any nearer than Paris it would definitely make the repeat list.

Space for the Butterflies - Camilla Kid in DMC Woolly 5

And so through the last days of November it became Elma’s birthday jumper.  Knit on 6mm needles (a size down from the pattern) and in an age 6 to compensate for the slightly smaller needles it was a speedy little knit.  Carrie Bostik Hoge writes some properly gorgeous patterns (including the Immie Tee which was Kitty’s Christmas jumper two years ago but is still in use with the little two), and it’s an easy pattern despite looking impressively complicated when finished.  I’ve knit it long; an extra repeat in the body and enough length on the sleeves to make them full length not only on her birthday but two weeks later post celebratory growth spurt.  She’s actually having to turn them up at the moment (which is why her hands appear to have vanished) as they grew a little with the blocking, but in a small child with a propensity to grow whenever you’re not looking that’s never going to be a disadvantage.

Ends tucked in, washed, blocked and wrapped, it sat on the birthday table waiting for her and almost as soon as she could shake it free of the paper she had it all lined up to wear to nursery that day. Praise indeed.

Space for the Butterflies - Camilla Kid in DMC Woolly 5

It’s taken me until now to get some photos of her wearing it, usually because it’s in the car, or tucked down the side of her bed, or on her, and she is posed very carefully so that you can’t see that she got a bit of supper on one of the sleeves, not that I think she’d let me wash it even if I wanted to.

I loved making it, and I’m not sure even now that I’ve got the pattern completely out of my system so I may have to see if I can find any more tiny new arrivals to the world who need a sweet little jumper.

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

Christmas Family Photography

Christmas 2016

28/12/2016

It was never a question of how early our little trio woke up on Christmas morning, as much as what time they finally went to sleep. We could hear the chatter ebb and flow in their room but it never quite seemed to have got to the point where they’d actually fallen asleep.  John went to check on them several hours later to talk to a very wide awake Kitty and asked Elma whether she was still up:

“I’m really very fast asleep Daddy, because if I’m not fast asleep then he won’t come!”

Of course you were sweetie.

I know Kitty fell asleep for a little bit around midnight but John also found her sitting at the top of the stairs waiting for morning at about 3am so clearly that didn’t last.  It’s the first year that their excitement has hit fever pitch to the point that they can’t sleep and it was so sweet to see, it’s an infectious sort of excitement even when you know how the magic works.

Finally, finally it was 8 o’clock, John had had a cup of tea and we were ready for Christmas to begin.

Space for the Butterflies - Christmas 2016

Our Christmas is noisy and colourful and slightly chaotic; we opened stockings, ate the satsumas from the toes and then opened the posh jam and curd from the heels to spread on brioche for breakfast.  At church the children all went up to the front to show the congregation something they’d received for Christmas – in our case it was stickers and a colouring book from Kitty, stickers for Elma (“I got stickers because I love stickers because I got stickers because I asked for them, I love stickers”) and Pip a tractor, though he came back for another round (“I got sticker!”) with one wrestled from his little big sister.  The church was full of people with lots of families and it felt properly joyful to be among our little community there, especially as it might well be our last Christmas here.

Space for the Butterflies - Christmas 2016

Back home to polish off the Bucks Fizz, open presents and cook. I love cooking Christmas lunch, I know that might sound a strange thing, it’s a big meal and there are lots of components to get right and all the rest but for me it’s a love language to nourish my family; to see the table groaning with food and watch everyone come back for seconds is all the reward for the time spent pottering away in the kitchen.  I suspect it’s hereditary because I’m certain my mother felt the same way; she always seemed to have Christmas lunch easily under control and she was famous for insisting on people staying for meals or going home with cake.  Perhaps part of it is that I’ve done more than a few turkeys now so I’m not too phased by the whole thing, it’s just a big Sunday lunch with cranberry sauce, yorkshire puddings, pigs in blankets and my great-grandmother’s stuffing recipes.

Space for the Butterflies - Christmas 2016 Space for the Butterflies - Christmas 2016 Space for the Butterflies - Christmas 2016

The new addition to the menu this year was homemade Christmas pudding.  I combined Felicity Cloake’s recommendations from the Guardian with a little bit of Nigella’s recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess and duly boiled the whole thing up on Stir-up Sunday.  It would have been huge even had I not know that Pip and I were the only people likely to eat it, the others opting for the now time-honoured tradition of sticky toffee pudding and ice cream, and I think it’s probably bigger even than the one my Mum made.  Next year I’ll find two smaller pudding basins and split the mixture but I’m not going back to the shop bought ones because oh was it delicious.  Well it still is, we’ve been making some serious inroads and we’ve still got more than half the pudding left.

Space for the Butterflies - Christmas 2016

Apart from a few forays into the garden so that Pip could run off his exuberance, we spent the rest of the day curled up together in our lounge, gently eroding the pile of presents under the tree.  Last year Kitty in particular got into a bit of a opening frenzy which I hated, I want to teach them to open each present and treasure it before moving on to the next so this year we really tried to slow down. If someone was given a picture book we stopped to read it, or a craft kit we tried to really look at it without emptying all the contents over the floor never to be seen again, and their big presents were hidden in the studio until mid afternoon when I coaxed all the kids upstairs on the pretext of finding some socks and John did his magic.  Pip has a fire engine balance bike which he adores even while still trying to work out how to ride it, and Kitty and Elma are the new owners of a dolls house which at the time of writing is being lived in by a little purple gnome and their wooden Mummy and Daddy (both of whom are lying down on the floor).  There hasn’t been a day since Christmas that it hasn’t formed a major part of their day.  Elma is the storyteller and I’ll admit I’ll happily sit and knit and watch without watching to see what they’re all up to.

Our in-between days have followed the same pattern; good food and a lot of creativity; Kitty has made books, we’ve all painted, John has played around with encaustic painting, the girls have done craft kits that were their Christmas presents and I’ve made some sizeable progress towards the next quilt or two.  It has been, and is, utterly perfect in a messy crumbs-and-paint-on-the-floor sort of a way.  And perhaps it will never be Instagram or Pinterest perfect, but this is the time that we need, a little family hibernation at the end of the year to get ready for all that 2017 has to bring for us.

Christmas Family

On Christmas Eve

24/12/2016

It feels curiously unhurried around here this morning.  In my head the run up to Christmas is all about running around making extraordinary amounts of food, the oven on or most of the day spitting out mince pies and gingerbread men at appropriate intervals while I simultaneously clean the house, wrap the remaining presents and desperately try to finish off everyone’s Christmas presents.  And while mince pies and gingerbread are on the list for today, all of the shopping was done yesterday (Pip and I left the house at 6.45am and returned at 8.24 having been to both the butcher’s and Sainsburys proving that while insane, it is definitely the way to go) and with a bit of luck and a following wind I should have done today’s to do list by lunchtime.

Space for the Butterflies - Christmas ~Eve and a peaceful Christmas

Perhaps it’s the unexpected advantage of having had a viewing for our house earlier this week so that it’s already tidier than we could ever have imagined possible, perhaps it’s having had so many days off ahead of the big day and finally letting my mind have a rest but it feels rather wonderful.

The last few days at home have been wonderful and I’m sure that’s contributed to the general sense of ease and relaxed excitement.  We’ve made mince pies together, had a really rubbish go at potato printing to make wrapping paper (great stamps, wrong sort of paint I think), played a lot of trains, done colouring in, and sang every Christmas carol all five of us can come up with.

Space for the Butterflies - Christmas ~Eve and a peaceful Christmas

A couple of weeks ago I took a conscious decision that I was not not not spending the run up to Christmas desperately trying to pack everything in and busting a gut to get the impossible finished; I’ve been doing that far too often to far too long in the real job and what I need more than anything this Christmas is unhurried time.  My plan of the summer, to knit all three a jumper for Christmas was looking unachievable quite a while ago when I realised that knitting my very very tall Kitty a jumper in 4ply just wasn’t going to happen, and then this week it had a major rethink.  the original amended plan had been to do something else for Kitty, to finish Elma’s Christmas cardigan by her birthday and then power on through Pip’s Christmas hoodie in the remaining 13 days, all the while knitting John’s socks on the train too and from work.

Space for the Butterflies - Christmas ~Eve and a peaceful Christmas

Well Elma’s is finished, and I’ve turned the heel on the first sock, but Pip’s jumper is currently four inches of hem.  I knew on Monday that I could knit like the wind and I would be done in time, except, I found I didn’t want to.  Knitting, and any other sort of making is my expression of love to the recipient and love should never be rushed or be a chore.  I wanted to make him this adorable jumper stitch by stich, treasuring the yarn, the memories of the shop in Paris where we bought it, and my darling little boy.  I know I need to get it finished this winter because it may not fit by next but I don’t mind it being an Epiphany present after all.

Taking conscious decisions to step away from the stress is all very well, but the need to make something handmade, a Mama-made present for each of them is written through my core.  John won’t mind that his socks come part knit, but I didn’t want Elma to be the only one with a finished something.   So John and I came up with a plan; he took the children out on Wednesday and I spent the day at home, mostly on my own, and on Thursday I took the children to soft play for three hours where we met up with several of Kitty’s friends from her old school, and he pottered around at home and had a round of golf with his friends.

My day was spent sewing on buttons, sewing up a skort (yay for Oliver + S patterns) and inventing an apron all of which I am looking forward to telling you about in due course.  It was the perfect way to unwork at the start of the holidays, to swap piles of paper for thread and needles, and I think it’s set the tone, and it meant that in one fell swoop I was done.

And so today we will whirl through the food prep, make cake, drew up for the crib service at church and watch our two little angels bring glad tidings and a sprinkling of tinsel.  We’ll tuck them up in bed with the same stories we read every Christmas, and wonder how long it will take them to fall so deeply asleep that it’s safe for Father Christmas to work magic.  It’s going to be busy and exciting and all the things that Christmas with a 6, 4 and 2 year old should be, but most of all, there will be peace, even in the noisiest moments.

Space for the Butterflies - Christmas ~Eve and a peaceful Christmas

Perhaps if our Christmas is to have a theme it is peace, and it’s what I wish for each and every one of you this 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

Happy Christmas!