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A year in books: One for them and one for me


I have a vague memory of Saturday mornings in the days before children.  I know the lie in was longer than to 6.20, even for me, and I have the strongest impression of sunny mornings, H still sleeping, while I made a nest out of all of the blankets and cuddled down to read a book start to finish.

All of my life I have been an inveterate book worm, library card loaded to the max and bookshelves at least triple stacked and groaning under the weight, but since the children arrived I’ve read a lot less.  I find if they’re all happily playing and I don’t want to disturb them I can do housework around them or sit and knit, but reading takes me too far out of the room and I can’t quite keep track of the peace.  But this year coming I want to commit to reading for me as well as enjoying all the children’s books that topple off our shelves. So I have a plan, and some lovely friends to help and we’d love it if you wanted to join in too.

Introducing…. A Year in Books: one for them and one for me

The plan is simple, on the 5th of each month I’m going to be sharing a favourite children’s book that we’ve been reading or a new discovery that the children think everyone ought to know about and a book that I’ve read just for me.  It might be fact or fiction, everything from parenting books and craft books through to my favourite paperback is fair game, I just want to be reading again.

And because it’s always more fun with friends, I’d like to introduce you to my awesome co-hosts who are equally fond of reading and have similar amounts of time in which to do it!

Claire of Clarina’s Contemplations has almost finished her ABC year of books and still agreed to be my co-host which tells you how much she enjoys reading.  She also has two girls and a boy, of very similar ages to my three and I love reading about her family adventures because they so often parallel the stage we’re in with our three.

Katie at Be Nourishd has just returned to work after a maternity leave spent enjoying life with baby Theo.  She does books for a living and I’ve loved the posts she’s written about some of the new releases she’s come across.  She also has much more success growing courgettes than me so I’m hoping some of her green fingers rub off on me!

They’re both utterly lovely and if you aren’t already following their blogs you need to go and check the out now.  And just to get us started, or in case you’re looking for some Christmas present inspiration, I have one for them and one for me, for December.

One for them: The First Christmas, Hilde Heyduck-Huth

 Space for the Butterflies - A Year In Books  

One of the highlights of early December in our house is the moment when we decide that it’s time to bring the Christmas story books back into rotation.  There are some that never make it out of rotation and I’ve read The Nutcracker story and The Lion, the Unicorn and Me all summer long, but the rest of the treasure feels fresh and new after we tucked it away last January.  But with Pip still in the chewing and throwing phase of book adoration I wanted to add a little something to his level of the library that is actually about the true meaning of Christmas, rather than just “That’s not my Penguin”.

Space for the Butterflies - A Year In Books

And so this year we’ve added The First Christmas.  It’s a nice solid board book, perfect for hitting your sister over the head with (oh how the days have passed since I was saying “gentle hands” to the girls not their brother!) and it’s illustrated in the kind of rich deep colours that pull you in, tuck you up under a blanket and bring you a hot chocolate with marshmallows on the top while you read.

Space for the Butterflies - A Year In Books

The story is back to the basics we all know so well, there are angels and shepherds and wise men on camels and a baby born in a stable. But somehow in stripping away all the periphery it brings back some of the wonder and awe to the story and helps us to centre ourselves back on the real reason for all the tinsel and mince pies.

One for me: Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert

Space for the Butterflies - A Year In Books

I mentioned the other day that I read this cover to cover in one sitting and it’s true. I kept thinking that I should get out of the bath and go and be useful or something but I just wanted to read one more chapter, one more page and then by the time I realised that I was turning the hot tap on with my toes for the second time I could see that I just had to give in to the inevitable and finish it.  I’ve never read Eat, Pray, Love but I know that Elizabeth Gilbert’s work can be quite polarising and I think that’s probably true for Big Magic too.  I absolutely loved it, I’ve always been a firm believer firstly that every person is creative in some way, they just have to tune into whatever that is, and secondly that they really do have to; exercising my creativity is as important to my health and happiness as drinking plenty of water and occasionally going to bed on time, and judging by how often I fail at the latter, probably more so.

Elizabeth’s writing tells you to go for it, to say out loud, I am a writer or an artist or a really creative mum and then put it on your list of things to get done and once I’d finished reading and finally extracted myself from the bath I was full to the brim with a million and one plans, of which the Year in Books is just one of them.  But I loved that as well as telling you to fight for time for pursue your passion and not let the excuses get in the way, she also acknowledges that you’re not going to be able to do everything.  I’m not sure I buy into the concept that ideas are actual Harry Potter style magic floating around looking for someone to work with, but to say to yourself that an idea comes, tries you out for size and sees if you can work together and then either you do it, or you don’t have time, it isn’t the right time, or you’re just not the right fit, I find incredibly freeing. It somehow takes away the guilty feeling that you had a genius idea but just wasted it.  Part of life as a working Mama to three little ones is that I just don’t have enough time to properly commit to all the ideas in my head and I love the idea that they find a home with someone else.


Space for the Butterflies - A Year In Books

So that’s the plan. We’ll be starting officially on 5th January although the linky will stay open for the whole of each month; come and join us, tell us what you got for Christmas and open the door to a world in which your book wish list gets only longer!



Books Elma Family Kitty Motherhood Pip Video

Five things for a Tuesday


One: To Be Held in a Good Light 

I love Lucy’s posts on parenting over at Lulastic and the Hippyshakes; I might not always agree with every conclusion she reaches (I think there is absolutely a value to learning Latin, though there’s more than one method of doing so!), but she always makes me think and remember to challenge the status quo.

Her post this week about stopping to look for the good intentions in our children’s actions really hit home, and I wonder how often I’ve jumped in to say no to my three without taking the time to work out what it is they’re actually trying to achieve.  I strongly suspect there are more than a few times when their only objective is to stop their sibling having something that they want, with not an ounce of higher purpose to it, but there must be times when they’re trying to do the right thing but they just don’t know how to do it because they’re five/two/one.  Thinking about it, I do give Pip that benefit; if he hits Kitty over the head with a magnifying glass I know he’s not trying to hurt her, he’s actually trying to both give her a hug and show her a magnifying glass and it’s just gone a bit awol in the execution, and I want to think that way about the big sisters too.

Motto of the week: “what are you trying to do?” not “stop!” unless anyone or anything is about to get broken.

Two: Oddsockasaurus

Space for the Butterflies - Oddsockosaurus

Did you know that there’s no such thing as a pterodactyl? Dinosaurs have arrived in the vegetable garden at Kitty’s school and her class are doing their best to look after them and make them welcome.  The useful pub quiz knowledge comes courtesy of her weekend project to find a fact about dinosaurs and draw a picture and write a sentence about it; pterodactyl is used to refer to both pterodactylus and pteranodon but doesn’t mean anything distinct itself.

Space for the Butterflies - Oddsockosaurus

With perfect timing the lovely peeps at Sweet Apple Books sent us a review copy of one of their latest treasures so we’ve been reading about dinosaurs at our bedtime story too, only these ones maybe aren’t quite so paleontologically correct! Oddsockasaurus is a very sweet story of a little boy and all the dinosaurs he dresses up as depending on his mood.

Space for the Butterflies - Oddsockosaurus

There’s Oddsockasaurus who appears either in times of laundry crisis or just for fun, Mudiraptor who has an irresistible attraction to muddy puddles, Readabookadocus who definitely appears in my girls’ repertoire from time to time and a whole load of other friends.Space for the Butterflies - Oddsockosaurus

The aim of the book is to give children a voice for some of their feelings and actions, or rather a dinosaur, and to sneak in the unspoken message that they aren’t any one of those things, they’re all of them at different times and sometimes all of them bundled together.

Space for the Butterflies - Oddsockosaurus

I think it’s a really lovely idea, sweetly illustrated and it’s been top of the bedtime story pile for some time now.

Three: Magic Lessons

I devoured Big Magic in one sitting. While sitting in the bath.

It’s Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book (she of Eat Pray Love which I have neither read nor watched the film but rather want to now) and I absolutely loved it.  In making Magic Lessons she simply says that she just wasn’t finished with the idea so she made a spin off (can you have a spin off from a book?).  Twelve podcasts, usually 15-20 minutes long, taking some of the practical tips and advice on pursuing your creativity from the book and talking them through with real life people.

Even if you haven’t read a sentence from the book it’s just so full of joy and enthusiasm and “why not” that it’s infectious, and it’s essential listening if you read the book, got to the end and thought, “oh no, it’s all gone!”. Not that that would happen to any Readabookadocus you might find around here, oh no!

Four: YouTube Thumbnails

And now from thinking to doing. Kate Rushworth’s session at Blogfest on being a YouTube superstar had me scribbling furiously to catch all her top tips in a canter through the inner workings of YouTube.  There are lots of things that I now know I need to tweak but according to Kate the most important thing you can do to make your videos shine is to get the thumbnail right.  Make it a high res image, with lots of contrast and cropped closely so that it still makes sense when it’s shrunk down to teeny tiny on your phone and you’re putting your best foot forward.

The other thing I didn’t know about is the YouTube Creator Academy which can tell you everything you never knew you needed to know and a whole heap besides. How to put a little image watermark on your videos? How to make an introduction video to sit at the type of your channel? How to add subscribe buttons? It’s all there.

Five: Cute Girls Hairstyles

And finally, and speaking of YouTube, have you come across the Cute Girls Hairstyles channel? Kate mentioned it as a worked example and I knew at once that Kitty would love it.  She adores having fancy plaits, even if they all fall apart quite quickly, which is a good thing because anything too complicated and I will fall apart quite quickly (although many hours of practicing means I can do a smashing Belle from Beauty and the Beast).

We sat down with hairbrush and bobbles on Sunday morning and the video for the Tuxedo braid and not only did my finished version look not entirely unlike the one in the pictures, it even lasted all the way through church.

Space for the Butterflies - Tuxedo Braid

H is going to start watching in the hopes that it can teach him how to do a ponytail.

Books Elma Family Kitty Pip what we're reading

The Apple Cake {what we’re reading}


After last week’s book that was all about the words because there were next to no illustrations, this week we’re swinging to the other end of the pendulum and a book that I’m afraid to say I judged entirely on its cover.  Because the cover of The Apple Cake is absolutely gorgeous.  And thankfully for the girls, Pip and me, though perhaps not so wonderfully if you’re after a morality tale, the inside has turned out to be just as wonderful, if not more so.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade life

For starters the illustrations are just so beautiful; I want to say that they’re grown up, but I think I just mean that they’re art, you could half imaging them on a postcard in a National Trust gift shop.   The colours are rich and luscious, and the scene is set gently, but with plenty of room for your own imagination, and the colours tip over into the background to the words, joining it all together.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade life

I could sit and look at the pictures for ages, which is probably a good thing because this has proved a very popular addition to our library, and as our recent sunny days gave way to clouds, rain and more rain, we’ve sat on the floor all four of us together and imagined ourselves into the golden sunshine of the story and hoped for the sun to come again.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade life

It is a really lovely story, with shades of the sort of story that I remember from my own childhood; an old woman really wants to make an apple cake but she doesn’t have apples, only plums, so she picks a beautiful basket of plums and heads off to market to try to trade them for apples.  And along the way she meets a girl watching her poultry, a couple arguing about chair stuffings, a rich handsome young man, a poor family, and a lonely old man with an apple tree.  Each time she makes a swap until at last she ends up with her apples and sits down to a delicious feast of cake.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade life

It’s a timeless story and it is a very complete story; it feels very satisfying to follow the old woman along her journey to her apples, and I love that she treated everyone with equal kindness and respect and it’s because of that that she reached her ultimate aim; never mind the ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, that’s the kind of conduct and instinctive selflessness that any parent would like their child to replicate.

And then, just in case that wasn’t enough, there’s a recipe on the back for the apple cake.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade life

I’d love to show you a picture because we did set to one morning and built up a fug in the kitchen chopping apples and baking a warm and spicy sweet apple bread, but alas, first one slice, then another, and then a load more shot off the breadboard into welcoming hands, until all that was left was the tail end of the loaf heading off to fulfil its higher purpose in the toaster.  Suffice to say it was yummy, and we will definitely be making it again.  And I think for the girls it really brought the book to life, they love to absorb things by copying, and to make the actual real cake that the old woman made has I suspect cemented it in their library of favourites.

And now to take a slight detour; as well as sharing a story today I have a question.  We have lots of books.  Like a lot of books. And we read stories every day and most of them come around in the rotation quite naturally.  But I don’t want anything to be forgotten or lost or shoved down the back of the bookcase and so I’m contemplating splitting them up, possibly be seasons and then swapping a basket of books in and out every three months or so.  I’m still thinking it through, so my question for today is, how do you organise the children’s books? do you swap them in and out or just have them all out at once? And if you do keep a rotating library, how did you divide them up?

Space for the Butterflies: What We're Reading

Last week Jess and Rosalie tiptoed into the wonderful world of nonsense poetry with the amazing sounding The Man from the Land of Fandango – I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

If you have read something lovely recently, please do put your link in the comments section and shout to the world – and we’ll all come and have a read!  What We’re Reading is a weekly round up of posts about children’s books.  That’s about as far as the ‘rules’ go; it can be picture books, baby books, books for older children or even young adult if you like; just come and join us to tell us what you’ve been reading recently.  Or if you’d rather join in on Instagram or Twitter that would be wonderful too, just use the hashtag #whatweread and tag me (@cariemay on Instagram and @cariemaymakes on Twitter) and then we can all come and say hi.

I’m becoming a spent record by now but as the deadline approaches (5.30 tomorrow), would you consider casting a vote for what I’m writing in the way of a nomination for the MADs ? It’s the last time I’ll ask I promise! (if you’re not up on UK parent blogger shorthand, the MADs is different to the BiBs so if you voted for me there earlier in the year, I am indeed asking for another vote for an entirely separate round of awards – cheeky isn’t it!)

Books Elma Family Kitty Photography Pip what we're reading

A Bear Called Paddington {what we’re reading}


This week, well this week and the couple of weeks before it we have reached a milestone in our story reading.  Up until now we’ve read picture books, rhyming books, books that are mostly illustrations, ABCs and more than a few with lift the flap or touchy feely bits. We’d read a handful at various points during the day and then usually the same handful at bedtime tucked up on the end of Kitty’s bed with a girl on each knee and a boy squirming somewhere in the middle.  And it was a lot of fun, but it didn’t always lead to particularly sleepy children and we’d then need to do the lying down and getting into bed and heading off to sleep bit before they were all settled for the night.

Until, I made the accidental discovery that Kitty is now old enough to listen to a chapter book at bedtime.  I started reading a book of fairy stories just to see how they went down (they’re fantastic and when we get to the end of it I’ll tell you all about it) and when they were a roaring success, the next book shop trip saw Kitty the proud owner of her first real chapter book, A Bear Called Paddington.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade life

It has lots of words and minimal pictures which has been a leap given how much we all adore illustrations, but for bedtime that’s actually perfect.  Both girls snuggle down heads on pillows and I curl up with Pip on my lap and read a chapter.  A whole chapter, all several pages of it, and because that means that I’m reading for a decent length of time, without jumping around between different books, Kitty snuggles down and gets really into the story and Elma and Pip curl up and frequently fall asleep.

And even when they’re not asleep we’re all sufficiently calm and relaxed that sleep is the easy next step.  Or unfortunate side effect if you’re the one person in the room who’s supposed to be trying to stay awake.

But while the new shift in our bedtime routine is a very wonderful thing, that’s not the only reason why we’ve had so much fun with this book, the real reason is of course the story.

I don’t really remember Paddington from my childhood, I mean I could always recognise the branding as it were and I have strong recollections of hearing something when I was in Form 2 that involved very squashed marmalade sandwiches, but if it was part of the library at home, it isn’t a set that has stuck with me.  But from when I did remember they sounded like exactly the sort of stories that we love; Paddington constantly getting into unintentional scrapes and having to find a way out that usually involves more than a little creative thinking.  There’s no malice in the stories, no deliberate unkindness and it’s usually innocence and miscommunication that lands Paddington in so many sticky situations (literally and figuratively).

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade life

What illustrations there are are simple line drawings which somehow capture all the energy and movement in the scene in just a few lines, and your imagination fills in the rest.

I know that there was a Paddington film out recently; we didn’t see it at the cinema but I imagine we might well have it for Sunday film once it hits the tv on demand and so I’m really glad to have got in first, to have introduced Kitty, Elma and Pip to the real original Paddington, the one that’s conjured up by Michael Bond’s words and their imaginations, the one that won’t be displaced no matter how wonderful the big screen version.

I think that Pip and Elma have enjoyed the shift in storytelling and I know that Kitty has; mostly because she kept trying to put the bookmark back earlier and earlier in the book so that it wouldn’t end, and could only be persuaded to let us read the final story with the promise that there are many many many more stories about Paddington out there.  And I can’t wait to introduce them to my little bookworm!

Space for the Butterflies: What We're Reading

Last week Jess and Rosalie were reading a story that I first heard a couple of weeks ago at Library story time; my girls loved This is The Bear and were quoting bits of it for the rest of the week.  I think it’s the start of a whole series too so there are lots of wonderful stories to discover.

If you have read something lovely recently, please do put your link in the comments section and shout to the world – and we’ll all come and have a read!  What We’re Reading is a weekly round up of posts about children’s books.  That’s about as far as the ‘rules’ go; it can be picture books, baby books, books for older children or even young adult if you like; just come and join us to tell us what you’ve been reading recently.  Or if you’d rather join in on Instagram or Twitter that would be wonderful too, just use the hashtag #whatweread and tag me (@cariemay on Instagram and @cariemaymakes on Twitter) and then we can all come and say hi.

And at the risk of being deeply annoying, if you like What We’re Reading, would you consider casting a vote for what I’m writing in the way of a nomination for the MADs ? The nominations close at 5.30 on the 20th and I’ll have all my fingers crossed!



Books Elma Family Pip what we're reading

Alphablock {what we’re reading}


I think it’s fair to say that in four and a half years of parenting we have amassed quite a nice collection of alphabet books. We have alphabet books that are brilliantly funny, ones that are sweetly illustrated, and some time I must show you the gorgeously vintage Ladybird ABC that I found at a market once.  They all have charms, they’re all loved, and the Ladybird one has lost its spine though much affection and so I couldn’t in all honesty say the latest addition to our library is the very very best, only joint top, but it is without a shadow of a doubt, the fattest.


The Alphablock is a board book and a half. Well possible several halves, it’s about as wide as four or five of our other books, but there’s a good reason for that.  Contained in its pages is every letter of the alphabet from A is for Apple to Z is for Zoom (nice avoidance of the over used Zebra there), but every spread is preceded by a page containing a cut out of the capital letter, hiding the answer.


And I think it’s really really clever.



You see I can’t be the only one whose children when told of a result to their intended actions – “if you turn the tap on that hard you are going to get really really wet” – will still believe that I am making it up for my own entertainment and only truly assimilate that information by turning the tap on full and drenching themselves, siblings and mother to say nothing of the surrounding area.  We see it time and time again, children (and adults too for that matter) learn best by doing, by touching and feeling and engaging all available senses, not just in hearing or seeing.


Looking at letters in an alphabet book is really great for little ones to build up a recognition of those letters and to make the association between the letter and the start of the sound of that particular object, and I’m not about to ditch all of my other alphabet books by any means, but being able to reach out and grab the letters, to stroke the curve of a C is for Cookies or poke your fingers into the hole in a P is for Pencil adds a tactile element to an already beautiful book for letter recognition alone.

Our Alphablock is nominally Pip’s, it was his book bought on a day out, but all three of them make a bee line for it and there’s been a degree of persuasion involved to return it to its original owner so that he may more fully enjoy chewing on it.


Although it is a board book it’s not wholly toddler proof, a few of our letters fold in unusual directions but it’s thick enough that I don’t think it’s going to fall apart.


Which if Pip’s expression is anything to go by, is a very good thing!

Space for the Butterflies: What We're Reading

Last week the comment were full a flurry of lots and lots of lovely new books that I can’t wait to try out.  Claire had been reviewing, The One O’Clock Miracle, a retelling of the story of Jesus healing the little boy that looks like exactly the sort of book I want for the girls’ library; so many Bible story retellings seem to have decided that retelling a bible story is enough, you don’t have to bother too much about writing it well and it’s lovely to see another to add to the list of really good books that are also Bible stories; the lovely Coco continued the feel of the Root Children books with a suggestion of Silver Bells and Cockle Shells, which looks absolutely wonderful and Sally used A House is a House for Me as the inspiration for the most gorgeous fabric Artist Trading Card.  All in all in what definitely a week when my literary wish list grew ever longer – and that’s very much a good thing!

If you have read something lovely recently, please do put your link in the comments section and shout to the world – and we’ll all come and have a read!  What We’re Reading is a weekly round up of posts about children’s books.  That’s about as far as the ‘rules’ go; it can be picture books, baby books, books for older children or even young adult if you like; just come and join us to tell us what you’ve been reading recently.  Or if you’d rather join in on Instagram or Twitter that would be wonderful too, just use the hashtag #whatweread and tag me (@cariemay on Instagram and @cariemaymakes on Twitter) and then we can all come and say hi.