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Elma Exploring Family Kitty Pip

I must down to the seas again


My father’s photo albums are filled with hundred of photos of my sister and my childhood.  There are the photos of Mum and Dad as proud new parents of a dark haired, rotund little squished up me, photos as the three became a family of four two years later, and photos of high days and holidays.

And then there are the photos of what were to us the everyday moments, the pictures of me leaping off the high rock at Gara in summer, a bath full of small friends and cousins washing off the day’s salt and sand, or my personal favourites (sadly inappropriate for the internet if I ever want my sister to speak to me again) taken on the beach below our village in late autumn.  In the first picture I’m still wearing a warm wooly jumper, but I’ve long since abandoned my socks and shoes and trousers.  And clearly I think this is a good thing because I’m rapidly removing and unbuttoning all forms of warm winter clothing from my toddler sister.  She doesn’t look unhappy about it though, and the next shot is proof; one tiny girl, now entirely undressed trying most determinedly to remove my mother’s jumper, while Mum’s face is a picture of laughter and mock horror.

The sea was the background to my childhood, and while as a teenager being a million miles away from well, anywhere, had its frustrations, I wouldn’t swap it for the wide world.  There is salt in my blood and it shows.


The sea is my happy place.  I can sit for hours watching a storm roll in across the bay, crashing down on the shore with a sharp scrunch of pebbles flung up on the beach and feel myself unwind with every roller, or lie out on the sand on a beautiful summer’s day, listening to the lullaby of the waves kissing the shore as a light breeze brings the yachts out of the harbour in a kaleidoscope of sails and brightly coloured spinnakers and feel the cares of the day drift away.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And that’s before you’ve even got anywhere near the paddling and swimming and exploring that comes with it.


Nowadays, having by happy accident ended up living about as far away from the sea as it’s possible to be and still be in England, being by the sea is the cornerstone of our family holidays.

I might not be able to give the girls and Pip quite the bucket and spade childhood that I had, but I want to share with them the things that made that childhood special; the afternoon walks to the beach for a swim, the rush of the waves under you the first time you manage to catch a wave with your new bodyboard, or the peace of listening to the waves lap under the front of a Topper (it’s a very little sailing dinghy) as you push off from the shore and out to sea.

Watching the girls on the beach at Putsborough this summer showed me oh so clearly that there might just be a bit of salt in them after all.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life


Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

For Kitty it was all about the surf, jumping the waves, running in and out after H and sneaking as many goes on his surfboard as she could manage.  She helped her Grandpa to build enormous tide castles and sat watching from our balcony window as the sea finally reclaimed the sand.



She still talks about exploring the rock pools at Croyde and her pink fishing net would I suspect feature quite highly up the list of prized possessions, along with the shells that she carried home in it.


And for Elma, my sweet little just about walking Elma, as soon as she spotted the sea and the wet sand left behind by an ebbing tide it was love at first sight.



Give her a bucket and spade, and just possibly a toy watering can and she was off, toddling from puddle to puddle, stirring, pouring and contentedly sitting in each one until she was eventually whisked away protesting to be cleaned, dried and warmed up.




Because, and you may need to sit down for this because if you’re also Devonian what I’m about to say will shock you to your core, the sea in Devon isn’t exactly warm. (I’m rather hoping H doesn’t read this because he’s been telling me it’s cold for years and I’ve been telling him that he’s simply being a big northern Yorkshire softy.)

If I were to dream up my ideal holiday for our little family right now there would be sea, the big skies and wide horizons that let you feel that you can stretch and stretch and stretch some more.  There would be swimming and sailing and surfing; time to explore and time to sit and dig sand puddles and just be happy.

Time to build the memories that they in turn might want to pass on to their children one day.

And if it was warm enough to do it without the thermals and a wetsuit that would just be the icing on the cake.


This is my entry to be a #markwarnermum next year and I’ve got all my fingers and toes crossed that we do get the chance to take our buckets and spades to the sun to indoctrinate young Pip in the ways of a beach loving family.   




Elma Exploring Family Kitty

New wellies and summer rain


Kitty has a new pair of wellies.  With the weather we’ve had for the past couple of weeks sandals have just stopped cutting it any more, and you know you really need to do something about it when you find yourself packing slippers for her to change into at church on Sunday on the basis that her feet are going to get soaked on the short walk through the village.

Happily for all of us, when presented with a pair of blue flowery wellies that fit, and have big pink bows on the side (the bows are very very important) she was more than happy to stop trying to cram her feet into her two sizes too small but much loved Hello Kitty boots.

And even though they might not be the most practical footwear for running around in August, there’s a part of me that loves that she was so keen to wear them she put them on in the car on the way home, had to have them neatly lined up next to her bed that night, and then wore them to nursery.

And then when Elma started to waddle around in Kitty’s old boots (just the five sizes too small) and with a good two sizes to grow before Kit’s first boots would be in with a shout of fitting there was nothing to do but go shopping and then go in search of mud.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life


I’d love to think it would be difficult to find a good proper puddle in August, but it seems cooler now, almost a touch autumnal, and the breeze that curls around our house is sending grey clouds scudding in, not those soft fluffy slow movers of a couple of weeks ago.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I’m hoping we haven’t waved bye bye to the summer; it’s been glorious this year, even in the days of the highest humidity, and even as there is so much to love about autumn I’m not quite ready to move on.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Perhaps there is a reminder in the summer rain, a gentle nudge to us all to stop us becoming complacent, to show that lovely as all this sunshine is, we can never truly rely on it, not if you want to keep living in England you can’t.  It’s the prompt we need to make the most of it, a reminder of those cool damp autumn days to come, and then the winter, when twinkle lights and the excitement of Christmas can only do so much to shine into the darkness; that it won’t be so easy to just pack up and head out when out means waterproofs and wellies and warm socks and hats, not a smear of suncream.

The days are coming when outside means pink cheeks and short bursts of fresh air and never forgetting the waterproof trousers, and I know I’ll love it in it’s own crisp and beautiful way; but it also means dreary days, days of these four walls and the challenge to make it work.

And so for now I think I’m grateful to the summer rain to counterpoint the sunshine, to bring the temperature down (and yes, I am grateful for that – sorry everyone else), and to remind me that as soon as it stops raining and drys up we’re going to be straight outdoors again to make the most of it while we can!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And I think that means Mummy’s going to need some wellies to match.

Elma Exploring Family Kitty Living Arrows Photography

Living Arrows 32/52


In my heart of hearts I wish I could shunt Warwickshire just a smidgen nearer to the coast.  The sea and the beach were such a constant feature of my own childhood it seems a little strange to me to be bringing up my children so far inland.  But for all that we do live in a very lovely part of the country, it’s just that sometimes you have to go and search out the loveliness, it isn’t as blindingly obvious as when you open your bedroom curtains to see the bay stretch out before you, the lighthouse away on the point, and all the beaches in between.

We’re not a million miles from the top of the Cotswolds and I’m looking forward to exploring them a bit more when the children are a little older, there are a few more peaks and hills (District and Malverns respectively) a little further away for when we’re all a bit older, and for right now, we’ve got the park.

Kitty, Elma and I, on one of our buggy-free expeditions had pretended our way around the mini-golf, run around and around the big circular flower bed, stopping only for Kitty to fell Elma in the occasional affectionate rugby tackle, and for Elma to point out all of the flowers as “peeenk! lello!!” regardless of colour, and sat in the shade of the trees to watch the ducks and count the fluffy little baby ducklings.

This little stream runs all the way through the park and down to the river; we’ve seen it full to the brim in recent months, and in full flood through the winter, but right now after weeks of sunshine it’s nothing more than a trickle’ barely enough to float a pooh stick.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to make sure that you’ve had a really really good look for fish, or sticks, or, knowing Kitty, they were checking for trolls, or monsters or just possibly Daddy!

Well at least until we notice Mummy

!Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life


I love that despite wanting to wave, Kit still doesn’t want to let go of Elma, just in case that water becomes too enticing, even if it rather confuses Elma

!Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But who wants to do waving when there’s a stream; they were so happy just hanging out here, watching the water trickle by, and I could quite happily watch them for as long as they want to play.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

living arrows

Baby Elma Exploring Family Kitty Photography Siblings

Siblings in August


I put off taking pictures for this month’s Siblings until pretty much the last moment.  Not that I seriously anticipated this month featuring a picture of three little siblings, but I thought I’d wait – just in case.

In between watching my tummy like a ticking time bomb I’ve been trying to make an effort to go out and about, and to do the kind of things with the girls that a newborn is going to make complicated, if not impossible.  Elma has just hit that stage in her walking where she really wants to be out of the pushchair, and is quite happy to walk for a big enough distance to make it practical to leave it behind without the safety net of a sling as back up if she needs a carry.

It’s been really lovely going for walks with a little girl holding each hand, and it’s opened up a new world of adventure; and yes I know the irony of having reached that stage in the full knowledge that it’s about to close down again for another couple of years, but you go with what you’ve got!  This week I took both girls on the little train ride at the park, something I’ve never done with both and never when on my own because we always needed someone to watch the buggy, and then on Friday we set out to conquer Kilimanjaro.

Kitty has been learning all about Africa at nursery, of which the key points brought home and rehashed at the supper table seem to have been that there are deserts, there are Masai warriors who dress up and paint their tummies (cue even more felt tip pen misuse in our house than when they did Australia and the Aborigines) and there is a really big mountain called Kilimanjaro which has snow on the top and a giraffe at the bottom (just the one giraffe mind!).

And with Friday dawning bright and beautiful, and a crazy rainy weather forecast out for the afternoon, I hustled us out straight after breakfast with a promise that we were going to climb a mountain.

“Like Kilimanjaro?” asked Kitty from the back seat.

“Well sort of.  We could pretend it’s Kilimanjaro, how about that?”

“And when we get to the top, we can make a snowball!”

“We might have to pretend the snow too, it’s probably just grass on the top at the moment.”

“But there might be snow!”

One of these days my daughters will probably fail a geography exam not because of any inherent lack of talent in geography but because their parents have consistently assured them that a hill that looks remarkably like Broadway Hill in the Cotswolds is Snowden, and now a Kilimanjaro that lacks both snow and giraffe, and would to the casual observer appear to be Observation Hill in Leamington.  My apologies ladies.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life


Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But for a stand in it really isn’t bad; a beautifully steep sided grassy slope, just the right height for Kitty to sprint up, a good challenge to my very determined Elma, and manageable at Elma-speed with a bump on board.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And even Kitty, who I think had probably climbed the hill a couple of times over by the time Elma and I made it up to the signal post, felt like she’d accomplished something, as we all sat down for a little rest, and a little snack.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life


Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It’s a one sided sort of a hill, I’m sure it would be easy enough to park someone nearer to the top and walk in across the golf course, but where would be the fun in that.


Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life


If you look all the way down to the bottom you can just about see a few tell tale suggestions of a play park; our car is parked just this side of the play park and Elma walked every step of the way up that hill, cheered on by Kitty (who was of course in no way motivated by the promise of a snack that the top of the hill!)

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

We sat there in the sunshine on the nice wide plateau at the top and looked for church spires, the domes on the top of the Sikh temple gleaming white in the sunshine, and tried to work out where their nursery might be, or our house, and Kitty pretended a snowball and danced circles until she was dizzy, followed as she so often is, by her little sister shadow.  And while we didn’t see any giraffe (or other animals commonly found on the African savannah) when I asked whether we wanted to pretend a giraffe too I was confidently informed that the presence of the play park more than makes up for the lack of any safari experience; well you can’t slide down a giraffe!

Two little sisters, on the day they climbed Kilimanjaro, in August:

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

dear beautiful

And for this month I’m sending you on to one of my co-hosts who can need no introduction (although I’m still not exactly sure how to pronounce her new name of Manneskjur). Whatever the blog title Annie is as always all sorts of awesome, and takes the most gorgeous photos so I know we’ll all be in for a treat

Elma Exploring Family Kitty

Postcard from Croyde


“Would you like a surfing lesson for your birthday while we’re in Devon?”

The email from Dad to H bounced into our inbox a few weeks before we headed to the coast, and as my lovely husband has never met a sport he didn’t like, it wasn’t so much a question of deciding whether he wanted to have a go as when, and for how long.

There were emails, the filling in of Internet forms and all of a sudden it was Monday afternoon and as the girls and I unpacked what seemed like the entire contents of the fridge onto the rug for a very leisurely and rather sandy picnic, H headed off to meet his fate, or at the very least to find a wetsuit and a surfboard.

We nipped round the coast from Putsborough for the lesson, to Croyde Bay, sufficiently beloved of surfers to feature in the surf weather forecasts, and just a smidgen more westerly angled to catch the very best of the prevailing wind direction.  You also don’t have to climb a hill to get back to the village which if you’re going to start carting a surfboard around, suddenly makes a lot of sense.

Croyde is another of those big wide flat beaches, where at low tide the sea seems to have disappeared to the far horizon as you perch on the dry sand just above high watermark; all but empty when we were there, or perhaps that’s just the feeling you get with so much space.


But back to the surfing.  It turns out that if you book onto a beginner group surfing session on the Monday afternoon after half term it might not be that busy, in fact it might be very unbusy indeed (and yes that is a technical term), and so our next sight of H was as a wet suited duo appeared around the corner and he and his instructor set off for the long walk down to the sea.


One on one surfing; what better way to start.

The girls were deeply involved in burying their feet in the sand at the time so we left H to fall off the first few times by himself – if by ‘by himself’ we include my squinting at the horizon to pick out a little speck of green standing waist high in the surf and occasionally appearing to be doing some sort of scrambling on a surfboard.



But once we’d finished eating what parts of lunch we were going to eat, and smearing the blackcurranty innards of a fruit pie all over ourselves and our Mummy, we set off down to the water’s edge to see how H was getting on and to wash off at least some of the sticky.

And as luck would have it, at the perfect moment, I had the camera poised.  I may have had to crop in a gazillion times, and straighten the horizon lots, and it might have been a bit grainy anyway because frankly photography is not made easier when you’re also snuggling a hefty little 18 month old, but I was there, and I have undeniable, unphotoshopped evidence that once my husband stood on a surfboard.


For a few seconds anyway. If I showed you the next picture in the sequence it would simply be a surfboard with a little dark head bobbing in the water next to it. But it definitely counts.  There is absolutely no way that I have the balance, the coordination, the general athleticism, and definitely not the upper body strength to be standing within my first lesson so I think it’s spectacularly impressive.  I may also be biased.  And it wasn’t the only time he managed it either, just the only time I caught it on camera.

And while we watched the girls discovered that the outgoing tide had left all sorts of exciting dimples in the sand that were filled with water that was definitely warmer than the sea itself, and perfect for playing with Elma’s watering can and running around.




After two hours H returned to us, beaming from ear to ear, and totally fired up; well right up until the point when I asked him to move his arms and we discovered that yes, surfing is quite hard work!

In the meantime Kitty had rather set her heart on a certain purchase from the beach shop; and well what are Daddies for if not to indulge you on holiday,



One pink net, and one very happy and excited little girl later we went to see what we could find.  Down the side of Croyde Bay, rocky fingers of the headland stretch out to the sea; completely covered at high tide but rapidly exposed as the water falls away they are ripe for exploring with a bucket and net.



Kitty’s favourite find might just have been our first; a sea snail (the little dark blob in the bottom left) slowly making its way across the sand.



But H found a fish in a rock pool and some lovely people slightly further down the beach with a serious knack for finding crabs brought us their ‘cast offs’, including a crab carrying another little crab underneath, all of which were admired warily from a distance before being restored to the appropriate rock pools!


(Note to self – shoes would have been good here!)

And after such intrepid adventuring, there really was only one way to end the day wasn’t there;


Happiness … comes in a cornet!