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Family Photography Uncategorized

Siblings 2017: January


I’m most determinedly not making New Year’s Resolutions this year, but if I were, one of them would be to take more effort to get really beautiful pictures of the children.  I take as many snaps as I can and it’s not that I don’t love pictures of them being little monkeys at the park, or making an enormous mess in the kitchen, but I want both my Siblings and Me and Mine photos this year to be a little bit above the ordinary.  If last year was about getting used to working full time once the impact of my full case load really landed, this year is about working out how to run that case load and be with my family  blog and write and make things and everything else that makes me me.  I want to be organised, to take my pictures even just a smidgen before dusk on the 14th of each month, and to show my Kitty, Elma and Pip that even if I cannot be with them for every moment of every day, when I am with them I can at least put the very best of me into saving our family memories.

And so when my diary told me it was the weekend for Siblings photos, photos we were taking. When we left home there was a glimmer of sunshine above us, and just a drop of blue in the sky, but the woods are slightly lower to the ground than our village, and we drove through knee high mist to find the trees still wrapped in a blanket of fog.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a photo project for 2017

There’s always a through the wardrobe sort of feeling to these woods anyway; they’re really quite near two main roads and yet as soon as you slip between the trees you could be anywhere.  With swirls of cloud clutching at the branches it seemed as though the full car park had lied, and we were the only people ever to have discovered it.  There’s almost an accepted route through the wood, a clockwise circumnavigation, but my favourite walk is the other way, along  a broad sweep through the trees, where brambles and wildernes has been tamed enough to allow a path through.  The pines on either side reach up until you can no longer be sure that they’re not touching the edges of stars; a cathedral of branches with the changeable sky more perfect than any painted ceiling.Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a photo project for 2017

It’s one of those places that reminds me of my little corner of Devon; where there’s space to reach our with your fingertips until you can stretch no more, but still be a long way from running out of space.

We walked along the bridleway and made an almost new path through the brambles to get to where we wanted to be, Kitty tried to perch on a tree stump but found that her feet kept on sliding out from beneath her until she very firmly sat down, and the littlest two ran around dancing with the wood nymphs.  After spending a lot of time in recent days helping us tidy the house, and having to sit still and keep neat, we all needed to let them run loose.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a photo project for 2017

My little trio, and it’s on adventures like these, even the little domestic ones, that I can see how solidly they are a trio. At home it’s easy for it to be Kitty and Elma colouring, with Pip playing trains, or Pip and Elma cooking up a storm while Kitty writes little notes to her friends, and while they’re all perfectly happy with those arrangements, and no-one feels left out, it makes the moments when all three play together contentedly something to be treasured.

But when we’re out and about the three of them are one little unit, following Kitty’s lead to start hurdling branches, or Elma when she decides to run down the avenue at her very fastest speed, even if only to stop and hurry back because she’d encountered the littlest puppy I’ve ever seen outdoors being taken for a bounce.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a photo project for 2017

The thing I noticed in taking their pictures this month is that I no longer have to be quite so close; they’ve grown up enough that I can trust them to do roughly as they’ve been told.  Before Kitty arrived I had two camera lenses, the kit lens it came with and my gorgeous 60mm macro lens, but I rapidly realised that if I wanted to take a photo of more than just her cheek and still be near enough to grab her for any sudden lurches, the 60mm wasn’t going to work.  The lens for most of the last couple of years was a 35mm; dearly loved and incredibly useful but just perhaps not quite as gorgeous as its predecessor.  All of these photos were taken with the 60mm, even with the 35mm in my pocket.

Kitty stood on the ground and Elma in front of her clutched Pip around his tummy. and I stepped back.   It turns out that now they are 6, 4 and 2, I can ask them to stand on a tree stump and still nip back far enough for the photo I want.  It all sounds very technical I know, but it’s a milestone in its own way; the first time that I could allow myself that much distance.

They love each other, utterly and completely and no matter who has done what to each other’s lego, silly faces and all.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a photo project for 2017


Pip and Elma were stood on a tree stump with Kitty on the ground behind them, Kitty most determined that her newly missing tooth should feature, when Pip turned back in Elma’s arms to snuggle into her and tell her “luf you [Elma]”.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a photo project for 2017


Oh the sweetness! It was chilly in the woods, and someone had clearly been chopping onions because there was not other explanation.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a photo project for 2017

The sun had been making valiant efforts to break through the cloud as we walked, but as we turned for home, the reinforcements arrived and cast a gentle grey darkness in the depths of the trees as we chased our little trio back to the car; three tiny people who flood my world with colour scampering along.


Two little sisters and their brother, in January:

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a photo project for 2017

And now, because it’s a wonderful new year and a brand new start to our fourth year of Siblings pictures, we have two new co-hosts, who I’m sure you’ll already know well, Donna at What the Redhead Said and Natalie at Little Jam Pot Life, as well as Keri-Anne at GingerLily Tea, Amber at Goblin Child, Katie at Mummy Daddy Me and of course the mastermind behind the whole thing, Lucy at Dear Beautiful.  So do go and say hi to all of them, link up your Siblings posts below, and if you’re joining in on Instagram if you use the hashtag #siblingsproject and tag @siblings_project_ we’ll be able to see them too!
The Me and Mine Project

Blogging Uncategorized {the ordinary moments}

The MAD Blog Awards 2016


Six months or so ago I asked, and you nominated. You answered my emploring requests in such numbers in fact that four months ago I just about fell off my chair when I learnt that I was to be a MADs finalist, and then you put up with me asking for votes all over again.  Thank you so very very much.

Several months of waiting later, it was finally time, and in a day about as different to an ordinary Friday as I could possibly get, I took the day off work and headed to London.

In everyday life I rarely wear makeup and my idea of a hairstyle is brushing it, tying it up, and forgetting about it so to sit and be prinked and curled to within an inch of my life was luxury beyond my dreams.  Actually the sitting still in a chair for half an hour without anyone saying “Mummeeeeee!” or “Carie, can I have a minute …” was bliss by itself; I was so relaxed I think I almost fell asleep having my makeup done.  The Powderpuff Girls are amazing and I came from their ministrations feeling effortlessly glamorous, beautifully tall (6’4″ in those heels) and yet still very recognisably me.

Space for the Butterflies - the MAD Blog Awards 2016

And then the fun began; time to catch up with friends and make new ones, to sip champagne and play fake money roulette, to take photos together and to celebrate this funny little thing called blogging.

Space for the Butterflies - the MAD Blog Awards 2016

I didn’t win Best Craft Blog, that honour went to the wonderfully named The Imagination Tree, but I am truly honoured to have been one of those six finalists.  There is so much creativity and ingenuity within that group and to see my Space for the Butterflies header up on the screen still makes me want to sit back and pinch myself that it really truly happened.

Space for the Butterflies - the MAD Blog Awards 2016

Did I want to win? Of course I did, even a healthy does of realistic expectations can’t entirely extinguish a tiny flame of hope, and who wouldn’t want that kind of recognition from their peers (and a rather lovely piece of glass for the mantlepiece to boot)?

I wanted to win, but I’m not disappointed that I didn’t.

To misquote one of my favourite films:

“A MAD Blog Award is a wonderful thing, but if you’re not enough without the Award, you’ll never be enough with it.”

And it’s true, it’s true about everything in life in which there can only be one winner, or so many finalists, no matter whether that’s blog awards or olympic bobsleigh gold medals.  If I could, I would have given an award to every finalist in that room on Friday night; there was no one there who would not have made a worthy winner, but that’s not how it works.

Space for the Butterflies - the MAD Blog Awards 2016

Maybe one day it will be my day, I hope so, and I know I’ll keep asking for your help (apologies in advance for early next year on that one!), but I also know that if I never go to another blog awards final in my life, I will always be proud to have been a finalist and incredibly thankful to every one of you who made that happen.

In being a Craft Blog finalist I hope I showed that being creative while also being a mother doesn’t always mean making something out of pipecleaners, sticky backed plastic and a leftover washing up bottle (though if you do happen to have some pipe cleaners lying around, I have two words for you: Christmas Trees!). I was there for those of us that create beautiful things because it brings us joy (and in my case acts as a fairly efficient form of stress relief – and you get a jumper at the end of it!), as well as having fun getting covered in glitter glue with our kids.

But the very best bit, as always, was the people.  To chat to Amber and Caro and Julia and Lucy and Kirsty in person and whoop with joy when Katie and Jenny won made me day, and I met so many new faces, and heard about so many wonderful blogs that I’ve come home with a list a mile long to add to my feed reader, including Clare, who I met in the queue to makeup, asked the usual “how far have you come today?” conversation opener only to discover that the answer was about three miles from my house.  It’s a small and wonderful world!

Joining Katie at Mummy Daddy Me for The Ordinary Moments

A Year in Books Family Uncategorized

One for them and one for me: Books for July


One for them: Rain

This has been a rather horribly apt new discovery for June.  I can rememebr rainy summers as a child, but they were mostly of the boiling hot days and then a thunderstorm at 4pm kind of rainy, not wall to wall drizzle for what felt likes weeks at a time.  Suffice to say that June was wet, in the reaching for a quilt and your fluffy socks kind of a way, and we’ve spent plenty of time reading Rain while watching the real thing trickling down the windows.

Space for the Butterflies - a year in books

Space for the Butterflies - a year in books

This is the story of a little boy who really really really wants to go outside to play, but it’s raining.  He waits and waits and hopes and checks out of the window, but the rain just won’t stop.  And Grandpa thinks it’s a really good idea to wait until it stops, even if you could meet sea monsters and ride boats and get up to all sorts of adventures.

Finally it stops and Grandpa sends him running for the wellies.

Space for the Butterflies - a year in books

But this isn’t just puddle splashing on the way to the postbox, oh no. Along the way there are sea monsters and a floating carnival and rainbow raindrops to catch – and Grandpa even lets him post the letter.

Wellies and puddle splashing for the win; both for him, and my little trio who based on their unwavering ability to make a beeline for each and every puddle they encounter, whether appropriately shod or not, are taking it as less of a story, and more of an instruction manual.

It’s such a sweet book, and the illustrations are just gorgeous, really capturing both the longing to be outside and the riot of childhood imagination, and it’s quickly become a firm favourite around here.Space for the Butterflies - a year in books

One for me: The Kid on Slapton Beach

Space for the Butterflies - a year in books

In 1943, 3,000 people were evacuated from the villages along Start Bay.  Slapton Sands, a beautiful long shingle beach with a lea behind, was considered the best place for the US Army to practice for their landings on Omaha Beach and so the villages were cleared, and people, many of whom had never left the area in their lives, moved to stay with family, friends or just whoever would take them in.

They went. They gave up their homes, their communities, and in many cases their livelihoods in the hope that it would help.  And in April 1943 Exercise Tiger began; a simulated attack on the beach.  It was  a disaster.  When I was a child the story I heard was that a U-Boat had found the practice and fired on it, killing hundreds of people and sinking some of the landing craft, and there’s a tank in the car park at Torcross that was rescued from the bay and stands as a memorial to those who lost their lives.  And while German E-boats did find the supporting convoy, leading to the battle of Lyme Bay, the casualties on the beaches, around 750 of them, were tragically victims of friendly fire when the ships out at sea shelling ‘France’ were unable to communicate with the troops landing on the shore.  Because both the exercise and the aftermath were so sensitive, holding as they did, so many clues to the D-Day operations, it was all kept very quiet, and even now it’s not widely known, unlike say the sinking of the Royal Oak at Scapa Flow.  There’s just the tank at Torcross and in the middle of the lea road a small memorial, shifted now from it’s original spot, a tribute to the villagers who gave up their homes.

The Kid on Slapton Beach overlays fictitious people with that snapshot of local history. Harry Beere, his mum and his baby sister are being evacuated from Torcross along with all their friends and neighbours.  His Dad is missing in action in Italy, and with no other family to turn to for help, his Mum is forced to rely on the bullying attentions of the local ARP warden to get them settled in what to me is a quick nip up the road to Totnes, and to them would have been a lifetime away.  It’s not a good move; Totnes is full to bursting with people evacuated from all over the South Hams, and the local residents aren’t exactly falling over themselves to help.

And worst of all, in the move, Harry’s one and only photo of his father has been left behind.

So back he goes, right into the middle of Exercise Tiger.

It’s a beautifully told story, bringing in so much of the stress and panic and strain of the displaced villagers along with the harder history.  We were in Devon last weekend to visit my Dad and I picked up a copy in a Dartmouth bookshop, and by Sunday evening I’d finished it.  I know for me it has particular significance because it tells the story of the places that are woven into my story too, but I think it would be a good read even if you can’t visualise each and every cottage and road. It’s certainly been a story that’s got under my skin and had me off hunting for more information about the real story behind Exercise Tiger, and those are my favourite sort of books, the ones that don’t stop on the last page.

If you’ve been reading something you want to share then please do link up below and go and say hi to Claire and Katie my lovely co-hosts – happy reading!

Crafty Ideas Handmade Inspiration Uncategorized

There are parties and then there are parties


I think I now know what theme I want for my birthday parties for the rest of forever.  Part of H’s wedding anniversary present to me was a ticket to Berylune’s Craft Party, and while not exactly the traditional gift, only when you’re parents to a horde of small children can you truly appreciate how much throwing you out of the house for the evening really does say “I love you”.  I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks and last Friday found me out after bedtime, and lining up for a party where it had never seemed more normal to be knitting on a sock while chatting and waiting for a space to make a beaded necklace.

Space for the Butterflies - Berylune Craft Party

I started the evening making envelopes.  It’s addictive.  I don’t send much snail mail, nor can I really think of anything terribly useful to do with hundreds of envelopes but after playing around for a bit with templates and paper I can see why you’d want to make them anyway.  My first attempt, made from an Ordnance Survey map of “Northern England” was for H; a funny sort of thank you present, an envelope with his childhood home on the front but when we were students back in the days of dubious mobile phone reception we used to write to each other all the time through the holidays and I’d have loved to have sent him a letter with “deliver here” and an X marks the spot on it, just to see if it arrived.  Flipping through an old Bunty annual I found the perfect page for my next envelope, a comic strip of a girl falling over wearing heels which was far too close to some of my wobbles in heels to be ignored, and then the final one I made just to see how the concertina template worked out, and then realised that I’d chosen the wrapping paper that matched the tissue paper I used to box up the baby clothes the other week – in my defence it’s a really pretty pattern.Space for the Butterflies - Berylune Craft Party

The bar had pompom making and hama beads and a giant colouring in poster and I was having so much fun just sitting and chatting and colouring a castle in rainbow colours that it took me a while to realise that there was an upstairs.  Oh wow.  Decked out from end to end in triangle bunting and cactus bunting and giant paper garlands and gold balloons, and full of people chatting and people trying out everything you’ve ever seen on Pinterest and wanted to have a go at but never got around to.


The line looked shortest for the rubber stamping so I started there; all the stamps were pre-cut but it was amazing to see how different everyone’s pictures turned out; on one side of me a girl was making patterns in gold stars and on the other an entire mountain took shape, all black ink and thunderous clouds.  My imagination conjured up a night sky with three colours of stars, and though I’d thought about clouds or the moon, in the end I stuck to stars, and houses, and trees and I love how it turned out.  Kitty is quite determined to claim this as her own so we might have to see about a frame for the girls’ room before too long.

Space for the Butterflies - Berylune Craft Party

From stamping I tried a little jewellery making; there were so many pretty colours of beads that choosing just nine for a pattern along the pin was all but impossible.  Making the necklace itself was actually very easy and I love the way it turned out, I’ve chosen colours that will go with some work clothes so that hopefully I’ll get a chance to actually wear it.

Space for the Butterflies - Berylune Craft Party

Leather work was completely new to me, but I can see why it would get so addictive; I love the origami of this little purse and I’m seriously tempted to try to replicate it in patchwork using some leftover snaps from making knitted baby bibs; the girls love having little pockets and bags to put tiny treasures in so I suspect that they would happily embrace all failed prototypes.

Space for the Butterflies - Berylune Craft Party

The little notebook was my next creation; it’s made from marbled card and the gold stripes are all colours of sticky tape.  By this point we were starting to get towards the end of the evening and with a hopeful queue around each table there was not exactly a pressure to be quick but certainly a group willingness to make sure we all got a turn, and I actually found it quite fun.  When you don’t have too long to overthink things and you just have to let your hands start making it’s the crafty equivalent of just sitting down to write whatever pops into your mind, without feeling like it has to be right or good, and just like the writing exercise it usually means that I end up with something I really like.  My notebook is a bit of fun and rather sweet and I have every intention of putting it to use.

By the time I got to doodling a mug I’d seen a fair few absolutely stunning designs being produced throughout the evening.  There were some very very talented artists making mugs that evening, especially when you start to draw yourself and realise just how hard it is to make a straight line on a curved surface.  I leave most of the drawing to H in our family, but there is one thing that I can draw and get the proportions roughly right: boats.

Space for the Butterflies - Berylune Craft Party

And so boats it was, perched on top of some unlikely looking waves and a few fish, with just the one lone seagull looking down.  I baked it over the weekend so hopefully the pattern will last as long as the mug (which is being very carefully kept away from small children).

Space for the Butterflies - Berylune Craft Party

And last but by no means least, a little modge podge, a little washi tape, and a silver tipped moon.  It’s another make that I’m going to be wrestling back from the children and I’m glad they like it because decorating wooden brooches with washi tape is definitely something we’ll be doing together sometime soon.

Space for the Butterflies - Berylune Craft Party

And then all that was left was to head home, far later than I have been out of the house in years, to discover that H had somehow quite miraculously managed to persuade all three children to go to sleep without me (a treat in itself) so that I could sit with him, tell him all about the evening, and unpack my amazing goodie bag (and yes that is a chocolate cactus).

Speaking of chocolate, Creightons were making personalised chocolate bars and it seemed only fitting to get one as a better thank you to H than an envelope.  I could have put his name on it, but “Go Paint!” seemed a more fitting response to the evening, and an instruction that has been duly followed ever since.

Space for the Butterflies - Berylune Craft Party

I am absolutely thrilled to be a MADs Finalist for the Best Craft Blog category this year – I would love your vote, all the details are here and voting is open until 27 May


Elma Family Kitty Motherhood Pip Uncategorized {the ordinary moments}

Just Kitty {the ordinary moments}


The car pulled out of the drive and around the corner, and with a final wave they were gone.  Kitty and I looked at each other with the same thought uppermost in both our minds; “what shall we do first?”

It’s a cliche to say that my children have better social lives than me but right now it happens to be true, our fridge is practically besieged in birthday party invitations, but this was the first time that the littlest two were invited to a party, but not Kitty. The birthday girl was one of Elma and Pip’s friends from playgroup, and as it’s H who does the playgroup run, and is largely adored by Elma’s friends because he can lift them above his head, we sent him along as chauffeur and holder of cardigans while they explored every inch of a massive soft play.

Which left Kitty and me.

Spending time with just one of my children is one of my great pleasure in life, it’s lovely to be able to give them my full attention and not be constantly balancing, even when the balance is subconscious.  Getting that time usually means going out on an adventure together, like the one to buy school shoes (we can be a bit loose with the term ‘adventure’ but as far as Kitty’s concerned if there’s cake, it counts), it’s very rare that I get left at home with just one child, and even rarer that that child is Kitty.

I actually can’t remember the last time it was just Kitty and me, home alone together.  It might actually have been the day before Elma was born, which seems an eon ago and I did find myself occasionally pausing to listen for the noises off that I thought should have been there, Pip snoozing in his cot or Elma upstairs emptying out her drawers, but there was only silence.

So we filled it.  First up, music. It had to be the Frozen soundtrack, for a good singalong while we did Kitty’s first choice of “something grown up” and pulled out the fat quarters that she chose over the summer.  She helped me cut some of the real squares and then I set her up with my old cutting mat, a little ruler and a small rotary cutter to slice and dice to her heart’s content.  It was so very companionable sitting either side of the dinner table, singing and chatting, and perhaps, just maybe, it might be a foretaste of the future – assuming I keep up my current policy of quilt indoctrination.

We played our Sandcastles board game without once having to rescue the dice from a little sibling or explain why a six means the wave moves, and even though we did loose our castles to the oncoming tide, it was just fun to play together.

Space for the Butterflies - Just Kitty

And then, we went to lunch.  Just to Pizza Express in town, but Kitty loved it.  She loved choosing her lunch, and talking to me about mine, and having a bite of my bruschetta (which was amazing – definitely one for the repeat list).

While we ate, and coloured in her menu, and she read me her school story book for the week, we talked.  About school, her favourite bits of the day (lunch), the fact that she can do flip overs on the climbing net in the playground, all the stories of her recent school trip to a farm, that she tried beetroot and it was pink, and who said what to who and what her teacher said next.

Space for the Butterflies - Just Kitty

(photo by Kitty – classic blogger’s child!)

Because we knew that H, Elma and Pip were out having fun of their own there was no pressure to get back, we were completely relaxed and I think that made it all the more special.

Space for the Butterflies - Just Kitty

And finally, when Elma had demolished her dough balls and tomato pasta and orange ice lolly, we wandered back along to the car, first skipping, then playing hopscotch with the pavement, then jumping from leaf to leaf and finally, jumping up to try to touch the branches of every tree we passed. The sort of things that you can do when you’ve only got one child with you, and she’s five and doesn’t need holding with an iron grip so that she doesn’t escape into the road.

It was silly and funny and I think Kitty rather enjoyed seeing her usually rather sensible Mummy being a big kid.

It was only a couple of hours, and then we were back home again, back to being in the mix of five, and back to get ready for the next party of the afternoon but It was a tiny moment of the week to treasure.  I love that Elma and Pip (and H) have made such good friends at playgroup that they’re invited to parties and I loved the time spent, as she put it, Mummy and just Kitty.

Space for the Butterflies - Just Kitty