Elma Family Kitty Photography Pip The 52 Project

30/52 {the 2016 portraits}

23/07/2016

Linking up with Jodi with a portrait of each of my children once every week for 2016.

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project

Kitty: As I write this you’ve finally finally finished what must be the longest summer term ever known and you’re home for the holidays and we can all heave a big sigh of relief.  You’ve made me so very proud this year, not just in all the boxes ticked on your school report but in the comments that say how you are kind and generous and a good friend.  It seems only yesterday that you ran into school without a backward glance in September, and I can’t quite believe a whole year has gone already.  Now for summer fun!

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project

Elma: Strawberry picker extraordinaire – and for that matter, chief eater of strawberries too!

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project

Pip: I don’t think you’ve entirely got strawberry picking my little love. Or rather, you’ve got the picking bit down, just not the what to pick! You were loving it though so I think we can forgive a few green ones in the mix!

Finished Handmade Handmade for Baby Knitting

Camilla Babe {handmade for baby}

22/07/2016

Let me tell you the worst kept secret among knitters – knitting for babies isn’t fun just because baby knits are small and cute and easy to make and you can finish them almost before you’ve thought of starting them.  It is all of that, don’t get me wrong, but if you’ve ever snuggled a baby in a hand knit jumper you’ll know there’s something just so squishably cuddleable about a wool-clad baby that you’d never want to put them down.  Baby knitting calls for the softest of soft soft yarn and so for the second baby knit of the summer I returned to one of my all time favourites (Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran) in a deep blackcurranty purple that is utterly gorgeous in it’s own right, and will also go nicely with all the dinosaur handmedowns from its new owner’s big brothers.

Space for the Butterflies - Camilla Babe by Carrie Bostick Hoge

It’s been a little while since I knit for a baby girl (and it was in purple that time too) so I spent many happy hours searching Ravelry for the perfect pattern, one that said “adorable baby girl” without being overly flouncy and frilly, one that was nice and practical both to knit and to wear, and one that would suit her mama’s excellent taste in children’s clothes.

Space for the Butterflies - Camilla Babe by Carrie Bostick Hoge

I do usually make cardigans as baby knits because for newborns a jumper is a massive faff, you want to be able to get it off and on easily, and unbutton it if they fall asleep and get a bit hot, and leave it unbuttoned if they’re anything like my three and think milk is a gift to be returned as soon as possible.  But once I started to realise that it wasn’t very practical to be planning baby knits for a nice hot English summer either, and that a six month size was a much better bet, suddenly the field of jumpers opened up again.  At 6 months jumpers have always seemed more practical to me, for pretty much all the reasons that they don’t work so well for newborns, especially as my little ones had a well practiced habit of crawling out of their clothes whenever possible.  And so I came back to Camilla Babe, the teeny tiny version of Carrie Bostick Hoge’s grown up Camilla.

Space for the Butterflies - Camilla Babe by Carrie Bostick Hoge

I had so much fun knitting this jumper it took all my willpower not to dash out to buy the yarn to make a bigger one for Elma (in soft sea green – I’m already planning it for her birthday!).  Even in the round garter stitch knits up a treat and the pattern was easy enough that I could memorise it and carry it around with me.

Space for the Butterflies - Camilla Babe by Carrie Bostick Hoge

And so this little jumper has been knit in our garden, on the train to and from work, in the car, and even on the beaches of South Devon, and then it was washed (a lot), blocked, and left to dry.  The blocking just pulled the feather and fan pattern into shape and gave it its lovely curvy front and then it was ready to be sent on its way south, to a little girl who, given the weather of the last week, is not going to leave it for some time to come!

Space for the Butterflies - Camilla Babe by Carrie Bostick Hoge

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On 

 

Garden

In the growing garden: 20 July

21/07/2016

After a very crazy end to the last weekend, more on which another time, it’s high time for a little update on my garden now that summer has finally arrived.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

And with summer has come the first serious harvest of the garlic and onion bed.  I’ve lifted all our garlic and both sorts of onions, as far as I know anyway – Pip has a lovely habit of pulling on the leaves so there’s every chance we’ll find a stray when I turn up the beds, but for now, all is safely gathered in.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

This year’s garlic was not a great success, I planted Marco garlic this year and I’d say that out of the whole patch I’ve got two that look like proper heads of garlic.  The rest seem to have just made slightly larger single cloves, which I’m sure are edible, but I’m not sure are actually going to make an appearance in the kitchen.  I genuinely don’t know where we went wrong this year; last year I had heads of garlic that were completely formed but tiny because they got choked by grass when I abandoned the garden in the middle of the year, so this year I’ve been much more diligent with the weeding (despite occasional appearances to the contrary).  They may have been spaced a bit too close together thanks to my enthusiastic assistant gardener but I don’t think that should have caused it – could it be just a duff batch of garlic sets or have I done something really obvious that I don’t know about?

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

Truth be told, both sets of onions also suffered from over planting and a failure to thin, but in among what would more charitably be called shallots we do have some genuine homegrown onions that look like they could have come in a veg box, so I’m counting that a win.  Pip and Elma are mostly just thrilled that we are finally finally allowed to pull things up from that bed – it’s been a long time since November!

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

The red onions are called Electric and the yellow are Senshyu Yellow and assuming they taste as nice as they grew, they’ll be worth trying again next year.

And so now I have an empty bed, or at least I will do when I pull the weeds up.  I’m thinking about trying another crop of spinach because the last one grew so quickly so I think I could easily get it in before the end of the growing season but I don’t know whether I’d be better letting the bed ‘rest’ before onion planting time comes around again.  As with all these things it will almost certainly come down to time and energy rather than any great gardening principles so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

Next door the parsnip forest continues to flourish.  It is now almost certain that most of the parsnips are a smidge on the close side, which is probably apparent from the photos to everyone but me, but they’re borderline so I’m leaving them all be for now, and if I end up with micro-parsnips they’ll still taste nice roasted with maple syrup.

Aside from the spinach (which is in an odd sort of will-it won’t-it regeneration at the moment) this year’s successes despite cat-based odds are the beans and the peas.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

I ate my first sugarsnap pea straight off the vine yesterday and the more I look the more I see; I’m trying to hole out for enough to be a formal side at supper before I pick the lot but they’re very hard to resist for casual snacking.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

And last but by no means least, the purple bean plants have not only flowered teeny tiny little purple flowers, but started to grow teeny tiny little purple beans.  Given how many bean plants we lost in the early days, these are serious survivors and it will make them all the sweeter when we get to bean harvest time.

Elma Family Kitty Pip Working Mum {the ordinary moments}

Actually I’d like to be supermum

17/07/2016

There is a world of difference between knowing that something will happen and it actually happening.

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I’ve known since I went back to work that my working full time would mean that I would miss parts of our children’s childhood.  I knew it, and I tried to make my peace with it, because frankly there isn’t an option that doesn’t involve one of their parents missing things and even then I’ve been to every parent’s evening, every school meeting, seen the school play and made a termly appearance at Pip and Elma’s playgroup.  I’d done it. For most of the whole first year of school and work I’d been there for everything that mattered.

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And then came sports day.  On a Thursday morning.  It sounded like a lovely morning; all the families come to school to support and cheer on the little ones and then everyone has a picnic on the school playing fields afterwards.  Lovely, except that if I want to travel in the summer, if I want to have time in September to settle them back to school, if I want time off at Christmas then I don’t have enough annual leave to take a couple of Thursday mornings, and the pressures of the job meant that I really needed to be in the office those days anyway.  So to work I went.

All through the morning little videos arrived from H; Kitty winning the welly wanging (no surprise as she looked at least a foot taller than her fellow Reception competitors) and racing in the relay collection race and a very careful egg and spoon.  She came home covered in stickers (both for placing and just for taking part) and full of beans to tell me all about it and I’ve heard so much and seen so much that it feels almost as if I was there, but not quite.

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A week later it was Elma and Pip’s last playgroup of term.  She moves up into the preschool Nursery group for three mornings a week next term and so her last day was a special moving up playgroup.  She has the sweetest card and a little present from her playgroup leader and even H admitted feeling a little emotional reading it to her – and he’ll be going to playgroup with Pip for at least another year to come.  I heard all about it when she got home, and she’s told us ever since that she’s a big nursery girl now, and it’s utterly adorable, and so lovely that she’s so excited about it and I wish I’d been there to celebrate with her.

The truth is that neither of the girls minded that I wasn’t there, or even really expected it.  They’ve grasped that Mama has to go to work and that in the loosest possible terms, working means having nice things (although Kitty did once suggest that I should stop work and we could live off the Nectar card – I think she may have misplaced confidence in how far those points will go).  They’re proud of me and I’m proud to be a role model for them, to show them that making the right decisions for your family doesn’t always have to mean following a stereotype, and no one ever turns around in adulthood and says “well my childhood was lovely but my Mum didn’t come to watch me win welly wanging when I was five and that was the beginning of the end, my life was ruined”.

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So why the guilt? I’d love to blame the supermum paradox, the chapter and verse from the great unnamed “They” who say that it’s all very well being a successful professional woman with career, but only if I can also run my household, raise my children and not miss a single minute of their lives; I can have my feminist badge and attack glass ceilings all I like, but I’m only valid when I’ve got the adult equivalent of a Brownie hospitality and childcare badge first.

And I don’t wish to diminish the existence of the stereotype, far from it, it’s a very real thing and is a preconception that so many of us try to fight, mothers and fathers both.  But the truth is that in feeling guilt at having missed Kitty’s first sports day, or Elma’s last playgroup, it’s not just succumbing to media guilt trap, I’m complicit in the stereotype, because actually, I would like to be supermum.

I’d love to be able to do a whole day’s good clever work, and then come home and be brim full of energy to devote to my children and my husband, to clap my hands Mary Poppins style to clean the house so that H can rest while I snuggle up to read bedtime stories with a freshly washed and pyjamed little trio, to spend so much quality time with all of them that they’re bored of me.  To make cakes, and amazing lunches, and go on adventures, and still have time for me to read and write and knit and sew and fill up my cup.  Who wouldn’t.

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If that were possible, if it were in any way actually doable, it would be awesome, a totally fulfilling and regret-free life.  But it can’t.  Something will always have to give.  And so this week I’ve taken a deep breath, cuddled my little ones close, listened to every story of their days, watched every video, and admired every sticker.

And it’s not simply good enough; it’s actually good.  I’m doing every little thing to balance the competing interests in my world, and in my head I know I’m nailing it.  Now if someone could just pass that message along to my heart.

With pictures from a lovely afternoon at the cricket where I was there for every minute!

Joining Katie at Mummy Daddy Me for The Ordinary Moments

Elma Family Kitty Photography Pip The 52 Project

29/52 {the 2016 portraits}

16/07/2016

Linking up with Jodi with a portrait of each of my children once every week for 2016.

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 Project

Kitty: Even if I didn’t have the calendar to remind me I could tell that we’re counting down to the end of term simply by how very tired you are.  You’re giving life you’re all and sometimes you just need to curl up in a corner and hide for a bit, and when you do, you have a properly epic frown to keep the world at bay.  This picture was taken when your very dear friend F came to play; you were a mermaid and he was a knight or a prince or maybe both, and the pair of you were completely hooked by the world of your imagination – it was lovely to see you so smiley – now roll on the summer holidays.

 

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 Project

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 Project

Elma: I’m cheating again this week because I couldn’t choose between either of these photos.  The first was taken on the Oxford Instameet and I love it for your posture, and your expression. I look at that photo, taken against the wall of one of your favourite pink buildings (which just happened to belong to my old college), and wonder what you’re thinking.  The second is what happens when you surprise a wood nymph with a camera.  Your sister may have been off being a mermaid but you had your own world overlaying hers, and after all, why shouldn’t a mermaid and a wood nymph be sisters.

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 Project

Pip: What can I say, other than that such is the fascination of a cricket helmet that I’m certain that I have pictures of both your sisters in similar poses.  They have never shown quite the aptitude you have for the game itself though. Well any game really, but if you’re going to be as sports mad as your father I’m glad you’re showing an interest in cricket – it happens in the summer, we go inside when it rains and we have great teas – I can get behind being a cricket mama!