There’s been a definite nip in the air these past few weeks. Even when the day dawns bright and sunny, so sunny that Kitty and I have to have the oft repeated discussion about how sunshine does not equal hot, at least not when you live in Warwickshire, and no a sundress is not suitable clothing for the day unless you want to add tights and a long sleeved t-shirt to the mix, there’s been an undercurrent of crispness, a little bite in the early morning air to put roses in our cheeks as we head out to nursery.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

There’s been rain too, but not the steaming rain of the summer when you watched it drizzle down, noses pressed to the back door, longing for it to stop so you could rush outside again, but a steady drizzle punctuated with phenomenal cloud burst and stunning rainbows to follow, rain to make you reach for the soup pot, the wooly socks and the central heating switch, rain to make you hibernate.

And whether it’s the season or some overdue pregnancy hormones making a last hurrah I am nesting. Properly nesting. Well for me anyway. And no that doesn’t mean I’ve discovered a strong an unnatural urge to do. The housework, or that we’re very much, if at all, further forward on the grand studio makeover, although I did move the bookcase into its new position last week so that definitely counts, you just have to overlook the piles of boxes on the floor that still need sorting.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

No, nesting for me means yarn, and fibre, and fabric and a million and one plans of all the things I’m going to make in that time which I don’t have.

We will be warm and cozy this winter because (a) we live in England and (b) we have central heating, so why does autumn make me want to prepare as if we’re about to face a blizzard armed with nothing more than what I can make? (You don’t need to answer that one!)

So I started with the yarn stash. Once upon a time my yarn lived in a small plastic box on a shelf in my room in my house in London. That was a long time ago! Now it takes up all of a Billy bookcase with doors on and a few skeins and baskets and odd balls found lying around the house. And yet whenever I saw a project on Ravelry or on someone else’s blog that I really really wanted to make I never seemed to have the right yarn or enough yarn, just a cupboard full of odd balls and projects that I haven’t got round to yet. So I pulled it all out. Apart from the sock yarn stash which has a whole shelf of its own I filled three Ikea cubes, and I’m sure there’s still a few odd bits and bobs lying around the place.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And then the sorting began, first into piles by weight and then the harder bit, the letting go bit. I think I was pretty ruthless, at least I tried to be. It’s obvious to keep the sweater’s worths, the yarn where I know what it wants to be, but there were a good few odd balls in the mix too, leftovers from a previous project or just bought to swatch and experiment with. And a whole heap of those have gone in the donate bag. To find new lives either with friends who knit for charity or in Kitty’s art room at nursery.

I’m sure I’ve kept more than I should but I’ve made a little mental note to do this again next year and there are a few things that have got a year to be knit up before they too find themselves on the art project list.

And in a fit of obsessive organisation I’ve also been putting what I kept into my Ravelry page, and rearranging my queue and tidying out my favourites. I found so much that I’d forgotten I had, probably because there can be quite a gap between the buying and the knitting nowadays, and it feels oddly comforting to be able to see it all at a glance, to know that the only thing I’m going to need to make a Christmas jumper for Pip is the pattern and a handful of buttons because the yarn is right there waiting for me.

Even though the realist in me knows that I’m not going to knit through my entire stash this winter, or probably get to even half the projects I’m planning in my head, there’s something oddly comforting about knowing that it’s there ready and waiting. And now terribly terribly organised!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

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Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Joining in with {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour and remember.

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Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

“Little Pip” in the same way that Robin Hood’s Little John was a petite and diminutive man.  Our boy is tall.  We always knew it, just from holding him and trying to get him into babygros but as of his six week check up it’s official. Length-wise Pip is just a smidgen above the 98th centile.  According to the charts that gives him a predicted final height of about 6’2″.  With a 6’0″ mother and a 6’1″ father, if this boy stops at 6’2″ I’ll be amazed.  And yet in the same breath I hold my tiny son in my arms and try to fathom what on earth it will feel like to one day be looking up at him as he towers above me.  It’s a good job he’s going to grow slowly. Well slowly enough to give me time to get my head around it!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It also explained why he’s tracking the 91st weight centile quite nicely, and where he’s putting all that milk; it must be hollow legs!

Well apart from the milk that he ‘returns to sender’ that is! I’m still dairy-free because I think it makes a noticeable difference to how much milk he possets, but it doesn’t stop it completely, and that’s OK; he’s just got eyes bigger than his tummy, and very baby tummy muscles.  Sooner or later his tummy will get that bit further away from his mouth and he and I might stop smelling slightly like cheese!

In the last couple of weeks we’ve had our 6 week check with the doctor and our Health Visitor came out for a home visit, just to see how we were doing and to be able to have a chat outside the busyness of baby clinic.  We’re really lucky with both our GP and our Health Visitor team; they always take time doing their checks and just chatting away and it’s nice to feel like you have that support if I ever needed it if there were a problem with me or one of the children.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

So aside from numerous visits and the booking of visits (vaccinations are coming soon poor boy), what have we been up to?

Well last weekend Pip, dressed in his finest babygro and cardie outfit, went to Kitty’s friend’s birthday party.  He’s only a month younger than the birthday girl’s little sister and we had to laugh as he and little Miss E sat snuggly in their car seats in the corner of a village hall filled with sugar fuelled four year olds chasing balloons and doing justice to the enormous bouncy castle that loomed in one corner, and promptly slept through the whole thing.

Definite shades of the time H and I pulled out all the stops to take Kitty and a newborn Elma to the church’s nativity play only for them to crash asleep during the opening carol!

 

We’re definitely getting to that stage where he’s interested in more than just milk when he’s awake.  The big sisters love to try to make him smile, and we’ve had a few plays in the jungle gym, assuming we can evict the aforementioned sisters first, and I think he enjoys it for a little while, looking from me to the butterflies and back again.  It’s nice to have somewhere for him to lie out during the day and not be in immediate danger of being over-hugged too!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

The girls are still enamoured of their baby brother; this is how I discovered by baby boy after I popped into the kitchen to refill the water glasses for lunch; Kitty had tucked her blankie over his legs but he’d kicked it off, and then she’d added her prized princesses for company; I’m not sure whether he’s smiling because I’ve come to rescue him or because he likes being snuggled up with Aurora, Rapunzel and Belle!

And if all the smiles and gurgles weren’t enough of a treat he also pulled out all the gift-giving stops this week and did a really big overnight sleep.  I’m not expecting him to do it again with any kind of regularity any time soon but it was amazing to wake up and realise that I’d had a good six hours uninterrupted sleep.  It’s funny how things change isn’t it – long gone are the days when six hours sleep would be a bit of a short night!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But for all the bags under the eyes, and occasionally feeling that I need to prop them open with matchsticks, I wouldn’t swap for the wide world.

 

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…being asked to locate and put on her shoes:

“Umm… I think we hoovered them up!”

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

…road safety:

“Don’t run into the road Mummy! The cross lady came upstairs and told me, but not you, and she said you don’t go in the road”

(Ed’s translation: the crossing lady visited nursery!)

…fairy tales:

“Elma, just sit down here. Are you afraid of the big bad wolf, yes or no?”

(the answer was unreported!)

…other important questions:

“Elma, do you like Mummy? or not?”
(“Or not!” was the encouraging reply!)

“Pip! Why have you spit up on our Mummy?!”

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

…the English classics – spotting Mary Bennet in her BabyLit version of Pride and Prejudice:

“Mummy! That’s Mary! That Mary is with Baby Jesus in the story about Baby Jesus!”

(cue a discussion about how Mary Bennet whilst seemingly very pious was (a) fictional and (b) not the mother of baby Jesus)

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

the things that go bump:

“Mummy! Some things keep falling on my head!”
“What things” (looking around for anything that could possibly just have landed on her)
“Some things that are near me.”
“Like what lovely?”
“Um .. the wall.”

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

… how to make your mother feel really good about herself:

“Mummy! Your tummy is still big! That means there’s room for another baby in it! Maybe a sister?!”

…every occasion that I pick up the phone to H:

“I just really need to say something to Daddy!”

…being handed the phone:

“Well Daddy….”

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

the all important choice of snack:

“Mummy I want a poppadom please?”
“We don’t have any poppadom’s love.”
“Yes we do, a hopadom!”
“A what?”
“A hopknot?”
“Do you mean a hobnob?”
“Yes!”

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Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Clearly I’ve not been paying attention.  I’d like to blame it on the business of a family of five, or even the newborn haze but I think I’m going to have to go even further back than that and try to cast aspirations at pregnancy hormones (they’re always handy for blaming things on).  Because not only is this week’s book by Peter Bently who would easily make our shortlist for favourite children’s book author (particularly given how many times his stories have featured in What We’re Reading), but it’s also gorgeously illustrated and really funny to boot. And yet I found it not on our bookcase at home, or strewn across the lounge floor, or even in the little puddle of stories that forms at the bottom of Kitty’s bed as whatever we’ve read in the evening slides off her duvet with a thump in the middle of the night.   No, this one came home from the New Books shelf at the Library.

As I said, I’ve been slacking.

But we’ve made up with it since.  Those Magnificent Sheep in their Flying Machine has been read, re-read, loved and carried around by Elma, always a sign of true devotion.  And for once it’s not a book about someone stealing something. Oh, well, actually … does it count if the pinching was by accident? I think I could construct a decent argument that there was a lack of mens rea on the basis of no intention permanently to deprive.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  This is the tale of a field of sheep, quietly going about their everyday when zooming and roaring overhead alerts them to an airshow nearby.  And nearest of all is a little yellow aeroplane, parked up neatly but with no one nearby keeping an eye on it. So Lambert and Eunice and Marly and Mabs, Old Uncle Ramsbottom, Bart, Ben and Babs do what we’d all like to do and sneak up for a little peek inside.  But as it’s a bit of a squash to get eight sheep in a single seater it’s not too big a surprise to find that a little button gets pushed and they’re off!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Happily for everyone it turns out that Old Uncle Ramsbottom knows how to fly a plane – who said sheep weren’t very bright! – and off they go, travelling all around the world on adventures near and far.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

(I’m not going to tell you where they are here, just that I love the wooly jumpers!)

But after a while the lure of their own field becomes too strong, and they point the plane back to their own spot of nice green grass and the peaceful life.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It’s a rhyming story which is always fun to read, especially when it’s done this well, and I love the patter; shades of both Lynley Dodd and Dr Seuss in the pace and the language.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to need to add this one to the Christmas list for one of the children; we’ve already renewed it twice – next time it has to go back to the library!

Space for the Butterflies: What We're Reading

Last wek Vickie definitely had a seasonal read with My Friend the Weather Monster  (I’m wondering whether we might have one around here given this last week’s rain and today’s forecast!) and Anne-Marie introduced me to the world of Biff and Chip with Everyone Got Wet which I think looks a lot more fun than the books I learned to read with! And if you have a favourite, or just something fun your little or not so little ones have enjoyed reading lately please do join us.  There really are no rules here, it doesn’t have to be a book you own or for a particular age group.  I write about books for pre-schoolers because that’s what I have, some of them from our exploding bookcases and some from the library, but I’m always looking out for the next stage up, and anything that’s really good tends to transcend age groups anyway!

The linky is always open for the whole week so there’s plenty of time. And so, without further ado, it’s over to you to tell me what we should be reading!



Around this time last year I took a very excited Kitty and a barely toddling Elma to their friend’s third birthday party.  There were balloons, party food, a bouncy castle and children running happily in all directions.  And in one corner was a face painting station.  Kitty was fascinated.  She loved the brushes, the sponges, the colours all laid out and the sparkly twirls and whirls being painted across her friends’ cheeks.

But when it came to her turn she was absolutely adamant; there was no way she was going to have her face painted thank you very much.  In the end the longing for a bit of glitter won out and she settled for a butterfly painted on her wrist, albeit with sideways longing glances at the faces around her.

This week the same friend turned four, and we went to celebrate.  The girls made a beeline for the bouncy castle as soon as they arrived and I think Elma might like it possibly even as much as the swings; she barely stopped bouncing all afternoon, and Kitty was so busy dividing her time between bouncing and running around with her friends that it was a while before she noticed the face painting going on in the corner.

She grabbed my hand, “Look Mummy, that’s where I had a butterfly on my arm last year!”

She watched carefully as a host of small pink butterflies started to flutter out from the corner and then with one backwards glance at me, ran off to have a number painted on the back of her hand, a sort of face painting version of the deli counter ticket machine.  She and her friends stood and watched as a little blonde girl in a blue sundress acquired a glittery curl down the side of her face, running off to scamper across the bouncy castle whenever the standing still became a bit too much, and then it was her turn.

I’d wondered whether she would turn down her go when push came to shove, or whether she would have lost interest after the wait but she happily climbed up into the chair and sat patiently while she was decorated.  And then as I turned around from giving Elma a boost back onto the bouncy castle there she was;

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

it’s a beautiful butterfly, there’s clearly some serious talent gone into the painting, but it was the smile that went with it that made me want to scoop her up and give her an enormous hug.  She was just so happy, so completely and utterly thrilled with her butterfly that she looked fit to burst.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

You would’t think a little bit of face paint should have that effect but it drove home just how much of a change there’s been in the last year for Kitty, and not just in height and shoe size.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I think you always know that you’re not really seeing the changes in your children as they actually happen, after those first newborn growth spurts when I swear I’ve watched my children getting longer before my very eyes, it’s all so very gradual, so very gentle in the day to day that it’s only in the milestones or when you stop to look that you can actually see the changes.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

When I look back on my Siblings pictures, a year and a half’s worth of Me and Mine or the children’s monthly milestone pictures I can see the physical changes oh so clearly, but they don’t show the whole picture.  They only show the physical changes and occasionally hint at the rest, in a caring gesture to a little sibling or pride at a giant Duplo construction.  It’s the stories that go with the  pictures that fill in the gaps.

On the surface it’s just a beautiful butterfly face painting (and a great view of Kitty’s tonsils!), but the comparison to last year is what’s special to me.  In the last year she has become so much more confident, so very articulate and self assured, from a little girl who didn’t want her face painted and wouldn’t so much as go near the lady running it without me holding her hand to this.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

My beautiful be-butterflied girl.

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Outside in our garden we have two raised flowerbeds.  We put them in when Kitty was still a teeny tiny little girl but after that year’s crop of six or so strawberries, a couple of rows of diminutive carrots and a glut of purple sprouting broccoli I’m sorry to say that they became rather neglected.

They had one more hurrah as a cutting garden for tulips and daffodils but since then they’ve been mostly growing grass and baby sycamore trees.  I’m not terribly green fingered.  Well actually I’m not green fingered at all, and my gardening style can most accurately be described as benign neglect.  But I do like the idea of growing a little something to supplement the contents of the kitchen cupboard, and more than that I like the idea of growing something with the girls to give them a sense of where food comes from and just how long it might take to grow.

So on a sunny Thursday afternoon, with Pip snoozing gently in his chair in the doorway we set out to reclaim our veg patch.  Suffice to say it was less a question of weeding, and more a sort of removal of turf. In giant chunks. With a spade.

And then we were ready for a little planting.  After the miniature carrots, oh and the parsnips that never grew I decided that whatever we were going to grow had to be pretty easy, and had to be something we actually eat.  So we’re starting with garlic.

We planted Solent Garlic and some Shakespeare Onions, both chosen from the garden centre pretty much on the basis of their names which I suspect is the gardening equivalent of choosing your car because you want a red one.

The cloves were easy for little fingers to get a grip on and Kitty really enjoyed pushing them into their rows, even if she wasn’t too keen on getting mud on her gardening gloves (they’ve got fairies on and she’s very fond of them) while Elma ran around in circles, gave us hugs and gave the garlic bulbs some very mistrustful stares.

But both of them just loved the watering stage.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It might have been about to pour with rain (again) but they were determined that not an inch of soil would be left dry, just in case.

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 hope that with all that loving care, and if we remember to put the netting on once the first shoots appear and do the occasional bit of weeding, come next summer we might just be eating garlic in everything!

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If you looked at all the things I’ve made over the last few years I think it would suggest that my knitting ‘style’ has changed; where once it was all about complicated patterns and technical challenges, now I keep finding myself gravitating towards the simpler things; nice plain socks, or something with a good chunk of garter stitch; something that I can either knit from memory, or learn the pattern really quickly.  It means I can pick it up, knit three stitches and put it down again without having to spend half an hour working out where I’ve got to, and it’s the kind of knitting that truly is soothing to the soul, lulling me into a relaxed contentment by the repetitive motion of each stitch.  It’s the perfect antidote to the tougher days of life with little ones.

But when I do fancy a little something more complicated it turns out that baby knits are the perfect choice.  There’s just not that much cabling that you can fit onto a newborn sized cardigan after all.

And the result is rather sweet.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I’m repeating myself I know but I’m a firm believer in hand knits for babies, not just because of the very clever properties of wool (it’s great for helping them regulate their temperature) or because teeny tiny knits are incredibly cute (they are), but because it’s a gift of time and skill.  The warm and cozy feeling of being safely wrapped up in something wooly is the gift to the baby; the gift to their parents is the knowledge that H and I treasure them as friends and cherish their babies enough to spend time making the new arrival a little something.  And when that baby is their first, well you want that little something to be extra special.

It’s a sort of kismet of wanting to knit something interesting and having the perfect excuse.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

This little cardie was actually cast on before the young lady for whom it is intended made her appearance, but as she arrived only three weeks after Pip and it turns out I can’t actually knit with my mind, I do have to be using both hands, it’s taken just a little while to finish.

Little Miss G is only a month old, she wasn’t as big on arrival as my girls, let alone Pip, who had to absent himself from modelling duty on the grounds of being far too big for it, and the great thing about knitwear is that it’s quite stretchy so I think it should still fit.  Hopefully.

The pattern is Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s Baby Yours, the newborn size, in one of my favourite baby yarns, Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, and for all my talk of looking for something a little more complicated it really isn’t that difficult a pattern. My chief difficulty is that I can’t cable and read Extra Yarn for the 114th time that day at the same time, even if Kitty holds the book and turns the pages, and I do need to be somewhere vaguely in the vicinity of the pattern if possible for fear of making one sleeve oh so very much longer than the other.  Not that I did that of course.  No, not at all.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I’ve knit it before, many years ago in the pre-children era, and my abiding memory of it was that while the end product was charming, the knitting didn’t flow, I had to keep stopping and checking the pattern, and as a result it felt like it took ages to make and to be frank I just didn’t feel the love.  I’m not sure whether the intervening years have made me a better knitter, or whether it’s simply that my sense of how long is ‘ages’ has rather shifted but it was a much smoother process this time around and I really enjoyed it.

I finally finished the knitting last week, then sewed it up in odd moments, gave it a good long soak to block it and make all the cable detail stand proud and look pretty, and then after waiting what felt like forever for it to dry (that’s the downside of picking the wettest week of the autumn to hand wash knitwear) the button tin came up trumps again with pretty shell pink pearly buttons.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I love how they take what’s definitely a unisex pattern and give it just a hint of femininity.

And with that I finished the “baby has already arrived” baby knitting and the needles lay empty.  While I know I have a crochet cushion/small blanket on the go, and there’s a sock that has been waiting for a pair for years and years now, and I’ve got some embroidery to do to be ready for Elma’s birthday, it’s still a slightly uncomfortable feeling to have nothing on the needles.  I think only another knitter would truly understand, but it’s a bit like having your camera battery on charge if you’re a photographer, or your sewing machine in for a service to a quilter.

But I needn’t have worried. Pip is growing before our very eyes, Kitty is reaching ever higher on the shelves and Elma just looks cute in woolies.  One afternoon spent productively cleaning out my Ravelry queue and favourites during every feed and I’ve got a list of projects to last me a decade; and a new cardigan on the needles.  In aran weight yarn.  Mostly stocking stitch.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Joining in with {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour and remember.

To see more, check out the comments to Soulemama

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