sharing summer with a one year old

It has been the best summer ever has 2014.

How ace that I got to spend it with my gorgeous, growing girl, we've been busy feasting off the full cupboard of life, romping in meadows, skipping through daisies, that kind of thing.

It is quite safe to say that Betsy has had the greatest summer a one year old could have, technically she has been 20 to 22 months so a bit older and more able to enjoy doing summer stuff, I know non-parents hate us saying "she's 22 months blah blah blah" rather than she is one but there is a massive difference in a 12 month old to a 22 month old so deal with it.

She has become a pro dog walker and swing swinger, proficient in French, lover of tarte aux framboises and in possession of the most amazing bouncy ball collection and summer wardrobe I've ever seen (thank the lord for h&m and her aunties Vicky and Emily). I love her dresses, skirts, patterns, pinkness and brightness, I'm gutted it's all going to get packed away and won't fit next year. She has a quite unique style of her own, in the way that toddler girls do, a combination of bizarre hat choices, upside down sunglasses, a bracelet obsession and her habit of carrying a bear with her wherever she goes.

erm nothing to see here, move along
She loves walking, which is a good thing given that it's the main thing that we do and given that we have a giant dog to exercise regularly. It's our 'thing' is walking, we walk mornings, we walk afternoons, we walk up the road, round the park and if stopped by the evil that is a rainy day (you have to be a parent of a toddler to appreciate the bad juju a rainy day brings), we are flummoxed, stumped, bored, left twiddling our fingers. She is quite tall and very slim even though she eats enough pasta to sink a battleship most days, I think all the walking burns what she eats off, not to mention the running ("race you mummy"), ball kicking ("you kick it") and Tilly chasing she does.

She loves Peppa Pig (what kid doesn't), her wellies, her mama and her daddy, Bruno and Bunny, apples, sleep, chocolate buttons, blueberries and yoga, man does she ever do a mean downward facing dog. She happily goes down for her nap at twelve, sleeps for two to three hours and then happily goes off to bed again at seven, she loves baths, showers, swimming and colouring.

bunny and bruno are swingers
She does not like being off routine, gets all confused and grumpy, she doesn't like jelly, giving kisses or having her nappy changed when she's had a pooh (?), she is fierce and independent, confused by ice lollies, not cuddly in the slightest, chatty, polite and full of energy. I love everything about her.

She has a curl that kills me every. single. day. I love it, it's the most commented on thing about her, the killer curl. Sometimes I'm half tempted to cut the gorgeous thing off and keep it in a box for a forever memory but it becomes her, it's her statement, her gorgeous, lovely statement so it remains and maybe one day there will be more curls and I can cut one off and not feel like I'm snipping a little piece of personality away.

I'm sensing a pink theme, are you sensing a pink theme? We like pink in this house.

What I will say about sharing summer with a one year is this. I am knackered, we are knackered. We are like her servants, following her around and providing for her every whim, she is exhausting because she is so full of energy and life. I feel bad sometimes that I'm so old and so knackered, I would like to keep up with her but honestly the girl got some super strength life force going on and I'm struggling. I would like some sleep, I need some more sleep, have fantasies about sleep, I would sell a kidney for some sleep and she isn't even that early a riser so that tells you something about what it feels like to have a toddler when you're in your forties!

In conclusion I know I'm the lucky one, I know I have many more exhausting days and sleepless nights ahead of me but they are going to be so bloody worth it so I put my slap on to cover the bags, drink a gallon of tea every morning and just get on with my job.


this shawl

Meet my 2014 summer holiday yarn project. I made this! I actually made this. I still can't quite believe that me, so clumsy and a bit fat of finger can manage to turn a ball of yarn into something as pretty as this.

This shawl has been on my 'one day' list for an age. I always quite fancied it, never thought it would happen though, there always seemed to be other things to do and easier projects to be getting along with. Plus I'm on a 'not allowed to start any new yarn projects until I've finished the bag of incomplete ones' year and so far I've been really good, purchased hardly any wool at all. Hardly. Any. Wool. At. All.

I had my eye on the pattern ever since it graced this front cover. You can see why I wanted to make it, how pretty?

To make sure I could do it, I swatched it (yes I swatched! I'm a goddam crochet hero!), this was to check I could understand the pattern (sometimes it's like reading Greek!) and to see how it looked. Well it looked nothing, NOTHING like the finished article in the magazine. In fact it looked a bit shit.

I was thinking that I'd completely buggered it, rampant thoughts of under achieving swirled around my head but I was reassured (by the powers of instagram!) that it just required the blocking of it's life. Block the hell out of it woman, BLOCK it like MAD!

Thus off I went to the south of France with my bag of silky yarn and every night I sat and happily crocheted (rock and roll), following the pattern like my life depended on it. After a while, a really long while (probably because of my excessive consumption of French red), I fell into the rhythm of the pattern and it became quite meditative, soothing, I didn't want the shawl to ever end.

But end it did, unlike other shawls I've made, this one is constructed long edge first so it is a set length, you can't make it any bigger unless you do the maths and start with a longer opening chain (too much brain work for me). I finished it on our last night in France and it sat in a bag for a few weeks while I plucked up the courage to block it.

I swotted up on 'aggressive' blocking and found out it means submerging the whole piece in warm water, wringing it out in a towel and then stretching the piece into the shape and size you want it to be. It sounds so harsh, too much room for error and I was convinced I'd bugger it up. Sometimes you've got to take the bull by the horns and just do it, so I did, fretted about it the whole time, even once it was all stretched, pinned and sitting up on the dining room table to dry.

Then tick tock, tick tock, waiting, procrastinating and pretending not to see it for a few weeks. Kept telling myself I had to make sure it was dry even though it probably dried that first day I did it. One day I woke up and knew that it was shawl reveal day. I faced the challenge, unpinned it, held my breath the whole time and after all that drama I needn't have worried at all, it came out lovely and I'm already planning another one in black.

The best bit of this story is that I've now got a lovely new shawl to wear. Brilliant.


august photo challenge week 1

The August Break 2014 photo challenge.  I have managed it for one whole week. Amazed.


a summer day out

We joined the National Trust. Super, super dorky, right?

Yes super dorky but also super cool, membership gives you access to every single National Trust site for free for a whole year. And so we decided to make the most of it whilst the weather is nice and took our dorkyness to visit Cliveden. Pronounced Cliv (as in div) eden and not Clive (as in dive) den. As I found out to my provincial ass horror.

You think that it's going to be a quick day out at Cliveden because it's only the gardens that you have access to. The house, famous for being owned by the american Waldorf Astor family who would eventually give the estate to the National Trust, is now a luxury hotel and you can only snoop around on certain days and by appointment. So I thought we would be in and out in a jiffy.

Erm no, rather it is a huge and magnificent estate with amazing walks, woods and gardens and the most incredibly big, slightly naff and monstrous fountain of love. Yes. Indeed.

Apart from the eyesore d'amour, Cliveden is breathtaking. It is beautifully designed for visitors with posh bits, where dogs are not allowed and it's easy to push your pushchair along, combined with rugged and wild bits that go on for miles and are dog friendly (we didn't take Tilly, we wish we had) but not so much pushchair friendly, although we still did. The place is just so scrumptious, so well maintained, calm (even with the huge amount of people visiting that day), dreamy, inspirational. The gardens are literally stunning, jaw droppingly so, I was in heaven.

I'm not sure why my garden does NOT look like this.


Or this. I'm thinking space would be an issue for this one.

We walked round the gardens, had a row - a family day out is not a family day out without a good row - sunbathed on the rather fabulous lawn, ate lunch in a gorgeous orangery, changed nappies on the lawn because Bets has developed a phobia of public toilet changing tables and she literally ran out of the loo when I was trying to get her in there, got sunburn (me), got scraped and bloody knees (Betsy) and bought plants (me again).

The gardening team at Cliveden are incredible, I'd love to know how many there are, how they are organised, how they plan, plant and grow, I was itching to get to the shop. I mooched about for a bit, not that long as someone who should have been sleeping was shouting and hollering for me to hurry up the whole time. I managed to choose a pretty, droopy white hydrangea that is now turning a pastel pink and an orange bell shaped thingy that just looked pretty, I have no idea what it is, what it will do, if it will live or any of that nonsense, in fact I planted it in and immediately all the pretty orange flowers fell off, I've clearly got skills.

I think that family days out will get easy when Betsy stops needing a nap. She refuses to sleep in her pram and always has which is a bit annoying when you're out and about and she's getting more and more irritable and meanwhile vast numbers of smug mums are wafting past with sleeping angels in their prams. We eventually give up, admit defeat and head for home, soon as she's in the car seat she's snoring away like a demon and we can finally relax. Baby sleeping equals happy parents. Always.

ps. We have caught and released five (FIVE!!!) mice in less than a week, we have no idea if it's the same mice getting caught over and over again. I'm not sure how I feel about it really, a little plastic box filled at one end with nutella is going to be a major mouse magnet isn't it so are we just inviting them in now?