Wednesday 30 January 2013

The Family Photograph

I'm currently in the process of getting our family photo album of 2012 together (you know I'm obsessed with documenting, right?) and am realising how few photos we have of our family together. In fact there are very few photos with me in at all, mainly as I'm normally the person behind the camera.

Getting nice shots of us all is hard. Hugh took this with the camera at arms length. His height (6'4") brings the advantage of long arms with which to take self portraits.

I, rather bravely I think, submitted this photo (also taken at arms length by Hught) to the Dos Family Picture Tour. This is a shot I love, despite it not being the most flattering of any of us (Hugh is in his old DIY glases - oh and I do actually have a neck in real life) but this captured a moment of wonderful togetherness last summer, lying on our grass, just enjoying life.

We also occasionally put the timer on the camera... with mixed success.
Maybe the problem is that there is just something inherently CHEESY about family photos. I love the ones James at Bleubird does of her family. But then they could all be models and there is something we-are-trying-not-to-look-polished-but-really-we-are about them, don't you think? or am I being a bit enviously ungenerous there?
Above is a rare shot taken by someone else - I like this photo - but maybe that is because it's my family...  would this fall into my cheesy category if it was someone else's family? Harsh, I know.

I don't think this really counts as a family photo as Hugh only features below the knee but this image (from March 2011) sums up an era of our live, already fast disappearing. It's a typical weekend morning - the porridge pot on the table, the baby on the playmat, Coco busy playing and me with a towel on my head (and crocs - oh, the shame)!

So, this year I'm on a mission. I will get some nice photos of us together. Just need to think outside/upside-down/around the box about it.
Please share any tips or ideas...

Sunday 27 January 2013

04/52 A Portrait a Week

Henry: Asks for his bib off as soon as he's finished his food, but runs away from having his face wiped.
Coco: The front seats on the top deck of a dirty London bus.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Dreaming about Holidays

Am sitting at my desk in two jumpers and with a hot water bottle on my lap and I'm dreaming about holidays. About sunshine on my back and sand between my toes… obviously I've been successfully programmed into being a 'typical' consumer and as soon as Christmas is done and dusted I start thinking about holidays.

Now of course in years gone by thinking about holidays was simple. Where do I want to go and when do I want to go there? But now there's a husband and a Coco and a Henry who all seem to what to come along too.

I feel like it's taken us a while as a family to find our holiday mojo - so over the next few days (ok, it'll probably be weeks) I'm going to share my memories of all the holidays we've had since we've had children. We've been on a good variety of trips from wild camping and festivals to shared houses and basic self catering to a long-haul road trip, with a couple of hotel breaks thrown in for good measure. Some have worked better than others - so I'll be sharing the highs and lows with you here... yep, it's a mini-series!

I like reading about other peoples holidays in the name of research, so it's only fair that I share mine right?

So here you go - this is what you'll be seeing here in the next few weeks:
1) Winter House Party - Cornwall (with Coco aged a mere six weeks)
2) France - a shared villa with two other families with new babies. (Coco aged 8 months)
3) Wild Camping in Cornwall (Coco aged 9 months)
4) Family Friendly Hotel Break in Suffolk (Coco aged 10 months)
5) South African road trip (Coco aged 16 months) pictured above... wasn't she tiny!
6) Camping in Dorset (Coco 3 years, Henry 8 months) **
7) Ibiza self catering and with a few nights in a nice hotel thrown in for good measure (Coco aged 4, Henry 1)
8) Isle of Wight (Coco aged 4, Henry 1)
9) Cornwall for new year 2012 - the perfect set up! (I'll be saving this one until last...)

If you are interested in sharing any good holiday memories/itineraries or general hot tips then drop me an email.

** We had a bit of a holiday lull between our South African blow-out holiday and Henry being born due to our house renovations...

Sunday 20 January 2013

03/52 A Portrait a Week

Henry - Finally allowed to be let loose (ish) with paints and he loved it, doing hand prints with gusto.
"I like painting" he says - he liked 'washing' the paint brushes even more I think.

Coco - She found a feather on the way home from school and told me she was going to make a hat for Henry. Which she did, the only problem is Henry really doesn't like wearing hats.

Wednesday 16 January 2013

The story of Henry's Cake

A long time ago, when Henry was just 9 months old we had a lovely chat with one of Hugh's family friends about kids and language.

She has known Hugh since he was born and was commenting on how good his language was when he was little. I knew he was a bit of a chatterbox at an early age as his Mum kept a list of all the words he could say at 18 months - and frankly it's about 20x more than either Henry or Coco could say. But most impressive was the story of Hugh's first birthday.

Tractor, was apparently one of his first words, so a tractor cake was made, naturally. And this tractor has a female lego figure as the driver. When Hugh was presented with the cake and asked what it was, instead of saying 'tractor' as everyone expected he said 'lady driver' (or something... maybe 'lego lady driver' or 'lego lady' but you get the gist).

After this tale was recounted, I looked at the 9 month old Henry and realised that there was NO WAY he'd be speaking like that in a mere three months, and indeed it did take about another nine before he really started to chat away. I seem to remember lots of 'Are you sure it was Hugh's FIRST birthday' comments - but we were assured yes it was.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, when we were at Hugh's parents house we were doing the inevitable family photo album inspection when I saw this photo:

Now, readers... how many candles are on that cake?
Yep, 2!
Hugh was not a child prodigy (well he might argue with me on that point). He had a tractor cake for his second birthday! Maybe my children aren't the dunces I thought they were afterall.

In honour of this, we felt we had no choice but to make Henry a tractor cake for his second birthday, and Hugh did a pretty good job. We broke with tradition and used one of our 'vintage' village people I mean, fisher price builder character, as the tractor driver.

Henry was suitably impressed with his cake, which took about an eighth of the time to eat than it did to make.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Henry is Two

My baby is no longer a baby.

Henry was two on Saturday (and true to form we took these photos on Sunday...)
This was what we did for Henry's monthly photos for his first year - you can see them here.

For his birthday we took my friend AC's advice and went to the launchpad exhibit at the science museum, a whole floor of kid friendly physics experiments, lots of things to look at/press/listen to/build. Seriously great. Henry is still a bit young for most of it, but that didn't stop him trying everything out (that's him wiring a burgler alarm above). My physics knowledge is pretty bad, so I'm quite looking forward to learning alongside Coco and Henry here as they grow up.

After the science museum we went and propped up the bar at Brindisa and had some tapas. Henry was pretty adventurous, both him and Coco tucked into prawns and Henry tried octopus which was fitting as one of his favourite books is 'Octopus Sockopus' (Coco not so keen to have a try).

We moved to a table, got more food in and then our waiter bought Henry a piece of cake - only one candle though not that I think Henry was that bothered. The cake disappeared in about 10 seconds flat.

Once we got back home it was snoozes all round (except for Hugh who went shopping to buy the food for the next meal, his work is never done).

* We did also make Henry a cake... but that is a story for another post!

Monday 14 January 2013

02/52 - A portrait a week

Henry: Opening a present on his birthday, well practised now and he cutely says all the right things "oooh, wow, what's inside".
Coco: Watching Henry, so grown up and yet still my baby, she mothers him and calls him 'darling'.

Thanks to this project I've taken a lot more photos this week - and rediscovered my love for the 50mm lens - hence the close ups - it's such a pleasure to use, especially on these dark and dreary days.

Friday 11 January 2013

Branching Out

For the second time this week Charlotte has found me a new blog to read.

The first is Hattie's blog about living for a year without buying her toddler anything. Intrigued? Head over to Free Our Kids and take a look.

The second is flannery o'kafka and having a browse on her blog just inspired me to go back and look at the photos I took on the beach over new year and to turn one upside-down.

Sometimes doing a bit of imitating can be the path to branching out and finding my own new ideas, hence I am prone to being a bit of a copy-cat now and then.
Here are more photos from our new year beach visits.

We spent new year with some friends who moved out of London a year ago. I met Vic when Coco and Sam, her little boy, were about three or four months old and spent a lot of my maternity leave hanging out with her and our other sure-start centre baby massage crew. We shared those early days of motherhood together and formed pretty strong friendships. When we went back to work Coco and Sam went to the same nursery, I remember picking Coco up and Sam would be 'reading' to her. They used to nap next to each other and Sam would always wake Coco up when he woke up, then one day she woke up first and tried to get him up, apparently Sam turned over and said "No Coco, I'm sleeping". This was before they were two.

They were so excited to see each other and had such a lovely time. Watching them together again was bittersweet.

This time last year: Henry was getting into mischief. Some things don't change.

Wednesday 9 January 2013

My book about ME, by me (the signed copy)

Coco was the lucky recipient of the only present I made this Christmas.

I'm quite proud of it, it was made with a bit of help from Blurb and Moo (and it took me AGES - the problem with taking loads of photos is that when you want one picture you have a lot to trawl through).

It was inspired by a book my sister gave me when I was about six or seven by Dr Seuss which I dutifully filled in with all sorts of facts about me, from how many windows my house had to what my best friend was called. I seem to remember a page where you could circle what you were good at and I just about circled everything. Oh the good old days...

Coco's book is part notebook, part photo album and part stickers.

She loves writing all her friends names at the moment - so these pages play to that.

If Coco is anything like me then she may not really remember all the stuff she did when she was four, this way she'll have her own little reference book.

As you can tell, so far Coco has just been interested in the stickers. I hope she does fill it in... and if she does I'll post some photos of the finished article.

Tuesday 8 January 2013

Christmas Past

I'm in blog catch up mode, Coco went back to school today, Henry has finally succumbed to sleep - he likes to have a good 'ole chat with monkey and, more weirdly, with the monitor, before he drops off these days, "ssshhh monkey, NO talking, sleep time" he says (over and over again) so I have a full hour in blog-land before school pick up time.

So, I'll start at the beginnning.
Before Christmas.
I was ill, I think it was almost flu. The whole week running up to Christmas was a wipe out - in as much as it can be in the week running up to Christmas, there were certain things that just had to be done, and one of them was to make our Christmas cards. Which I did, just (pretty much the same as last year). I think most of them were probably delivered after Christmas. I am truly useless without a deadline, it's just something that I'm going to have to come to terms with.

We were quite well ahead with our self timed family photos... can you tell when we did them? Yep that's Hugh in his work clothes and Coco in a school uniform, so that's about 8.28am then.
It's actually quite hard to get the children not to look at the camera, as of course we needed side profiles but luckily we got a couple of shots that worked... it took a while to decide between these two. Credit goes to Hugh for the photoshop-cutting-out job well done.

Then I started musing on the rest of the design, and we settled on a holly den with bunting, although thinking about it it wouldn't be very fun hanging out in a holly den with two small kids, bound to end in tears, but there you go.

The next part of the process had to wait for 24 hours (due to needing Hugh to print out the design at work and bring it home again), but with a mere 36 hours until the last posting date out came my trusty GOCCO. I do love my Gocco.
Printing in progress, and sixty cards dry and ready to write the next morning.

So that was it. Our third silhouette card, I'm not sure whether or not to keep up this series for next year... I wonder if it's just all a bit self indulgent? Then again, aren't we allowed to be a bit self indulgent at Christmas - and I didn't put in the round robin letter that I had actually made/written! Oh well, I've got 12 months to make the decision, which, lets face it, I won't make until the last possible moment.

I have a few more festive-related posts planned, but not too much... On Christmas day I didn't pick my camera up once. Which is a shame now, but at the time we were just all enjoying ourselves. Plus, you don't want to see photos of us in our pj's do you?

Damn these dark winter days that make taking soft luminescent, dreamy photos of our children enjoying Christmas so hard.

This time last year:
A post about all my posts. Don't let anyone tell you I don't like a good look at my navel from time to time.

Monday 7 January 2013

1/52 A portrait a week

I'm in a starting mood today.
I didn't really feel it on the 1st of Jan, (or 2nd/3rd/4th/5th/6th either, obviously), but today my mind is buzzing with 2013.
The first of my new firsts is committing to taking a portrait of each of my children every week. Along with many of the blogs I read (Little Green Shed, First Day of Marriage, Seventy Tree, Green Tea & Toast, Sarah Illustrator - and started by the author of this blog) I'm going to try to keep this up each week for the next year.

Coco - Walking back from the beach last week, it's rare to see this girl with her coat done up, she is crazy, always going bare legged and never wanting to put on a jumper.
I'm hoping Coco can kick the pink habit this year.

Henry - I'm only going to be the mother of a one year old for a few more days as Henry is two on Saturday - it's hard to get a photo of him right now as he wants the camera all the time - hence this of him holding Coco's camera.

As part of the challenge I'm going to try to put the photos in unedited, no filters and very minimal tweaks - I'm too quick to rely on photoshop these days and I'd like to get better at really capturing the moments through the lens.

So that's it - just another something I've started... lets see if I can keep it up!
Oh yeah, and happy new year!