CHRISTMAS EVE: traditions

Last year, we started a new tradition of visiting the Botanical Gardens on Christmas Eve to lay flowers for my Dad. It was that day in 2014 that I last spoke to him, and it was the happiest conversation with laughter and silliness. The girls and I wandered around, laying bright orange tulips (picked by Josephine) in the spots they thought were the most beautiful. Although actually, my favourite one was next to a big puddle that they both jumped and splashed in for ten minutes...

"I think I should lay a flower here, Mama, because Grandpa would have loved to have done this too. He would think it's hilarious!!"

I absolutely agree, Josephine.

The gloomy rain cleared as we arrived, leaving an almost spring-like hour for us to stroll around, talk about Grandpa and get excited for all that Christmas would bring. It was my Dad's favourite time of year too, and I'm determined to continue that for him.

There was blossom on the trees and the girls chased squirrels and birds, played hide and seek and ate a whole load of cookies as we explored one of our favourite places. It was just lovely.

We love you, Papa xxx



As another year fades away, it's inevitable we look back at all that has changed and all that has been over the last twelve months. And as Mothers, especially, it's a poignant time. To see how much our little ones have grown, to shake our heads in disbelief at how fast the time has gone. It's also when I feel most thankful for this little journal of mine; when I remember why it's so important to keep it going, keep on recording and keep taking photos of this moment in our lives. I can spend hours lost in the archives, and I know I will for years to come.

But as much as I love reflecting on what I've captured, I'm also reminded of what I've missed this year. Namely, me. Mama. Back in May, I wrote a post about getting myself in front of the camera more; documenting my presence here, giving our girls and myself pictures that will always be cherished. Looking back, I haven't stuck to my plan of being in the picture as much as I'd like, I'll admit; so often I just forget to hand over the camera.

It was when I was talking to my dear friend Polly about the lack of photographs of us both with our children and how we wanted to change that, that an idea formed and blossomed and we created Motherhood Captured, a monthly photography project.

On the last weekend of every month, we'll be posting at least one photograph of us with our children. We'll be in front of the lens, and we'll be giving ourselves the most beautiful gift; one we'll cherish forever. Some months there may be a perfectly imperfect portrait, and others there may be a series of natural shots of us and our babies, but every month there we will be. And at the end of 2016 we'll have at least 12 moments captured; moments in this journey of motherhood that we'll treasure always.

We would love for you to join us in this project and invite you to post your own photographs on your blog or on Instagram, using #motherhoodcaptured. Let's inspire each other, let's capture these beautiful days of motherhood together.

I adore this photograph my clever boy took of us a few days before Christmas, quickly snapped on our way to dinner at our best friend's house - thank you so much Ben. The way Josephine is squeezing my neck so tight, her head as close as can be to mine. Coralie snuggled on my lap (her favourite place right now) holding her own baby, Lara. My arms wrapped around my babies, as they always will be; my hands and heart full. The bright and happy smile on my face. Motherhood in that moment of time - all snuggled against the winter cold and filled with the excitement of Christmas - captured.



Nothing gets me like my babies holding hands.

Excited to carry on this little photography project, along with some new ones, in 2016. And I WILL begin to make those photo books I'm always talking about, complete with our Maternity Series' and Monthly Portraits galore.



It's hard to believe that another year has passed. Another year without you making me laugh, showing me the way, holding my hand and smiling back at me. I don't understand how it's been two years since we spoke. Since I saw you. Since our lives smashed into a million pieces. Since a new chapter began.
This year, I've come to release that the thing about grief - essentially, the biggest thing - is the absolute lack of control. I never know which way it will throw me. As time moves on, and another year without my Dad here comes to a close, the healing continues. The grief, for me, never fades - it burns as bright today as it did that first day - but I'm learning how to live with it. How to be warmed by that flame, draw strength from it and use it's passion and fire to drive my life along; achieve what I want to achieve, be who I want to be. The lessons grief has, and will, teach me are invaluable. They've come at the greatest cost, but they're here whether I like it or not, and it would be foolish not to listen to them and try to follow them. As the waves of heartbreak smash on me, I give in and let go and it helps me to heal and as the calmer waters of understanding take me to new places, I grow and relax and can breath again. Sometimes I feel like I am only just holding on by the tips of my fingers, so nearly out of control, and sometimes, from somewhere, I can use it and feel powerful and unstoppable; that I can take on the world, because I'm surviving the worst it has to throw at me.

With everyday comes a new challenge. A new question, a photograph, a forgotten memory, the first few bars of a song. And with every challenge I'm learning to let my heart guide me. I don't think I will ever know what will upset me or what will make me smile when it comes to my Dad, but I'm learning that I can't control it and realising that this year has simultaneously given me some control back. I no longer feel like I'm spiralling, even in those darkest moments. I'm riding those waves now, not fighting against them; I'm willing to let them take me wherever I need them to.

Everyday I feel you're with me, my Papa. In some way or another. And as the new year begins I'm more sure of it than ever. But I miss you, more every day and with every minute. I love you, forever and always.



Sweet girl, my how you've changed since last year. You've grown so much and have become even more of a lovely little person to have around. You're funny and kind, and laid back and stubborn; you're interested and confident and so so happy. And you're completely bonkers! An absolute joy to be around. Just like your Grandpa, who you still look so like. Sometimes it's like he's looking right at me, and I love that, and I love you more for it.

Of course this year has been full of milestones for you; you've learnt to walk and talk and run and scoot and you mastered the climbing frame and slide at the park a few months ago too. You're so close to jumping and you love to run around shouting 'yeah, yeah, yeah!' when you're told it's food time, bath time or time to head out. Your excitement about the smallest thing, the happiness you find in most everyday task, is a lesson to us all.

It's wonderful to see you and Josephine play so happily together these days too. Whether it's playing Mamas or Barbies, doing puzzles, building the train track or running around outside, you're never far from Phiney's side, trying to do everything she does. I love listening to you both singing and chatting via the monitor before you go to sleep and when you wake in the morning. I hope you always chat away like that.

One of your most favourite things (aside from eating!) is dancing and singing. I'm pretty sure these will feature greatly in your future. Your dance moves are hard to beat, and you sure know how to shake that booty of yours. Especially when you're in front of the mirror. You love watching yourself, and find yourself completely hilarious.

You are such a sociable little thing too. Always chatting away to anyone and everyone, and a real cuddle monster; no baby is safe from your squeezes! And when Phiney gets upset, or Mama and Daddy have been poorly, you're the first to offer up cuddles and kisses and check we're all ok. Such kindness.

I truly can't wait to see how you blossom over the next 12 months. To hear you talk more and more and see your personality emerge further still. I have a feeling you're just going to get more awesome. If that's even possible!

I am so proud of you, so proud to be your Mama.
I love you xxx

Photographs taken on Christmas morning, and some of my favourite ever of Coralie. I just can't get over her in that 1950s dress. What a find...what an absolute cutie!

WEARING: Vintage dress // La Coqueta tights // Startrite shoes



Ben finished work for the Christmas holidays yesterday and we're all so happy about it! I am finally feeling a bit better, and Coralie seems to be too although it now appears it's caught up to Ben too so it'll be a Christmas miracle if we all wake up feeling well on Friday morning. But here's hoping!

Just wanted to pop by and wish everyone a very happy Christmas. I hope yours is one full of love, laughter and plenty of yummy food. And maybe a few good presents too ;) Josephine really gets the idea of Father Christmas this year and her excitement is palpable. I just want it to be Christmas already!!

I have a few posts lined up for the days after Christmas - it's obviously a difficult time for my family although I know that one particular day or anniversary does not necessarily mean the hardest for my heart; those days can just creep up on you and surprise you from nowhere. I hope we can spend it smiling as we think of our beautiful Daddy.

Before the new year I'm also really excited to launch a new project with my beautiful friend, so do keep an eye out for that too.

Much love to you all, and thank you for all your comments and emails this year, they always mean a lot.

Nell, Ben, Josephine and Coralie xxxx 


Here we are, another year older already - I hardly know where the time has gone. You've grown and changed so much since my last letter, and have so many new experiences under your belt.

You started dance classes at the beginning of the year and pre-school after Easter, and you've blossomed incredibly. A little shy, and easily overwhelmed by large groups of people, you need a little time to climatise, but you always do quickly and happily and are playing and laughing and chatting in no time. And everyone at nursery thinks you're the bee's knees. You make us so proud. It's taken me a while to work out it's best to just leave you to it and stand back, or be there for plenty of cuddles, gently encouraging you to join in only after a few minutes. Thank you for being so patient and letting me figure it all out; how best to parent you, how best to be your Mama.

You have a hard job being the eldest my little love; I should know - and Daddy too - as the eldest ourselves. We talk often about remembering to not put pressure on you and expect more from you than we should. You are so clever and bright and switched on that I think sometimes we forget how little you are. And you help Coralie out so much, teaching her and guiding her without anyone having to say a word. You are a wonderful big sister Josephine.

The last year has seen your relationship with Coralie change so much, and it is lovely to watch. You now play so happily together (most of the time...I understand how frustrating it must be to get that puzzle ruined AGAIN after you spent so long carefully fitting together the pieces) and to watch you giggle and laugh and conspire melts my heart. A beautiful friendship is being forged and you're both so lucky to have that.

Right now you love all things fairies and elves and unicorns, Barbies and babies, and also cars, jumping, bike riding, running and the time you get just you and Daddy up at the allotment; what a special place that is for you both, and what fun you'll have next year there too. So proud of your matching wellies and hoodies, when you set off with your hair tied up and your backpack on, ready to work.

I love that you're the only dancer to clap the other ballerinas as they cutesy after each class every Friday, and how you were beside yourself with excitement when we visited Moorland Rd and I told you there were seven charity shops there. Your Mama's daughter, for sure.

You dance so beautifully Josephine, I well up at least once every dance class. Coralie and I sit entranced week after week. And I love our ritual of visiting the library straight after to return and pick out two books. You always know exactly what you want or don't want, and there's no persuading you. Reading with you is the best; always so many questions about little details on the page, hidden in the pictures. You notice the smallest things - don't ever stop. Your Grandpa once told me to 'always look up, because you could be missing so much' - and I think of that often. I don't think I'll have to remind you, but I'll be sure to pass on that wisdom as you grow.

You make your Grandpa so proud, of that I'm sure. Boy, he would have loved to have been around to hang out with you; to have seen you as Mary in your nativity a few weeks ago and take to the stage so naturally, singing and doing the actions. To see you fly round the track on your bike and to see the amazing outfits you concoct from the dressing up box and emerge from your bedroom wearing. To hear the downright insane stories you make up, before throwing your head back with a pretty evil sounding laugh. He would have thought you're completely mad, and completely brilliant. And your living life so completely and enthusiastically is a reminder for me of how we all should, like your Grandpa did too - and I thank you for that darling.

Next year will be another huge one for you - in September you start school! I can hardly believe it, nor do I want to! We've completed your application and I will now happily forget all about you being away from me for the majority of the day, five days a week, until April when we find out which school you got into. We plan to fill the summer with adventures and send you off with brilliant stories of crazy escapades and daring exploits of your time by the sea and up in the Scottish Highlands. Your first time on a plane too...you're so excited!

I suppose I could offer this advice or that prediction, but all I want to say Josephine is - continue being you. Because you're awesome. Goofy and beautiful. Kind and funny. Stubborn and serious. The most wonderful creature. And even when you don't listen and test my patience to it's extremes, I still think you're wonderful. I am in awe of you, always.

I am so proud of you, so proud to be your Mama.
I love you xxx


MY YEAR: a new chapter, part three

As the year comes to a close, it's natural for us to reflect on what the last 12 months have brought, revealed and challenged us with. And I feel like it's been a big year for me.

I wrote last year, that 2014 was a year of quiet and healing. It was by far the most emotional of my life; a year of heart-breaking lows and heart-mending highs. It was a year of firsts without my Dad and firsts with Coralie; the strange reality of my Dad never meeting Coralie, and yet their lives overlapping in that way is something I think about often.

It turns out that 2015 has been a year of understanding and growth for me. I guess in many ways I didn't realise it at the time, as the months and seasons slipped by, but here we are and it's dawning on me how much I've changed this year. My opinion, feelings and thoughts on so many things feel more grounded, more true. I feel like I've discovered more of myself this year than I ever have before.

Over these last weeks, in the midst of exhaustion and illness, I've found myself awake in the middle of the night, joining the dots. And while it's been a journey, and one that on many levels I was thrown unwittingly, kicking and screaming into, the last two years have taught me so much about myself and the person I want to be.

* I think motherhood is a journey that none of us know the path of. It winds and flows in every direction, sometimes all at once, and the best we can do is learn and understand and stay true to ourselves and our instincts and beliefs. Birthing Coralie and those first six months of sleepless nights and attempting to forge some kind of routine and normality in the throws of grief, was hard. Indescribable, really. But as Coralie has grown, and as all four of us have, we've hit a stride in these last few months that I feel in sync with. There have been challenges, as there always are in parenthood, but Ben and I have come out stronger and more united than ever. And our girls continue to blossom and thrive. They are truly my greatest achievement and, oh! My life, my existence, it's all for them, for Ben, for our little family. I want to be present, to listen and understand, even when I find it hard to. I want to smile and laugh and continue to forgive and forget the little things that can sometimes seem like the biggest things. Because they're not. I want to take more moments to myself to breathe and stay calm and centred; to think. And I want to see those moments as a blessing and necessity not a failure.

* I want to relax in this new found freedom that is body-confidence. It's not so much getting my old body back, because that really hasn't happened, but it's understanding this new body of mine. This amazing body that created and grew and birthed and nourished my babies. I have a new found respect for it, and am in a very happy place where I no longer feel like I'm fighting it. I'm happy, and despite being heavier and softer, I love it more. I aim to listen to it, to strengthen it (but gently with pilates I think) and I will embrace this feeling and share it with my girls. To love oneself. To stand in front of the mirror and feel proud. And I will enjoy every mouthful of steak or creamy chicken Ben cooks and every bite of that chocolate bar he brings me home as a treat.

* I aim to continue simplifying. A term thrown at everything now, I know, but one I've really identified with this year. In all aspects of life, I hope to be less cluttered. To hold onto only the things I truly love. I've started well in 2015 and feel so much clearer because of it.

* The mix of motherhood and grieving has pushed my love of style and fashion away, as far as it ever has been, but over the last six months, I've felt it return and it's different now. It's about those few choice pieces - not necessarily expensive (the charity shop is still my number one) but thoughtful - about finding the balance between practicality and desirability; for my wardrobe and our home. Clothing-wise, I've got rid of those fall-back items I just chuck on because they're easy, yet which I never feel good in. I deserve more than that; whether I'm at the park, at home or out for lunch. I aim to buy less, but make it count.

* I want to use my time better, to use it purposefully and use it well. To achieve the little things and the big things. The things I need to and the things I want to. I have a few projects I hope to develop and work on next year, and I will need to utilise the afternoon naptimes, the nursery times and the early evenings as best I can, but I know it will be worth it. I'm excited to see what that time will bring.

For me, 2016 is about thoughtfulness. All these things come back to that. It's about taking a moment to decide what I want; what I want to buy, say, do, achieve. I want to take control and make the most of this year. Breath in every second of my babies, of this moment in our lives, seize every opportunity and make my place in this world count.



My favourite thing right now is heading out the door nice and early for a run around with the girls and a good breath of fresh air. It really starts the day right, for all three of us. When the winter sets in round these parts, it can be easy to spend the days cooped up indoors, but with that scenario comes squabbles, boredom, frayed tempers and, often, the TV. We always invest in good waterproof trousers for the girls, and have lucked out with great raincoats at the charity shop over the years, so the rain and cold can't stop us. It may take us 20 minutes to put it all on and get out of the door, but it's always worth it.

On Friday we kicked off the weekend with a drizzly trip to feed the ducks and wander round the park. We were out of the car by 9.20am and had the duck's complete attention with our loaf of bread. The girls giggled with glee as the ducks swarmed us, and happily gobbled up our treats.

We then strolled round the park, petting dogs and chasing birds and squirrels, eating Christmas snacks (a must-have for any chilly walk) and talking about what we had planned for the weekend. 

We were only out for an hour before the drizzle turned to rain and a dash back to the car, but it was lovely and I can't wait for our next spontaneous morning outing.

No photos of us feeding the ducks...I can't trust Coralie not to throw herself into the pond trying to cuddle one of them when I'm stood back snapping away!