Autumn Leaf Mobiles

The weather has turned and the crispness of autumn is finally here. The fire is on and the heavy coats are back in the cupboard. It can be hard to motivate ourselves out of the house at this time of year but seasonal crafting, the kind that involves leaves, twigs and other found items on walks, forces us out the house with wellies, hats and gloves. Laminated leaf mobiles were on our radar recently. Another craft inspired by Tend Magazine, like our family owl prints. So out we went and collected leaves of all shades. We brought them home, cleaned them up, and dug out the laminator from the desk drawer.

The first few sheets went in well and then disaster, the leaves caused the sheet to jam and I thought my laminator was gone forever. We luckily already had enough leaves to create a couple of mobiles. Reuben helped cut out the leaves and we punched a hole in the top of each one before hanging them with string on a twig. Thankfully daddy came home and saved the laminator (with brute force!) and it lives for another crafting day!

Have you crafted with leaves? I'd love to make these glitter leaves for a sparkly autumn decoration.

Current Crochet Projects

When I started this crochet blanket (above) about 5 weeks ago there was a moment very early on when I realised that to finish it was going to take me FOREVER!! For the moment I've abandoned my previously mentioned crochet blanket because I've run out of yarn and think I might wait till I'm back in London to get more. So I had the perfect excuse to start another project! I found the pattern for this ripple blanket through Pinterest and have been trying to do at least one colour block row a day to keep it going. I found the yarn in a shop in Villefranche and have been back twice to stock up on more. (So glad I chose an inexpensive yarn for this project, something to bear in mind when I start any future blankets.) I'm hoping that it will be finished at some point in the new year, before Winter is over!

It's my birthday this month and as an early birthday present my mum, who has been working her way round all the craft fairs and stitching shows in London, very kindly sent me over a new set of Clover crochet hooks. I love them! Not just because of their fab colours, but also because they really are more comfortable and easier to grip than the cheaper ones I had before.

Other projects that I've started...winter scarves for all the family and hopefully soon a version of this top for me. Do you have any good crochet patterns? What are you crafting at the moment?

Check out my Pinterest crochet board for all the things I'm hoping to make!

Sweet Chestnut Festival - Laguépie

We had so much fun at last year's sweet chestnut festival in Laguépie we decided to go back again for this year's celebrations. I forgot how popular this festival is and instead of heading there first thing in the morning, this time we arrived at lunchtime and it was heaving. We walked through the festival to find lunch, getting distracted by the show of classic cars, the chrysanthemums for sale for Toussaint, the colourful squash displays, and of course chestnuts.

Lunch was a little different as we found a stall selling Chinese chicken with noodles, (optional) hot sauce, prawn crackers, and chocolate orange cake for dessert. The boys like their parents are huge noodle fans, and it was a nice change from sausage and aligot, the other usual option at events like these. Despite being the end of October we were in the midddle of an Indian summer (hence Reuben ending up in his t-shirt) and we baked away in the sunshine until it was too much and had to retreat into the shade.

After lunch we took a stroll through the market. Our first stop was the play area where there were a number of different outdoor games for kids to try. They had a go fishing, throwing a hoop onto a stick, bowling and coin throwing. Their favourite activity however was the high wire assault course which they missed out on last year. They were both harnessed up and navigated their way across the course. Jacob screamed as we tried to take him off as he wanted to go round again. We then found a stand run by volunteers offering arts and crafts for kids. Both boys had a go making little figures using chestnuts, matchsticks, paint, paper and glue.

Back through the market I ended up buying some chestnut flour, puréed chestnut spread, and some chestnuts for roasting (on an open fire!) We also bought two large pumpkins to carve for Halloween, though after scooping out one I decided to simply spray paint the second one gold!

What seasonal festivals have you been to this Autumn?

Visit our Facebook page for more pictures of the day

Lou Messugo

Learning French with the Zazoo!

Finding ways for the whole family to enjoy learning a new language can lead to exciting discoveries. In our journey to learn French I stumbled across Little Bilingues, a website that is now at the top of my favourites list as it has some great resources for helping kids learn French or English. For children, learning has to be fun. Judith Milena, the founder of Little Bilingues, has created the Zazoo, six colourful bilingual characters who go on fun adventures at places such as the beach and in Paris.

We have all of the books and both our boys love reading them. We read them together, going through the vocabulary pages first and then on to read the story. I read the French sentences and then translate them into English for the boys so they fully understand the story. Even if you have no French at all it's easy to guess what the characters are saying from the pictures and with help from the vocabulary at the beginning of the books. I love the attention to detail in the illustrations, there is so much to engage your child with and to talk about in any language.

If you're not confident reading in French there are also audio book versions that you can listen to with your children. Judith contacted us to see if we would be willing to help record the audio books knowing that Andrew, with his Media Man business, had all the equipment needed. We recruited local bilingual children and began the process of assigning characters and working with them to really bring the books alive. The children had fun in character and it was amazing to watch them move so effortlessly between two languages with perfect understanding and accents!

The Zazoo books and activities are aimed at children aged 2 - 7 years and with our boys aged 5 and 2 and a half they are at the perfect age for these resources. Judith also has downloadable activity books following different themes. If you're not sure whether the activities are suitable for your child you can sample some of the resources for free to try them out.

Do visit the Little Bilingues website and Judith's blog to discover the Zazoo for yourselves. Thank you Judith for creating such wonderful books for us to enjoy, and for letting us play a small part in the Little Bilingues journey!

Family Owl Print

I love discovering new magazines to read. Who doesn't? At the moment I'm drawn towards ones that reflect a slower pace of life, with emphasis on homegrown food, fun and simple crafts, nurturing family life, and a move towards self sufficiency. Tend is my latest find, a quarterly downloadable magazine that ticks all of the above.

In issue 3 there are craft projects that as soon as I saw I knew I had to do with the boys. This little thumb print owl family was the first project we did. Using printed paper from the latest Mollie Makes (another favourite magazine,) inks from our Christmas stamp set and twigs found outside our house, we put this picture together in minutes. So cute!

Do you have any family crafted art work on your walls at home?

La Ferme Du Safran - Septfonds

When I signed up for a tour of a local saffron farm I didn't realise that I would have the most interesting morning and learn so much about such a beautiful little thing. 'La Ferme du Safran' is just outside Septfonds and we were welcomed in by Bertrand, the owner. He led us straight to his field where he grows his saffron which looks like this...

Pretty much like any ordinary field you might come across. This, Bertrand began, is the beauty of growing saffron. The field is not watered, it is not shielded from the elements, the bulbs are planted amongst the weeds and left to do their thing. Harvesting takes place only in October. The flowers have to be picked by hand before daybreak as once they open the strands of saffron are exposed to the sun which kills their vitamins. Each flower contains three saffron strands which are extracted by hand. The distinctive colour is already there but Bertrand told us he gets the taste out of the saffron by heating it, where it loses 5 times it's weight, and leaving it to mature like a good wine.

Saffron is expensive due to the fact that it is processed by hand and what seems like a lot only yields a very tiny amount. It's priced like gold. When buying saffron if it seems too cheap chances are it's not real saffron. Anything can be made to look like saffron strands and then coloured and flavoured so be careful to check what you are buying. You may find, for example, that what you think is powdered saffron is actually turmeric! Real saffron has so many benefits. It's an antidepressant, it can aid digestion, the essential oil has calming properties, marathon runners use it to calm cramp, and you'll find it in some baby teething syrups. If saffron is something you think you've never had chances are you have as it is present in many medications.

After the tour of the farm and shop we were led inside for a home cooked saffron infused lunch where I quickly realised that I had never before eaten true saffron. It has such a particular flavour. There were people on my table who failed to pick out the saffron taste which was a surprise as for me it was such a dominant flavour in every course. The fish starter had a saffron infused butter sauce. The veal main had a creamy saffron sauce alongside seasonal potatoes and pumpkin. The trio of desserts included saffron meringues, fromage blanc topped with saffron compote and apple tart with yet more saffron. By the end of the meal I had to admit I was pretty saffroned out and I wasn't sure I actually enjoyed the taste. I can see how it can add colour and flavour but I think it's a fine chemistry to get it right. I bought a small packet of saffron to experiment with. I think I may start with a sweet rather than savoury dish, adding it to an already tried and tested cake recipe perhaps. As Bertrand added at the end, the best saffron recipes...are yours!

Have you cooked with saffron before? What do you think of the taste?

Salt Dough Diva Candles

It was always this time of year, when living in London, Reuben would come home with handmade diva candles from his lovely Montessori nursery. The children would explore the festival of Diwali and one of the mums would come and give a talk, they would taste Indian sweets, and make their little candle holders. We decided to make colourful candle holders with the boys over half term using our favourite salt dough recipe. The boys made a huge mess (as they do when flour is involved) and I helped shape balls of the dough into the holders which we then left to dry. Using our favourite new fluorescent and glitter IKEA paints we decorated and then covered with glitter for that extra sparkle!

How do you bring light into your homes at this time of year?

Three Little Chooks

Our chicken coop at the end of the garden is now a pretty sad sight. It wasn't long ago that I was telling you about our first 6 months of looking after chickens, and now our first chicken keeping experience has come to an end. Andrew recently came down from the garden and announced that our remaining three chickens had been killed. By what? We're not sure. We don't think it was a fox because we're assuming it would have taken them away. There was no sign of animal entry or exit, just a lot of feathers, and three lifeless chickens around the coop.

It was probably our fault as we had become pretty lazy about closing them up at night (lesson learnt!) Next Spring we'll get some more and try again. In the meantime we'll carry on reading and learning and hopefully our next set of chickens will be happier, healthier and lay more eggs!

Do you keep chickens? We'd love to hear your chicken keeping tales!
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