Hello September

Hello September! As usual we welcome you with open arms. The boys were so excited for their first day back at school they couldn't sleep the night before...you would have thought it was Christmas Eve! The days are cooling down, the cyclamen are starting to raise their heads (a sure sign that September is here) and this week has been all about finding our new rhythm.

I'm realising it's pretty much impossible to get anything done with a 3 month old around. I've dramatically reduced my daily to do list and if I achieve just one thing a day I'm taking that as an achievement. We've been spending a lot of time in the kitchen. The sloes are soaking in gin, the tomatoes have been whizzed into Andrew's hot pepper sauce, and the giant courgettes have been blitzed and frozen as soup. We've been picking figs for jam and I'm experimenting with beet kvass with a recipe from this book.

Our evenings are spent reading Harry Potter. We started (and finished) the first book over the summer and the boys are well and truly hooked. I haven't allowed them to watch the films until we read the book but I wanted to wait until they were old enough to enjoy the story and have the staying power to last the length of the books. We watched the first film last weekend and have swiftly started book two.

We have some exciting things on the horizon. I'm about to get busy with my sewing machine and the crochet hooks have been out making products for upcoming Christmas markets. We will also be launching some very exciting Wild Oak Wood news before the end of the year so make sure you're signed up to our mailing list to be the first to receive the news!

How's your September shaping up?

Summer Heatwave Activities

I learnt a new French word this recently...canicule. It means heatwave, which is what we've been experiencing for what feels like forever. The grass is parched, the flowers are dead, the veg patch is suffering, and we're constantly covered in a layer of sticky sweat that is attracting all the biting flies. It might as well be raining everyday as it's too hot to play outside. So the boys have been amusing themselves in the cool inside, mainly with Lego and episodes of Ninjago, but every so often I manage to steer them away and distract them with another activity.

Throughout the school year Jacob got into comic books so I bought the boys these blank comic book pages to have a go at creating their own. They've really enjoyed these and I like seeing them being imaginative (which they're very good at thanks to Lego) coming up with lots of mini story lines. At the moment they're working in pencil but I'm really hoping they're going to colour it all in because I think it will turn them into wonderful books.

I also got them these 10 minute maths books. They come with a timer and the idea is that you try and do a page a day within 10 minutes. Well they haven't done a page a day and they're a bit intimidated by the timer so haven't used it yet. But when they're in the mood they're happy to sit and work through a few pages. I initially got Reuben the 9-11 year book (he'll be 10 in August) but he found it a little tricky so we're starting with the 7-9 book. I'm realising that although he's good at maths I'm not up to date with what he's been learning here in his French school. Also he's using very different techniques to what we used (all those years ago!) so I'm going to have to relearn methods all over again if I'm going to be able to help him.

How are you keeping kids entertained this summer?

School's Out For The Summer!

Life has changed quite a bit since I last wrote. In May we welcomed Phoebe into our lives and she has slotted in rather nicely! She's still quite mini so sleeps a lot on and off. The boys love her, we love her, and she's been getting a huge amount of attention everywhere we go. Last week the boys had their last day at school and the Summer holidays have officially begun. There was a bit of a bumpy start as both boys were in tears at the thought of not being with their friends for the next two months, but they slowly seem to be getting into the new rhythm. I've got some activities planned, there are some music festivals we'll be attending, parties that we've been invited to, and Summer markets to visit.

It's been so crazy hot here recently there's not much more we can do except hang about by the pool. If it's like this over the next two months it's going to be hard to get anything done as by 11 o'clock it's already too hot to move. My garden is suffering and I'm already debating whether it's worth keeping up with the watering or whether it's best to let things wither away. I can clearly see what works in the heat and what needs to go. I'll be making some major changes in Autumn and I'm always on the lookout for plants that can survive this heat. If you've got any tips or plants you think might work send them our way!

I hope wherever you are Summer has got off to a good start. Let us know what you're up to, if you have any ideas for keeping kids entertained, and if you're in the area come say Hi!

Cocoa Butter Bars & Beeswax Wraps

A combination of recently rather confused weather (from soaring heat to icy hail) and pregnancy stretching me out in all manner of places, my skin is pretty dry at the moment. Reading the latest issue of The Green Parent Magazine I read about families having a go at going zero waste in the home, and one family in particular mentioned using a cocoa butter bar instead of body lotions in plastic bottles. After looking up various recipes I decided to have a go at making my own as I had all the ingredients needed.

My version uses a combination of cocoa butter, beeswax, sweet almond oil and vitamin E oil. It's creamy and easy to apply and just what my skin needs right now. I'm hoping it will hold it's shape because my homemade beauty products have a habit of melting into oily liquids when the summer heat appears. I'd love to get a nice mould to make them in next time.

I also had a go at making beeswax wraps. Like all the sewing I've been doing recently these are another easy way to use up scrap fabric. However, I'm not totally convinced the method I've used has produced decent enough wraps. I melted beeswax, jojoba and almond oil together, then brushed it onto the fabric before placing them in the oven for a few minutes. What seems to have happened is the beeswax has melted completely through the fabric and they don't seem to 'wrap' themselves around anything. I've never used beeswax wraps before and I'm hoping we can incorporate them into our everyday kitchen use. Though I may have to go out and buy a few to compare to my own homemade versions and try another recipe.

Have you made any eco changes in your home recently?


A Creative Sewing Streak

I've been feeling hugely creative recently. I don't have a designated sewing room (yet!) so I keep taking over the dining room table with my fabric and sewing paraphernalia, trying out patterns and making, mainly for baby though not exclusively.

First up some jersey baby leggings. These are sooo cute! I'm always a little afraid of trying out clothes patterns. I have long had dreams of creating a handmade wardrobe for myself but have yet to make any kind of progress because patterns, choosing the right fabrics, and sizing has always put me off. However I'm diving in to the world of handmade baby clothes because they are just too cute! I bought this harem pant pattern from Made By Me Patterns and spent just a couple of hours sewing up my first pair...and I was hooked! They are just too cute and the pattern goes all the way up to 2 years so I'll be sewing them for a while.

With the same fabrics I also made some baby hats with this pattern. Hoping the smallest size fits baby when it's born, they seem quite tiny! But I'm holding back some fabric so can always whip up the next size up if needed.

Next, washable cloths. I used to rely heavily on wipes with my boys when they were young but I'm determined to be more eco friendly this time round. These are so easy to make so I've been making loads. I want to make some bigger ones to use as kitchen towels so will be back to the fabric shop soon for more toweling fabric (any excuse!)

On my crochet hook recently I've had these baby hats. We're not exactly going into the right season for these but they'll be good for Autumn/Winter, and I''m going to add pom poms on top to make them even cuter. Haven't quite mastered different sizing yet, they all seem to end up the same size but that's probably down to the different wool I'm using.

Next on my list I'd love to find a simple romper pattern that would look good in linen or muslin, and I'd love to have a go at making sweatshirts, both for the boys and for myself as I've seen some gorgeous jersey fabric around recently.

Do you have any favourite clothing sewing patterns?

Laying Down Roots

When we bought our house we knew that this was it for us. I wont come out and say that it's our forever home because who knows what the future holds, but for now at least it's where we have decided to stay put and raise our kids, (alongside a few animals,) and this Spring we have laid down some serious roots.

I used to direct a choir but gave this up last year knowing that we wanted to expand our family. As a leaving gift I got given the perfect present, a voucher for a local garden center. We held onto this voucher for more than half a year because we knew exactly what we wanted to get with it...fruit trees. In February we headed off and picked 6 fruitiers, 2 cherries, an apple, a plum and 2 peaches. It took us a while to get round to digging the holes but once we did we had an after school tree planting session with the boys.

Fingers are now crossed that they all make it, that they all thrive in the spot we've chosen for them next to the bamboo. I love the idea of picking our own fruit from the trees and making all sorts of preserves with them. In the meantime we'll have to make do with foraging and what we get given from other people's gardens as per usual.

In other garden news we finished and planted up our strawberry patch. Really hoping we get a good crop of these this year, I've never made strawberry jam before!

Are you growing fruit where you are?

Veg Patch - February

This weather is crazy! Last year it was endless rain and this year the sun is blazing, forcing us outside to prepare our veg patch which this year is going to be bigger and better. I'm going to take you on a little tour of the patch today, starting at the top and working our way down. Last year was an experiment, we had four beds that we planted with a variety of veg, most of which grew. What we learnt was that rather than half a bed of tomatoes and half a bed of salad leaves, we need whole beds of these plants to keep us going throughout summer.

The top of the patch is where we cut out a whole load of box hedges which had been left to go wild and were blocking the view from the house. They went as soon as we moved in and it's now a difficult bed, full of stones and roots and poor soil. We've created a pathway from the house to the veg patch and to the left of this I'd like to create a rockery. To the right I'd like a mixture of flowers and fruit bushes. We sadly missed out on a good batch of top soil so we'll have to find a solution to filling it up with decent soil cause everything we have round here is thick sticky clay.

Next is my strawberry bed. We want strawberries...and lots of them! So we have created a whole bed that will be dedicated to a variety of strawberries that we'll buy from a local garden center.

Moving down we have four main beds and below them another four main beds. We need to work out some kind of watering system because this is where we got caught out last year. Last summer was so hot and though things got off to a good start in spring they quickly died out in the heat of the summer sun. Andrew has installed a tap and we're going to think about pipes into the beds.

Lastly Andrew has created two long beds at the bottom where we will plant onions, garlic and potatoes. We tried onions last year but they stayed mini (where did we go wrong?) and we tried a small amount of potatoes which were delicious so we're doubling the amount we plant this year. We've just got a small second hand rotavator which will help with preparing the soil here. We're itching to get going with seeds but it's still a little early, despite all the sunshine, though we have started a few indoors. We have a lot of packets from last year but we've also ordered some new ones from Sutton Seeds. We'll also be buying some starter plants from garden centers as they have a good variety round here.

Are you planting fruit or veg? Have you started preparing your planting areas or potting indoors? We'd love to hear any tips that you might have for a successful growing year.

Muslin Baby Sewing

Does anyone else find it as hard as I do to get up before sunrise? I'm not a morning person at the best of times but throw in the frost and darkness of winter and I find it especially hard. After such a laid back holiday break it's been hard getting back into the rhythm of school and work. To help keep me going (apart from copious amounts of tea by the fire) I've dug my sewing machine out.

A while back I bought some muslin and having decided that this fabric would be utterly useless and far too thin for winter curtains (what I originally bought it for) it's perfect for making lightweight baby blankets and cloths. You can't go too wrong cutting squares and sewing up the edges, though muslin is quite a stretchy material, so it's been a simple enough project to start the new year with. I never really made anything for the boys when they were little but I quite like the idea of getting some baby clothes patterns and having a go.

What are your crafty project for this year?
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