Rewilding Early Parenthood: A review of 30 Days of Rewilding

I’d always regarded myself as an outdoorsy kind of person – walking, gardening, camping, an appreciation for the natural environment are huge parts of who I am. My spirit, my soul. But my outdoorsy life came to a juddering halt just over two years ago, with the birth of our wonderful son. For the first time in decades I was stuck inside with a tiny child, alone but not alone. 

That’s not to say we didn’t venture out, we did. To church halls and cafes, where kind people told us to sit and relax and to eat cake. In early parenthood you do need to sit, you spend a lot of time sitting. Sitting is good and necessary. But I didn’t feel nourished, I felt disconnected. The cake made me feel lethargic and stodgy. I longed to be outside. I started asking on social media if anyone knew of any carer and baby groups that were based outside, with no joy. I started trying to organise pushchair walks in my local area, but we were limited to suburban pavements. I just wanted to, needed to, do anything to get myself and my tiny child outside more.

  
Things have changed since those days, now I have a toddler we go to forest schools and adventurous walks. We are beginning to be outside nearly every single day. Rain or shine (mainly rain, this is Britain). We both love it. We both need it. And I have learnt that small people (and big people) thrive outside. We do not need to wait for an invitation. I do genuinely believe though, a lack of interaction with the natural environment in the early days of parenthood had a detrimental impact on my mental health. 

Which is one of the reasons why I am so pleased to see that one of my favourite bloggers (and friend) Lucy has written a new book, 30 Days of Rewilding. Her book, which is broken down in to 30 short chapters for the time-poor, includes inspirational stories about how people have reconnected with the natural environment, they have rewilded their lives. And each chapter ends with an idea of how you can get some more ‘wild’ in to your everyday lives. This is the beauty of Lucy’s book, the concept of rewilding is not just for those living alternative lifestyles, it is for those of us who’s lifestyles are rather more semi-detached. It’s for everyone. 

“Head into nature today and carve time out there each week, trusting, really trusting, that you will be changed for the better. The wilderness is in our DNA and we will come truly alive when surrounded by those ancient woods, earth underfoot and the canopy of the universe above us. We can begin to heal this deep split between ourselves and earth right now, this very moment, by taking our families by the hand and stepping into nature. The solace we discover there will restore us.”  – Lucy AitkenRead, 30 Days of Rewilding

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

Ahh Christmas, we have a bit of a love/ hate thing, don’t we? While I love the aspects of celebration inspired by the Winter Solstice, I love being with friends and family and I love creativity, I don’t like the commercialism and the huge amount of waste… But, for now, let us focus on the good stuff. Here are some of the recent creations from our house:

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Our turquoise front door has got in the seasonal spirit. The wreath is made from willow, holly and a bit of spruce, all cut (with permission!) and made with my own fair hands. The result is something very ‘rustic’, but I’m down with all that this year.

 

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Talking of greenery, to celebrate the Solstice, the Tiny Overlord and I gathered some evergreens from the garden and proud displayed them in the front room.

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And we have received some really beautiful gifts, the centre three decorations all came from the Tiny Overlord’s playgroups. We’re really touched by how much love and care have gone in to them.

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Rather belatedly (or cleverly in advance of next year!) I’ve made some advent bags from simple small muslin bags (available in most cookware shops) and some iron-on appliques (ours are from here). Hopefully they’ll last us for many many Decembers to come.

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And even the Tiny Overlord has got in on the crafting action – His very first decoration, made from Salt Dough and painted all by himself, after he’d tested the paint by eating it, of course.

Obviously I can’t yet share what we have made for presents for people yet. But if you need anymore festive makery, here are the posts from Christmas 2013 and Christmas 2012. And, of course, you can also keep up to date with our general makings on Instagram.

Seasons greetings everyone X

A Very Hungry Caterpillar Birthday Party

As mentioned earlier, this month our beloved Tiny Overlord turned one year old. And, quite frankly, we felt we all deserved a good knees up. So we held a birthday party for family and some of his baby friends at our house, based on his favourite book – Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Hungry Caterpillar birthday tea

Thanks to Pinterest, I found free printable labels, so we could all eat our way through all the things the Hungry Caterpillar ate (the sandwiches were displayed on a ‘great big green leaf’ platter. Water wipes and disposible bibs (eco ones from Naty) were also on hand for our younger guests.

Cupcake decorating at Hungry Caterpillar Birthday Party

Being a little wary of how much sugar my Hungry Caterpillar eats, I made plain cupcakes for everyone and then provided decorating materials so the ‘big kids’ could have some fun. The popping candy was a particular hit…

Ball pool at Hungry Caterpillar Birthday Party

In the front room we had a ball pool (inspired by all the colourful dots in the VHC book). I simply filled our paddling pool with ball acquired from charity shops and end of summer sales. We also put our these free Hungry Caterpillar colouring and activity sheets for the older children

Setting up the Hungry Caterpillar Birthday Party Paper Hungry Caterpillar head

Though my proudest creation, is possibly the Hungry Caterpillar I made from large honeycomb paper balls (inspired by this). I hung it the day before and the Tiny Overlord squealed with delight when he saw it. We really haven’t had the heart to take it down yet, so the caterpillar is still hanging over our dining room table. We wave at it every morning when we are eating breakfast.

Not pictured are our ‘party bags’, which were colourful reusable snack tubs (8 for £1 in our local pound shop!), filled with glittery homemade playdough and finished with a green leaf shaped parcel tag.

I won’t lie about being slightly apprehensive about holding a child’s birthday party, especially after reading this post from Free Our Kids. But the entire cost of the Tiny Overlord’s party came in at about £80 for over 30 people. And it created a lot of joy, personally for me doing my making and having a creative outlet, for our wider families getting together and celebrating and for our little family having something to mark this significant milestone in our life.

If you want to see the Tiny Overlord’s upcycled party outfit, you can do so just here.

 

One

And then the Tiny Overlord turned One. So to celebrate what has been equally the greatest, but also the hardest and most chaotic, year of our lives, we decided to celebrate. And naturally, my first thought when it comes to any celebration is ‘what to wear…

But it isn’t always as easy as that. I struggle with baby clothes, I really struggle with them. I don’t want to dress my little boy up as a tiny man, I want him to look like a baby, in baby clothes, wearing baby clothes that he can easily play in. However, sometimes this seems to be too much to ask. And having baulked at rails of tiny suits, shirts and bow ties, I decided to take matters in to my own hands and make him something special to wear myself.

Front of upcycled baby sweaterThe Tiny Overlord’s birthday jumper cost me a whole 50p in my local charity shop. I can not resist a good stripe. And armed with a fat quarter of Hungry Caterpillar print cotton from Etsy, I set about personalising it for him.

It really was rather simple – I traced the backwards shape of the ‘Ones’ on to some bondaweb, ironed it on to the ‘wrong side’ of the cotton and cut out the shapes. I then removed the back of the bondaweb and ironed the Ones in to position. Then, during an episode of Strictly, I secured them by stitching around the edges with a little embroidery thread. Above, is the front and here is the back…

Back of upcycled baby jumperAnd here is it worn by my cooperative model…

Baby wearing upcycled birthday jumperThe bondaweb and cotton was already in my stash, but the jumper and fat quarter came to about £4.10. A bargain for a special and unique  celebration outfit, if you ask me. And the result was something bold, bright and beautiful. A bit like the birthday boy himself.

The tale of two chairs

As mentioned in my last post, fuelled by a heady combination of Pinterest and ‘Fill Your House For Free‘, I’ve taken to upcycling in rather a manic way. Why upcycling? Isn’t it just a fashionable pursuit for the privileged with too much time on their hands? Well, maybe. Though being a full time carer of a small child, I’d dispute having too much time on my hands…

But I also rather believe in conscious consumption (I blogged about it here). I worry about our disposable society and what kind of environment the Tiny Overlord will inherit. And well, I just like old things, I love things with quirk and charm and character. I love things that are unique and if I can achieve some of those things through a good old bit of re-loving, then that’s just fine with me.

school chairs Made in Britain

The chairs came from a playgroup, via a reclamation yard in sunny Margate for a whole Four British Pounds (tip: avoid the ridiculously overpriced ‘vintage’ shops in the Old Town and head up the hill past the Shell Grotto to the real thing).

Covered in rust and grime, but proudly Made in Britain, I bequeathed them a stay of execution from the scrap heap and after lugging them home on the train (that lovely parquet floor above is in Ramsgate station), set about transforming them for the Tiny Overlord.

Chair makeover in progress Chair makeover in progress

It took me HOURS to sand all the flaking plastic paint and rust off the metal legs. It took me ages to scrub the plastic clean with sugar soap, so they could be primed and painted. But, after a lot of hard work, a couple of emergency trips to Wilkos for more cans of paint and a lot of cursing, they were transformed in to my primary coloured dream.

Yellow upcycled school chairs Play area

Can I be honest with you? Was it worth it? In principle, yes. These perfectly useable chairs have been saved from landfill and given a new lease of life and I love the colour of them. But, to get this finish on them took two cans of Plasticote paint (not including a coat of primer and lacquer) and two cans of spray Hammerite on the legs. That’s not only a huge amount of money to spend on £4 chairs, that’s an awful lot of VOCs released in to the atmosphere! Someone with more knowledge on these matters than I will have tell me if they really have better environmental value than new chairs.

Even though I have upcycled furniture many times before with a brush, I found the spray paint very hard to handle. I wasted loads of it spraying the thin chair legs. It didn’t dry in the time stated on the the can, the paint is uneven from where they were knocked over on to the grass by rampaging cats (that never happens to Kirstie Allsop…) and one chair has an amazing imprint of my finger prints for prosperity from where I had to pick it up, wet. Which is useful as a crime deterrent as there is absolutely no mistaking they are mine, but it wasn’t exactly the Pinterest perfect polished finish I was hoping for.

However, despite the resulting costs and imperfections, we really do love them. And paired with a slightly less ethical table from IKEA (I had planned to upcycle a table but this one was just too perfect. And it cost a lot less than all that spray paint…), we think they make the perfect pieces for the Tiny Overlord’s play area. And that’s really all that matters. Quirky, colourful and uniquely ours.

101 Uses of a Vintage Sheet: The Playmat

At the moment I have incredibly worthy crafting intentions. Naively I thought was going to fill the Tiny Overlord’s world up with lovingly handcrafted playthings, crafted while he slept, but the reality of life with a six month old isn’t quite like that (sleep alone is often an enigma, let alone finding the energy to craft). So my crafty intentions remain just intentions for the time being.

Fortunately the Tiny Overlord does kindly allow me to scour the local charity shops for treats and trinkets. I originally bought this lovely geometric patterned vintage* duvet cover for pennies with the intention of turning it in to a patchwork playmat, inspired by Hannah’s in Mollie Makes Mama. But y’know, best intentions and all that. Instead I decided it would probably make a mighty fine playmat of its own accord. So stuffed with a thin summer duvet – tada! A large soft playmat, perfect for my little roller. Quite possibly the easiest make ever, no?

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He seems rather pleased with it, maybe pleased enough with it to let me make some of my crafty intentions more of a reality one day.

*I’m a bit of a hoarder of vintage linens, normally I go towards the lurid 1970s floral variety, they are used throughout our home and you can see some of my creations here. I have to confess that I spotted this amongst a bundle of vintage bedding and grabbed it as well. It is not actually vintage, it is originally from IKEA. None the less, it is spared the landfill and put to good use. And we think it is pretty groovy. And, really, that’s all that matters.

Nobody puts Baby in a corner

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I got rather giddy when a photo of our bedroom appeared on the Papermash Facebook page the other day. This corner of the room technically belong to the Tiny Overlord, who sleeps in the co-sleeping crib.

I had been trying to think of ways to add a bit of personality to his part of the room without making it too ‘babyfied’. Because, let’s face it, we don’t care too much for traditional baby decor and, at 4 months old, neither does he. Heavily inspired by the interior design ideas of Hannah and Vicky, I found the wonderful star mobile over at Papermash. I think it is meant to be a Christmas decoration, but it’s far far too beautiful for just one month a year. Our new name ‘wall art’ is made from a make your own banner kit (also from Papermash) and some fabulous vintage wallpaper that I had set my heart on decorating our hallway with, but alas there wasn’t enough. I’m glad I’ve found a way for it to be on show.

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You can find more corners, not all for Baby, around our home here.

This post isn’t sponsored, we’ve just got an awful lot of love for Papermash.