Friday, 1 December 2017

Big announcement inside...HUGE!!

Well hello,

How are we today?

Things have felt a little surreal for me over the last few months, and I've been sitting on my hands trying not to type and tell of my news, but I have just been granted permission to let the cat out of the bag over on my social channels. Ever wondered what it's like to live someone else's life? Well I found out, as for a few weeks my life and world were turned upside down.

Back in September, I was approached by the assistant producer at 'Raise the Roof' Productions who make well know  TV shows. They invited me to apply for the prestigious 'Kirstie's Handmade Christmas' this year, to be aired during December 2017 on Channel 4! If you're not familiar with the show, get a taste for it with some past episodes here...or visit Kirstie Allsopp's website here...

After I'd picked myself up off the floor, and stopped shaking, I decided to just go for it.  I thought 'what's the worst that could happen...??!!'
I have an incurable awkwardness around camera's, not behind them, I love this arrangement, but in front...I just get so nervous, I jibber and feel flustered, so this was a huge thing to come to terms with for me.

What happened next can only be described as a exhilarating whirlwind of phone calls and e-mails to and from the fantastic production teams and casting researchers at 'Raise the Roof Productions'  in relation to my application and 'Handmade Gift' competition entry. All this was happening while I was trying to make Christmas soap stocks in earnest and attending some pretty big events and festivals with my stall. Some of which I simply had to cancel due to filming clashes...but of course I was bound by secrecy so couldn't tell anyone why I was having to cancel...nightmare!

The producer Ali, came to film me in my home for a day and document some processes for my competition entry, we had a hoot. She was so brilliant at putting me at ease, and besides there really wasn't time to think about being nervous. We had lots to cover and had a tight schedule of 4 hours max before Ali's train back to Glasgow.

My home set up for the backstory.

A couple of weeks after filming for the back story, it was competition time...!! Myself and the other 3 entrants made our way, with all our kit and equipment all the way to Honiton in Devon, a mere 7 hours by train  for me (!!) with possibly the BIGGEST bag on was heavier than me! Thank goodness for kindly strangers and strong guardsmen.

We spotted each other at the station as we waited for our driver to take us to the hotel (How the other half live eh?) then met up for tea once we'd settled in, nervously chatting and getting to know each other. Everyone was lovely, excited and really looking forwards to the next day.
Filming was due to start from 10am the next morning, so we were up and at 'em then off to a private residence which was our filming location for the day. The house was simply spectacular, with a room being dedicated to each competition, there were 10 in all, so you can imagine the size of the house! There was no time for exploring, but I'm sure I wouldn't have been found for weeks if I'd found a secret hiding place to sneak into and yes, I was sorely tempted, I can tell you.

The spectacular competition many decs.
Apparently there were rooms full in the attic!!

Trying to concentrate and not being at
 all ready for my close up...crikey!!

My fellow competitors Sammy and Emma...there was one more but he was outside in the workshop.

During the competition, we had 4 hours to make our entry from scratch before it was being judged by some very eminent guests. I was so busy concentrating on my 4 part entry that at times I hardly noticed the high definition film cameras and mic booms looming overhead, but at other times, they were oh sooo close and It was all I could do to focus.

Kirstie was very keen to be involved with us all and tried her hand at everyone's craft which was really lovely. She was just as exuberant and enthusiastic in real life as she is on TV too, such a sweet lady. She put us all at ease and took time to come and talk to us all and even made sure we'd had something to eat mid way through the comp. She was super keen to try my custom soap cutter out...but we just ran out of time.

Although I can't reveal any information about who won...(you'll just have to tune in throughout December on Channel 4) I can say that it was one of the most amazing times I've ever had. Being part of the show has given me a huge confidence boost and pushed me further out of my comfort zone than I ever thought I'd cope with. I felt humbled and a little star struck to be invited to take part in this amazing show, and get to meet and chat to Kirstie and the team,  I've been a huge fan for years.  I've loved every part of being involved in such an amazing adventure, with such fantastic crew and fellow makers, and of course Kirstie herself. It's not over yet, as who knows where this will's anyone's guess.

In case you didn't know, that's me in the grey dress ;) xx

To stay in touch with all that develops, just click the links below to follow me over on:

 Facebook : @OakwoodSoaperie
 Twitter: @OakwoodSoaperie
 Instagram: @oakwood_soaperie
 Pinterest: Oakwood Soaperie

Until next time...TTFN


Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Autumn's Bounty.

Hello lovelies,

October is here, and with the scent of woodsmoke and damp, moldering leaves in the air...Autumn my favourite season.

At this time of year, I love, love LOVE to forage. September saw a wealth of juicy berry delights from the hedgerows and swollen ruby rosehips from the wild roses down by the river. My garden has been generous with it's bounty too, I've made litres and litres of Cavalo Nero soups and a huge batch of nasturtium pesto which is spectacularly delicious.

I'd like to share some the recipes with you which I came across on Pinterest and saved to my 'Foraging Finds' board, check it out for heaps of wild (and not so wild) foody inspirations. Each year...almost without fail, I make rosehip syrup from foraged hips...the small ones work best for good colour. It's packed with natural vitamin C and is reputed to keep colds and flu at bay, worth a shot if you ask me. 

This recipe is from River Cottage and works every time :)

- Sterilise a couple of bottles and vinegar-proof screw-tops or stoppers by washing thoroughly in hot soapy water, rinsing well, then putting them on a tray in a low oven (at 120°C/Gas 1⁄2) to dry out and heat up.
- Roughly chop a couple of kilo's of rosehips in a food processor in batches, then transfer to a large saucepan and add 1.25 litres water.
- Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for around 15 minutes.
- Strain through a double layer of muslin, letting the pulp sit for a good half hour so that all the juice passes through.
- Wash out the muslin, or cut a fresh piece, fold to double it and pass the strained juice through it again.
- Measure the rosehip juice into a large saucepan.
- For every 500ml, add 325g sugar.
- Heat slowly, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil and boil for 3 minutes, skimming off any scum if necessary.
- Decant immediately into the prepared bottles and seal.
- Label when the bottles have cooled completely.
- Use within 4 months and refrigerate once opened.

Hugh's serving suggestions are - Try it for breakfast trickled over porridge, pancakes, drop scones or eggy bread; use it to sweeten plain yoghurt (with some chopped apple if you like); or for a delicious pud, trickle it on to hot or cold rice pudding or good vanilla ice cream.
I also like it just in a glass of hot water to sip, it's addictive!


Next up, my second favourite...Nasturtium Pesto (found on Foodista blog) this stuff is good and so so easy to make. My garden was bursting with flowers and leaves growing all around the raised beds this year, I've been adding them to salads and soups through the summer, but this is a great way to use a LOT at once, you can even freeze it!

100g Nasturtium Leaves freshly picked and washed
3 large garlic cloves
70g Parmesan cheese
70g almonds or (I used cashews) – roughly chopped
160ml extra virgin olive oil (I used rapeseed oil)
1tsp salt

Method: - simply blitz everything together in a blender and pop into an airtight jar or kilner type if using fresh, if freezing, put in a tuppaware box and defrost as needed.

I've been scoffing this with pasta, on pizza's and mixed into marinades, it's a little spicy from the leaves, but fresh and delicious, enjoy xx.

I hope you enjoy making these scrummy autumnal treats, feel free to add your favourite recipes in the comments below, I can't wait to try some out.

I hope you'd like to check back with me again soon, I have some VERY exciting news to be announced in the next blog post coming in November...EEeePPP!! Watch this space...why not subscribe so you don't miss it??

But in the meantime, here's to toffee apples, hot chocolate chilly fingers in wooly gloves and frosty walks, a celebration of the coming of winter, wrap up warm peeps, 


Love Ceri

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Spring is blossoming ...

Hello lovelies,

Well how did we get past Easter already? I was pretty restrained this year, only 1 chocolate egg...we won't count the handful of mini's snaffled in between digging rows for spuds last weekend.

It's been a busy ole time here at OSHQ, what with feature interviews, awards, new stockists and a heap of events, my head is in a bit of a spin. I have a fresh pot of chocolate tea (courtesy of Rosie Lea Tea) and I have my typing fingers primed to tell you all about it, so here we go...

First up, I was delighted to have a 'Meet The Maker' feature over on the Natural Wedding Company blog last month. read all about it here or click the image below.

If you've not heard of them before, do go and check out their beautiful Wedding Directory of eco-friendly small businesses who can help with all the doings when planning your wedding day., helping to make it extra special with one off pieces, customisable gifts and even bespoke rings, take a peep.

On a 'Meet the Maker' theme, back at the end of March, I attended a Trade Event hosted by Northumberland County Council in Hexham, a beautiful traditional market town here in Northumberland, 'Meet the Maker / Meet the Buyer' is an opportunity to bring together local makers, artists and producers with buyers from gift shops, galleries, local guest houses, hotels and independent retailers with the intention to network and drum up some trade agreements. It's never really my thing putting myself infront of someone and saying ' my stuff' but sometimes it just has to be done, so with brave girl pants on, I went, set up stall and pitched my wares...I was absolutely bowled over to have come away with the 'Best Stand' award for the day!! With over 120 stalls, all beautifully presented, I was quite speechless, blushing and wibbly after that! You'll spot me I'm sure...*runs and hides behind a cushion* . See the video of the event below.


In all the whirlwind of the last month's events ranging from the 'First Friday Steamer' set inside Newcastle Central Station, a regular art based event I'm attending each month, a Beekeeping conference,  2 days Rival Arts Spring Fair at Ushaw College near Durham, 2 days The Designer Maker's Market down in Barnard Castle and coming up this weekend, the Hexham Spring Festival, I've had open studio's too, running over the Easter Holidays, so needless to say I'm looking forwards to a little day or two of rest soon.

If you've not been able to catch me at my events, the website is always open in within easy reach 24 / 7. It's had a little facelift too (a natural one of course), Feel free to take a peek at the new digital products and custom wedding favours query form...oohhh!! 

I'm also really excited to tell you about some new stockists of my soaps and bathtime treats around the North and East too, I was delighted to have a request from the Kagyu Dechon Dzong Buddhist Centre in Harrogate a few weeks ago, so now you can pick up some of my fragrant lovelies if you're there for a drop in meditation class, sounds pretty perfect to me...

From Harrogate in North Yorkshire to Alnwick in the North of Northumberland, I'm also absolutely chuffed to be sending soap to play with George and Piglet who are opening a new vintage venture up there very soon, I can't wait to see what they have in store. I met the two ladies who own George and Piglet last year at an event up in Rothbury, they have a keen eye for the quirky and beautiful, so I think Alnwick will be in for a treat!

And finally..I'm delighted to let you know I'm supplying stock to the Allendale Forge Studios as of next week. I'm coming full circle a little as I used to have soap on their shelves back in 2012. Since then The Forge has undergone a big change and now has lots more options for artists and makers, and I'm delighted to be back on board. I'll have a few shelves in the shop or display space to begin with and hope to introduce more work as time goes on, maybe even some of my original eco - prints and silk scarves at some stage, watch this space.

Well, I think that's it for now, I hope you've enjoyed catching up, I hope you check back with the blog soon, and do feel free to share it amongst friends.

Enjoy the last of the Easter break if you're one of the lucky ones to be off.



Thursday, 16 February 2017

A new place to find my work, and a whole new digital adventure.

Happy February peeps,

I'm staying inside waiting for a courier who's bringing me a big pile of glass ware for my next batch of candles so while I'm waiting ... and in between cuppas, I thought I'd update my blog, it's been an age!

Christmas came and went in a bit of a whirlwind of fairs, orders and whizzing to and fro, but we all made it out the other side safely and more or less in one piece, thank goodness!

January was filled with wonderful orders through the website as I had a bit of a barmy sale on to clear some space and reclaim some studio shelves, mission accomplished!

In between chilly New Year beach walks and 4 days strolling the snowy hills of Hartsop...(ohh, and some orders and studio work of course ;)  I've been planning, learning and catching up with all sorts of things I'd wanted to get going, but never had a moment in the autumn, I feel I'm almost getting there, so wanted to share them with you too.

If you've followed my blog or found me on social media, you may know I also like to create Eco prints on fabric and paper and have also been learning to make cyanotype prints too, these are delicate prints using only sunlight to develop the images. I've finally got them out into the ether, and you can now buy them online, as well as from me at events and at my studio. Feel free to have a wander in my new Etsy shop, which I've called 'Ghosts of Nature' I'll be adding more one of a kind prints and originals soon. Simply click the image below to enter my shop.

I've been learning all about how I can offer digital products as part of my business too. These will be downloadable PDF files that contain ... I'm thinking...product making recipes, essential oil information sheets, planning templates and useful lists for whoever might like them, be they, customers who fancy a go at making, fellow crafters and small business owners or even Jim from the farm shop...who knows!!  I can't offer them for free, but they will all to be a very reasonable non bank breaking sum. I'll be gradually making them and adding them to my website and they will also be introduced on my facebook page, take a look at the one I've done already. 


In other news too, I'm delighted to be stocking into a new retail outlet in North Northumberland. As from Sunday, my soaps will be available from the Heatherslaw Gift Shop within Ford & Etal Estates. I can't wait to see what it's like as I've only passed by on my way to the Scottish Borders, I'll be sure to take my camera! I'm also chuffed to bits to be supplying guest soaps to a lovely new and very luxurious holiday company called 'Hang my Hat'. They have a growing selection of beautiful cottages to hire in and around the Tyne Valley (my home) on the books, so do check them out if you're heading to Northumberland, they look absolutely gorgeous, I could move in tomorrow!

Well, I think that's about it for now, Stay warm and embrace the days stretching that little bit longer into Spring.