Friday, 27 March 2015

The Kindness of Strangers

I'm currently on maternity leave and I've been off work for 8 months now. (Gulp!) Life on maternity leave is very different to real life, and I'm not just talking about looking after the baby. It took me a while to find my new pace, to realise that my main priority is just to be there for the baby, and for my son too! Things don't get done like they used to, I can't guarantee that I will be able to complete even a 5 minute task, and I've come to terms with the fact that my time is rarely my own. But something else happens too...

I have been completely blown away by the interactions I have daily with various people: strangers, neighbours, fellow parents, passers-by, teachers, shop assistants. Just going about your business during the day means that you meet all these people that you probably wouldn't if you are rushing, commuting and working. We now say hello and chat to at least 4 people passing us on our school run every day. I now know my neighbours and we have started doing little favours for each other. One lady I met who walks her dogs past our house had even bought a gift for the new baby and Wiss too. So kind, and so wonderful. I believe these interactions really make a difference to your quality of life, and help you feel part of a community (even in big old South London!)

I've also joined a few local mums groups on Facebook which have been great for finding out about what's on, recycling unwanted baby stuff, getting advice etc etc. There seem to be groups for every location, so you can search to see if there's one for your neighbourhood.

Last week I had an extra special glow of happiness caused by the kindness of strangers. I had signed up to a springtime swap project organised by the lovely Lucy from Capture with Lucy. You can see the details here, but basically we were all matched up with a partner and told a little bit about what they liked. Then we all made up a surprise gift box to be posted to our partner for the Spring Equinox. The gifts were not to be extravagant but thoughtful.

I was told that my partner liked tea, vintage crafts, pastel colours and was a fussy eater! I also started following her on Instagram so I could find out some more, and discovered she has a very special dog in her life! I wanted to make some things for her and also included some little supplies and treats. As she said she was a fussy eater I decided not to try and guess what she would like to eat, and decided to make some homemade dog treats for Rosie instead. I made a boxy pouch for my partner using some vintage curtain fabric (because who doesn't need a boxy pouch in their life?!)

Here's what I sent...

Of course it is better to give than to receive (ahem!) but this is what I had in my surprise box...

It really was so lovely getting presents that were completely unexpected, and it was clear that so much thought and care had gone into my box. Lucy will be organising another gift swap for the Summer so if you'd like to get involved and get that glow too then click here

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Make a Solar Eclipse just 5 minutes!

This Friday there will be the most spectacular solar eclipse seen since 1999! In London there will only be a partial eclipse but even so, it's going to be pretty special. According to the experts the moon will start to pass in front of the sun at 8.25am and it will all be over around 10.40am, with peak coverage at 9.31am.

Now, if like me, you are a little late getting your stuff sorted, don't worry. Yes, solar eclipse glasses are like gold dust but it's not too late to make your own solar eclipse viewer. This version of a pinhole camera takes literally 5 minutes to make so you'll be able to make one today and look super organised come Friday morning! They are easy enough for the kids to make too, although I'd get an adult with a steady hand to make the pin hole. This needs to be small and perfectly round.

This amazing event allows for so many discussions about planets, orbit paths, the effect of the sun on earth (it's going to go dark during the day! wow) as well as how pinhole cameras/projectors/our eyes work! (See here if this is where your interest goes.)

I hope all of that makes sense and you're all able to make a viewer for yourselves. Of course, if you have longer than 5 minutes then you can jazz up the outside of your box. Or the kids can! Just remember, the box needs to be as dark as possible so covering or painting the outside is a good idea but makes sure you don't make any extra holes or damage your pinhole.

Let's hope the weather is kind and the clouds stay away on Friday morning at least!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

We Like to Read - World Book Day!

This Friday 5 March is World Book Day, where children all over the world dress up as a character from a book. I love this day! Personally, I love seeing kids in fancy dress going about everyday business as if it's totally normal to be dressed as a fireman, or a frog. So seeing loads of children heading off to school in the morning in fancy dress is guaranteed to bring a smile to my face. Look out for them where you are!

Wiss has discovered the joy of Roald Dahl over the last year or so; we've read him some of the books and he has lots of them on cd which he listens to over and over. A particular favourite is Fantastic Mr Fox (and the Wes Anderson animated film is fantastic too!) It seems I'm not organised enough to make the costume AND blog about it so here is last years' costume in detail: last year Wiss wanted to be Fantastic Mr Fox, and who was I was I to argue?!

The great thing about costumes is they can be as fancy, or not, as you wish. They only really have to last that day (although it's always nice if they can be worn again.) If like me, you leave things to the last minute then make friends with fabrics like fleece and felt. These can simply be cut and don't need hemming as they do not fray. Jersey doesn't fray either and the raw edge can be...well, edgy!

Our Fantastic Mr Fox costume was made using some soft striped orange jersey, white and black fleece, two old t-shirts (one white, one orange) and a tie from the charity shop. To make the hat I used this great tutorial from Camelot Fabrics - it is clear and easy to follow but you can alter it where you like. I thought buttons may be good as the eyes?

The raglan t-shirt was made using my favourite pattern from Sewing for Boys. I've made so many of these for Wiss that they come together super quickly, but even for a beginner it is an easy pattern to follow. I cut up my two old t-shirts to make usable pieces of fabric. The white t-shirt was the body and the orange t-shirt fabric was used for the arms and the neck binding. I added black claws to the top cuff edge of each sleeve before sewing them together. The tie was a lucky find and all I did was shorten it to fit Wiss and hand sew an old hair clip to the back so that it could clip on to the t-shirt. No fiddly ties for my little man!

The trousers are models own - orange cords from H&M - as are the brown boots - Clarks.
And the finishing touch was the tail. I used the same tutorial from Camelot Fabrics but made it removable with a loop to go around the belt which fastened with a strip of velcro. Poor Mr Fox has his beautiful tail shot off by the nasty farmers, so true to the story Wiss could take his tail off when he wanted. (It also made it easier to sit down at pre-school!)

So there you have it - one Fantastic Mr Fox costume!

This year's costume is also from a Roald Dahl book so look out for it on my Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds on Friday (I had better get it finished soon!) I would LOVE to see your kids costumes for World Book Day - leave a comment below if you've blogged about it, or tweet me @thisiswiss. And if you're still making them like me, good luck!

You may also like to read these posts from the archive:

World Book Day Week - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7
World Book Day 2013 - Room on the Broom