Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Ta Da! Kids Clothes Week: Summer

kid's clothes week

Last week was the Kids Clothes Week summer challenge, organised by the fantastic Elsie Marley. KCW has been running for a few years now and the idea is you spend an hour a day, for one week making some kids clothes. Hundreds of people all across the world join in and the website and flikr pages are full of inspiring photos of what's been made, as well as ideas for you to try yourself.

I really look forward to this challenge as it's (usually) so achievable as kids clothes are much quicker to make and it's loads of fun, as well as being a practical way to top up your little ones wardrobe. (You can see my previous KCW posts here, here, here and here...)

I had BIG plans this time, especially as I could make baby clothes as well as items for Wiss. But unfortunately I underestimated the energy-zapping powers of 30 degree heat and being heavily pregnant! But I did manage to make these beauties...

Both are made from gorgeous red & white striped seersucker fabric which is just perfect for summer (and I couldn't resist them being matched!)

The baby trousers on the left are from the Oliver & S Baby Layette Pattern pack. I can't wait to make the whole set for our new arrival, and these trousers were really quick to run up so I'm sure there will be a few more pairs.

Wiss's shorts on the right are made using the Clean Slate Pants pattern from Blank Slate. I have made loads of these before and can highly recommend the pattern. There are 3 lengths for trousers, capris or shorts, plus pocket options and a choice of elasticated waist or a zip fly.

I like to add these great labels to the clothes I make for Wiss, and now the new little one too. I got them from Etsy and they finish off a garment perfectly. Nothing wrong with blowing your own trumpet after all!

Did you join in KCW this season? If so, point me in the direction of your photos. I'd love to see what you made. The next challenge is for Autumn so look out for it!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

#BlogBumpClub - 35 weeks + 5

Apologies for not posting last week - things have been pretty full on as we are trying to do as much as possible (panic!) before the baby arrives.

Last weekend we decorated our bedroom as this will be where the baby sleeps too. In hindsight, it was a terrible weekend to attempt any kind of DIY, as the temperature was over 30 degrees but Wiss was staying at his grandparents so this was our only chance to get it done. We weren't able to completely finish our Weekend Makeover but the wallpaper is up, all woodwork glossed and 3 of 4 walls are painted. Where was DIY SOS when we needed them?!

I've also been spurred into action (panic!) to get my hospital bag packed, and to actually get some things ready for the new arrival. I have ordered a Bednest, which I am very excited about, I have borrowed a TENS machine, and have bought a nightie and some PJs for after the birth. Totally ready now, huh?!

I finish work next Friday (yay!) so I am hoping to get lots more sorted when I'm off. Plus I have lots of things planned for me to do for fun before Wiss finishes nursery: a pregnancy massage because my back is killing me, a trip to a vintage market, a swim at the Lido, pregnancy yoga, lunch in Whitstable with the husband...oh, and finish painting our bedroom!

Although I would love this fantastic summer we are having in London to continue, the combination of heat and the final stages of pregnancy are zapping all my energy at the moment. I have had to scale back my expectations of what can be done in favour of early nights, and maybe even naps while I can! Plus I am totally addicted to ice cubes at the moment. I know this isn't just weather-related though as I had the same thing when I was pregnant with Wiss, in December!

Lists have become my bible and I have written them out for everything: Things to Buy, Things to Do, Things to Pack, Things to Do With Wiss, Names to Consider (yep, we're still not sure of any of them!) Tell me I'm not alone in this obsession? How organised are you being during your pregnancy? Is it normal to be more 'relaxed' with subsequent pregnancies or should I really be starting to panic? Help!


Congratulations to Chelle from Chic & Unique and her brand new baby boy! Don't forget to check up on all the other members of the #BlogBumpClub here:

Mother's Always Right

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Graze Box Hack - Whitstable Crabbing Game

If you're a regular reader of my blog you'll know what a wonderful time we had in Whitstable a few weeks ago (there's a post all about it here.)

One of the things that Wiss enjoyed most was crabbing on the beach. He was taken under the wing of a very experienced 9 year old crabber who showed him the ropes, and he caught 5 crabs!

I wanted to make something that would remind Wiss of our holiday and so the 'Wonderful Whitstable Crabbing Game' was invented! We made it together in an hour or so and it's been played with every night this week. Beware, it can get very competitive!

To make the Wonderful Whitstable Crabbing Game you will need:

I stuck a photo of Wiss on the beach on the lid of the Graze box, and a sea bed image inside the base. I used the same image to make half of the card disks, and the other half were just plain white.

Onto the plain card disks I drew 10 crabs, 8 seaweeds & two extra bonus disks - some pirate treasure and... a cake, of course! (This was Wiss's idea) Finally I drew some bacon to add to the crabbing line as bait. This is the magic ingredient - all crabs find raw bacon irresistible! While I drew, Wiss coloured them in.

To make the counters you will need to sandwich a piece of the magnetic strip (or you could use a paper clip) between a disk with a drawing and a disk with the seabed. I used double sided tape on each disk for speed but glue will also work .

Next make the crabbing lines for between 2-4 players. 

Now you're ready to play!

The rules: place all the counters in the Graze box with the sea bed image showing (they should camouflage with the box). Take it in turns to lower your crabbing line and see what you catch.

Depending on the age of your child, you can alter the ways to win. The easiest way is whoever has the most crabs, or whoever has the bonus counters. For older children you could assign 0 points for seaweed, 2 points for a crab and 5 points each for the bonus counters.

Happy crabbing and happy holidays!

If you'd like more ideas on upcycling your Graze boxes check out my previous post. And if you do make any Graze Box Hacks yourself then please share them with me, I'd love to see them!

Wonderful Whitstable - our holiday in pictures

A couple of weeks ago we took a little family holiday to Whitstable, Kent. You can never guarantee the weather on a UK holiday, so I had prepared lots of activities and researched the area just in case. There is a castle to explore, the downs for walking and kite flying, an indoor swimming pool, and even more to do in the surrounding areas.

As it turned out, the weather was amazing! We ditched all other activities in favour of the beach. Every day. And in the evenings too!

I adore being near the sea and it seems Wiss has inherited this love. He was so happy just digging around, collecting stones, pouring water, paddling, crabbing and even swimming in the sea. There are tons of gorgeous independent coffee and gift shops and lovely restaurants in Whitstable (and we are keen to return to check them out properly) but we didn't want to leave the beach so we opted for packed lunches and take away dinners eaten on the beach, followed by ice cream for dessert as the sun went down. Bliss!

We finished off our holiday with a stop off at one of Kent's many pick-your-own fruit farms. It was so hot that it felt like we were in Italy amongst the vines! We picked strawberries, blackberries and raspberries and bought an extra punnet of cherries for good measure. We showed Wiss how to choose the ripe ones and he happily spent nearly an hour searching for the best fruit (and looking for bugs!) We had fruit salad for dessert that night, berries with breakfast and still had enough for blackberry granita and 2 pots of jam. Yum!

Apologies for the photo heavy post this time but the pictures really do say more than words could. And if you want even more beach pictures you can see my other posts here and here!

Happy holidays wherever you are :)

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

For The Kids - Thank You Presents for Teachers

Now I realise that I'm a bit late in getting this post up, seeing as most schools and pre-schools have already finished for the summer. Doh! But Wiss is at a private day care nursery and isn't finishing for another 2 weeks yet, so forgive my bad timing please.

I really wanted to give the staff who have looked after him for the last few years a little something to say thank you very much. I also thought it would be good if Wiss could help make the presents too. I was thinking about making chocolates using a mould like this one, but I thought that teachers always get chocolates (plus it has been so hot in London that I didn't think they'd last!)

So...Tote Bags it is! They will last longer than chocolates, and be useful at the same time. I bought these plain bags from eBay, but you could equally make your own if you wanted to.

How to Make a Thank You Tote Bag:

You will need: plain tote bag, freezer paper, fabric paints, fabric pens (optional)

If you have never used freezer paper before prepare to be amazed! This stuff is brilliant. You can buy it online and it is basically American waxed paper, used for freezing food. However, the waxed side sticks to fabric when it is lightly ironed in place and makes the perfect stencil. Then it can simply be peeled off once the paint is dry. Easy!

So first, trace out your stencil onto the freezer paper and carefully cut it out using a scalpel or sharp craft knife. This can take a while depending on your design but if you cut exactly you get two stencils for the price of one - a positive, and a negative! Iron these into place with a warm iron.

Now comes the fun bit (I know Wiss doesn't look like he's having that much fun but this is just his concentrating face, honest!) Put some scrap cardboard (like old cereal packets) inside the bags to prevent the paint from leaking through to the other side. Paint over the stencils using fabric paint (we used Dylon in little pots but any fixable fabric paints will do.) You can go as crazy or as simple as you like...

Once all the fabric within the stencil has been covered leave them to completely dry.

When the paint is totally dry you can peel off the freezer paper to reveal your design underneath.

Refer to the fixing instructions on the paint you have used - a very hot iron for a minute or two, with a clean cloth over the design fixes Dylon fabric paint. And voila! You have your thank you tote bags.

They look fab as they are but I think they would look more personal with a little message from Wiss added to them: "from Lewis x" for instance. Using fabric pens you can add extra decoration, names or a handwritten message.

Have you made any Thank You presents for your child's teachers? If so, I'd love to hear all about them. Leave a comment or link in the box below, or you can tweet me @thisiswiss And if your kids have already left school for the summer, enjoy! :)

Thursday, 17 July 2014

That 'Brand New' Feeling

To launch their brand new website, Ryman's are asking bloggers what gives them that 'Brand New' feeling. Well, I love a new notebook or sketchbook...or in fact any new stationary! Writing on the first page is so exciting and strangely daunting at the same time. The first page has to be worthy so I make sure I use my best handwriting, or draw especially carefully. The first page contains so many possibilities, it is the beginning of something, something unknown! And I love that. I know I'm not alone in this stationary fetish!

But I had an ever better experience of feeling brand new just last week. We went on holiday to Whitstable, Kent and we were lucky enough to have the most amazing weather. (Watch out for a holiday post coming this weekend!) But whatever the weather I was determined that I'd swim in the sea. I grew up by the coast and I have always loved being at the beach. I'm not much of a sunbather to be honest but a swim in the sea? Oh yes please!

Swimming in the sea makes me feel alive. I get the feeling of being totally free, of being powerful and at the same time, of being very small compared to the vastness of nature. I have time to think, away from everything. And if you are swimming in the British seas you also get the added feeling of being very, very cold! But just for a while, until you get used to it. And then it is amazing, honestly.

And once you are done swimming you can wrap up in a towel, feet in the sand (or pebbles) and just listen to the sound of the waves. For me, there is no better way to feel brand new.

*in association with Ryman's

Work in Progress - My New Website!

I'm hoping that by sharing this month's Work in Progress post it will have the same effect as before and really spur me on to finishing it. I have been in the process of updating my website since May but various things have been preventing it's progress (my limited time and website knowledge being the main factors!)

Unfortunately, the site has been down since the start of June which means of course I've not been able to take orders online. But should you wish to order anything you can always email me directly on

I am changing the whole site over to an e-commerce shop which ultimately will be brilliant so I really wanted to make sure the photos showed my products off to the absolute best. Step forward stylist Hannah Adams and photographer Ian Skelton! I was lucky enough to have them work on these images and I am so happy with the results. So, here's a sneak preview of some of new This is Wiss product shots. I'd love to know what you think...

Hannah and Ian are starting up a service for small businesses who want to get online. They can provide products shots especially for websites and other promotional images, and can shoot as much or as little as you need. They are also currently working on their website too but if you would like to know more then please drop me a line and I can put you in touch. When I have more details I will be sure to pass them on.

As soon as my new shop is ready to launch I'll be shouting about it, and there will be a great launch promotion too! Stay tuned...

Until then, if you'd like to share some of your WiPs then please leave a link below or tweet me @thisiswiss. Let's turn these half-finished projects into done deals!

Friday, 11 July 2014

#BlogBumpClub - 33 weeks + 3

The time is really flying by now - 33 weeks?! My bump is starting to look slightly hilarious now - it's all out front so when I turn around it looks slightly unreal. I am tripping over lots of things on the floor as I can't see my feet, and Wiss has found that he can hide underneath my tummy and I can't see him!

I had another scan this week to check on the position of my placenta. It has moved up, thankfully, so there are no issues there and the baby is head down (spine under my ribs and legs kicking my right hip!)

All in all, I am still feeling very well. I have noticed that the tiredness is starting to creep back in after a day at work so I am alternating early nights with productive nights! We still haven't done anything by way of preparations for the new arrival (eek!) but we will be decorating our bedroom next weekend. Once that's done I can start to get the 'nursery' (really just a corner of our bedroom) ready. We will be using much of the stuff we have already, although much more minimalist this time, but I have been coveting the Bednest and have been hearing really great things about it.

I have been trying to make sure I look after myself properly - eating well (I'm addicted to avocadoes and olives at the moment!) and moisturising everywhere. I love the Stretch Butter from Nom Nom Skincare, and it seems I'm not the only one. It won the Gold award in the Free From Skincare awards! Nom Nom is a new company (based in Crystal Palace)making Organic skincare products certified by the Soil Association. At the moment the product ranges are specially for Pregnancy and Babies but there will be others soon. The gift sets would make an ideal treat...#justsaying!

Photo credit: Nom Nom
There's also some great diet advice on the Nom Nom website (Jayne is also a nutritionalist) and I have copied this section as I've been getting heartburn a lot recently:

"Nutrition - Here’s how to eat for a better night’s sleep. 
If your nightime is regularly disturbed by pregnancy heartburn you may benefit from eating smaller more frequent portions and eating your last meal at least a couple of hours before bedtime. Eating this way also helps to balance the hormones and transmitters which regulate sleep.

A carbohydrate rich dinner using wholegrains can increase the production of serotonin a calming neurotransmitter. To further boost your serotonin levels add poultry, dairy products, nuts, seeds, legumes, soy products, tuna and bananas to your diet as they are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid used in its production. Give these food combinations a try: chicken salad on whole wheat bread, nut butter and banana sandwich, banana and yoghurt/soy milk smoothie, prawn and egg fried brown rice, wholemeal pitta bread and humus.

If you’re frequently woken by leg cramps you may be low on calcium and magnesium which are important for their calming effect on nerves and muscles. Increase these by including dairy, nuts and green leafy vegetables.
Being well hydrated is important for a good night’s sleep but to avoid increasing the frequent nightime trips to the loo, which can become an issue in later pregnancy, try to get more of your water quota earlier in the day. 

In addition to the above, caffeine should of course be avoided.
Sweet dreams……"

There have been some #BlogBumpClub new arrivals already - congratulations to Amy and Sara-Jayne and their new little boys. You can check out their posts plus those from all the others here:

Mother's Always Right

Thursday, 10 July 2014

We Like to Read - Where The Wild Things Are - #HeinzPastaQuotes

This month's We Like to Read post is a little unusual to say the least! Not quite a book review, but I'm sure everyone is familiar with Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak already.

It was Children's Book Week between 30 June and 4 July and to celebrate Heinz teamed up with Tots100 to invite bloggers to get creative with their Alphabetti and spell out their favourite quotation from a children's book. Regular readers will know how much I enjoy great kids' books so I couldn't wait to get involved, but it was hard to choose just one quote when there are so many wonderful books and so many poignant phrases.

My favourites include Alice in Wonderland and Oh The Places You'll Go! whereas Wiss adores all of the Julia Donaldson books, but a firm favourite of both of us is Where The Wild Things Are. It's a beautiful story, with gorgeous illustrations and actually very few words, but for me, that makes it even more special.

It was great fun (and surprisingly hard) to fish around and find the right letters we needed, and of course we ate the rest of the tin on toast afterwards! Unfortunately, it seems that Max had a bit of a rumpus in the Alphabetti!

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak #HeinzPastaQuotes

This blog post is an entry into the Tots100/Heinz competition to support Children’s Book Week. There is still time if you would like to join in, and all the details and other entries can be found here.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Our Wedding Day

This post first appeared on Modern Mummy's blog a couple of years ago, but seeing as yesterday was our fifth wedding anniversary, I thought it would be nice to share it again.

I've STILL not got round to getting the photos printed into an album but I hope I day! 
Kieran and I had been together for 8 years when we got married, plus we had a 9 month old son. We both decided very early on that we wanted our wedding day to be relaxed, and having a baby to look after meant that we couldn't get too hung up on all the preparations anyway! We wanted the day to be special (who doesn't?!) and fun. Oh, and Kieran said it HAD to be in South London, as he gets a nose bleed if he goes 'up North'!

So we got married at Camberwell Registry Office, and had the reception at The Prince Regent pub in Herne Hill. We arranged for a vintage double-decker bus to collect our guests at London Bridge station, drop them off in Camberwell and then take us all on to Herne Hill. Well, that was plan but the bus was very old, and it had a few problems starting so there was a mad dash for taxis at London Bridge. Luckily the bus was soon fixed and it joined us after the ceremony to take us on to the pub. Phew!

We wanted our wedding to have lots of personal touches, and we started with the invitations. We made these ourselves by photographing a couple of scaled people (I'm a modelmaker by day) painted to look like us (?) We had a 'Save the Date' card, and one invitation for the ceremony and lunch, and another for the evening reception.

Our friends are really important to us - I think living in London, where you get lots of people from all over the place, friends often become more like family. We were touched that so many of our friends wanted to be involved in the organisation and preparations. Liz made the cake, a delicious and HUGE carrot and orange cake; Kate made the cheese biscuits, 'A' and 'K' ones, as well as coming to Covent Garden Flower Market with my brother and I to buy as many orange flowers as we could! Lisa sorted out the rings for us, Jo found my beautiful bracelet, and Marc was the DJ. Hannah read after the ceremony, organised my hen do and her mum made my bouquet, while Ren helped me find the dress and gave invaluable advice. (Something I learned by myself though: don't wear big black Primark pants when you plan to try on wedding dresses!)

I had originally planned for my friend Beth's mum to make my dress, but while out shopping for the fabric Ren persuaded (pestered) me to try on some instead. I was not keen on this as a.) I am not really one for big, fussy dresses and b.) I had big, black Primark pants on. However, we found ourselves in a fancy shop with a very helpful assistant. I scanned the dresses and picked the plainest, most simple dress so that I could try it on quickly and then get out. I was not expecting to like it, let alone love it but... it was perfect! It was also in the sale and the only one they had left was my size. Even more perfect! I had no idea what a Lanvin dress was at the time, only that I had just bought one for more money than I had ever planned to spend. Oops! (The back of the dress is stunning as it falls from the shoulder blades into a low 'V' but you'll have to take my word for it as I can't find any pictures of my behind!)
It was a fantastic day with all our friends and close family around us - some came from France, most came from South London and my brother flew in from Australia to give me away. Poor little Lewis had a high temperature that day and really wasn't himself but he was happy enough with cuddles from Nana Daisy and Kieran and I were able to spend the night in a hotel - my first night ever away from my baby!

We have so many great photos from the day that I'll let them do the talking. Here is the day in snapshots:
I think this one needs explaining - we were doing Baby Led Weaning and I was sitting next to Lewis. I didn't want to take any chances with his mucky hands and my dress so I put this poncho on while he ate!

Date: 09.10.10
Venue: Camberwell Registry Office and The Prince Regent Pub, Herne Hill
Walked down the aisle by: My brother
Guests: 50 for the ceremony and lunch, 50 more for the evening reception
1st Dance: You are the Sunshine of My Life by Stevie Wonder
Last Dance: Finally by Kings of Tomorrow
Wedding night: Hilton Docklands, London
Honeymoon: a week in Cornwall (with the boy!)

So, five years married, nearly 14 years together, 2 children, 1 cat and 12 fish later... We've had lots of highs, a few lows and we're definitely more tired but I wouldn't change anything for the world! I love you Mr Tobin x