Sep 23, 2009

"She Laugh When You Hold Her"

No, that's not a jpeg jacked from some vintage toy site. It's real. It's in my apartment. And it's by far the most thoughtful, yet completely awful gift Lucy has received to date. It's a laughing/crying baby doll, circa 2009, bought on Dyckman in Manhattan's Inwood neighbourhood.

The doll, a gift from this very kind and happy old man who lives in our building, cries when you lay it down, and laughs when you hold it upright. Both sound equally maniacal, and Lucy was so scared when I momentarily inserted the batteries that our neighbour so thoughtfully included, that she started screaming and fell down while trying to run away. The "dummy" is basically a long plastic stick that you jam down the doll's throat so she stops crying. No wonder it's not recommended for children under 3.

Our neighbour stopped by yesterday to drop it off. He doesn't speak English very well, so I had no idea what he said. When I tell him I don't know Spanish, he just repeats himself more loudly — though like so many of our mostly Dominican neighbours, he always says a thoughtful "God bless her!" in English when he sees Lucy. It's very sweet. We often hear him singing, and Lucy will stop to dance. He has a very nice voice.

The doll smells like the toys I grew up playing with. In other words: totally toxic. And the battery compartment is totally open.

How awesome is that sailor dress though?

Sep 22, 2009

Happy First Day of Fall

The best thing about fall is all things pumpkin-flavoured. Pumpkin muffins from the Inwood Greenmarket vendor Bread Alone. Pumpkin lattes. My friend Andreae's Wildly Wholesome Pumpkin Chocolate-chip Cookies. Even Pumpkin doughnuts of the Dunkin' variety.

And the best thing about working from home is that I can make Spiced Pumpkin Waffles for breakfast on a Tuesday (see photo at left: it was Topless Breakfast Tuesday here on Riverside Drive). So there, everyone who won't hire me for real, full-time-with-benefits work. Freelancing means fun with my kid whenever we want — this was seriously the best photo I could get. She tore into her waffle with such vigour there was no time for posing. (Probably due to the long wait as I wrecked the first two by prematurely opening up the waffle iron). They took longer to cook (or is it bake? what happens to a waffle to make it so delish?) than normal waffles. And they look a little overdone ..but a few minutes rest, they are perfect and delicious. I found the recipe here, which was featured, I think on the blog, my favourite daily read for things knitty, crafty and sewing-related.

The downside of freelancing while taking care of a baby full-time: it's 10:19 pm. and I still have more work to do and I've been at it every moment that my daughter has slept today. Still, it's a fortunate thing to take care of your own kid. In New York City, it feels like every one here works so hard in order to make money to pay other people to live their lives: watch their kids, walk their dogs....hey, is there anyone I can pay to watch Mad Men for me this Sunday? Just kidding, I don't have cable.

Sep 20, 2009

My Pizza-dough beret

I finally discovered why one should use the recommended yarn when knitting from a pattern. Though I got over my fears of knitting from a chart (more on this later), I am still too thick to know that a cotton/silk blend (instead of the wool/silk recommended) will stretch like crazy, unfortunately making my new cabled beret a possible candidate for a nice microwave cozy. (I put it in the dryer tonight on high and managed to shrink it quite a bit, hence it looks pretty cute in this photo. However, a light rain might make it spread, blob-like, again. I'm wearing it as I type, and it's sagging faster than my daughter's diaper at the spray park).

And the rub is that the yarn I used for this project had already been used — and then rescued — from another failed knitting project, a cardigan from the Stitch and Bitch book, which I started about five years ago and then put away 3/4 finished about 4 1/2 years ago. When I got the itch to knit earlier this month, I unraveled the mostly finished cardigan so I could stave off buying any new yarn. (I'm always trying to do my part to keep America's economy in the dumps). But my thriftiness did not pay off.

If you've ever seen a pizza-maker throw dough in the air, you have a sense for what this beret is like: The more you handle it, the larger it gets! It fit me fine at first, a bit slouchy but that's what I was hoping for. But now it's just getting bigger and bigger, like some magical Sisterhood of the Travelling Rasta Hat.

Anyway, I knit this beret from a free pattern I found online at (just look at how cute the creator's is!), for the first time using a chart, which I had always been totally intimidated by. But it's easy — kinda like reading tab for playing guitar. It's totally visual and easier to read then long sets of small-print instructions. I even cabled. And I choose the pattern specifically because it was hard. I decided it's good for me to keep learning new things. I watch my daughter learn new things every day (like where her ears are, for example) and I don't want my brain to atrophy.

Sep 14, 2009

Buy Nothing Year

Today is the one-year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Bros. and the ensuing economic downturn that has affected just about everyone I know here in New York in some way. WNYC, New York City's public radio station, is taking time out from their 24-7 recession coverage to commemorate the occasion with a BBC-produced radio drama on Lehman Bros. Fascinating...and totally a bummer. While it does get depressing hearing non-stop about how, well, depressed America's economy is, I love hearing more about the growing trend toward thriftiness, made necessary by the recession.

Like No Impact Man, who is trying to do just that -- motivated by environmental concerns, but obviously also saving money and resources in the process, and W. Hodding Carter of Gourmet magazine's Extreme Frugality blog (his family of six is living within their modest means by doing all sorts of cool things, like raising chickens and bartering lawyer work for firewood).

Most people have heard of Adbusters' annual post-U.S Thanksgiving protest against consumerism Buy Nothing Day. Well, we've had a Buy Nothing Year. And not as a form of protest. It's not a noble act: We simply cannot afford to waste anything. But buying nothing begets creativity. I used yoga mats to create a soft playspace for Lucy; I unraveled a cardigan I mostly knit a few years ago so I could use the yarn to make fall hats; I now grocery shop according to what's on sale, and then plan my menu (this I learnt from the Extreme Frugality guy; it's so simple, yet the idea has alluded me until recently) which is how I ended up making the most delicious carrot muffins and carrot soup last week -- carrots were on sale, three bags for $2. I've also learned how to walk away from things I covet without feeling a longing that has in the past led me to purchase things I later regret.

But the most fun I'm having is making things for Lucy out of old stuff that was destined for the donation bin. Take this T-shirt and skirt, from which I made the dress Lucy is wearing in the top picture.

In the process, I discovered how easy it is to make my old T-shirts that no longer fit (for reasons I need not elaborate on, ahem) into toddler-size tees. I simply laid one of Lucy's T-shirts on top of mine, tracing the shoulder seam to fit her. I then laid the sleeve of her T-shirt on top of my sleeve, and traced a baby-size sleeve on the big one. Cut them all out, and then serge the baby-size sleeves into the new baby-size Tee, and it's done. (This one is short because it was sewn into the dress, but you get the idea).

Sep 10, 2009

Kitty-cat hat -- my Trojan Horse of tuques

How do you keep a hat on the head of a one-year-old? It's not a riddle, exactly. Just an impossible problem made worse by the fact that everyone has an opinion on whether your child should be wearing one. The other day I was looking at photos of Lucy at 9 months, and in every one she is wearing a hat. She used to be such an agreeable she takes a maniacal pleasure in ripping them off and chucking them on the ground.

So in the summer we stick to the shady corners of the playground, but what to do about winter?
This imperfect photo (shot in the quarter-second I had before Lucy could pull off her new tuque) doesn't do justice to the hat I knitted and embroidered to look like a kitty — in the hopes that she might actually be convinced to keep it on her head since it looks like one of her favourite animals. I used a pattern from the original Stitch N' Bitch book, then embroidered it with yarn, using the same needle I use to sew in the ends. And, of course, button eyes -- well enforced so they're not a choking hazard. So far she likes playing it with it (and seeing me wear it) better than actually wearing it herself. Maybe sub-zero temps will convince her otherwise? Right now she is looking at this photo and meowing gleefully. Perhaps that's a good enough start. It is only September.


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