Nov 21, 2009

DIY "Bundleme"

When I'm able to figure out a way to make something for free or cheap instead of buying something new, I feel a little like I'm sticking it to the man. I get that from my dad. He was, at times, embarassing as a kid for his relentless commitment to making everything himself.

I remember one Christmas when our block decided on candles as the unifying theme for our street's holiday decorations (there was a competition of sorts, which we actually won. The prize was a barbecue party for all the families the following summer). Everyone else bought those jumbo plastic red and yellow candles that plug in and glow. Meanwhile my dad spraypainted blue a piece of plywood, used tinfoil to make a "candleholder" and drilled holes through which he strung white lights. He then attached it to the side of our house -- much to our family's horror.

His ethos was, "Why would I buy it when I can make it myself?"

I feel that way about those expensive, but brilliant Bundlemes, which are a nessesary evil of living in New York City: when it's Eastern-Seaboard-cold outside, how do you keep your kid warm in her stroller? Barely anyone I know has a car, and taking your baby out in sub-zero temps is unavoidable. (It's against the law, apparently, to just leave your kid at home while you go to the store for milk). Last winter we just carried her, which made it easy to keep our little bear warm. But now she's 25 pounds and much too tall to zip into my jacket with me. Wearing your one-year-old in winter is no easy feat.

Anyway, back to the Bundleme. They're amazing in their simplicity -- essentially a short sleeping bag that attaches to your stroller. You zip your baby in, keeping them toasty warm while they're shuttled about the city. They're totally awesome. They're over $100. And everyone has one. Someone out there is so rich. I hope it was a smartypants mom who had the idea.

While $100 is not an enormous sum to ask for keeping your darling baby snugly warm the whole winter through, we don't have $100 to burn. What we did have is a down-filled sleeping bag that has been used once in the past four years. Chopping it up for Lucy's sake seemed like a no-brainer.

So here's how I did it:

Materials:
-sleeping bag
-a few yards of seam binding

1. Lay the open sleeping bag along the length of your stroller, positioning the bottom end on the foot rest, and use a piece of chalk or some masking tape to mark the curve along the top of the seat, and the height of the front of the bag. I then pinned my seam binding tape along that line:

2. Straight-stitch along the bottom edge of the seam binding tape. You are sewing BEFORE you cut the sleeping bag to size to avoid an explosion of down in your home. There will be some down flying around no matter what you do, but to keep it to a minimum, straight-stitch ANOTHER line following the curve of your binding tape an inch higher. This will keep the down contained in both halves of the bag before you cut it.


3. Then grab your scissors and cut 1/2-inch seam allowance along your strip of binding tape. Reserve the other half of the bag for making a carrier cover or something else useful. Pull out any excess down that may have been exposed, and fold your seam binding tape over the cut edge and pin:

4. Straight-stitch down the seam binding tape, which will hide the cut edge and reinforce the seam:

5. Lay your sleeping bag along the length of your stroller again, and use pins or some masking tape to mark where the shoulder straps, waist straps and crotch strap will need to go. Essentially, you will make big buttonholes for the five-point harness to go through. That way you can use your new "Bundleme" while your child is safely strapped in.

6. Use the zig-zag stitch on your sewing machine to make 2-inch buttonholes, and cut the hole. Pull the straps through and fasten:
I think we could take Lucy out naked in this thing, it's so warm. Not that we would. I'm just sayin'...if we HAD to, we could.

Now if only I could get the girl's finger out of her nose:

Nov 20, 2009

Holly Handmade's Toadstool Rattles


If you're in Toronto, check out my friend Holly Handmade's toadstool rattles, like the one pictured at left in Lucy's mouth. She'll be showing her handmade items at the City of Craft show Dec. 12 &13. I'm not sure why she's not selling her woodsy wares online yet, but hopefully she will be soon! Babies love the textures and colours, and you don't have to worry about any lead-paint-made-in-China crappiness that comes with many baby items.

Nov 17, 2009

My Baby, Burdastyle


One of my favourite online resources is Burdastyle.com, a Brooklyn-based open-source
sewing site. They recently started charging for their in-house-designed patterns, but there are also plenty of free patterns uploaded by the site's users, among them the Vivienne Toddler Jumper, pictured above on Lucy as she contemplates my Burt Bee's lip balm.

I re-used a pair of brown wool-blend work pants that no longer fit (did they ever? They're huge) for the outer shell, and lined it with this sweet yellow and white dotted cotton I've had lying around forever. The buttons came from a bag I bought years ago at Micheal's in Winnipeg. And since Lucy love all things round (balls, balloons, bubbles, etc.), I appliqued on a few circles in the print.


It's all part of my mission to rid my closet of items I no longer wear (or in some cases, never did), while avoiding spending any money on new things for Lucy.

Nov 10, 2009

I hope I can remember this forever

Last night we were reading books in bed when Lucy looked at a picture of a mama cat licking her baby cat, then turned to me and licked my face. It was possibly the funniest, most wonderful moment of my life so far: my 15-month-old daughter licking my face. Of course she then licked Ryan's face too, and then her teddy bears and stuffed kitty, and so and so forth until our entire bedtime menagerie was covered with baby saliva.

I hope I can remember that moment, and other ones like it so that one day when she is older and in that stage where they like to hear about themselves when they were young, I can tell funny stories that indicate the best parts of her nature -- that she's sweet, loving and smart -- and that her parents love her so much they're willing to let her licks their faces.

Right now I'm working on a big project that requires me to learn a bunch of new skills. I'm a big fan of Burdastyle.com and have used a number of the patterns posted there over the past couple years. They recently started charging for some patterns, but it's also an open-source sewing site, where members can post PDFs of the patterns they have created. Other members try out the patterns, post pictures, make adjustments or modifications. Plus there are tutorials and tips, and so much inspiration for sewing stuff.

Anyway, I have numerous patterns I have created over the years and I'm working to create user-friendly downloadable versions of a few of the best, focusing on a few easy baby/toddler items. It's all part of my plan, or my Plan B, really. Also part of my Plan B is hopefully taking some patternmaking and construction classes at New York City's Fashion Institute of Technology this winter or spring. Fingers crossed.

Nov 8, 2009


Today was possibly our nicest day out as a family ever. We were up early (5:30 a.m. — I blame the recent time change, which I do not understand. Why do we need it to be light out at 6:30 a.m.? That just means my kid is up and I'm exhausted all the time. I'd rather have an extra hour of light at the end of the day for a little more time outdoors), so we hopped on the A train down to the 81st Street entrance of Central Park. I love this area. The turtle pond and Belvedere Castle are so lovely. It's a shame my camera is such junk. It really was a perfect fall day in New York City, and I wish I had the pictures to prove it.

It was one of those days where I can just tell the synapses are firing in Lucy's little brain, building all these new neural pathways and making up for all the time spent plunked in front of Yo Gabba Gabba while I cook dinner (the good nutrition in home-cooked meals is worth a little mushifying of her baby brain, right?). We saw a hawk clutching a squirrel it had just caught. We listened to buskers, and caught a bit of a puppet show. We climbed up and down the spongy hills in Central Park's biggest playground. We ate corn on the cob and drank milkshakes. We saw the giant piano at FAO Shwartz.
We watched a Snow Monkey scratch its big, red butt, and sea lions performs tricks for food at the Central Park Zoo. Lucy made the sign for "swim" as we watched the penguins zip around underwater in the Central Park Zoo.

It's a rare day out in New York City when I am not annoyed with tourists or enraged by the overwhelming class disparity and conspicuous consumption. I was barely even aware of the stroller envy I usually feel when out and about anywhere south of Harlem.

Except, of course, when Lucy's naptime inevitably rolled around and we were nowhere near home and her bed. Then I despair about her poor neck all crooked over as she sleeps sitting up in her stupid, non-reclining Maclaren umbrella stroller, which we chose because it's so damn light and easy to carry up and down subway stairs. She's just too heavy to carry in a carrier for a long day out, and it's too crowded and crazy for her to walk on her own in most places in NYC. Anyway, today it seemed everyone in this city has a stroller that cost four times as much as my first car. That's not an exaggeration.

Anyway, back to the lovely day: Life with little Lucy has been getting progressively easier ever since she turned one in July. Until now it just seemed that life with a baby in NYC is too much of a grind to ever really enjoy any of the things that make this city such an awesome place. How many times have I wished we just lived in some mid-sized city with a car in which we could change her damn diaper or nurse her in private, or drive home while she drifts off to sleep. Life in New York is so out there — literally. Your every move as a parent is so public: You're changing diapers on park benches, wondering whether someone is going to call child services because it's frigging freezing. You're riding the subway home with a kid who won't stop screaming, and every damn grandma thinks she knows exactly what your child needs. Your backyard is the park, which is full of people. Your backseat is the subway -- also full of people. And if only we had a garage, maybe babyproofing wouldn't be such a frigging challenge. My bicycle is attached to the wall using a bungy-cord and I-ring so the baby can't pull it down on her soft, little head.

But this is not a rant. New York, today, was amazing. And Lucy in it was amazing too. She was so happy and playful. Talking and signing and giving us both hugs. Sitting nicely in the restaurant's highchair. Waking up from her uncomfortable stroller nap all cheery and then reading books on the subway ride home. (A true, native New Yorker, she reads on the train, ignoring the crazy people). A day like this makes me think we could stay here for a while yet.

Nov 7, 2009

Make diaper changes a snap


How awesome is this idea to convert your baby's pants into diaper change-ready snap-ups?
I love Craftzine's blog, and am stoked when they have baby stuff like this on there.

Nov 6, 2009

Curtains


We moved into a new, smaller apartment a couple weeks ago. It's across the hall from our old place, so the move itself was easy, though we had lots of downsizing to do -- selling and giving things away on Craigslist, putting up tons of shelves to make up for the dearth of closet space in our cozy new place.

The decision to downsize (from two bedrooms to one) was forced by the economic downturn and its continued effect on our family's finances. Obviously life would be easier if we had a separate bedroom for our baby, but living like this isn't that unusual among New York City families. In fact, just the other day I read an article in TimeOut Kids about how couples with kids in a one-bedroom manage to have sex. (Hint: find a babysitter or make sure you have good curtains in the living room).

Ergo the lovely new curtains I crafted from a huge linen tablecloth (pictured at left and below). Having dropped a bundle on the aforementioned shelving from Ikea, I didn't want to spend anymore on covering up our windows, so I used a few white coat hooks and some branches I found in Fort Tryon Park to make the rods. I sewed a few small birds to perch on the branches, so the tree-like effect would look intentional and arty, and not so much like we can't afford real curtains, you know? I guess they're kinda more like blinds than curtains, owing to the fact they fold up and button down to let in light during the day. A stroke of genius, I thought.

Anyway, they're now my favourite thing about this new place -- next to the dishwasher, which I couldn't imagine life without now. I think I have at least an extra hour in my day because of that sweet little machine.

If someone were to ask me what is the one thing you should get if you're having a baby, I would say dishwasher, hands down. Let the kid wear hand-me-downs and play with cardboard boxes. Life with a baby is so damn messy. A dishwasher eases the pain just enough to get you through. It might even help your sex life.

Nov 5, 2009

A clown, a crone


Pictured at left: sweet Lucy in her Halloween costume (a clown, which I cobbled together out of one of those Euro-babysuits, some ruffled trimming, and plush hearts for big buttons). Also pictured at left: me, happily hugging my lovely girl.

I love this picture except for this one thing: it shows how much more deep and defined my wrinkles have become in the past year. When I saw this, it bummed me out. I know it's because I'm upholding myself to the unrealistic standard set by people who get botox at age 20, collagen fillers by 25, and who knows what else by the time they are my old age of 31 (seriously, I once interviewed someone who worked in the cosmetic rejuvenation field, and she recommended women as young as 20 get botox -- a sort of pre-emptive strike against aging). But this is what a 31-year-old looks like, right? Never mind that my crow's feet are worse than Meryl Streep's.

Considering this, I wondered if my worsening wrinkles are the result in some way of motherhood. People plant these ideas in your head: kids give you grey hairs, make you old, no doubt wrinkles are just part of the package.

Maybe the lack of sleep makes them worse? On-demand breastfeeding dehydrates, leaving my skin parched and crepey?

No. I think the reason why my crow's feet have deepened in the past 15 months is I have never smiled nor laughed so much as I do with my daughter all day. She's hilarious, and she only says a couple dozen words. I can't wait to hear what she has to say in a couple years.

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