Nov 30, 2010

Thanks A Lot

Here's what our (American) Thanksgiving looked like this year: arugula pecan salad, roasted pumpkin soup, stuffed squash, parsnip bread pudding, turkey...all of which are clearly better enjoyed with your top off (I don't know what it is about dinner and shirts for my kid.) We were "upstate" as they say in New York City, in Rhinebeck, a small village made famous this summer by a certain former president's daughter who got married there.

Before we ate (with our good friends whose home is the backdrop above), I said we should all go around and say what we're thankful for. Somehow,  between tricking our toddlers into eating vegetables and, you know, actually eating our own food, we didn't get to it. So here goes: I'm thankful for my family (naturally; snore), friends, cold weather (never thought I'd say that, but seriously NYC is godawful in the summer/early fall), and my new camera that can take lovely pictures of such occasions.

Nov 29, 2010

Etsy Shop Open!

Look. Over there. On the right in that white rectangle. Under the headline "My Etsy Store."

That's right: My newly opened Etsy shop (where you can buy doll carriers for your lovely children this holiday season) has been longer in the making than the 2nd Avenue subway line. Well not quite. I started my Etsy account three years ago, not really knowing what I should sell there, just that people kept telling me I should. It seemed like a natural fit. I like to make stuff. Sometimes people like that stuff and they ask why I don't make a bunch of whatever it is and sell them somewhere. But I just couldn't figure out what my niche should be. I'm still not really sure. But I'm hopeful I got it right. I designed the carrier and drafted my pattern (hooray for my FIT education!) this fall originally as a birthday present for Lucy's best bud. It turned out so well, I made one more for Lucy. I adapted the pattern a bit to make sewing en masse easier and forged on. Now I have a whole bunch. (Again, see that box over there on the right?)

Anyway, I don't need to post any more photos of these carriers, do I? I've done that to death already. But they are cute. And so fun for doll-loving preschoolers to play with. I really am proud of how they have turned out.

In short:shop www.Etsy.com.

And the Winner is...

Big Bird!

No, just kidding. But Big Bird was the most popular answer to my question, probably due to the fact so many of those who answered have toddlers at home. I personally would like Elmo to carry me around for a day — so I could watch that tiny red monster suffer like I have through countless rounds of "La, la, la, la, lah, la, la, la...Elmo's World!"

Anyway, the real winner is Lisa (last name rhymes with "winner") from Winnipeg! I'll be sending her the doll carrier tomorrow. Her son just started walking a while back so he may not be quite ready for the doll carrier just yet, but I'm sure it will get put to good use eventually.

The winner was chosen at random using this random number generator. (It paid to make that 2nd entry on Facebook/Twitter):


A special shout-out should go to Briony for sending me this picture: 

It's Mark Ruffalo in GQ magazine, which is apparently for straight guys — because straight guys love looking at photos of Mark Ruffalo making his "come hither to my hirsute den of baby-making" pose. Huh?

Nov 28, 2010

Enter, enter, enter, enter!

Only 5 hours left to enter my giveaway for the handmade doll carrier pictured above! If you haven't entered already because you don't have a kid of your own or one the right age, just remember Christmas is coming and you may have a niece, nephew or friend's kid in need of a charming, handmade gift. You'll save money. I promise I'll ship quickly and you'll have it well before the holidays.

If you haven't entered because we're good friends and you're worried it won't be fair if you win, get over it: Fair's fair and I have no qualms about giving this to anyone who enters — even my own mother (not really: she doesn't have the Internet, or a computer, or any idea what a blog is).

If you haven't entered because you can't think of an answer to my skill-testing question, just make one up. Or use one of my helpful suggestions: Jolly Green Giant, Vince Vaughn, Yao Ming, or the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

Proceed: http://mybeaubaby.blogspot.com/2010/11/doll-carrier-giveaway.html

Nov 24, 2010

The Grosgrain-inspired Leaf Sweater

I just the love the mottled sunlight that filters through the metal gate that keeps intruders from entering our apartment via the fire escape outside my kid's bedroom window. Now and then my husband will claim to have OCD, but as fas as I can tell, his condition only flares up when it comes to making sure that gate is locked before we all go to bed at night. (OK, he's also OCD when it comes to checking CNN's politics webpage during election time — which is ALL the time in the U.S.)

Anyway, here I am this morning in a newly revamped sweater that I got at a clothing exchange last winter. It's a nice sweater, but kinda boring so when I saw this sweater over at the amazing Grosgrain blog (where the very talented and prolific Kathleen is posting tutorials for all sorts of embellished sweater projects this month), I was inspired to make it...better. See hers:

 I'm not going to post instructions or anything. She's already done a great job of that, and if you're interested, go see her site and tutorial. I should note this whole thing took maybe a half-hour. It's a super quick project. The thing that takes the longest is felting the sweater used for the leaves. I had to wash and dry it three times before it was felted enough. Here are some close ups of the neck and wrists:


Nov 17, 2010

Sometimes, Just When you Need It, Something Great Happens

See that photo at left? So crisp and clear. OK, maybe the photographer shouldn't have amputated the poor girl's right hand like that. But two-year-olds move so darn fast, I can hardly be blamed for crappy composition.

Anyway, the quality of this photo is much better than what I'm accustomed to posting here. That's because I borrowed my friend's Nikon digital SLR — both to get some better pictures of my new doll carriers (pattern coming soon!), and to take it for a testdrive.

Since I'm starting an Etsy store (as soon as humanly possible for a lady who's busy with a toddler all day long), I need a real camera that can take quality photos of the things I make and sell. My five-year-old point-and-shoot just can't cut it.

So I asked my photographer friends to recommend what they'd think is the best entry-level digital SLR I could get for the best price. Well, it turns out entry-level still means upwards of $500, which left me super bummed out.

UNTIL (and I'm serious, this was the very next day) a Law & Order SVU location scout knocked on our door and handed me a bag of gold. Well, it didn't exactly happen like that, but that's pretty much how it feels. They're using our apartment for one day, which will allow me to finally invest in a proper camera. The timing couldn't have been better. If I believed things happen for a reason, this would be the example I would site for the rest of my life. But I don't really. I do, however, believe in luck. And we had it this week. Oh, and it pays to tip your building's super at Christmas (it's a New York thing). He's the one who told the location people our place would work for what they needed.

Nov 15, 2010

Winnign Chinches

Yesterday I saw this sign taped to an old orange couch on the sidewalk with the trash. I asked my Dominican friend what it says. You guessed it: "chinches" are bedbugs.

Doll Carriers Coming Soon!

I've been working oh-so-hard these past few weeks on two things that are 100 % related to this cuteness:
video

I'll soon be posting a free, downloadable pattern and tutorial for the above doll carrier (pictured above on Lucy who had so much fun running around in it yesterday). AND (this is a first for me!) I'll be opening my own Etsy store soon to sell doll carriers for those too lazy to make their own. Kidding, of course. I friggin' hope you're all too lazy to make your own.

Both (pattern and purchasable carriers) will be available with lots of time before the holidays.

Nov 11, 2010

Cowichan Sweater Makeover

When I was a kid growing up on Vancouver Island (hereafter referred to as "The Island" as Islanders call it), we were forced to wear itchy but unbelievably warm "Cowichan" sweaters, which are either knit by, or based on patterns created by, the native band on the Island. The distinctive hand-knit Cowichan sweaters are knit from thick wool in natural colours — brown, grey, cream and black — like the one pictured at left. They generally have geometric repeating patterns or simple animal designs. Authentic Cowichan sweaters (usually knit by Cowichan women) are expensive to buy new because they're knit by hand. (Which I totally understand: If I knit a sweater by hand and sold it, I'd have to sell it for about $3,000 to make it worthwhile. Knitting takes so freaking long.)

Cowichan sweaters are also bulky by definition because the yarn used to create them is so thick and dense. That's what makes these sweaters so warm. A Cowichan sweater is about all you need to withstand the mild winters where I grew up.

Lately I've been nostalgiac for a Cowichan sweater. There's something very ugly-yet-pretty about a nice Cowichan sweater that says "Screw it, I'm going to be warm. Too bad for you if you can't see my boobs." But, of course, living in New York City and being on a there's-still-a-recession-going-on budget, there's no way for me to find my own used Cowichan. I could knit my own, but (as earlier noted) that would take me until 2012. A quick scan on eBay turns up a few nice examples of authentic Cowichan sweaters — not cheap — and a whole bunch of factory-produced Cowichan-style sweaters that sellers also refer to as "Lebowski sweaters."

Lucky for me, I have great friends. And lovely Sarah found me the above sweater at a thrift store in Victoria. It wasn't super cheap but a steal compared to buying one new, or investing the time to make my own. Many Cowichan sweaters are cardigan-style, with a zipper closure in the front. After trying on this one, I remembered why: they're so hot! And you need to be able to open up the front so you don't die of heat stroke. Coupled with some inspiration from this great blog Grosgrain, whose author teaches how to turn a regular sweater into a cardigan, I decided to have a little faith in my abilities and turn my Cowichan into a cardigan so I could get on with wearing it already.

The Results 
It wasn't easy, and all the while I was chanting in my head "measure twice, cut once" — the mantra of carpenters and anyone slicing into something that could entirely unravel with one false move. All I used to make the transformation was some double-fold bias tape and a bunch of buttons. I decided against putting in a zipper because I didn't think my sewing machine could handle it. The sweater is really thick and I had to really ram it through to get the feed to work.

I also took in the sides somewhat to get a less boxy fit. I'm hoping to buy a real camera soon to improve upon the photos I post here (and portraits of my daughter). Law & Order SVU scouted our apartment this week for a shoot later this month and I'm hoping to convince my husband to invest our compensation in a quality camera. More sweater:

Nov 4, 2010

This has nothing to do with sewing

I'm terribly proud of my two-year-old when she says please, thank-you and you're welcome without any prompting from me or my husband. But even closer to my heart than her precocious politeness is her sense of humour. Just 27 months old and she's already mastered the spoof song. She's a regular Baby Yankovic. A sampling:

— "A spoonful of poop makes the medicine go down.."
— "Hey poop, don't be a poop. Take a sad poop and make it poo-oo-oop..."
— And, of course: "Twinkle, twinkle, little poop.."

I don't want to pigeonhole the girl at such a young age, but I think her genre is really potty-training-meets-Mad-Libs. Her set list would kill on the birthday party circuit.

She also has originals. Like "The Nipple Song," which goes like this: "I want to pinch, pinch. I want to pinch, pinch. I want to pinch, pinch...Mommy!"

Of course, poop and boobs are very funny.  But it can really wear you down when your boobs are the butt (heh heh) of every joke your toddler makes. Whenever I take my shirt off to change or whatever, she points at me and says, "heh heh...boobs," just like Beavis and Butthead, a pop-culture reference she's about 20 years too young for.

The funniest things kids say are often totally unrepeatable unless you're in the company of other parents who totally understand that kids are just absurd and super crude. Like the other night when I was having a bath with her (parentless friends: we're not actually a super nude hippie family. This is something you must do from time to time...say, when your toddler refuses to get in the bath even though she repeatedly ran her spaghetti-sauce-covered hands through her long blond hair during supper and she looks like Carrie — not Bradshaw, that one from the '70s covered in pig's blood). So we're in the tub and when she pokes my boob, lifting it up slightly,  I say, "What exactly are you doing, young lady?" Her reply: "I'm looking for food. Rice cakes and Snap Pea Crisps." Beat. Laughter (hers).

Now, no lady wants the kind of boobs capable of hiding stray Snap Pea Crisps. Remember in (the animated version of the graphic novel) Persepolis when two women are talking about how to tell if your boobs are crap or not: stick a pencil under your breasts. If it falls, they're great. If you can hide a bag of Snap Pea Crisps under them, you're outta luck, old lady.

Of course, she only has herself to blame.

I'm working on a new pattern today for something very fun. AND I'm going to have another giveaway very soon, though I don't want to kill the excitement by revealing any details just yet. Stay tuned.

Nov 3, 2010

All Things Pumpkin

 You know you're getting older when you find yourself ripping out recipes from magazines. And if you're Canadian, specifically, you know you're getting older when you find yourself ripping out recipes from Chatelaine.

I recently acquired a copy of the women's magazine (in print since 1928!) when a generous friend sent me a couple thrifted Cowichan sweaters, which I'd been coveting. (It's still too warm to wear them here. Cowichan sweaters are seriously cozy. They're also very expensive brand-new because they're handmade). Anyway, she threw a Chatelaine in the box with the sweaters, which was very thoughtful because in the U.S. the only Canadian media that's accessible are Malcolm Gladwell essays in the New Yorker.

It was a good read, of course, and I ripped out about 20 pages from the back-end of the magazine, including the recipe for Pumpkin-Spice Biscotti, which you see my two-year-old savouring here, at right.

I've never made biscotti before, and it's strange because you bake them for forever, like over an hour, which just seems weird for a cookie. I really didn't think a kid would like the crunchy, not-very-sweet cookies. But she did, so go figure. I will totally make these again. They rock. They contain, butter, sugar and flour, so, you know, they're not the healthiest. But pumpkin has lots of betacarotene in it, so you can feel a little better about that.

From Oct. 2010 issue of Chatelaine

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted raw shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 2 tsp pumpkin-pie spice (I made my own mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin purée (I made my own from a roasted then puréed sugar pumpkin)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coarse sugar 
  1. Preheat oven to 300 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  2. In a large bowl, stir flour with sugar, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin spice, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs with pumpkin purée, butter and vanilla extract. Pour egg mixture into flour mixture and stir to combine.
  4. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Shape into 2 long, flat logs, about 2 in. wide and 1/2 in. thick. (Dough will rise as it bakes.) Sprinkle coarse sugar on top of logs, pressing gently so it adheres. Bake for 30 min, until centres are firm to the touch.
  5. Remove from oven and let cool 5 min. Reduce oven temperature to 275F. Using a serrated knife, cut logs into 1/2-in. pieces. Place cut-side down on the baking sheet and bake an additional 35 min. Cool completely on a rack.

Nov 1, 2010

Halloween Hangover

A friend of mine recently posted a comment asking why I never post pics of my husband, Ryan. Well, here he is, giving Lucy a shoulder ride on the way to a birthday party/Halloween extravaganza in our neighbourhood yesterday. There will be no pictures of me frolicking with my little Max because I have a Hitler mustache coldsore right now (that is, a coldsore directly under my nose that gives me a somewhat Hitlerish look at first glance). Having a Hitler mustache coldsore is a mixed blessing. It really makes you appreciate how you normally look. It's also a good time to think about people in the world who have real problems. That's because a Hitler mustache coldsore is what I like to call a "First World Problem." Calling it that helps me to just get over myself for the moment. Not enough to actually post a picture of myself with a Hitler mustache coldsore. But enough to actually go out to a Halloween party. (Do you admire me for my strength?)

Anyway, Halloween was great fun. Also, 173 people have downloaded my Max costume pattern over at Burdastyle.com, and the 15-month-old winner of my Max giveaway received his handmade costume in time for Halloween in St. John's, Newfoundand. Apparently his parents are going to have a hard time taking it off him. Also, I have a Texan friend who thinks Newfoundland sounds like a place fairies might live. I've never been (NL is a long way from my home and native land on the west coast of Canada), but that sounds about right.

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