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stroller fingers

14 Jan


My next-door-neighbor Emily one of those moms.  Impossibly gorgeous, talented, creative, sweet, and effortlessly patient with her incredibly well-behaved sons.   And perhaps I’d be bothered by these things, but she’s also one of those people you can’t help but want to be friends with.

So I feel remiss in having taken so long to share the story of her latest business venture, a great invention called the “Haypenny Handmitten.”  It’s just gotten so damn cold here in Brooklyn that it seems like a perfect time to do so.   I don’t know if this is due to the fact that Margaret, the wonderful woman who cares for Fionn while we’re at work, looks at me like I’m smoking crackers when I suggest that indoor activities are fine, given the conditions.   Because if she can get outside, she will.   So being outdoors in weather that would make a mail carrier cry is just something that Fionn loves – and expects – from us on weekends as well.

That’s where the Handmitten comes in.  I’ll spare you all the details- you can read them in posts on Hybrid Mom and Daily Candy Kids.

The bottom line is this: Emily has created a muff-like object that fastens around the handlebars of your stroller.  It’s made of wool on the outside and fleece on the inside.  The sweater wool is knitted in fair-trade cooperatives in Nepal and Peru.   You put your hands into the cuffs and push the stroller.  You don’t ever lose a glove or get ‘stroller fingers,’ my term for the condition that leads to me switching off which hand goes in a pocket, while avoiding the stroller landing in a snow drift or falling off the curb.

 

The Handmitten goes for $68.  But if you have a favorite sweater, you can send it to Emily and she’ll have it made into your own custom version for $100.  Not bad, considering how many replacement pairs of gloves I’ve bought over the past two winters…

Visit her website here,  and let me or her know if you have any questions.

sicky kids and hot water bottle covers

21 Sep
When you’re a new parent, everything is significant.  And nothing is more nerve-racking for both child and parent than a high fever and its companion, the hair-trigger temper and its attendant crying fit (again, for both child and parent).  So in the Daley history books, the second week of September will from here on be known as the time of Cold/Flu Number Two.
Hot Water Bottle Monster by Jaffajaf, Etsy

So what have I learned? First, I’ve got one tough kid.  I’m really proud of him.  And, second, I never knew how many folk remedies my husband can whip up.  While I was surfing the web about antibiotics and second-opinions, my lovely husband was busy in the kitchen, formulating one of his many lemon-and-honey based concoctions.   And although Fionn didn’t really get into the whole chicken broth – tea – Vapo-Rub under the warm towel thing, it sure comforted us.  For what it’s worth, Daddy’s remedies made me feel a heck of a lot better…  (Have I mentioned lately how much I love Lancashire?  Guess the wet North has something to say about keeping kids warm and dry).

And this experience has also made me curious about getting a custom cover for our tough red rubber hot water bottle so Fionn could use it too.  I’m leaning towards the Hot Water Bottle Monster by Jaffajaf, available on Etsy (where else?) for $25.  Based in Brisbane (where else… Australia really has a hold on cool kids stuff right now), Jaffajaf is the nanna-granddaughter team of Yvonne and Debbie.  They’ve got a fantastic touch and I’d highly recommend checking out their online shop.  Their felted dinosaurs are especially wonderful.

Alpaca/Merino Bottle Cover, DWR.com

Looking to go a bit more luxe for your little one?  How about a merino/alpaca wool blend to carefully caress your hot water bottle?  It’s from DWR, and at $70, it’s more of a gift than an everyday purchase, but I can imagine how soft and warm this would be.   And the wool’s got quite a pedigree; apparently, “when not operating their ski lift, four generations of the Steiner family have been spinning, weaving, milling and refining fine woolen cloth at the foot of the Dachstein mountain in the Austrian Alps. Legendary designers and companies like Yves St. Laurent, Bogner, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana and others have used the high-quality fabrics for their fashions.” 

Pirate Mouse, Amazon.com

But to be honest, I think I’m more of a Pirate Mouse kind of gal.  I’m not sure he’s made near the Swiss Alps, but he is German, if that helps anyone…  Available on Amazon.com for $25.95, I think he could easily become a bedtime favorite (with or without the hot water).

Aran "Jumper" Cover, A Crooked Sixpence, Etsy

If you’re into something more traditional, I’d recommend one of these ‘knitted sweaters’ made expressly for hot water bottles.  The Internet is full of instructions on how to do it yourself (which seems to be a lot of fun to make).  But if you’re like me, and would rather reward those who have perfected the craft, you may want to head over to the shop on Etsy called A Crooked Sixpence.  Above, this is their Aran jumper in the White Chocolate color, for $36.

Red Cashmere Cozy by Honeycreweller, Etsy

But my absolute favorite?  (Yes, I know I started this post talking about my son).   An ‘upcycled’ cashmere sweater.   Taking the logic one step further, why knit when you’ve got perfectly wonderful cashmere right at your fingertips?  The Honeycreweller shop on Etsy offers this one in red for $32; there are other colors available as well.

Ribbon detail, courtesy Honeycreweller

I especially love the contrasting satin ribbon and button closure detail and the blue cotton lining.  Because I know when I’m feeling sicky, beautiful fabrics and coordinating materials really cheer me up.   For Fionn, I think the hot water bottle monster would be a surer bet.

discovered: jonathan adler for barnes & noble

14 Jul

Taking the path once blazed by Karl Lagerfeld for H&M (now on Ebay, cheap!) or DwellStudio for Target (much more successful, IMHO), Jonathan Adler has lent his considerable skills to help beautify the biggest of the big box bookseller retailers.  And although we’re a “support small/local business” household – a philosophy I find increasingly dear and growing in necessity daily – I would strongly consider turning the stroller around for a blast of air conditioning and the heavy double doors of the nearby Barnes & Noble for these bookends:

Hot dog

They’re $39.95 at BN.com, and as with many of these ‘made for’ collaborations, they’re stylistically similar to Adler’s other pieces, yet materially different.  In fact, I’d prefer resin bookends over ceramic ones any day . . . you’d have to be very creative to make productive use of a single bookend.

Kensington sketchbook

Barnes & Noble also sells Adler-designed totes, notebooks (one suspiciously Orla Kiely-like), umbrellas (for those days you choose to read outdoors, I suppose).  I’m sure Nook covers are also in the mix.   The Kensington-pattern sketchbooks are also favorites of mine.  Perhaps they’d find a cozy home between the front and back of a cute puppy.

happy fourth of july

2 Jul

Hope everyone has a restful and peaceful fourth of July weekend.  Above, one of my favorites, Steve Earle, covering Woody Guthrie.  He sings the lyrics you rarely hear.  And as he says in his intro, Guthrie always saw this song as a work-in-progress… perhaps it would have continued to change and evolve over the years.

But before I go…and in the spirit of everything American, how could I leave the post without featuring something wonderful to buy?

This Land Is Your Land bib, Colby Lane, Etsy

Colby Lane Designs crafts handmade bibs out of interesting fabrics, then lines them with soft chenille.  At $8 each, there’s really no excuse not to substitute these for the plastic-coated ones you often find in local shops.

Hope to see you on the other side of the long weekend.

personalized stroller blankets

14 May
Mocca personalized stroller blanket by elisehooperdesigns, Etsy, $50

It’s May, but lately it’s been feeling more like March.  Over the past few days, I’ve really been appreciating the stroller blankets Fionn received as gifts when he was born.   It seems there are babies being born all around me these days, so I thought it a good time to share some of my discoveries.

 Personalized blanket, The Blanket Lady, $65

1. The Blanket Lady

Fionn received one of these when he was three months old, and it went from display item to constant use virtually overnight.  As shown in the photo above, you have the choice of repeating a first name or including the entire name, which runs vertically down the length of the blanket.  At the bottom, you have the option of including the full name or memorializing the birth date. 

Color choice is virtually unlimited – you can choose whichever two you like (ours is blue star and grey); it’s important because the blanket is double-knit, which means the colors show up in reverse on the back.   Although your expectations may be low due to the acrylic thread factor, it actually makes for an incredibly soft, warm and durable blanket that goes anywhere without getting dirty or worn.

2-D Zoo stroller blanket by elisehooperdesigns, Etsy, $50

2. Elise Hooper Designs (above and at top)

I think I love everything in Elise’s Etsy shop.  But these blankets are definitely my favorite.  They’re fun and modern, with great creative lettering and gorgeous fabric selection.  They definitely fit the RFYO criteria for fashionable-yet-kid-friendly design and I’m so eager to order these for friends and family.  I also really like Elise’s note on her seller page; it really captures what Etsy is all about and why it’s so wonderful:

After selling on Etsy for just over 6 months, I am finding it more work than expected but also MUCH more rewarding than expected. I’ve met so many interesting and inspiring people and I love to hear about how one of my blankets has become a baby’s special lovie or a little girl who is so excited to wear one of my dresses to her birthday party. I am just tickled to think that some of my creations have snuck their way into the hearts of little wee ones all over the globe–what a treat!

Giraffe blanket, BunnyBerry, $75

3. Bunny Berry polar fleece blankets

These are the most expensive of the three, but also really modern and graphic and memorable.  I love the appliqued letters and animals, which feel like paper cutouts.  The blankets come in a few different patterns, including the giraffe above and the penguins, below.   These’ll definitely be the most unique -and warm- personalized gifts a new baby could get.

Penguin blanket, Bunny Berry, $75
(Someone at BB is a Dylan/Quinn the Eskimo fan)

I never realized what a cottage industry the personalized blanket has become until my online search tonight!  So next time, skip the Red Envelopes and Pottery Barns of the world and check out these folks instead. I assure you, you can’t go wrong with any of these choices.

CityShade – a local mum business

31 Mar

Before having a kid, I’d see these moms around town, with strollers so full of Stuff (bottles, bags, toys, books, clothes, snack foods, and whatever else they could fit in the basket, bottle tote, recyclable sack and diaper bag), that I (naively) vowed to myself, “I’m never going to be like that when my baby’s born.”  Then Fionn arrived, and I realized that there’s a reason why a mid-afternoon walk often requires the same intense preparation as a full day excursion.

With kids, you learn which items are essential and which items you can leave behind.  And, as is often the case, there are many essentials.  Sometimes you find a simple invention that not only saves space, it makes your life a whole lot easier.

I was reminded of this, and the general ingenuity of new mothers, when I met with Micaela Birmingham, amazing ‘mum’ (she hails from Toronto) and inventor of the  CityShade.   Always on the lookout for essentials that cut down on non-essential extras, I was incredibly impressed by Micaela’s invention, a sun/wind/weather shade that attaches to stroller system bassinets from Bugaboo, UppaBaby, and Peg Perego (among others).

 Whether you’ve given birth in summertime or wintertime, you find that each season presents its fair share of challenges.  One of them is the newborn-induced conflicting desires of ‘get-me-the-hell-out-of-this-house-NOW-or-I’m-going-to-go-ballistic’ and ‘crap, it’s too bright/windy/cold outside — plus, it’s naptime.’

 Shortly after the birth of her daughter in May of 2008, Micaela proudly headed out for a walk with her new girl and her ‘we’ve-thought-of-everything’ Bugaboo bassinet, and winced as the sun blazed down on her precious newborn’s skin.  Looking around, she noticed lots of new mothers were dealing with the same thing, using makeshift swaddles, jackets, blankets and towels – whatever ‘stuff’ they had with them – to shield their new children from the sun’s rays.

An architect by trade, Micaela is a problem-solver by nature.  And being a new mother, she was determined to make things easier for herself and other parents.  So she busted out the sewing machine, and created a prototype out of a dishtowel and some thread.  Shortly thereafter, she recruited some friends as guinea pigs, then found a fashion designer to help her realize her invention.  A year later,  after constantly being stopped on the street by interested moms and dads, Micaela started her CityMum business with 8 CityShade patterns – all manufactured here in NY. 

If you’re interested, please check out Micaela’s website here.  For $70 (including shipping), the CityShade makes a unique shower gift that you know will be much used and appreciated.   Plus, you’ll be supporting a fellow ‘mum’ and local businesswoman with a great idea.

high contrast, high style

19 Mar

Checkerboard Vans for toddlers, Little Ruler, $19.95 (on sale)

Scientists say that when babies are born, it takes a while for their eyes to get up to speed.  They have a hard time distinguishing between foreground and background, and they don’t yet see the full color spectrum as adults do.  I’m not a scientist, and don’t know much about the matter besides the fact that high contrast colors and patterns – blacks and whites and plaids – delight most new babies to no end.

(Incidentally, my husband’s currently reading a fantastic book called A Thousand Days of Wonder (see my Amazon store at top right).  It’s written by Charles Fernyhough, a developmental psychologist, who documents his daughter’s development through her first three years.  He also keeps a blog titled The Ladybird Papers).

If you’re expecting (congratulations) or need some gift ideas for new babies, I’ve discovered three items that fit the high-contrast/high-style bill.  And they’re all kid-tested-and-approved.

1. Manhattan Toy Infant Stim-Mobile

We have friends in the UK with a four year old.  They’re amazing people, but more than this, they’re incredibly smart.  Really, freaking, scary smart.   When their daughter was born, her dad bought her this mobile.  When I found out I was expecting, this was the first dedicated purchase my husband made for the new baby.  Don’t know if he’s hoping there’s some transitive property attached to the mobile, but I have to think that Fionn did respond to it in some way when he was really small.  The images come on plastic-coated cards, and the patterns increase in complexity, so you can switch them out as your child grows.  My only gripe is that it was difficult to fit onto the crib, although it attached to the cradle easily. 

2, Art for Baby

L:Natasha, Julian Opie; R: Fragment 3, Bridget Riley

There are quite a few versions of these high-contrast board books on the market, but this is the only one featuring “young british artists” Julian Opie, Damien Hirst and Gary Hume.  I’m actually not sure who likes this book more, me or the kid.   There’s something incredibly satisfying about indoctrinating the child into the art world at such a young age. . . it’s actually hilarious to create stories around the pictures too. (“Fionn, this picture is from the man who cut up a shark and displayed it in formaldehyde.”)  At the end of the day, what’s really important is that this book is interesting and still holds his attention.

3.  wee see videos

Described as “a gentle introduction to our visual world,” these videos are Art for Baby on hyperdrive.
 

Here’s the description from the website:

“Part art installation, part pacifier, Wee See is a collection of black-and-white animations built from basic shapes to delight both child and parent. As vision develops slowly over the first months of life, Wee See provides surfaces of bold, well-defined artwork to engage your baby’s curious mind and bring the screen to vibrant life. With great sensitivity to the delicate nature of the audience, Wee See’s animations move methodically slow and maintain an extraordinary simplicity yet remain endlessly inventive.”


Oh, and they’re from Brooklyn, always a great thing.  Here’s a sneak peek.  Warning, it’s kind of trippy! (I know some adults who might want this for themselves…)

wee see – collection one from Rolyn Barthelman on Vimeo.

There’s more to come – bedding and room decor.  But for now, enjoy, and have a great weekend.