Scrappy Flower Tag Toy

Here’s a new take on the tag toys I’ve been churning out: a sensory experience in the form of a patchwork flower.

I guarantee you have enough stuff laying around to make one of these: The petals are made out of scraps from other projects and old clothes. Even if you don’t have many scraps on hand, you could use a felted wool sweater, an outmoded pair of corduroy pants, a torn camisole, a stained tea towel, a pillowcase who’s lost his match… you get the idea.

You just cut out the petals free-form and sew as you would a pillow, with right sides together (I didn’t even pin anything). Turn inside out, sew once on the outside to close the hole, and attach to two circular pieces (made in the same way as the petals) with a big round of stitches on top. I made the circular pieces in the same way as a tag toy, attaching the ribbon pieces so that they come out of the seam in the circle.

The coolest innovation for this project was the idea of using not only different textures of fabric, but filling them with different materials as well. Two of the petals are filled with those clear window plastic things you get on envelopes from your telephone/cable/electric bills. Just cut out the middle of the “window” and stuff inside a petal or two. It gives the petal that crunchy sound many baby toys have. I also made a couple of them extra thick with fleece.

I made sure each side had a variety of colors, too. This is side one, with a red houndstooth fleece center, and that pink petal is satin.

Side two has a center cut from a pair of jeans I don’t wear anymore. I used a sewing machine to keep it all together, and didn’t mind the scrappy look of sewing on top. If you want to have a more neat finished product, embroider all the parts together with pretty thread and a more steady hand.

It’s a floppy toy, just like the tag blankets, but I could see doing a stuffed version as well, maybe with a stuffed center or a few stuffed petals, too. It was fun just experimenting with it all and not worrying too much about matching things perfectly or lining it all up symmetrically.

Yesterday I sent this off to my sister Monica, who is due with my nephew tomorrow. Hope he’ll come out soon to start exploring the many colors and textures of the world outside the womb!

18 Months

Last Wednesday Jax was 18 months old! He is really becoming a little boy now, with more words than I can count and a little big personality that loves to joke around.

We wanted to celebrate the occasion at our favorite baby- and kid-friendly restaurant, Wobble Café, but alas, they are closed Wednesday evenings. After bouncing off their door, we thought we’d head up to an Indian restaurant we had been wanting to try. A couple wrong turns later and we remembered a diner we have also wanted to check out. We have been lovingly calling it the “Nuclear Diner” since it’s just down the road from Indian Point, a nuclear power plant we are in denial about living so close to. What a pleasant surprise inside, though: a really friendly staff, great prices (even as far as diners go), and best of all, a big toy train! running around the middle. Perfect.

The all-important coloring placemat

Noodles and Meatballs: I can eat by myself!

This is my favorite: Jax makes this silly face to get huge laughs from us.

A new favorite pastime at the table is playing with ice.

The train! Choo choo!

A New Buffet for under $10

It’s amazing the things people will leave on the street on trash night. One rainy night in January, we spotted a huge pile of furniture, many pieces with drawers pulled out and stacked, and doors painstakingly removed. I suppose the furniture’s previous owner was sure nobody would want the stuff, so they were making it easier for garbage collection. With my solid-wood, dovetail-drawer-spotting prowess, I jumped out, surveyed the pile, and schemed its transport home (about a block away). Two trips later and we made off with:

~ a dark wood secretary desk with vintage envelope openers still in one of the drawers
~ a vintage Raleigh women’s bicycle (old-school cruiser kind)
~ a steel industrial-looking fan
~ a black buffet

I was able to find all the parts to all the pieces, with the exception of the buffet’s hinged front doors. Never discouraged, ten dollars in supplies made it look like it was supposed to have open shelves all along. I thought about refinishing the whole thing in a new color, but it was in really good shape. So here it is:

~ 1 small can (1/2 pint) Rustoleum Painter’s Touch paint in black, semi-gloss ($4)
~ 1 3-inch paint brush ($4)
~ 1 1-inch paint brush ($1)

In progress: All I really needed to paint were the two removable shelves and what had been two cabinets on the left and right. If I hadn’t been pressed for time, I would also have filled the holes left by the hinges (which I removed), but the paint at least makes them less noticeable.

The bottom shelf contains a basket for all of Jax’s shoes.

I also painted over some nicks in the top and along the sides. The square pedestal plate usually holds mail that just came in, or the camera.

On a somewhat related note, we use this antique French plate my friend Cécilia sent us as a catch-all for keys and randomness.

In all, this was a really quick, inexpensive project, and really not that creative. It was just one of those simple things we could do to make our neighbor’s garbage our own new-found treasure!

Bike, Bike, Bike

Jax walks up to the garage (door closed), points and says “bike….biiiiike…” until we open it up and bring out the tricycle. He is big enough to reach the pedals, but doesn’t quite understand the mechanism yet. No matter, he has a blast!

It may be the best $5 we’ve spent at a tag sale.

Happy Monday!

Welcome, Colby

Today we had a special delivery, all the way from Akron, Ohio.


This is the Colby player piano from the early 1900s that Seth’s paternal grandfather and grandmother had. Seth has a really good memory of it from his childhood.

Seth’s parents and extended family thought it would find a good home with us, and we agree! We love objects with history (in the picture above, that’s a family photograph of Seth’s father and parents in the top right), and are looking forward to taking special care of the piano.

It seems to just need minor repair work on some of the hammers, as well as a tuning, after which we’ll be ready to play.

Having grown up with a piano but not one that also had the player mechanism, I was intrigued with the mechanics of it. Jax and I checked out the pedals you push to make it play.

Thank you so much, Ron and Carol, for entrusting us with this special family heirloom. I know Jax will have fun learning to play the piano on it, and I’m thrilled to get back into playing myself. Merci!

Living Room Plans

Decorate me!

We have some decorating to do in the living room, and I thought taking a close look at our rug would be a good place to start. Since it was quite an investment (hand-woven in wool and silk) and we really love the floral pattern ?? and the fact that there is not a very clear center to the design, so placement isn’t so important ?? it’s a logical point of departure.

The Color Palette Generator {via Sweet Jessie} has been a fun tool in this project. Here’s what the above photo yielded:

That’s a lot of orange {because of the photo quality}, but the peaches and pinks are pretty close to life. I thought I could get a more “real” representation of the colors in it with some closer shots:

This is more like it!

Finally, I wanted to bring out what appears to be a light blue in some of the flowers, but the color seems to be coming up as a gray. When I look at the rug up close in person, the software indeed didn’t lie: definitely more gray than blue.

Of course, the carpet is not the be-all-end-all of the color possibilities. In fact, I’d rather steer away from the too matchy-matchy tendency that could make our room look old and fussy and predictable. I think I may throw in a light aqua color, which I hope will make the space seem more bright and creative if done right. My first project is going to repaint an awesome buffet/dresser that I found in the trash just down the street – perhaps in a distressed aqua finish. Or maybe gray?

There is also the question of what color to paint the walls, since the room needs a paint job anyway.

We are definitely in the market for a couch for the living room. I’ve been impressed with the quality and prices of Room & Board‘s sofas. Custom made in the U.S.A., with seemingly endless fabric choices…

The Hutton Sofa in Vance Fabric, Cloud color, would work very well and maybe add more of a modern touch to the room’s style.

These are two chairs we already have in the living room, which we definitely love but could easily lead us down a too-traditional path. We love the classic French lines, but some modern accent pillows could spruce things up. The color on the left is sort of a dark eggplant, with a cool darker finish on the wood. If I were really adventurous, I’d reupholster the ivory chair in a modern fabric and add a new finish to the wood to make it pop. For now, you really can’t go wrong with neutrals.

The color palette generator is definitely a useful guide for accent fabrics. We need to come up with a few contrasting fabrics and patterns for pillows and perhaps some window treatments as well. A quick look at Calico Corners yielded some fun patterns I think could work, at really affordable prices, too.

Some neutrals:


Pinks and Reds:

Some of the floral patterns may conflict too much with the rug, but I think the over-sized ones would make a nice accent. As long as it’s just pillows, a bright pattern can work well. Isn’t that coral pattern cool? If we’re thinking about curtains (and the room could probably use more window insulation help), I would have to look to the neutrals and figure out which would best complement the rest of the room and keep it feeling airy.

Anyway, it’s just some brainstorming to give our living room more color and style. This post has sort of been an idea board to plan it out. We’ll see where the project takes us over the next few months!

The Return of Sunny Weather

Between daylight saving’s and temperatures reaching 70, suddenly in a week’s time we have found ourselves into spring. Every time we thaw out and have sunny weather well into dinner time I have a new outlook on everything: yesterday was an amazingly productive day for my work, and we fell in love once again with our little village on the Hudson. Taking a walk yesterday evening along the river felt like such a treat. To think, we’ll have months and months of these walks to come! This is why we moved 40 minutes north of our beloved Manhattan.

Half Moon Bay