DIY Baby “Taggie” Blanket

I’ve been having fun using up scraps of material and ribbon pieces I’ve collected to make Taggie-like baby toys for friends’ babies. If you haven’t seen one before, check out the professional version here. If you have a sewing machine and can stitch a straight line with it, try making one yourself. I’ve made a couple of small versions as well as receiving-blanket-sized ones for twins born in November.

The tutorial is here.

My creations:

This donkey-covered mini blanket was for friends Meg and Steve’s baby. The fabric is from our old neighborhood haunt, Purl Soho. They’ll let you buy as little as 1/4 yard, which is enough to make three sides of a mini tag blanket {so go ahead and splurge on the fancy designer prints}. Check out the donkey one here.

I like to use at least one side of fleece to create an interesting textural experience, as well as give the blanket some Lose Weight Exercise. The back:

I made an almost identical one for Amanda and Jonathan’s baby, only I used a squirrel fabric for the front. I don’t think I have a picture, but here’s the fabric swatch:

Check it out here.

The baby blankets I made for the twins had fleece on both sides:

My biggest tip is to use a variety of widths, lengths, and textures for the ribbon “tags.” So many versions I’ve seen are matchy-matchy and use a lot of pastel colors. In my experience with babies and toddlers, the more contrast the better. Once you start saving ribbons from various places (handles from fancy shopping bags, packaging for household goods, gifts, trim from old clothes) you’ll be sure to have an interesting mix of colors and textures that will hold a baby’s interest. I use satin, velvet, lace, ridged, and sheer ribbons ‚?? whatever I have on hand!

Give it a try and let me know if you have one to show off!

A little surprise from across the Atlantic

Every year for the past three years I’ve participated in an international ornament exchange. It’s mostly between expat women abroad, but some of us consider ourselves “international” even once we’ve moved back to the states. I’ll eventually post a picture of the hand-made one I sent out, but look what just arrived in the mail from Germany!

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The ornament is all lace, made by hand. It looks lovely on our tree, amongst the hand-made ornaments my (French) friend Julie made last year, and the snowflake topper I got last year from an expat in Denmark. Thank  you, secret elf!

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The Martha Show: Halloween Special

On Friday my friend Curran and I were audience members of the Martha Stewart Show’s Halloween special. We were told to wear home-made animal masks or dress up as an animal in honor of the Where the Wild Things Are theme, and our masks were no competition for some of the creations we saw. There was some amazing stuff, especially a couple of full-body felt owl costumes. Among the highlights of the show were a black vodka cocktail, furry masks, and Jimmy Fallon having his hand put in a bowl of meal worms.

If you missed it, there should be clips in the next few days found here, and there are already photos on Martha’s blog.

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I’m a pheasant and didn’t realize the birds had such a weird face until I googled an image of one. They really look like this, I swear!

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The feathers coming out of my hair in the back were the bird’s “body.”

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**Squint** Can you see me in the back row? I’m visible just to the right of the woman with the horns.

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I’m in this photo, too, but far, far away!

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I’m the fourth person to the left of the bunny ears.

Halloween Crafts

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I had a blast decorating for Halloween this year, and I think the most fun was figuring out how to make use of things we already had around the house. It wasn’t as all-out-crazy as the Jack-o-Lantern Blaze down the road, but festive nonetheless.

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I am pleased with how my Trick or Treat “Wreath” turned out. It took no time at all, really! I was inspired by this one, found via, this blog, although I didn’t find a specific tutorial for one. Adding black feathers gave it texture and depth.

BLACK CIRCLE: I Just accordion-folded some black construction paper then folded them in half to fan out the folds (it took 3 sheets to make the round circle). Then I bunched strips of orange tissue paper and taped each “pleat” to each alternating fold. It was like sewing a ruffle, only with paper and tape instead of fabric and thread.

ORANGE CIRCLE: Then I cut out a round of orange paper, decoupaged it to a piece of cereal box and cut that out. I then added silver glitter to the edges.

TEXT PLATE: The “Trick or Treat” piece was created in Adobe Illustrator, printed, and decoupaged to another piece of cereal box. It helps to cut the cereal box to size once you’ve decoupaged the piece to it, so you are sure it is a perfect fit.

ASSEMBLY: I glued feathers in every 3rd pleat, then glued on the orange circle and text plate. The ribbon should be attached to the center folded paper parts, but I was in a rush and quickly punched a hole in one of the folds instead. I will rehang the ribbon to the center to save it for next year.

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These pumpkin candles (larger ones shown above in the entry photo) were surprisingly long to complete. They are really easy, however, and are a great way to use glass jars from your recycling bin. They look almost papier maché when finished. Just cut strips of tissue paper and decoupage them to the jars. Voilà! Check out this blog for the inspiration.

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These white candle jars were peeking out from the window to the left of the door. They were the most quickly completed project (and a bit of an afterthought), but I still ran out of time to make an appropriate height of paper tube for the one on the right. Oh well. The left two images are downloads from Martha Stewart. The raven is an image I found online and then reworked in Illustrator (just using the live trace option to create clean lines) and printed out. The candle on the right says “NEVERMORE” but again, could use some reworking (and I would use a smaller font size next time). A cool effect, though. I just taped the paper to glass jam jars.

Hope everyone had a wonderfully spooky holiday!

Sunday Afternoon Apple Picking

Autumn is in full swing here, but some beautiful summer-like weather on Sunday meant we could partake in fall’s activities under a warm sun. We decided it’d be a day to take advantage of one of the benefits of living in Westchester County: its proximity to some family farm fun.¬† This one-year-old thought it was a fabulous idea!

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We started the day with a pumpkin craft: I cut a piece of finger painting paper into the shape of a pumpkin, taped it to Jax’s highchair, and then put two little blobs of paint onto it. Remembering what my mom learned in a young children’s art workshop, I stuck only to primary colors to have Jax discover the result of mixing all by himself. So with a red blob and a yellow blog and lots of messy play, he made orange! I then used a leaf-shaped paper puncher to punch out colorful paper leaves in yellow, red, and orange, and added those to the mix. The result:

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After some delicious bagels at our neighbors’ (we have the nicest people living all around us!), we headed out to Stuart’s farm to see the real thing and pick our own apples.

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Try as Seth did to show him how to do pick apples, Jax mostly just studied the technique rather than try it himself.

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He knew all about tasting them, though.

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When our bag was full, we headed over to the pumpkin field and let Jax crawl all around.

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Then we finally found the perfect pumpkin to take home:

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So Jax waved good-bye as he crawled away:

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On our way out I took some shots of the random vestiges of farming’s past (Stuart’s Farm has been around since 1828):

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as well as its present day:

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That building to the right is the bakery, where we tasted a freshly-made doughnut. It was a totally new species of pastry to me.

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On our way out I snapped some photos of the autumn colors in their many forms.

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Red Balloon Birthday Party

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Happy First Birthday to Jacob DeWitt!

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Invitations

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The dining room setup: even the high chair was put to use.

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The den is just to the right of the living room and on the way outside. We had The Red Balloon movie looped and playing in here (at my desk) to set the scene. Because there is very little dialogue in the movie, it served as background music as well. Balloon garland and paper lanterns from Pearl River.

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These “red balloon” mini sandwiches were an idea I got from the wonderful Party Perfect blog, the readers of which helped me brainstorm. These photos show the toddler-friendly cream cheese version. Paris plates from Marshall’s.

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I also had an adult version: ham and swiss cheese with French mustard on pain au levain (French sourdough bread we are lucky to find at our farmer’s market, along with those olives in the foreground).

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The inside menu: cupcakes, mini “red balloon” sandwiches, the all-important fromage plate, salad, and sangria.

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I made the pennant bunting myself out of heavy scrapbook paper and embroidery floss. It was easy to divide the 12×12″ pieces into triangles, dividing in half lengthwise and in thirds crosswise and drawing long diagonal lines from top to bottom (does that make sense?), resulting in 10 triangles per sheet. The whole bundle of paper, cutouts, labels, stickers, and punch-outs were in vintage 50s prints. I used less than a quarter of the stack and created a whole party from it:¬† liners for the invitation envelopes (above), the “Happy Birthday” garland hanging from the window in the center, and photo “frames” for baby photos adorning the wall.

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The paper straws and wooden disposable utensils are from Can Do Chefs.

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The birthday boy, greeting guests by the door.

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Outside we had the non-alcoholic drinks: lemonade served in a this dispenser, Orangina, Perrier, apple juice boxes, milk boxes, and sippy cups for the little ones. Our wonderful next-door neighbor Jane let us borrow the beautiful folding bamboo chairs. She even had a 1-year-old-sized version. {I didn’t take any photos during the party, so I’ll post more outside pictures when I get them! Edit: See below!}

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The red balloons were a huge hit with all the toddlers.
{Hint: when mylar balloons are popped, they don’t become choking hazards as the rubber ones do.}

Update: Some more photos from Grandma & Grandpa Weintraub show the scene outdoors!

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Toddler sized French bistrot chair

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One of the most fun activities for the little ones was to smash those balloons!

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They played in a band, too

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A lone balloon at the end of the driveway let arriving guests know they were in the right place.

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We all love you, Jax!

Vintage abécédaire bookplates {free download}

Ab√©c√©daire is the French word for alphabet sampler (whether stitched, printed on posters, or bound as a book). I have been thinking about how to incorporate a French ab√©c√©daire into favors for Jax’s birthday party. The theme I’ve been aiming for roughly revolves around 1950s Paris, inspired by Albert Lamorisse’s 1956 classic, The Red Balloon. Using free clipart from Retrographix and free fonts from dafont.com, I designed these children’s bookplates, reminiscent of what young Pascal may have seen in books or on the walls of his √©cole maternelle.

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They were really easy to design in Adobe Illustrator, my design software of choice habit. You can print these on plain paper and use a glue stick to affix them to books, or print them on adhesive paper to create ready-to-stick bookplates. They would be a nice little addition to a baby gift {especially when giving a book, of course}. If you’re interested in making these, I’m happy to share! Just click on one of the following to download:

letter-size Adobe .pdf file

letter-size Adobe .ai file

You can open either of these files in Adobe Illustrator in order to add your child’s name, change the colors or fonts, really anything you would like to do with this base design. The fonts I used were SchoolHouse Printed A (no longer on dafont.com, but this one is very similar), Val√©rie, and Book Antiqua.

If I had more time, I’d take on the task of creating a whole poster. In reality, it was much easier to pick up a sheet of this inexpensive French alphabet wrapping paper made by Cavillini {and use my French language skills to write more of my dissertation instead!}