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DIY Flubber

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Amelie and I recently revisited the Children’s Museum of Art where a great deal of our time was spent playing with their giant tub of blue flubber. Flubber is a lot like silly putty – you can squish it, its bouncy, it’s stretchy, its sort of moldable but gooey at the same time, you can break it apart and squash it back together… in short, it’s a lot of fun! The recipe for flubber was posted on the wall at CMA so I decided to have a go at making my own so we could carry on the flubbery fun at home!

Flubbery fun at CMA

Flubbery fun at CMA

 

Here is what you will need to make your own flubber:

1 cup of school glue (e.g. Elmers, PVA etc)
1 cup of water
One tablespoon of Borax, dissolved
Food colouring or tempera paint

 

1. Pour the water and glue into a plastic mixing bowl and add your colour. (I used natural red food colouring and only added a small amount, this was definitely not enough to make red flubber, as you will see from the photos. My tip here is to add a lot of your chosen colour!)

2. Mix the glue, water and colour together until you get an even consistency.

3. In a separate bowl mix the borax with enough hot water to dissolve it, then slowly add it to your glue mixture. This bit is actually really cool, the mixture turns rubbery as soon as the borax solution mixes with it.

4. Use your hands to knead in the borax solution until it all comes together to an even consistency and you’re done- you’ve made flubber!

Tip– If flubber sticks to hair or clothing, vinegar will remove it.

 

And there you have it, super easy to make and very fun to play with! Amelie enjoys popping bubbles in flubber, stretching it and using her toy animals (or even herself) to make footprints in it. We use a kinetic sand tray for playing and store it in an airtight mason jar when it’s not in use.

 

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HAVE FUN!

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An Arty Father’s Day Gift Tutorial

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Amelie and I created this sweet little masterpiece for Mike this Valentine’s Day and I thought I’d write a tutorial as it would make a beautiful Father’s Day gift too. It’s a fun project to do together and an easy way to create something unique and heartfelt from both you and your kiddie(s)!

 

You Will Need:

  1. A canvas (I used 16″ x 12″)
  2. Paints in the colours of your choice
  3. Brushes- kid friendly ones and thinner ones for your text
  4. A sharp blade/scalpel
  5. Masking tape
  6. A pencil
  7. A lettering stencil (unless you want to go freehand with the text)
  8. A sheet/drop cloth if your doing this with smaller artists!

 

 

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Firstly decide what shape you want to leave blank for your text to go in. As ours was a Valentine’s gift, a heart seemed the best choice, but a circle or even a star would work well too. Take into account the length of your text and the size of your font when deciding on the shape and its size. Once you’ve decided on a shape, lightly sketch it onto your canvas in pencil. Next, using a stencil or freehand, lightly pencil in the text you want to use in your finished piece.  Once you have your shape and the outline of your text, you need to begin laying masking tape over the shape. You can overlap it slightly to make sure that there are no gaps.

 

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Next take your blade and cut the masking tape around your shape. It should be sharp so that you can easily cut through the masking tape and not harm the canvas below. Don’t worry about this too much though, canvas is pretty tough!

 

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Once your shape and text is all covered with the masking tape, the real fun starts! Give the canvas to your kiddie(s) and let them paint it however they want. We used Crayola Tempera paints and I put a few splodges of red and white paint on the canvas and let Amelie have fun mixing them in together. When we created our canvas, Amelie was in a very “dab dab” phase with paint and liked to use small brush stokes which meant that the finished pattern looked a little like rose petals, which again, was nicely appropriate for Valentine’s Day. If you have little kiddies you might want to put a cloth or plastic mat on the floor as this bit gets gloriously messy!

 

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Once your collaborator(s) has done their part you need to wait for everything to dry, then you can carefully peel the masking tape off to reveal your shape and text beautifully surrounded by some awesome original artwork!

 

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Next you need to paint in your text. I used a stencil for my text and painted it using a very fine brush and acrylic paints.

 

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Because tempera paint dries so quickly, Amelie and I actually completed this whole project in one day. By the time Mike came home from work it was wrapped and hidden in my wardrobe waiting for Valentines Day!

 

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There you have it! A sweet, thoughtful and unique art collaboration for someone you love! Enjoy and get messy!! 

 

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Courage

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I wrote this piece as part of my audition for The Sling Diaries- the theme was Courage, and I thought I’d share it here too! If you aren’t already familiar with The Sling Diaries and Sakura Bloom, you can read about how much I LOVE their slings in this post and find out more about The Sling Diaries project here.

 

Courage

The word Courage often evokes images of a fire fighter heroically saving others from a burning building, or of an activist risking their life to carve out new paths for humanity. The courage of motherhood is quieter, more personal and nuanced. Courage is defined as ‘the ability to do something that frightens one’ and in that respect motherhood has you covered in terms of the whole “do one thing each day that scares you” thing. Every step on our journey brings new questions and a whole myriad of ways to worry “Am I doing this right?” “Am I good enough?”

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One of my favorite quotes regarding parenthood is by Elizabeth Stone and says that “Making the decision to have a child, it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” That quote has always stuck with me for beautifully capturing the vulnerability that comes with parenthood. The pure force of love I felt towards Amelie from the moment she was born was the most beautiful, wonderful and ecstatic thing I had ever felt, and at the same time utterly terrifying. As parents we make decisions every day that affect our children’s lives, we must be a role model when we feel less than perfect, be a teacher when we are afraid we don’t have the answers, to know that we are charged with teaching them about the world, about life, about love. There are times when being so much can become incredibly overwhelming and it takes great courage to silence the inner critic who often surfaces uninvited to insist that I must be doing this all wrong and to trust ourselves.

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It can be all too easy to get wrapped up in scrutiny, whether from an outside source, or often from ourselves. But that same depth of love that drives our fears, paradoxically gives us the courage to face them. I have found motherhood to involve a lot of introspection. Having the courage to look at myself, my values, fears and actions more closely and to think about what messages I want to pass on to Amelie and what kind of example I want to be to her. At times this self analysis can be exhausting and scary, but out of this introspection came growth and a newfound confidence.

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Courage is one of the myriad of qualities that children seem to have in abundance yet often seems to diminish over time. There will be situations in Amelie’s life that may make her doubt herself, but I hope to nurture and support her natural courage and show her the wisdom of her inner voice. I want her to know that it is OK to question ourselves, but that she has the strength, wisdom and courage to overcome and learn from her doubts.

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As time goes on and I see the amazing, loving, bright and bold little girl Amelie is becoming, I get that more and more confident in my role as a mother. When we have the courage to listen to our instincts, our child and our family, we find our true voice. We see that we really are good enough. Motherhood has given me the courage to surrender, to be both a teacher and a student, to more deeply understand myself, and to jump in and wholeheartedly experience everything my new role has to teach me.

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Our Day at the Children’s Museum of the Arts

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This past Monday Mike had the day off work, so we decided to take Amelie to the Children’s Museum of the Arts in Soho. There are so many amazing art museums in NYC which we have visited with Amelie, including the Met, MoMA and Guggenheim, but that was when she was a little younger and now none of them are really suited to active, inquisitive toddlers. The Met, for example, has many of its exhibits freestanding in the middle of the floor with no ropes around them, only a guard that tells you off for getting too close – definitely not a fair day out for a small person whose primary urge is to look with her hands and her parents who don’t want to deal with judgey side-eye from non parents, so an art museum dedicated to children sounded perfect.

As this was our first trip CMA I think I was expecting a colourful art museum with a lax ‘no hands’ policy, but this place is really geared towards hands on creativity. It is a great place for kids of all ages, from the very littles to teens, with separate art studios for different ages where kids can get creative with a whole range of materials. Amelie had a great time in their WEE Arts studio, geared towards kids age 0-5 where there are tons of art materials out ready for little hands to explore. We do a LOT of art activities at home as well as Amelie’s weekly art class, so Amelie was right at home -she painted with water colours, built a sculpture with blocks, played ‘flubber’ with daddy, explored play doh, made a collage and lots more. It was so great to watch her have so much fun trying out all the different mediums.

The entire building is dotted with colourful and interesting art, with their main exhibit ‘Cabinets of Wonder: The Art of Collecting‘ occupying the large space in the center. The exhibit features “historically strange collections of natural objects, art, or bizarre artifacts that Illustrated the collectors’ rare knowledge, prestige or power. They can also be considered museums for our imagination, containing the objects and stories that demonstrate our curiosity for collecting.” which was definitely an exhibit I enjoyed. It reminded me of some of the dusty antique collection cabinets I’d seen for sale at oddity shops in the East Village, and of an exhibit I once saw featuring a mock-up of Charles Darwin’s study. Amelie had fun looking at all the objects, plants and animals, and calling out the names, sizes and colours of ones she recognised.

We spent a good couple of hours exploring the museum together, visiting the ball pond on the first floor and watching Amelie enjoy herself with the art materials, before heading out for some lunch… during which Amelie asked to go in her sling and then promptly fell asleep. It had been a very busy day!

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Winter Wonderland

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Winter: shorter days, bitter temperatures and wearing all the layers just to go on a quick trip to the shop. I’ve had a counter on my phone since mid-January counting down the number of days until March 20th- the first day of Spring and my very favorite season. I can’t wait for the trees to spring back to life, for picnics in the park, for long walks exploring nature with Amelie and for the colourful explosion of tulips that happens in our neighborhood each Spring.

Yet despite the bare trees and the bitter Polar Vortex hitting us, I have to admit that this has been the most beautiful Winter I’ve ever experienced. We’ve had more snow in the past couple of months than I’ve ever seen in my life and the city has been transformed into a shockingly beautiful, snow covered wonderland rivaling Narnia. Amelie has been having a ball playing in the snow. On snowy mornings she would run over to the window and excitedly shout “Look! Snowing!” She would honestly stay out there all day if she could, just kicking the snow, jumping in the puddles as it thaws and picking up handfuls and throwing it in the air and yelling “SNOOOOW” and laughing. The days that weren’t threatening frostbite, we enjoyed getting out playing, making snowballs, watching people ski and just taking in how amazingly beautiful and magical everything looked. Oh, and taking plenty of photographs to remember everything! So here is my Winter photo-dump; enjoy a little slice of snowy NYC!

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I (Heart) Salt Dough!

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I vaguely remember using salt dough as a child but largely forgot all about it until I used it to make some christmas tree decorations with Amelie in December, and now I am completely obsessed with the stuff! It’s easy, toddler safe, cheap to make and has a bajillion uses – what’s not to love?

 

The recipe is unbelievably simple:
One part salt
One part water
Two parts flour
Dash of oil

 

And that’s it! Just hand the mixing bowl to your kiddie, let them stir to their hearts content while you flour a flat surface and grab a rolling pin and some cookie cutters, then go nuts! The only downside to salt dough is the drying time. You can let it dry naturally in a warm place overnight (although it could take longer, depending on the thickness of the dough) or you can put it in the oven on a very low setting for a few hours. I’ve heard you can put it in the microwave for around 3 minutes, but as I don’t have a microwave I can’t vouch for that method (If anyone tries it, let me know how it works out!) You don’t want to put it in the oven on too high a setting or the shapes will puff up, slow and steady is the trick here. So, what to do with this magical stuff? Well, your imagination is the only limit really, but some of my favorite uses of Salt Dough have been:

Color Recognition Stars

No further description needed really! I’m going to make some different shapes this week for shape recognition too.

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Tree Ornaments
I pre-cut the shapes in the evening, let them dry, then the next day we decorated them together. I did some and Amelie did some. I used acrylics, Amelie used tempera paints, pencil crayons, glitter and felts. I varnished them, threaded them with ribbon and voila, the tree looks awesome!
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Alphabet Tiles
Amelie is very interested in learning the names of letters so I decided to make her some alphabet tiles to practice on. I cut small circles and painted the letters of the alphabet on them with acrylic paints. I’m actually surprised how well these have held up considering how much they get tossed around. So far they’re all still intact, bravo salt dough, bravo.
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Heart Garland
I love how this turned out. I used a heart cookie cutter, a drinking straw to make the lace-like detail around the edges and letter stamps to stamp the letters spelling Love, Peace, Family, Dreams and Happiness into the dough. Once dry I pained them white, then filled in the letters with a very fine brush and red acrylic, then threaded them with ribbon and hung them up. They really look lovely and were so simple to make. I guess you could use any shape to make a garland and I’ve seen this stamping technique used to make gift tags, which is a lovely idea.
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I’ve managed to keep unused dough in a sealed container with a splash of water in the fridge for a couple of days, it just needed a little flour, but worked fine. I really like making and using this stuff, it’s so versatile and takes no time to make. You can cut out shapes/squish it/play with it with your child or knock up a batch of shapes while they nap and decorate them together once they are dry. I even have a few spare dried shapes available on Amelie’s art shelf for decorating on rainy days.
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HAVE FUN!
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Breastfeeding in Style

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It’s been 28 months since my breasts took over my life. No seriously- as soon as those two glorious pink lines showed up on the pregnancy test, my boobs were all “LETS DO THIS” and just ballooned to the point where couple of weeks into my pregnancy I met two of my friends for coffee and they actually guessed I was pregnant because of them. Yes, even before I’d told some of my family, my overachieving bosoms were already brazenly giving me away. In the two years since then my boobs have been a pretty central theme in daily life- from just trying to contain the damn things during my pregnancy to, as a breastfeeding mother, having to gain access to them 24/7 for the past 18 months and counting. And it is that last point that I’m here to talk about, dear reader.

Once I’d gotten past the common difficulties of the first weeks of breastfeeding Amelie, I found I then had the challenge of deciding what the hell to wear and putting together a breastfeeding-friendly wardrobe. There are dedicated breastfeeding fashions available, complete with concealed openings and clever draping, but I found they tend to be ridiculously overpriced (around $60 for a pretty unremarkable top) and frankly, a little plain. I also found a lot of these clothes tend to cater to maternity AND breastfeeding. This means you get the afore mentioned concealed openings, but with the standard maternity empire waist and tons of extra bump-friendly fabric up front. While this is a great way to get some extra use from maternity clothes, there will come a point where draping yourself in all that extra fabric might not be the most flattering post-baby look.

So here are some tips I’ve learned from my 18 months of trying to dress as stylishly as possible while being a breastfeeding mother!

Rethink the Nursing Bra
There are two differences between a normal bra and a nursing bra. A) A nursing bra has little clip thingies where the cup attaches to the strap meaning you can ‘unhook’ the cup. The clip makes a little “snap” sound when you undo it which after a while you may find has a strange, almost Pavlovian effect on your newborn. And B) 99.9% of them are fugly as hell. At least for me, nursing bras turned out to be rather unnecessary. The premise seems to be to move the cup out of the way so that you can nurse, but in reality, bras (and the other fabric you are most likely going to be wearing) are hardly made of iron can easily be moved out of the way anyway. Also, I’d hate to count how many times in those fuzzy first few weeks I’d finish a feed, gently lift Amelie from her boppy pillow to burp her then next time I went to feed her find that I’d forgotten to re-do the clasp from last time. That literally happened ALL THE TIME. So maybe don’t splash out on tons of nursing bras until you’re sure that a nice, soft (and nicer looking) bra won’t to the job just as well!

It’s All About Neckline… and Fabric … and Buttons
So, if you are forgoing the specially made breastfeeding garb and want to make normal-people fashion work for you, then one of your biggest considerations is obviously the neckline. Look for v-necks, wrap dresses and lower necklines (you can always add a cami underneath if you like). These necklines all make it super easy to nurse. I’m aaaaall about dresses, but the same holds true for tops. Another consideration is the fabric. I have a few things that look more high-necked but the fabric is nice and stretchy, so I can nurse in them no problem. I even have a couple of knitted tops where this holds true. Also, buttons are a nursing mama’s friend! There are loads of lovely dresses and tops with buttons in the front. (note- if you’re shopping online, be sure to check the buttons are functional before buying! I’ve been burned before! *grumble*) Here are some of my fave nursing friendly dresses at the moment:

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Layers
If you’re more of a jeans-and-top kinda girl then you can pretty much wear any top you want then wear a camisole under it. When you want to nurse you can just pull up the outer top and the cami will cover your stomach.

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This is also a good method if you want super discreet nursing, as someone would have to get right up in your business to see a hint of boobage. Which brings me too…

Keeping You Comfortable
I could go on for literally hours about how women shouldn’t feel pressured to cover up when breastfeeding and how, as a society if we saw more public breastfeeding then then this would help us to raise breastfeeding rates… but that’s not what this is about. My point is, don’t ever feel ashamed or embarrassed for feeding your child, and never let anyone make you feel that you should be covered up or hide away. That said, if YOU feel more comfortable being more covered, then you rock it! There are a whole host of ways you can show less flesh without having to cover your babies head too. In addition to the layering option mentioned above, a scarf is a simple option to keep you more covered, nursing in a sling is good too (you can also use the tail fabric to cover). Keeping more covered can also mean simple things like wearing a cardigan and arranging it to cover more of you.  In the summer I’ve also heard of people using oversized sun hats for their babies to help cover more.

Think About Shopping Online
I always find that the more criteria you have for your clothes when shopping, the harder it is to find anything. Also I would much rather spend any spare time I get doing pretty much anything other than waiting in line to try something on, therefor I really recommend you give online shopping a try. As you may have guessed by the pics above, Modcloth is my fave place to shop online, but there are tons of online clothing stores to suit your taste and budget. The ability to search via keywords such as ‘v-neck’ or ‘button down’ along with the colour and/or style you are after is really helpful and will save you so much time. Plus it can be done from the comfort of your sofa when you’re trapped under a sleeping milk-drunk baby, which is a huge bonus!

Don’t Forget the Accessories
When nursing it’s also worth considering your jewelry- specifically necklaces. Once your baby has more motor control they will become obsessed with fiddling with things while nursing- your face, hair, clothes and especially jewelry are all fair game. This is probably a good time to ditch the expensive/dainty/sentimental necklaces and go for something chunky and baby friendly. Some good brands I found are chewbeads and these necklaces on etsy. Both are also safe for teething babies to chew on!

A Note About Dressing for Babywearing
Learning to nurse while babywearing is one of those ‘ah ha’ moments in the life of a nursing mamma. It means hands-free nursing anywhere and you don’t even have to find somewhere to sit down to be able to feed your baby. It’s also super discreet so you can just carry on with what your doing and no ones the wiser However, it’s worth noting that the lift-up-the-outer-top method really wont work well while baby wearing, so plan accordingly!

I’m sure I will have forgotten something, but I do remember googling this type of thing in the early days of breastfeeding and coming up with pretty much nothing. So hopefully this helps someone! Any nursing mammas out there care to share any of their tips and tricks?

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Pumpkins, Chickens and Wild Things! (aka – October!)

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It’s 12:13 am on November 1st and despite a week of late nights spent sewing mine and Amelie’s halloween costumes, I’m still awake. It may well be due to the fact I’ve eaten waaay too much sugar, but I kind of had too- Amelie got given some halloween candy that’s not really age appropriate so I had to, ahem, ‘dispose’ of it. (No, really- stuff like tootsie rolls, hard candies and other assorted toddler choking hazards… I’m not just nabbing all my daughter’s sweets, she still has chocolate left! Honestly!)

Anyway, what a great October it has been! As I said in my last post, I love Autumn anyway, but sharing it with a toddler has really encouraged us as a family to fully make the most of the season this year. We are lucky that there is so much to explore and experience in the area during this season, from watching the change in the parks, to hay rides and corn mazes in the local farms, to pumpkin picking, to some fantastic Halloween celebrations.

We visited the Queens County Farm Museum a couple of weeks ago which was great. We went in our first corn maze which was a lot of fun, we made it around in record time (20 mins), then Mike and my friend Ariel decided that because we hadn’t completed the puzzle and collected all the parts to a map, that we should go back in and find them. We then got lost for an hour… despite then having a completed map of the maze. Luckily corn mazes are fun, it was a lovely warm day and whoever was DJing in there had bonkers taste in music! The farm had a whole host of animals to see, pet and feed: Alpacas, sheep, rabbits, pigs, horses, goats and chickens. Amelie had a wonderful time feeding alpacas and handling chickens. She loves animals and is so gentle with them, and she gets so excited when she can feed them! We also went on our first hay ride which was fun. It was a lovely day and it has got us thinking about the type of place we want and the animals we will get once we are ready to move out of Manhattan!

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Last weekend we visited Hank’s Pumpkin Town on Long Island. We found Hank’s by accident when we were driving to the Hamptons in 2009 and have visited every year since to get our halloween carving pumpkins. It is a corn, pumpkin and apple farm with 3 corn mazes, hay rides, tractor barrel rides, wooden climbing toys, a huge barn selling baked goods, pony rides etc. Otherwise known as “agri-tainment” apparently!  (yes, they actually used that word). Usually we spend a couple of hours there and then go on to the Hamptons, but this year we made a full day of it as we wanted to show Amelie everything, including all three corn mazes and she had fun on her first pony ride. It was lovely to watch Amelie exploring the pumpkin patches and trying to pick up each pumpkin and to show her things like the corn husks growing, she really liked touching and examining everything. We came away having each chosen a pumpkin and some spiced donuts and pumpkin bread.

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October was a month of more firsts too- Amelie went on her first carousel and had her first hot chocolate. This girl sure knows how to enjoy the season!

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I also made some very yummy pumpkin butter using this recipe. If you get chance to make it then I highly recommend it, it’s easy and tastes like autumn in a jar. I like to stir it into oatmeal, greek yogurt or add it to pancake batter to make pumpkin pancakes. SO GOOD!

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Yesterday was Halloween and this year Amelie and I went as characters from the book Where The Wild Things Are. I love that book and have been reading it to Amelie since she was in utero. Amelie loves to join in when the Wild Things “Roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled there terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws” and we have a special ‘wild rumpus song!’ So I thought it would be great for us to go as Max and a Wild Thing. Aside from the wild Thing’s sweater, which I go from ebay and the leggings which I drew scales on, everything was hand sewn by me (because sewing machines are for quitters). I’m really happy with how they turned out. We wore them to Amelie’s weekly art class and to the ‘Fright at the Museum’ party at The American Museum of Natural History. My friend Ariel also dressed as a Wild Thing from the book, she put together the costume and I made her Wild Thing face, and Mike was Superman. The party at the museum was a lot of fun, we were able to explore the halls after hours, there were trick or treat tables, entertainers, characters to meet (we met a ‘real’ Wild Thing!), bands and arts and craft stations. We all had a great time among the dinosaurs and taxidermy and will definitely do it again next year.

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In other news: in October I passed my fist Coursera course. I took an Astrophysics course with the University of Tokyo and it was fantastic. It was quite challenging, and the only time I was able to sit down and concentrate was at night, but it was nice to be challenging myself academically again.If you haven’t already checked out Coursera then I highly recommend it. It is a site offering free short courses from some of the world’s top universities. Some even offer the option to pay extra and receive university credit. I’m currently taking a 12 week paleobiology course, partly due to Amelie’s dinosaur obsession, and it’s really interesting.

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I also went to the worst. book reading. ever. James Franco is a talented actor and, lets be honest, a smexy, smexy man, but he really, REALLY should not write. My friend Staci and I attended a reading of his new novel and not even the fact that a movie star was reading it could change the horrible fact that this was honestly the worst thing I’ve ever heard. Seriously, he managed to make it so boring that after a while people just started talking amongst themselves. So don’t bother buying Actors Anonymous, it’s craptastic. 1208495_10152008309078833_1270118592_n Those were some of the highlights of our October adventures. I’m looking forward to November- my birthday, a lecture by Sir David Attenborough, Thanksgiving, the shops are starting to sell eggnog… it’s going to be a good one. Here’s to November!

*Note- Many of the lovely photo’s in this post were taken by my awesome friend Ariel. She writes her own very nerdy blog over at Nerdy, Wordy and Over Thirty, check it out and show her some geeky love!

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Autumn Fun!

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It finally feels truly like Autumn here in NYC. Although the leaves have been turning golden for a few weeks now, the temperature has, until recently, been stuck in late summer mode. This past week has been cooler meaning I can finally dig out my boots and cardigans again, and can wear my hair down without feeling like a sweaty mess within an hour- yey!

I do love Autumn, not quite as much as spring, but a joint second with summer. (To be honest, I don’t really mind winter either, but January and February seem to last FOREVER) Autumn makes me want to wear hats, draw foxes on things and cover everything in cinnamon! I love wearing greens, browns- and this year I’m kind of obsessed with yellow too. Amelie is also rocking a lot of autumnal tones right now and I even used my very limited knitting skills to make her a little ear-warming headband! I love the colourful crunchy leaves and the brightly colored trees, wearing knitted things, hot spiced chai and the fact that everything comes in pumpkin flavour! Plus my birthday is in autumn – woop!

Here are a few shots of our Autumn so far:

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I’m particularly enjoying going for autumn walks with Amelie and watching her happily crunch through the leaves and point out squirrels to me. Last week she was fascinated watching a squirrel carefully choose a spot, dig holes and bury nuts. We’ve done a lot of exploring and found pinecones, nuts and horse chestnuts together. We also went collecting leaves to make an autumn wreath for our door after I saw them for sale at my local craft store, and thought it would be fun to make our own. Amelie took her job as leaf collector very seriously and did a great job collecting lots of different types. I made one from real leaves and a foam base, and Amelie made hers from card and felt leaves. I think they look great gracing our door together, we just need a couple of carved pumpkins on the doormat now!

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Autumn also means great food- the roast veggies, berries, warm spices are such a welcome change after all the tropical fruit flavours of the summer. Last Autumn I really enjoyed baking mini pumpkin pies, I’ll have to whip up a batch of those in the next couple of weeks, and Mike made me some great alcohol-free mulled ‘wine’ last year and I definitely need to get him to do that again soon. Plus being in the USA means we get to eat all the turkey and cranberry on Thanksgiving- yum!

And there’s lots more autumny goodness yet to come- I’m busy working on mine and Amelie’s costumes for a Halloween party at the American Museum of Natural History (we are going as characters from a book I’ve been reading to her since she was in utero!) and I’m really looking forward to going on our annual pumpkin picking trip to the Hamptons in the next couple of weeks and taking Amelie in the corn mazes and on train rides.

 I hope you’re enjoying the spiced, wooly, crunchy magic where you are too – Happy Autumn!

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Peg Doll Toy Tutorial

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Seeing as my activity board project went down so well with my little lady, I thought I’d have a go at another wooden toy for her, because hey, who doesn’t love the retro simplicity of a wooden toy?!

I had a lot of wooden peg dolls left over from when I made our wedding cake topper two years ago and I came up with the idea of using them along with some wood I had left over from the activity board to make a cute colour matching puzzle. It actually turned out more adorable than I expected and Amelie really likes it. She enjoys fiddling with the dolls and gets to practice colour naming and fine motor skills. This is a sweet and fairly inexpensive project that would also make a very lovely gift.

You will need:

  • Two thin 7″ x 3″ pieces of wood
  • Three wooden peg dolls
  • Three wooden peg doll stands
  • Wood glue
  • Cord or elastic
  • Non-toxic acrylic paint
  • Fabric scraps and ribbon in your 3 chosen colours
  • A wooden bead
  • Small hand drill

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(I didn’t take photos as I went along so hopefully some crude drawings will do!)

Firstly take your peg dolls and paint the ‘torso’ of each in your chosen colours, then paint the bases to match. Also paint one or both of the 7″ x 3″ pieces of wood in another chosen colour.

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While the dolls are drying take your matching colour fabric to make her skirt. You will need a small strip about 1.5″ x 2.5″. (I found it was particularly simple to use felt as it can be easily cut without the need to hem or worry about fraying). Next sew a running stitch across the top of the fabric.

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Once your peg doll is dry, wrap the fabric around the doll’s ‘waist’ pulling the stitching tight, and sew into place. Once sewn, add some glue under the skirt to hold it in place. To add some more detail I sewed a matching ribbon bow to the waist of the skirts too.

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Next you need to add hair and a face to your dolls. You can have some fun with this and make them in any style you want! I decided to keep mine very fairly simple.

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Next take the smallest drill bit on a small hand drill and drill a hole in one of the peg doll ‘legs’. Take a roughly 9 inch length of your thin cord or elastic (I used elastic) and thread it through the hole and knot to secure it. Drill a slightly larger hole in the top centre of one of your 7″x 3″ pieces of wood.

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Decide which colours are going where and glue your bases to the 7″ x 3″ piece of wood. Thread all 3 ends of the or cord/elastic through the wooden bead then through the hole in the top center of the wood so they come out the bottom. Glue the bead down then apply a generous amount of glue to the remaining 7″ x 3″ piece of wood and press it firmly to the other bottom of the other 3″ x 7″ piece, sandwiching in the ends of the elastic/cord. Secure the two halves with clothes pegs and leave to dry.

Once dry, your new toy is finished! I love that you can make the dolls as simple or detailed as you wish or use a bigger piece of wood and have more dolls. I hope you and your littles enjoy this fun project!

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