Posts filed under ‘baby’

Best Friends

New Year, new post! Life has been busy, with dissertating and living and all that, but I wanted to show you all what I’ve been working on most recently in the knitting world. Meet Hibou and Étoile, the very best of friends:

Image

Ravelry Project pages: Hibou and Étoile

The inspiration for this charming duo comes from an absolutely adorable YouTube video I stumbled across, of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. In it, a cheery owl decides to take an adventure up into the sky, to see what that star is really all about. The star and owl exchange friendly glances, and holding hands, go off on a playful frolic through the clouds. Eventually, realizing that they belong to two different worlds, the star and owl regretfully part, but the implication is that their friendship endures. Or something like that.

What is undeniable is how cute it is. And how absolutely intoxicating it is for my toddler, who would watch it 15 times in a row if you let him. So, for the holidays, I decided I’d make a pair of stuffed animals so that he could have his own starry adventures. I’m incredibly proud of how these came out (especially the owl) and I hope that sometime I get around to writing up a detailed pattern, so that others can have adorable owls too. For now, though, I’m happy to share the basics of construction, which can possible help inspire you to try something similar yourself! A lot of people think that stuffed animals are a lot of sewing up…but these are practically seamless. A little fiddly, yes, but almost no sewing involved.

I started off with the star, because it was the most straightforward in my mind. I’ve made knitted stars before, although my last star was started along the outside, with decreases forming sharp lines along the radii, which was something I wanted to avoid in this star.

For Étoile, I started in the center and worked outward, with lifted increases, to try to minimize the overall visual appearance of the increases. I also decided to have the increases fall along the “armpits” of the star, and then work the peaks separately afterward. So, I cast on 5, joined in the round, and increased in 5 places every single round, alternating left- and right-leaning lifted increases.

When the body of the star seemed big enough, I put it on a holder, and then did the same thing again, so I had two pentagons. Then the fun part. Lining up front and back, with the purl sides together, I worked in the round over 1/5 of the star’s front and 1/5 of the star’s back (from “armpit” to “armpit”). Here, I did double decreases at both sides every other round, to make a “seam” look that would actually be seamless. I did the same thing for each of the points, picking up stitches at the corners to avoid gaps (like you would for glove fingers), until there was just 1 point left.

At this point, I wove in the ends that I could, and stuffed the whole thing. Once stuffed, I decided on the placement of facial features, and used a pair of black glossy safety eyes, backed with a small circle of white felt, to make eyes. The mouth and eyebrows were done with black embroidery floss, and not being an embroiderer, I probably didn’t do this the most efficient or effective way. But, to make the large filled areas for both mouth and eyebrows, first I stitched the outline of the shape I wanted to fill, using 2 plies of floss (I don’t have any pictures of this process, as it was done in hiding and in a rush in the nights before Christmas!). I did the outline in split stitch, and fairly small stitches, to be as secure as I could on the loose knitted fabric. Then, I sort of made up a fill stitch – it’s like satin stitch, except that it’s not flat and it doesn’t totally encircle the fabric it’s worked on – it makes figure-8s between the two rows of split stitches, only on the surface of the knitting. I don’t know what it’s called – do you?

Anyhow, I filled in these shapes, then went to work setting in the eyes, so they’d look more naturalistic and less bug-eyed. To do this, I used 2 plies of the yellow yarn (Cascade 220 SW) and a long soft-sculpture needle, and essentially just sewed the fabric just around/behind the eyes to the stuffing beneath it. I secured off as best I could, finished knitting the last point, stuffed the last bit before finishing, and secured off the final end, tucking it back inside the stuffing to finish.

The owl was trickier. I started with the legs, and made two crown-down “hats”, each with 5 increases every other round. When they were big enough, I joined them together in the round, and worked some short rows to fill in the gaps in the front and back. Pretty quickly, I realized that the owl was a lot fatter than I’d planned him to be, so instead of having his wings come straight out from his body, I decided to do “raglan wings” and have the body gradually taper up to the neck. I had to do some tinkering with this, but it paid off. The front and back were worked flat, and then rejoined in the round for the neck. I did some quick decreases followed by some quick increases to make the neck shaping, and then increased in 8 places every other round to make the bottom of the head, worked even a bit, and then decreased in 8 places every other round to make the top of the head. I finished the crown of the head just like a hat, pulling through the small number of remaining stitches.

For the wings, I picked up stitches around the armholes, and worked even about an inch. Then, I did a centered double decrease at the bottom point every other round for a few inches, and then every round until I ran out of stitches. After finishing one wing, I stuffed him and worked on the face features.

The mask was originally going to be made with commercial felt, but I wasn’t happy with the result, so I knitted an 8-shape out of feltable wool (Knitpicks Bare Worsted), and felted it by hand in my kitchen sink. Doing it this way meant I could stop felting as soon as it was the right shape/size, and then I could wet-block it to shape over a ball overnight so it would lie nicely on the face. I sewed it on with a whipstitch.

The beak was made in two triangles, one slightly larger than the other, sewn together, then stuffed with a tiny bit of polyfill and sewn on over the mask.

The ears are little pyramids, with doubled decreases in 3 places every other round, and sewn onto the head using mattress stitch with a little polyfill stuffing inside. To make the eyebrows, I did a bit of applied crochet – single crochet, double crochet, and triple crochet, filling in the space from the eyes to the tips of the ears.

Eyes were the same safety eyes and white felt as the star’s eyes. I set both eyes into the head the same way as I did for the star, using a length of white yarn.

I knitted the other wing, then did a bit of embroidery on the wings using the knitting yarn, quilting some of the stuffing into wingfeathers, and pinching the wing edge so that it puckers like feathers.

Feet are just little lengths of I-cord, sewn on with the leftover ends from the beginnings of the legs.

Hibou!

I hope I have time someday to write this all up in more detail, with elaborations and numbers, but until that day (should it ever come), I hope someone gets inspired to be adventurous and make something adorable!

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January 4, 2014 at 5:17 pm Leave a comment

Tips for New Parents in and around Cambridge MA

Life as a new parent is hard, and in Cambridge the logistics can be tricky – sidewalks are narrow, strollers wide, and many shops are crowded and up or down a flight of stairs! Add to that the general challenge of getting out the door with a wee one, and sometimes it can be a little overwhelming (understatement of the day?). This is a list of resources that I found incredibly helpful (as a car-free city-dwelling student-type), places with changing tables (because sometimes you just don’t want to have to change a squirmy baby on a public restroom floor), and some tips for getting that stroller on public transit so you can go further than where your two legs will carry you. I hope you find these useful, and please, if you have additions or corrections, let me know so I can keep this as up-to-date as possible! (current as of 2/2013)

May you have an easy time getting out the door, somewhere fun to go, and no diaper disasters while you’re out!

UPDATE (1/16/2014): As of this week, Isis Parenting is shutting its doors, and no classes or consultations will be available, effective immediately. I am incredibly sad to hear this news, and am compelled to inform all of you readers that these services are no longer an option. I hope someone else fills this gap soon, or Isis finds a solution!

Most recommended resources:

  • Cambridge Public Library – Baby Lapsit, Monday mornings except for holidays (program from 10-10:30, but should arrive by 9:30 to get a ticket).

The library is great for hanging out in any case; the play mat at the far end is a congregation area for moms, nannies, and kids of all ages, but particularly before the lapsit on Mondays, you’ll find other parents with similarly-aged kids. The lapsit itself is a 20-minute singalong for pre-walking babies (birth-12mo), and is led by one of the sweetest librarians you’ll ever meet. Also at 11 is the big singalong for little kids of all ages, so from 10-11 there’s always a big crowd of kids and caregivers.

This is a great way to get some staple clothing items without breaking the budget. The program exists for anyone who could use assistance in providing clothing for their growing children – you don’t need to prove financial need. You need to bring a health insurance card or birth certificate with you the first time you go, and they’ll give you credits for 10 items (tops, pants), plus things like onesies, bibs, shoes, baby food, and lots of other things. They have very restricted hours, and close for a week or two each season to restock, so check their website.

BWI Boston has a lending library, where you can borrow a carrier (for a deposit, bring a check) for a month to try it out before you buy it. Their meetings change location each month, and they usually have one weekday and one weekend meeting a month, so check the website or their facebook page for the schedule.

Free new moms’/parents’ groups:

  • JFCS –  despite their name, these moms’ groups are totally non-denominational. They organize great support groups which are a little bit structured and meant to give moms a safe space to talk about how they’re really doing. There are meetings in most of the Boston-area towns, including Cambridge and Arlington.
  • Stellabella Toys in Inman Square runs a New Parents’ Coffee Hour, with free muffins, coffee/tea, and toys for the babies to play with. Bring a small blanket for the baby to lie on, and get some coffee. Coffee and muffins supplied by 1369, which is across the street and darn near impossible to get into with a stroller. Group meets Friday mornings at 10:30 (double-check their website).
  • MAMAH postpartum support – run by the midwives at Mount Auburn, but anyone can go. They bring a baby scale, and light snacks, and everyone hangs out and chats for an hour or so. Not so structured. Unfortunately, they’ve moved to out-of-the-way Waltham.
  • Cambridge Center for Families – organizes many programs, including baby massage, playgroups, and educational/discussion groups for parents, all free to Cambridge residents.
  • Check out Meetup.com for new parents’ groups; at the time of writing, the Arlington First-Time Moms & Pregnancy group is active and has meetups for expecting and new mothers.
  • Cambridge Health Alliance has a free breastfeeding support group, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10-noon.
  • Isis Breastfeeding drop-in groups (free) – the Arlington, Prudential,  Merchant’s Row (Charlestown) and Needham Isis stores offer a breastfeeding support group with Lactation consultants on hand.

Go see a movie:

Baby matinees are a great way to spend a bad-weather day, and catch up on cinema culture, since you’re probably not going out for dinner and a movie so often.

Where to change a diaper around Cambridge:

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and revolves around Harvard Square, which has long been my center of operations. I’ll note that changing tables are harder to come by than you’d think – there’s nary one to be found in any of the dozens of Starbucks (or many other coffee shops), nor in many public restrooms in Cambridge. Here are the good ones I’ve found (or which have been recommended to me):

  • Harvard University Health Services (UHS) has changing tables in all of its restrooms, although they’re “not for public use.” If you’re nervous about the receptionists saying something to you (they won’t), use the basement restroom. – 75 Mt. Auburn St.
  • Harvard Yard: Boylston Hall, Memorial Church and Barker Center both have changing tables in their basement-level accessible women’s rooms.Dudley House’s basement women’s room has a sizable counter space to use for changing.
  • The women’s rooms in Harkness Commons and Wasserstein (Law School), have a changing table, as does the 2nd-floor women’s and 3rd-floor men’s room in Longfellow Hall, Harvard School of Education.
  • The Cambridge Public Libraries all have changing tables in their children’s sections (the Children’s section of the main library is the 3rd floor).
  • The Harvard Coop has a changing table in its 3rd-floor women’s room, as well as its basement restroom.
  • The upstairs bathroom in the Charles Hotel has a great restroom with padded changing table.
  • Diaper Lab, between Davis and Porter Squares, is a great baby-friendly store, with a great changing table.
  • Magic Beans, with its many locations (Huron Village, Prudential Center, Coolidge Corner, Wellesley) has a great changing table.
  • Porter Square Books has a changing table – get the restroom key from the register.
  • The Porter Exchange Mall (Lesley) women’s room (through the food court) has a changing table.
  • Dwelltime, on Broadway in Cambridge (between Inman and Central) – a spacious coffee shop, fancy pastries, and, of course, changing tables
  • Border Cafe, Harvard Square has a changing table in the women’s restroom
  • Full Moon Restaurant, Huron Village – caters to parents with kids, and has a play area!
  • Coolidge Corner cinema has changing tables in its 1st-floor accessible restrooms
  • Jam’n Java in Arlington Center has a changing table
  • Isis Parenting has nice changing tables in all their locations.

Affordable clothing/toys/books:

For clothing your rapidly-growing baby, you can’t really beat free, which is why the Cambridge Children’s Clothing Exchange sits at the top of the list, with the most valuable resources. But, for cheap, high-quality clothes, there are some other good options in the area:

  • Little Fox Shop – East Arlington – This is a second-hand “shop” set within the Fox branch of the Arlington Public Library. Everything is incredibly cheap here, and the selection runs the gamut: maternity clothes, car seats, pumps, baby clothes, books, toys, shoes, baby carriers, swim diapers…you name it, they probably have it, for a great price. Limited hours – check their website.
  • Two Little Monkeys – Union Square – Across from Market Basket, the home of cheap produce (and the best place to buy Happy Baby organic babyfood pouches and puffs, when you get to solids), lives Two Little Monkeys, a kids’ consignment/resale shop. They’ve got a nicely-curated selection, with good prices, including larger furniture and baby gear, as well as a selection of cloth diapers.
  • Old Navy – Cambridgeside Galleria – Okay, this isn’t such an insider secret, but ON has a lot of kids’ and baby clothes, and if you check their sale rack, you can come away with some fantastic deals. Definitely get your baby socks here, the long triple-roll kind. You’ll thank me when they stay on all day.

Listservs:

Most of these email lists require manual approval (sometimes with a requirement that you submit a bio or questionnaire) before you’re added to the list. You may want to use the “digest” setting for high-volume lists, as they can get up to 100 messages per day.

Tips for navigating public transit with a stroller:

Bus: Most MBTA busses are the newer, “kneeling” kind, which can be lowered to meet the curb and are easy to get a stroller into. For courtesy and conservation of free space, lift up one of the benches in the front to make space for the stroller. These benches either lift straight up (no latch) or unlatch via a hook or lever on the bottom of the bench, about 3″ back from the front, on the right or left side. Lock your stroller wheels, and then you can comfortably stand or sit. When exiting the bus, be sure to back out – otherwise, you may feel like you’re dumping your baby out of a wheelbarrow when descending. If you can manage it, it’s good practice to lower the bench back down for other passengers on your way out.

On older busses, you may have to use the handicap lift at the rear door, or enlist an assistant to help you carry the stroller up the stairs.

Subway: Avoid rush hour (weekdays 8-10am, 4-6pm). All other times are relatively stroller-friendly, but you should aim to enter at the first or last door of the car, where there’s extra space for the stroller (note: on the Green Line, the accessible entrance is in the center of the car). Almost all MBTA stations are now accessible with elevators where necessary, but double-check on their website if you’re headed somewhere new.

Commuter Rail: All commuter rail trains are accessible; at some stations, you may need to board at the front of the train where there is a ramp.

February 18, 2013 at 10:26 pm 7 comments

Back in the saddle…with cookies.

Dear readers, I’ve been remiss. I went and vanished on you. But I have a very good excuse…his name is Jean-Luc, and he’s stolen my heart, as well as much of my spare time.

he’s the little one on the right, if you hadn’t guessed…

Not surprisingly, my life has become a little more oriented toward the Sesame Street crowd, and you may see a different kind of emphasis on this blog (to some extent – I’m not going all crazy-mommy on you, and if I do, call me on it!). So, instead of giving you just any cookie, I’m giving you a tried-and-true Lactation Cookie recipe.

The idea is that you make and eat a batch of these to help with issues of low supply if you’re breastfeeding. Do they work? Maybe, but even if they don’t, they’re totally yummy, and full of good stuff like folic acid, fiber, protein, iron, and more. When you’re making them, just call them oatmeal-raisin cookies, though, or the menfolk in your life might not want to try them. Actually, what am I saying? Call them lactation cookies, and you’ll get to keep the whole lot of them for yourself!

I’ve written out the recipe exactly as I made them last, including my quirky penchant for using multiple flours and oats, never quite bothering to measure the vanilla, and only stocking the house with salted butter. The recipe is an amalgam of two that are out there on the web: Cooks.com’s Oatmeal Cookies – “The Best” and Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies, by Noel Trujillo. The elements that make it beneficial for lactation are the oats, the brewer’s yeast, and the flax seed meal, which you can add willy-nilly to any old oatmeal cookie. Here’s the resulting recipe:

Lactation Cookies
makes 4 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
3 eggs, well beaten
1 c. raisins
1 generous tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbs. ground flax seeds (flaxseed meal)
2 Tbs. water
1 c. salted butter at room temperature (if using unsalted, add 1 tsp. salt with dry ingredients)
1 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
1 c. white sugar
1/4 c. wheat germ
4 Tbs. brewer’s yeast
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 c. all purpose white flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. old fashioned oats
1 1/2 c. extra thick rolled oats
1/3 c. chopped walnuts
1/3 c. chopped pecans

notes on ingredients: For flax meal, you can’t beat grinding fresh flax seeds yourself – I use a clean coffee grinder and get great results. If you’d rather get pre-ground meal, be sure your meal contains the flax oils that contain most of the nutritional benefits. (thanks to reader Kulow for bringing this to my attention!) Brewer’s yeast can be found at Whole Foods or natural food stores; it’s similar to but different from nutritional yeast, and the original lactation cookie recipe recommends not substituting. You can omit the wheat germ if you don’t have it (although it’s full of folic acid, good for sharing with pregnant friends). I like to use a mix of white and whole wheat flour, but 2 1/2 c. of white flour would be fine. Likewise, I love Bob’s Red Mill rolled oats for texture, but you can use 2 1/2 c. total of whatever oats you like. I use walnuts and pecans, but other dried fruits, seeds, nuts, or chocolate (I recommend a good dark chocolate) would all be great, just fold in at the last step! The flax, brewer’s yeast, and oats are the “lactation” elements, but they’re tasty for everyone!

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, combine eggs, raisins, and vanilla. Cover and let sit for at least 1 hour; can be kept in refrigerator overnight. This is the secret step that makes them awesome. Don’t skimp on the vanilla!
  2. Preheat oven to 350.
  3. In a small bowl, combine flax meal and water; allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl (or stand mixer) cream together butter and sugars. Add in flax seed mixture, wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, salt (if using unsalted butter), cinnamon, and baking soda. Gradually add in flours until completely incorporated.
  5. Incorporate raisin and egg mixture. Stir in oats and nuts.
  6. Spoon out in heaping tablespoons onto a baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes (do not overbake, cookies will just have started to brown at edges), allow to cool. Enjoy!

March 26, 2012 at 7:59 pm 2 comments


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