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Fork + Pencil

The bebe had suspected chicken pox over the weekend so the Rocket Scientist and I couldn’t enjoy the glorious weather as much as we would have liked. By 4pm on Sunday – damned pox or no – we were bouncing off the walls and had to get outside.

We decided to walk to the river and ended up meandering past Caramello for ice cream and then a gem of a vintage furniture store, Fork + Pencil on Court and Warren in Cobble Hill.

We’re still looking for a great bar cart. These are having a bit of a renaissance since MadMan (the Fork + Pencil owner said that they are more in demand than anything else he sells) but I also think they make for a brilliant storage solution for urban apartment living. They’re compact and usually contain lots of clever drawers and secret places to stash bottles, glasses, table linen and cutlery.

It would be nice to have somewhere to store (and display) lovely glasses, without the risk of them being shoved in an over-crammed cupboard and breaking. In fact, we could treat ourselves to something other than Ikea glassware. Wouldn’t that be grown up?

Even Crate & Barrel are selling them. We were tempted by this one but RS didn’t think they were that well made and at, $999.00, it’s absurdly expensive. I could buy something vintage and Danish for that.

Love this one from London on eBay. There’s something so clever about them – like those old-school travel wardrobes that the rich would take on cruises.

Fork + Pencil had some lovely ones from the Forties. But that is all I’m saying about that because we don’t need any more competition in the bar cart/credenza/dresser-buying arena, thanks.

Chin chin!

I’m obsessed with social history – how the area we live in would have been X amount of years ago, but particularly  – and especially in New York – around the turn of the century. When we first moved here, it started with a Brownstone infatuation but now has extended to the whole city.

Before motor cars or Robert Moses, when Madison Avenue was filled with insanely extravagant palaces and downtown NY insane poverty and overcrowding but rich with the cultural diversity of the immigrant influx.

It’s the stuff of inspiration for countless writers and film makers, from Boardwalk Empire to the upcoming film adaptation of Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale (one of the most wonderful and baffling books I’ve ploughed through), which they filmed last Christmas in Prospect Park.

So I love this interactive feature on NYC Grid – of old and modern shots of landmarks in the city, which you can move around, like this one of Bowling Green in 2013 and 1907:

It’s interesting to see the ones that have really changed – where the building have been knocked down or former skyscrapers are now in the shadow of modern buildings, but I love the ones that haven’t changed that much, like this one of Bryant Park just the clothes the people are wearing. Goes to show how life just goes on in New York City:

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Bryant Park Bowling Green

Shark Attack

What is it about sharks at the moment? First there was that mad film Sharks in a Tornado or something. Then there was one found on the subway. Then the Rocket Scientist had a dream where one was biting his fist and he had to scrap its gums to get it to let go (dentist anxiety or was he sleeping on his hand?).

So well done TopShop for predicting the selachimorphamania and producing this:

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Oh crikey, Brit designer Emma Cook is in on it too:

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Both Givenchy and Philip Lim have shark tooth designs in the current collections:

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We’re going to need a bigger wardrobe…

 

This week I’ve been hit with a bunch of work interviews in the city. Which is great – as it means I’m steps closer to finding solid work – but also involves a wardrobe meltdown.

Firstly, the only summer clothes I have that are suitable for NYC are maternity clothes. UK, and even Australian, summer threads just can’t hack it in the living rice steamer that is July and August in this city.

And then my body shape has changed since having a baby – bras too big, waistbands too small… you get the unglamorous picture. So most of my smart pre-pregnancy clothes don’t quite fit right either.

I’m fine with the creative industry interview. You know, cool printed trousers and a T-shirt, but the corporate-ish ones get me every time, and I end up wearing a weird white shirt that I bought once with a vague idea that I had to up-smart myself in order to get a promotion (I didn’t), and my black fat skirt. I felt like a nun on her first day of service before the bulk habit order has come through.

Shudder. It goes against every fashion-loving instinct in my body. I mean, to nail an interview, you have to be happy with what you look like, right?

To do NYC summer well you need loose clothing, made of light material. Trust me, when you are waiting on the subway platform in the devil’s sauna of 34th Street, UK-grade cotton is going to feel like a goat-hair vest. This is probably the only time you’ll be glad you’ve bought man-made fabric – no sweat patches (it’s too busy trickling into your knickers).

Normally I’d suggest Atterley Road as a go-to but in this weather, I’d stay well away from anything that isn’t NYC-made (or at least designed here). Tory Burch or Kate Spade would be obvious choices but who exactly wears a dress and heels to go to work in New York City, apart from Carrie Bradshaw? Plus, dresses are for garden parties, not interviews.

Although it isn’t NYC-based, ASOS is a more affordable bet, given their newfound fans of Jessica Alba and Michelle Obama – both who have to turn out fancy when the temp soars. I’m a fan of the skirt and top (apart from the novice nun ensemble, of course), and a massive, massive fan of culottes.

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clothes from ASOS

As a mum on maternity leave, and living in Park Slope, it would be fair to say that I’ve had plenty of time to explore local coffee shops in the last 11 months.

I can tell you that Cafe Dada is very stroller friendly but charges $5 for a cappuccino. Cousin Johns does the best muffins and cakes but the coffee is pretty standard (though cheap). Gorilla Coffee has cool maps on the wall but if your child is particularly squawky, you might feel a little self-conscious among the iPad-clutching hipsters.

My all-time favourite coffee shop in my area is Cafe Regular. The coffee (make mine a one-shot cortado with skimmed milk) is excellent, the ambiance is Parisian but it’s the pastries that are worth going back for. So buttery they are almost juicy, with a good fix of bitter chocolate and, since pain au chocolat practically became a food group for me while I was pregnant (and, er, still now), when we move from the neighbourhood I’ll miss them like I miss Icebergs pool in my old home of Bondi, Sydney.

And then I found out that Cafe Regular gets its pastries from Cafe Colson on 9th. So when we went to Red Hook Pool last weekend, and caught the bus from nearby, my inner glutton couldn’t resist peeking in.

The cafe is just a cover for a den of iniquity for greedy, pastry addicts like myself. The coffee was totally average but my rhubarb scone was exceptional.

However, the walls were also exciting. Decked with an exhibition by French photographer Franck Bohbot (excellent name) who has created a series called Jour de Fete of colourful and slightly haunting pictures of fairgrounds taken at a slow shutter speed so they look empty and the lights create tracing patterns:

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He also has cool T-shirts, as you can see from this picture:

True, That.

Except I don’t have a team of people working for me, but okay…

Inspirational message from http://www.tangledupinblonde.com/ (although it helps if you have a nanny and someone to make your hair look nice while you check your messages).

The bebe is cute. Insanely cute. And I’m not even saying that because I’m her mother.

When she wore her homemade bonnet in the Hamptons, people actually crossed the street to see her as we sat outside at cafe having a drink.

But even the bebe isn’t immune to Passport Photo Syndrome. You know, the one where even the most respectable people end up looking like a close cousin of Charles Manson.

What is it about passport photos that makes us look so, if not crazed, then certainly criminal? There’s something about those booths that turn us into frozen, dilated-eyed mug shots, as if we’ve been out for three days straight, partying with Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen.

Of course, when the bebe had her first passport photo taken at around eight weeks, she had no concept of Charlie Sheen (long may that last), yet she still manages to look like a Wayne Rooney lookalike.

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See? She’s really cute. Not like Wayne Rooney at all.

Wayne Rooney. Not cute. Not like the bebe at all (except for on her passport photo)

It’s not her fault. She’d just woken up from a nap. And the photographer made me hold her up, out on an extended palm, in front of a white sheet that had been hung up on the wall. She was sleepy, slumped and drooling – none of which would be top of the tip list for taking a good photo – and most likely a little alarmed because her mother was holding her out, suspended in air, in front of a big white sheet.

Her head had sunk into her shoulders and she looked like she had no bones. And we didn’t have time to take another one because we had to get to the Brooklyn library passport office before it closed.

Then, a few days later, I found out that it’s OK to take your own photo of your baby, as long as it fits within the official guidelines, so for a I did moment consider cancelling the passport and starting again. But that would have been inconvenient. And vain.

So now I’m applying for the bebe’s British passport, we have a second chance of getting it right.

(To apply for a British passport while you are overseas, go here.)

Examples of passport photos - described in text above

As an American baby (because she was born here) with two British parents, the bebe can have dual nationality.

There is no downside to this when it comes to travelling, as:

U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one citizenship or another. Also, a person who is automatically granted another citizenship does not risk losing U.S. citizenship. (Read more here: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1753.html)

The bebe will have to use her US passport when leaving or entering the country. But that’s fine by me, as I’ll be able to go with her in the nationals queue at customs – which is generally shorter than that for international travellers.

Now, I’m off to sharpen up my photography skills. Where’s that birdie?

Our beautiful bebe is just about to turn one. And, with two sets of friends leaving our neighbourhood and me about to find a killer full-time job, it feels like her birthday party will mark the end of an era.

An era of sleepless nights, afternoon naps, first smiles, first cuddles (even better!), picnics in the park, free Tuesday visits to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, and too many episodes of America’s Next Top Model.

So the party will have to be a momentous one. Which, of course, requires a fantastic party dress.

I’ve got quite into sewing since moving to New York. When I was pregnant, I spent the hottest July on record either waddling to the Red Hook Pool or sewing quilts for my nephew and niece, and a wall hanging for the bebe.

Then I made a dress for her first Christmas. Just like when I cook and browse a number of recipes for inspiration, when I sew I tend to use a number of blogs as inspiration and then make up my own pattern.

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For the Christmas dress, I used this bubble dress pattern from Prudent Baby for inspiration but ended up tracing around an existing top and just made the rest up. I don’t necessarily recommend this as I used up way too much fabric getting the shape right.

The fabric was Liberty Tana Lawn print and therefore probably more expensive than most sane people would spend to make a dress that would fit a doll.

It was gorgeous though – the blue and gold reminded me of a Victorian chocolate box, and it’s covered with what I imagined were partridges and pear trees (I think they are actually strawberries, but never mind). And the dress was made to be something of an heirloom.

Strawberry Thief C Tana Lawn

Since then I’ve also made a bonnet from a pattern by one of my favourite sewing blogs Made by Rae. I made it to go with a very sweet dress I bought from the excellent vintage baby clothes shop Lulu’s Then and Now on 5th Avenue in Park Slope. 

The bonnet and dress were for my friend’s wedding in the Hamptons last week, but the bonnet was so useful (and she looked so cute in it), she wore it all weekend.

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Oh, and the roman blind for the bedroom.

Anyway, all this is a very roundabout way of saying that my crafty fingers are starting to itch and I’ve spent all morning looking at fabrics and patterns for the bebe’s first birthday dress.

I haven’t quite found it but I did come across this collection of fabrics on Michael Miller Fabrics, which seemed quite serendipitous. (Let’s ignore what it says about the cliche of nesting mothers turning to craft in Park Slope!)

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Stay tuned to see what dress and fabric I choose…

The bebe is too small for the print on this birthday dress on Made by Rae, but what a gorgeous thing:

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Regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve called my husband ‘the H1B’ since I started. This was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that being labeled an H4 made me feel anonymous. Not very big of me but a genuine reflection of how awful the H4 can be.

Anyway, since I have a shiny new 01 visa, all is forgiven (not that it was ever the H1B’s fault – I’m just not very magnanimous), I should call him something else. It’s a toss up between Blue Eyes (he has very blue eyes), or the Rocket Scientist (he’s very clever).

I hate it when people say, it’s not rocket science about something, because I feel if you do anything well, it’s a challenge. Since marrying, I can now say (to myself at least), I know it’s not rocket science, because my husband studied aerospace engineering at one of Britain’s finest universities, and is a genius. And therefore so am I, by osmosis.

 

COOPERS BEACH, SOUTHAMPTON, NY

The Rocket Scientist and I were lucky enough to be invited up to Southampton for the weekend of Juy 4th. A friend of mine – a native New Yorker who I know from Sydney – was getting married on the Monday and the friends we were staying with us insisted we stayed for the traditional July 4th parade.

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It felt like a real privileged to stay with a ‘real’ New York family up in Long Island. Sure, it would be fantastic to stay at one of the Great Gatsby-style mansions along the beach, with their separate servant accommodation and golf buggies to get around their monstrous grounds and $75k a week rental fees (I mean, you wouldn’t say no, would you?), but to meet actual New Yorkers who have been spending their summers in the Hamptons before the term even existed (East Hampton, Southampton, West Hampton were lumped together by real estate agents some time in the 80s) felt pretty special.

‘Ma’ was born and bred in the Bronx. ‘Pa’ grew up in Brooklyn. And it was fun to spend the week barbecuing and drinking Bloody Marys with them. The Rocket Scientist and I are always bowled over by the generosity of American families. We’ve had some of our favourite stay-aways at the homes of friends’ families.

How to get there & place to eat:

The best way to get to the Hamptons with a young family is via the Long Island RailRoad (LIRR). It doesn’t go as regularly as the ‘Jitney’ coach but, with kids, the air-conditioning, luggage space and ability to get around is worth the extra 30 minutes and $10.

The LIRR goes to Penn Station or Atlantic Avenue, handy if you live in Brooklyn.

The best places to eat in Southampton we found were La Parmigianali (excellent Italian), we liked the Golden Pear Cafe for breakfast. Scene-y 75 Main is good for a drink. And Barristers had cheapish cocktails and snacks if you don’t want to pay 75 Main prices for every meal.

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