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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.

What is it about the Beasties and wallpaper? The other day I blogged about Mike D from the Beastie Boys’ Brooklyn toile wallpaper. And then I found this New York City wallpaper from Scottish designers Timorous Beasties.

It’s got cops, robbers, runners around the reservoir at Central Park, a guy in a cowboy hat… eh? The Flatiron Building, and City Hall (I think). Compared to Flavor Paper’s Notorious B.I.G and other deep-toned cultural references, this toile is a reads a bit more like a guidebook written by people who aren’t actually from NYC.

But I’ll forgive the Glaswegian designers because in my opinion Timorous Beasties were the first people to really do contemporary wallpaper. In fact you could argue that they started the papery renaissance. Alistair McAuley and Paul Simmons were putting kooky flock bugs on walls in the early 90s while the rest of us were lusting over boring cream (beige) sofas at Habitat.

And they started this whole ironic toile thing too, because on their home turf, they excel at the pasted slice of urban realism. Their Glasgow toile features heroin addicts in graveyards, young mums pushing prams by Glasgow towerblocks and a man urinating against a tree.

 

I probably won’t ever choose to spend 108 British pounds per sq meter on their beautiful screen-printed wallpaper, but a mug I could do:

Brooklyn Toile

It’s awesome when you are a multi-platinum-selling hip hop star.

When Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys wanted to redecorate his Brooklyn brownstone he had a French toile designed especially for his walls (and cushions), with Brooklyn-inspired motifs.

Check out this design by Flavor Paper and Revolver NY, featuring Coney Island, Hasidic Jews and even the Notorious B.I.G.

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For a guy who was famous for vandalising VWs, Diamond’s house, in Cobble Hill, is pretty classy. No graffiti on walls, or neon signs, no basement home cinema.

Funky and eclectic and original, yes. There’s nothing ostentatious about it.

It’s even pretty.

I think this might be the coolest modern makeover I’ve seen of a brownstone yet.

Check out these images from Intralld and the NYTimes:

Celebrity Spotlight Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys' Brooklyn Home

Celebrity Spotlight Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys' Brooklyn Home (2)

Celebrity Spotlight Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys' Brooklyn Home (6)

Celebrity Spotlight Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys' Brooklyn Home (10)

Celebrity Spotlight Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys' Brooklyn Home (11)

Celebrity Spotlight Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys' Brooklyn Home (12)

Celebrity Spotlight Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys' Brooklyn Home (15)

Celebrity Spotlight Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys' Brooklyn Home (16)

 

I made a roman blind. I did. And if I can do it, anyone can.

Like at the start of any DIY project, I looked at Pinterest. One roman blind is pretty much the same as another, although you do need to work out if you want the material to sit inside the window frame or over it.

Once you’ve got that sorted, you get to the fun bit – choosing the fabric and going to Home Depot.

I wanted something bold, bright and modern as the middle room of our railroad (our bedroom) can get a little dark, even though we do have a window.

I found my fabric on sale at Fabric.com. It’s called Small Talk Azalea and it’s by Waverley.

Here’s a picture of the H1B and the bebe buying the dowels:

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(Yes, that is a napkin around my daughter’s neck. It was used as a bib in Eataly, where we went for some impromptu wine, cheese and prosciutto before going to Home Depot. We didn’t realise she still had it on until we’d left the building.)

Then I hunted around for some good blogs for a how-to guide – like this one and this one.

I was really inspired by Ciburbanity – a blog that I love for DIY projects and the writer’s beautiful, made-from-scratch home.

Eventually I used this one – Hodge Podge by Markova Design – for its very clear instructions. Don’t be put off by the 35 (!) steps – the writer is deliberately over-persnickety in the instructions so there is no doubt about what to do.

Here’s the result:

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I love the pop-y pink and the bright design that still looks a little classic, like Victorian screen-printed wallpaper perhaps.

Excuse the dreadful pictures – I’ll take some more when the sun comes out!

 

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