Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bon Voyage: Baby Gap's New Left Bank and Deauville Collections

I think I have a love/hate relationship with Baby Gap. A couple of collections will be released and I will feel very luke warm about most of the pieces. And then they blow me away when they release a clean, classic collection like Left Bank. I'm in love with the Quilted Jumper Dress and Jacket. I also love the bodysuits with the adorable Mouse and Poodle, and would pair them with the Wide-Leg Knit Pants. And who could deny the fabulous cuteness of the Quilted Hoodie Footed One-Piece? The new Deaville collection has some cute pieces as well, like the Plaid Drop-Waist Dress. I'll also be grabbing Pooka one of the Micro Fleece Jumper Dresses to keep her warm and stylish this winter.
And don't forget about the boys! The Motorcycle Jacket in the boys Deaville collection is a must have. I'd pair it with the Plaid Pants. And I love the edge to the Striped Denim Overalls, these aren't your typical Osh Kosh's. The collections are available online, and will be in stores in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pooka's 1st Halloween: Spooktacular NYC Events

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays but the last few years Halloween have been rather lackluster in our household. My husband hates dressing up and abhors the candy and decorations (to be fair, he thinks all holiday decorations are a waste of time and money). I did coax him into hosting a Halloween party at our house a few years ago, but that has been the apex of our Halloween celebrations in the eight years we have been together. And then along came Pooka! I finally have a partner in crime to get dressed up with and attend Halloween parties. And I know Daddy will be more into the whole celebration too when he sees the joy it brings to little ones.

Living in NYC offers multitudes of Halloween events to attend with the wee ones. I've decided to give you a sample of what's out there to help you choose. Pooka and I will be attending one of Big City Moms My First Halloween parties. Held throughout the week at various Kidville locations and Appleseeds, these parties feature a mommy and me lunch, professional photographer (so make sure your baby is in costume), and music by Little Maestros. They will also host a party for the whole family on Halloween at Kidville's Upper East Side location with music, photos, face painting, cupcake decorating, and more on October 31st.

Similar events are being hosted by Baby Bites and Diva Moms. Baby Bites celebrates with three different events: a night time party on October 29th at Poppyseeds Pre-Nursery featuring the music of Moey's Music Party and a costume contest; a mommy and me lunch at Tavern on the Green on October 30th with a costume contest, a professional photographer, and a performance by Little Maestros; and two MoonSoup parties where little ones can play and party with MoonSoup's teachers and entertainers and enjoy a Rockin' Music and Spooky Songs Concert on October 31st and November 1st. Diva Moms will hold their 5th Annual Divalysscious Halloween Bash at Dylans Candy Bar on October 30th with a performance by Broadway Babies, a costume contest, games, cupcake decorating and makeovers by Cozy's Cuts for Kids.

For outdoor adventures, Central Park has a number of Halloween events scheduled in October. Festivities kick off on Saturday, October 24th with the 2009 Pumpkin Festival featuring a scarecrow competition, hayrides, a free pumpkin patch, pumpkin carving, live entertainment, and more. Or check out the super cool Pumpkin Sail on Sunday, October 25th. Bring your jack-o-lantern to the Harlem Meer for storytelling, live music, crafts, and a costume parade at 5:00 PM, then watch your jack-o-lantern float along with hundreds of others at dusk. Hit the Central Park Zoo on October 30-31st for Boo at the Zoo to watch animals eat Halloween treats, hear a wildlife talk with a witch, get your face painted, do arts and crafts, or participate in a scavenger hunt. This event also takes place at the Bronx Zoo each weekend in October. Finally, Flaubert Frog hosts Tricks and Treats at Le Carousel in Bryant Park on October 31st for scary stories, games, crafts and a performance by magician Arnie Kolodner.

NYC's museums have events to offer as well. Head to the American Museum of Natural History on October 31st for their 14th Annual Halloween Celebration to trick or treat through the halls (what could be spookier than giant dinosaur skeletons), and enjoy arts, crafts, and live performances. The Children's Museum of Manhattan has a whole series of events going on in the week leading up to Halloween. Check their schedule to find out the days and times for pumpkin painting, making bat puppets, storytelling and more.

Finally, if you're looking for a safe and fun place to trick or treat, head to West 69th Street for their annual Halloween block party. Designed to entertain children and families, residents of the apartment buildings and brownstones between Broadway and Central Park West decorate their facades and pass out candy in full costume. Some even turn their living rooms into mini haunted houses. The street is closed down at 4:00 PM and candy passing usually starts around 6:00 PM. It's the place to be!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Black, white, & red all over: Developmental toys for the early days

The hospital discharges you and you head home with your beautiful new bundle of joy. They eat, sleep, poop, and spit up. You try and do the same. But isn't there more to this baby thing? What about playtime? Admittedly, in the early days your baby isn't much more than a cute little lump, but there are still ways to entertain them and help them move along the cognitive path to enlightenment (sorry, just read the new Dan Brown!). So what are babies interested in the first few months? Here's a few things Pooka seemed to enjoy.

Newborns spend a lot of time in their bassinets and cribs, so that's a good place to start. There are tons of mobiles to chose from that will keep your baby entertained, but the Wimmer Ferguson Infant Stim-Mobile by Manhattan Toy is an award winning design with simple black and white images that can later be changed for color images as baby's eyesight improves. As Pooka got older, she would lift her legs to kick the mobile and watch it spin. The mobile wasn't the only thing Pooka has in her crib. We also placed Wee Gallery Art Cards for Baby around the crib's edge. The simple black and white illustrations of animals give her something to look at when she is falling asleep or waking up. We also use them the old fashioned way an hold them up for her to gaze at. Another option that one of our mom friend uses is the Double Sided First Book from Tiny Love to wrap around her co-sleeper, and I have also seen them used in stroller bassinets. Finally, we hung the Manhattan Toy Color Burst Mirror on the side of the crib. She didn't really look at the mirror in the beginning but she did like the pattern around the edge. Now she uses the mirror for tummy time.

What about the awake time outside the crib? The item that totally blew our minds was when we showed Pooka the Begin Smart Baby Faces book. She was four weeks old and just stared at the photos, particularly the black and white ones. I had heard babies are into these books, but was unprepared for Pooka's intensity. We also have the DK Eyewitness Baby Faces book, but Pooka prefers the black and white borders in the Begin Smart book.

It will be a while before baby will be able to hold a toy, but there are a few that will interest them now when held in your hands and they will eventually grow into them. One of our favorites is a wrist rattle, which helps babies learn where their limbs are (it's really fun to watch them figure out that they have arms, then elbows, then hands and fingers). We have the black and white Infant Stimulation Panda Wrist Rattle from Genius Babies. It is darn cute and Pooka loves to stare at it when it is on her wrist. These days we attach it to the wrist of her Mi Yim Organic Plush Benjamin Frog so it rattles when she grabs it. All of the Whoozit toys from Manhattan Toy are also fabulous. We attached the Whoozit Baby Whoozit to Pooka's stroller and play gym. The black and white side is perfect for the early days, and as her eyesight improved we flipped the Whoozit to the colorful side. It was also one of the first toys she reached for. She would grab the colorful stuffed loops and triangles hanging from the bottom. They are made with different fabrics and textures and are the perfect size for petit fingers, and at 5 months old Pooka is still fascinated by her Whoozit. We also had a Whoozit Rattle (which doesn't appear to be on thier site anymore) that had the same black and white bulls-eye on one side and face on the other. Even at two weeks old Pooka would track the high contrast rattle with her eyes when we held it in front of her. Now she holds it and shakes it all on her own.

The other fantastic and interactive toy Pooka loved was her Tiny Love Gymini in Black, White and Red. It is a bit difficult to find (it's not on the Tiny Love site but can be found on Amazon) but worth the extra effort. Pooka loved to stare at the black and white arches at first, then gradually took interest in the hanging toys, especially the mirror. This gym does not have crazy lights or lots of sounds like many of the others out there. It's all about contrast, although one of the toys does play a lullaby when squeezed. To compare, we also have the Garden Floral Activity Gym from Skip Hop (replaced by Farmyard Activity Gym), and Pooka wasn't nearly as engaged with it the first few months. Don't get me wrong, it's super cute and we love it, but it didn't capture Pooka's attention the same way the Gymini did.

This is obviously just a sample of the developmental toys available for the 0-3 month set, but these are the ones that worked well for Pooka. Definitely check out the Genius Babies site for the best assortment of developmental toys out there. It may look like nothing's going on in that tiny little head, but babies absorb tons in those first few months!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Eco-Slumber: Organic Bedding Sets

Gone are the days when buying organic baby bedding meant choosing between cream or ecru (you know, the natural colors). These days there is a plethora of options to chose from, so it's an easy decision to go organic for your little one. After all, babies spend the largest portion of their time slumbering in their cribs (hopefully). Here is a sampling of some of our favorite organic crib bedding.

Coyuchi crib bedding is a feel good choice all the way around. Not only is their bedding 100% certified organic, it is also Fair Trade and a portion of the proceeds goes to The Cow Project, a philanthropic project based in Andhra Pradesh, India that helps farmers purchase livestock. Coyuchi crib bedding is all this and cute to boot! I love the woodland creatures embroidered on the Thor collection, and the natural safari colors of the Jingo collection. You can also grab matching towels, rompers and t-shirts. And while you're at it, grab a gorgeous duvet for yourself too, the good stuff shouldn't only be reserved for the wee ones!

Another great choice is offered by Q Collection Junior, whose motto is "People safe. Planet safe." We love their Celestial Parade collection, especially the Roxie set's great watermelon pink color. The fabric and fill is 100% certified cotton, and the set offers more than usual with a reversible bumper, reversible crib skirt, and two different sheet colors so you can change the look of your crib bedding when the spirit moves you! They also have beautiful nursery furniture using locally-sourced wood from responsibly managed forests and non-toxic finishes. In fact, they are the first crib manufacturer to receive Greenguard's 'Children and School's' indoor air qulity certification. Oh, and we shouldn't forget to mention that Q Collection Junior participates in 1% for the Planet in support of Healthy Child Healthy World and the National Resources Defense Council.

Pooka sleeps in a Stokke Sleepi crib (perfect for small spaces), which gave us limited choices for going organic for her bedding (although we do have an organic mattress). Future Stokke Sleepi parents don't have to suffer the same fate with Dwell Studio's recent release of their new Organic Circles oval set. Long since available for conventional cribs, you can now get the same set for the Stokke Sleepi. They have also released a second organic set for conventional cribs, the understated Poppy Blossom bedding.

Despite having the oval crib, I fell in love with the Amenity Organic nursery collection. Featuring a sweet, modern, borderline abstract flower scene replete with bunnies, hummingbirds and insects, the Meadow collection works well in our modern studio apartment. We have the crib blanket with matching stretched canvas wall art. In addition to the Meadow collection, there are collections with fanciful squirrels, deer, ducks, and frogs that would be perfect for boys or girls. And with wall art, floor pillows, and towels you can coordinate the whole nursery. They also sell organic mattresses, making it truly a one stop shop. While you're there make sure to check out the wall art and pillows for adults too!

Still haven't seen something you like? How about the softly colored organic Chick pattern from Egg by Susan Lazar? Too sweet? Try the funky Animal Parade or Abstract Flower crib sets. While you're there, grab some organic footies and onesies with Susan Lazar's egg within an egg design symbolizing mother and baby. Pooka loves the footies and Daddy loves the ease of the full length zipper (snaps are tough sometimes!).

Serena and Lily, maker of one of our favorite organic slings (see the post on Baby Carriers), also launched an organic crib bedding line this past year. My favorite is the Maggie collection with it's fresh green and yellow print! And don't forget to pick up the new Gypsy Tote to match your sling!

As I have said before, it ain't cheap to be eco-chic but choosing organic bedding for your baby doesn't have to break the bank. For an affordable option try Brooklyn-based Argington's new organic bedding line. I absolutely adore the unique Fish and Pebbles bedding. With Koi fish on the bumper and a sheet mimicking pebbles on the bottom of a pool your little one can't help but be soothed to sleep as if in a Zen garden. Coming in at less than $200 for a comforter, bumper, sheet, and skirt this deal can't be beat. Still need a crib to put the bedding in? Argington is best known for their furniture, so take a look at their new Bam collection. For less than $1000 you can outfit your nursery with bassinet/crib and changing table with the clean and modern look of more high end furniture.

You can find the Dwell Studio, Egg by Susan Lazar, and Serena and Lily organic crib bedding sets at our friends Alex & Sam (see post). For a 20% discount for our readers, at checkout apply the code: POOKA

Monday, September 21, 2009

Citibabes and Alex & Sam fundraiser with Laurie Berkner band October 4th

Come out to support the fund for New York Public Schools Literacy Programs with a day of family fun at Citibabes in Soho, and co-hosted your friends at Alex & Sam (see our post on socially conscious gift-giving). What better way to spend a Sunday than supporting a great cause with fabulous guests and activities and the music of Laurie Berkner, a favorite of the preschool set! Pooka and family hope to see you there!

NYC Sample Sale this week

The Clothingline is having their kids sample sale this week with fall merchandise from Jacadi, Rachel Riley, Imps and Elfs, and Polarn O. Pyret. We are disappointed that there will be no Marie Chantal as had been originally announced but maybe their replacement, Polarn O. Pyret, will offer more practical choices. The sample sale begins tomorrow (Sept. 22) and runs through Thursday (Sept. 24) from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM at 261 West 36th Street (between 7th and 8th Ave.) on the second floor. If you are bringing the kiddos please note that they do not allow strollers inside the building, and it's not a neighborhood where you would leave your stroller unattended outside. I'll be sporting Pooka in the Baby Hawk. We got some great bargains at the spring sale, so see you there!

From the Clothing line:

Fall merchandise for infants, boys & girls
Jacadi - onesies, shirts, sweaters, skirts, pants, dresses, puffers, outerwear & more
Rachel Riley - shirts, blouses, sweaters, skirts, dresses, pants & more
Imps & Elfs - onesies, coveralls, knit tops, knit leggings, jeans, skirts, dresses, outerwear & more
Polarn O. Pyret - one pieces, sweaters, leggings, skirts, denim, outerwear, accessories & more

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Alex & Sam: Socially conscious gift-giving for baby!

I recently had the opportunity to meet the founder of an innovative website named Alex & Sam: The Art of Giving. What I love about this site is that you can purchase a variety of baby products (as well as jewelry and products for the home) for the same price as you would from another retailer, but a portion of the proceeds goes to charity. Alex & Sam calls this "socially conscious gift-giving" and prides itself on carrying an edited selection of high quality products.

The site carries everything from baby clothing to bedding, nursery decor, and baby carriers. Some of our favorite brands are represented including Serena and Lily, Dwell Studio, Organic Egg by Susan Lazar, Kissy Kissy, Mia Bossi and Dante Beatrix amongst others. Check out the Egg by Susan Lazar Wool Girl Pea Coat, the Plain Mary "Hunk" onesie, Serena and Lily's beautiful Sausalito Moses Basket, and Dwell Studio's new Paper Doll crib bedding.

Want something personalized? You've come to the right place. You name it, and they can put a name on it! The selection of high quality personalized items is one of the largest I've seen. Choose from albums, burpies, blankets, nursery decor and even clothing. I love the Bon Bon Corduroy Dresses with monogram! How about a personalized yoga mat?

When checking out you can select from a number of non-profit organizations to support, or the donation can be split amongst all the selected charities. These charities include: Baby Buggy, Robin Hood Foundation, St Jude's Children's Research Hospital, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Fund for Public Schools (Shop for Public Schools), Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, New Alternatives for Children, WomenWork!, Friends of Yemin Orde (a youth village in israel), and more. The list is always expanding.

The best part of Alex & Sam is that you can create a baby registry on their site. Let's be honest, if you are having a baby you are going to get plenty of gifts. Wouldn't it be nice to know that other children and families can benefit from your gift too! Already had your little ones? Order holiday cards or thank you notes and spread the holiday cheer to the participating charities. Alex & Sam does personalized stationary, birth announcements, invitations, and holiday cards. We're thinking about ordering the Joyful Flowers holiday card by Stacey Claire Boyd.

Life with Pooka readers can receive a special discount when ordering from Alex & Sam. To receive 20% off any purchase or 30% off any stationary products, when checking out enter code: Pooka

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mama don't sew? The best homemade baby products on Etsy

When I was pregnant with Pooka it was very important for me to make her some baby items with my own two hands. I knit regularly, so it wasn't hard to make her some sweaters and hats. But I wanted to take it one step further and make her a hand stitched quilt. I took a fantastic hand-quilting class at Purl down in Soho, but unfortunately I didn't get in done before Pooka arrived and it sits laguishing away in a bag at the bottom of my closet (some day Pooka!). So if you don't have the time, skill, or interest to make handmade baby products, and neither does anyone else in your extended family, it's Etsy to the rescue! Etsy's motto is "To buy, sell and live handmade" and connects buyers directly to individual sellers of various handmade goods. You can find everything from nursery decor, to clothing, toys and baby carriers. There are also a boatload of sellers creating green and organic products. For today's post I have rounded up a selection of some of the cutest baby items on the site. And the best part is, these products are all reasonably priced, and some are downright bargains compared to what they'd retail for at an NYC baby boutique.

One of my favorite designers on Etsy for nursery decor is Almost Sunday Designs. A friend drew my attention to them when she purchased the adorable Owl Mobile. I'm hoping to order the Butterfly Wall Art and a Birth Date Print. All items are well priced, and it's unlikely that any of your friends will have the same one.

For an alternative to main stream baby carriers check out Lovely Duds 100% organic and Oeko-Tex certified Tie One On baby carriers. They remind me of a Moby carrier, which are fantastic for newborns, but with cute printed panels like the Baby Hawk Mai Tai carrier. They have dozens of colors and fabrics to choose from, and at a cost $45 it's not a huge investment. A mom I know loved this style of carrier for her baby those first weeks when acid reflux was a major problem for her little one and she could nestle the baby against her chest in an upright position.

For quilts with a modern twist, or classic dresses for babies and toddlers in fun hipster fabrics pop over to the All the Numbers store. Check out the Vespa (pictured above) and Reversible dresses, or the beautiful Fresh and Modern Quilt that gives a new take on pastels for baby.

Using cloth or gdiapers? Baby blow out their diaper and wipe out their outfit? You need a wet bag to store the dirty nappies and soiled clothes until you can get home and wash them. They are useful for anything that gets messy while out and about, and I never leave home without one. Sure, you could use a ziploc, but why would you when the wet bags at Monkey Foot Designs are so cute and reusable too! The medium size is perfect for stowing a dirty gdiaper and some soiled clothing. For more than one diaper or larger sized clothing I would recommend the larger bags. Mines been thrown in the washer several times and has held up well. The Icky Bags in the Petunias shop are adorable too!I love the owl applique on this one.

For one stop gift shopping check out the SewnNatural shop, filled with all natural and organic baby products ranging from quilts and burpies to toys and bags. I love the Retro Elephant Toy and Upcycled Duck Baby. The Modern Dandelion Summer 5 piece set would make you the toast of any baby shower, or try the organic quilts.

While searching for an alternative to the satin and tulle style headbands that seem to abound in baby stores I found this one from Billie Brand. I love the simplicity of the design and the incorporation of a covered button in the center of the flower. They even have some made from organic fabrics. If your baby is blessed with plenty of hair (alas Pooka is not) you can try their flower clips. Choosing a color is the difficult part, but I'm leaning towards the Roxie!

The designers listed here are just a fraction of what you can find on Etsy. Pick a search term like "organic baby" and hundreds of products will show up. Or be more specific by searching terms such as "baby sling" or "baby quilt." You may not have Martha in your blood, but if she is in your spirit than look no further than Etsy. There is no better source for handmade goods for the crafting challenged.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Strap 'em on: A Review of Baby Carriers

It's been about 4 1/2 months since Pooka was born and I have to come clean: we now own 5 different baby carriers! Why so many? Well, one reason is a logistical one. Our family splits our time between NYC and CT and we got tired of lugging all Pooka's gear back and forth every weekend. Also, the first sling I had purchased ended up being too large for me and I had to purchase a smaller one. Each purchase became an opportunity to try out a different model of baby carrier, and we actually use them all regularly.

Slings: We currently have three brands of sling. Our first purchase was a gorgeous, organic Serena and Lily Market Sling. It is a fixed length with padded rails that make Pooka feel secure in the sling. Unfortunately I sized the sling while pregnant, and the medium ended up being too large. It fits my husband perfectly and Pooka spent hours in the first weeks nestled in the soft organic flannel while he worked on the computer or did housework (he's a good man!). She would sleep in the cradle position, and it was perfect for taking her out in public because she was hidden from curious bystanders. We even took her to a cocktail party when she was two weeks old and she slept right through it! Similar fixed length slings that are popular are Hotslings, Peanut Shell, and there are dozens more.

I needed a smaller sling, so I decided to try out a different style and settled on a Zolo Wear ring sling. While I found adjusting the rings daunting at first, I watched the instructional video that came with the sling and then a few more videos on youtube to help me get comfortable. Pooka and I fell in love with the Tummy-to-tummy hold. It keeps Pooka in an upright position (helpful if your baby has reflux or gas) and mimics holding her tight in my arms. For a while it was her Kryptonite, she couldn't fight falling asleep. When she was really tiny I would roll up a burpie and place it behind her head so she had extra support in this position (when they are little their heads are almost below the edge of the sling). Now we switch between the kangaroo hold, which allows her to face forward and enjoy the view, and the tummy-to-tummy when she is tired. When she gets bigger I can wear her on my hip or on my back. I like the Zolo because it has a pocket in the front where I can keep my keys, wallet, phone and burpie when we are running errands in the neighborhood. This sling folds down small enough to fit in the bottom of Pooka's stroller, and I always have it with me in case she gets fussy and needs a change of scene. You can also use a ring sling to nurse the baby, but I haven't treaded that path yet! I would not recommend using a sling for a long jaunt: despite their comfort they don't distribute the weight evenly because they are worn over one shoulder. There are dozens of other ring slings out there that you can try. Maya Wraps have a padded shoulder (Zolo's are lightly padded as well), or try P-slings New York for a more lux option (their fabrics are gorgeous, check out the Avant Gradation style). Both these lines have organic options.

We also purchased a Roundhouse Sling that is adjustable but uses a buckle closure rather than rings. I really like the styling, and it also has a pocket and a nicely padded shoulder. The rails of the sling are also adjustable to make the pocket larger or smaller. This was the sling we had bought to leave in CT to use on the weekends. We've used this carrier the least because it seemed to have too much fabric for Pooka when she was small, and when she got larger she didn't want to be in cradle position anymore. We haven't tried the kangaroo position in this sling yet, but I think it will be a nice option when she is larger and will be great for the toddler years.

Front Carrier: Our front carrier of choice is the Belle Baby Carrier. We have the organic carrier in black. It was created by two dads who were rock climbers and engineers and the design of the carrier reflects that. The hip belt is very similar to a rock climbing harness with a padded belt and d-ring style closure. The Belle also has comfortable padded shoulder straps and buckles easily at your sides (rather than in the back like some carriers). The carrier portion is a simple piece of fabric lined with a soft flannel against the babies skin. I love that the baby is held directly against you with no fabric to separate you. There was a period in time when Pooka's head reached above the top of the carrier but she wasn't quite strong enough to hold her head up on her own. During that time we used our other types of carriers, but I imagine if you have an extremely long baby (Pooka was 50-75% for height during this time) it may be more of a problem. Now we use the carrier with Pooka facing forward and she loves it. The Belle is completely adjustable and Daddy also likes using this carrier (it was created by two dads, so it has a clean aesthetic). Similar carriers in this category are old favorites like the Bjorn and the popular Ergo Baby. The Bjorn allows tummy-to-tummy and forward facing babies, the Ergo does tummy-to-tummy or the baby can ride on your back (no front facing).

Mai Tai Carrier: A Mai Tai is an Asian style carrier and looks similar to other front loaders like the Belle or Bjorn, but uses ties rather than buckles. We have a Baby Hawk Mai Tai and it is is a favorite right now. It distributes the weight evenly with padded shoulder straps, has a padded headrest and you can choose from custom fabrics. They even have organic fabric options. I choose custom fabrics for Pooka's and added a pocket and toy loop. While these were additional costs I find them invaluable. I leave a toy attached at all times and a spare diaper and burpie in the pocket so I can just grab the carrier and go. You can also purchase a minkee liner insert and an attachable hood for cold weather. I liked that when Pooka was small she could ride in the carrier with her legs tucked under her rather than having them dangle like in some other front carriers. Once she was bigger her legs straddled me in a more ergonomic way then most carriers on the market. This carrier looks darned cute with the ties and is more unique than other carriers on the market. Pooka can ride tummy-to-tummy, or on my hip or back when she gets larger. Unfortunately she can't face forward in the Baby Hawk. Similar carriers are offered by Mai Tai Baby, or you could try a hybrid carrier like the Becco Baby Butterfly which is Mai Tai style but uses buckles instead of ties.

Just like a stroller, you may never get one carrier to cover all your needs. If you live in a urban environment you may choose to have more than one in order to cover all the bases. Trust me, I'm not the only mama to have a closetful of carriers! If you are in a suburban or rural area you may not have as much cause for schlepping the baby and can more easily find one that suits all your needs. There are tons of fantastic carriers out there, and I hope to to try more of them in the future and share the results. If you have had good or bad luck with a particular carrier please share your insights in the comments area!

Photo credit for the first picture of Pooka and I in her ZoloWear sling goes to Hannah Hardaway Photography

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Big City Mom's Expectant Mom's Dinner: My 5 Favorite Baby Items

A few weeks ago I attended a new moms lunch about baby secrets of the Upper West Side hosted by Risa of Big City Moms. I had a number of my favorite baby gadgets on hand that caught Risa's eye and she invited me to speak at the upcoming dinner for Expectant Moms. I attended the dinner tonight and was very impressed with the information and products on display. Pooka and I use many of the products highlighted at the event, and all the expectant moms went home with a great gift bag and raffle prizes that included an Orbit Baby stroller, car seats, diaper bags, slings and more. I wish I had attended one while pregnant, and highly recommend attending one if you're in the process of creating your registry.

Below are the items I spoke about at the dinner. You can find more of my favorites throughout the blog, and also check out the "10 Things I couldn't Live Without the First 3 Months" post.

My 5 Favorites for New Moms:

1) Itzbeen Baby Care Timer: the easy way to keep track of feedings, diaper changes, naps and more when you are sleep deprived
2) Aden and Anais Muslin Wraps: our favorite lightweight swaddle blanket
3) Patemm Pad: extra roomy changing pad that you can throw in any bag
4) Sling Carrier (Serena and Lily Market Sling, Zolo Wear ring sling): soothe your newborn and get things done while baby snoozes
5) The Milk Saver: don’t let your leaky milk go to waste

Thanks to Risa and Leslie for inviting me to speak tonight!

Baby it's cold outside! Organic Blankets for fall

About a week ago we woke up one morning to find that the humidity had disappeared and been replaced with clear, cool, crisp, fall weather. While I am grateful for an end to the drippy heat, Pooka and I are not ready for fall. It was still August and we have a closetful of adorable bubbles and sun-dresses for her to wear. I suppose we can keep our fingers crossed for a nice, long indian summer sometime this fall. Now don't get me wrong, I totally love fall and all its trappings (wood smoke, falling leaves, fresh apple cider, pumpkin pie, etc.), but this fall will be different from any other because I have to dress Pooka and keep her warm. I already miss the carefree days of throwing her in a onesie and heading to the park! To ease the pain, I am jumping headlong into cozy organic blankets.

By far my favorite organic blanket is made by Robbie Adrian. It comes in luscious organic fleece or cotton velour, and is trimmed in the softest silk edging. I long for the Fleece Organic Baby Blanket with Silk Ruffle in raspberry polka dots (think portrait session with naked newborn snuggled inside). The blankets are stocked at ABC Home in Union Square (but only in the natural color), and I visit them whenever I'm there. I'm putting one of these blankets on Pooka's Christmas list! They are more on the splurge side, but Robbie Adrian has taken the recent economic downturn into mind and are offering a new version of their blanket called the Little Less Silk with a narrower silk ruffle at a reduced price. Or go for the economical Lovey size ($26 for a 10 x 12 inch) so your little one can have a snuggly nap blanket.

Another much cherished organic blanket of ours came with the Take-Me-Home Set from Little Merry Fellows that we received as a shower gift. The hat is so cuddly and warm, and was one of the only ones small enough to fit Pooka in those first few weeks. The waffle blanket was also a great size for swaddling in those early days and we didn't worry about her overheating or getting cold. We also have their organic Moses Basket and Rocker, which is lined with ridiculously soft organic flannel. Pooka just grew out of it a few weeks ago, and I was sad she would no longer be enveloped in its deliciousness (and that she had graduated to her crib in the nursery, instead of being at the foot of our bed!). Little Merry Fellows also makes wonderful organic terry velour Poetry Blankets with quotes from J.M. Barrie, Kate Douglass Wiggin, William Blake or Rudyard Kipling. The J.M. Barrie quote is my favorite, "When the first baby laughed for the first time, his laugh broke into a million pieces and they went skipping about. That was the beginning of fairies." The Poetry Blanket would definitely be a unique shower gift.

Pooka and I are also big fans of Amenity Organics. They have just launched a new line of organic baby basics that include receiving blankets, burp clothes, towels and wash clothes. I can't wait to get my hands on some. We have the crib blanket and stretched canvas wall print in the Meadow print for our nursery in the apartment (actually, we live in a studio so her nursery is our bedroom and living room too!). We love the nature inspired prints that work for girls or boys and are wonderfully sweet and modern. They also have the added bonus of being manufactured in LA, which means you don't have to be concerned about sweatshops or child labor!

My perennial favorite, Aden and Anais, recently released their Muslin Swaddle Wraps in organic cotton. I love the Organic Enchanged Muslin Single Wrap and Organic Drangonfly Single Wrap. While they are priced similarly to the Little Merry Fellows and Amenity receiving blankets ($34 for one blanket), they are significantly more expensive than the non-organic version ($44 for four blankets). As always, being eco-chic ain't cheap!

Whichever blanket you choose, they are all great choices for your little one or as a shower gift. And to be honest, if you are like our household and do laundry only once a week (we don't have a washer and dryer in our apartment) you don't have to choose. You'll need several blankets, so you can get one of each!

Photo of Pooka in Take-Me-Home Set taken by photographer Hannah Hardaway

Friday, September 4, 2009

Rock on tiny dancer: Music parents will love as much your baby does

Before Pooka was born I determined that I would never listen to sugar sweet kid's music, or heaven forbid, a group like the Wiggles (is it just me or are middle aged men in coordinating, primary-colored costumes a bit creepy?). But a few years ago, before Pooka was born, I stumbled upon some great music geared for children. I'm not a good sleeper (just like many babies), but listening to music at bedtime usually helps me fall asleep. Seeking an alternative to the new-agey soothing spa music usually recommended to aid sleep, I found Rockabye Baby's lullaby renditions and fell in love. Using only xylophones the group reproduces all sorts of rock and alternative favorites, everything from Bob Marley to Radiohead to Led Zeppelin. We downloaded our favorite songs from several goups and created an itunes playlist that I listened to every night while I was pregnant and throughout labor, delivery, and recovery. We had nurses and doctors coming into our room to ask what music we were listening to. While getting my epidural, the anesthesiologist turned to me with a questioning look and said, "Is this the Cure?" We continued to play these lullabies for weeks after Pooka was born to help her fall asleep.

Eventually we branched out with Jewel's Lullaby album and the Putamayo Kids Dreamland albums (see my post on 10 things we couldn't live without the first 3 months). Then I realized we needed something besides lullabies to listen to when Pooka was awake. Whenever I put her on the play gym, in the bouncy, or on her tummy she is content for much longer when music is on. First we bought some of the Putamayo Kids Playground series, and particularly like the African, French and Reggae Playground albums. Turns out Pooka really loves reggae, because when we purchased Ziggy Marley's wonderful new disc Family Time we would both smile and laugh as I danced around with her. The album features guest appearances by Jack Johnson, Willie Nelson, and Paul Simon. After enjoying Ziggy's "children's" album so much I started to dig deeper (thanks itunes!) and found he wasn't the only musician to make a great children's album. We love Jack Johnson and friends', Sing-Alongs and Lullabies for the film Curious George, and discovered Johnny Cash's wonderful children's album. We really like Johnny's silly version of the ABC's. Lisa Loeb has also jumped into children's music, first with Elizabeth Mitchell on Catch a Moon and more recently with Camp Lisa. We prefer the Catch a Moon album, as Camp Lisa gets a bit too campy (sorry)! Elizabeth Mitchell also has some wonderful albums, particularly You Are My Sunshine. She's the lead singer of indie music group Ida.

My recent favorite is Frances England. I'm obsessed with both her albums, Fascinating Creatures and Family Tree. She has a folky/indie vibe to her music and clever lyrics that are perfect for both parents and kids to sing along to. For instance, in her song Tricycle she sings about chasing Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France in your underpants. She also has a wonderful homage to fathers in Daddy-O, and sings about jazz greats Miles Davis and John Coltrane in her song Charlie Parker. Her songs get stuck in my head for hours!

So it turns out that children's music is not a complete desert. I have found my oasis with these wonderful albums and will be sure to update whenever I find any other gems!

All of the music aside from the Putamayo Kids are available on itunes.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

BPA is not just in baby bottles: Ditch your SIGG for stainless steel bottles

About 5 years ago I traded in my Nalgene bottles for the cute and slender SIGG reusable drinking bottle. Then there was the controversy about the harmful plastics in Nalgene bottles leaching into the water. I smugly swigged from my SIGG and thought myself superior for making the switch. That is until last week, when SIGG announced that any of its bottles made prior to August 2008 contained BPA in the liner. Turns out that aluminum leaches baddies into your water too, so the bottles were coated in a liner containing BPA. Oops, BPA also leaches baddies into your water! The worst part is that SIGG kept the contents of its liners secret for proprietary reasons, while at the same time ensuring the public that the bottles were perfectly safe (read more at The Soft Landing). The slew of legislation currently taking place all over the US to ban BPA in baby products finally forced SIGG to admit to BPA in their bottles. Did I mention that SIGG also makes sippy cups? Or that I have been drinking out of their bottles for years? Or that I drank from my SIGG bottles throughout my pregnancy and while breast feeding? Actually, I drank out of them right up until last week! So glad I give Pooka BPA free bottles and teethers but expose her to it in my breast milk. Shame on you SIGG!

But fear not, there are plenty of fabulous options for replacing your old SIGG bottles. First stop, The Soft Landing. This site is dedicated to anything and everything BPA free. I have order great teethers, toys, and bottles. They even have a section for pets. They are running a great program right now if you have some SIGG bottles lying around: The Bigg Bottle Swap. Ship them your SIGG and they will recycle your bottle and give you a 30% discount on a new stainless steel bottle from their site. If you don't have a SIGG you can still register and receive 20% off a purchase.

But what bottle should you choose? There are plenty of options out there in plain old stainless steel, which appears to be the safest material at the moment. Kleen Kanteen has a wide range of bottles in all different sizes. You can choose from 6 different top styles, including an Avent sippy cup top to use with the smaller bottles in the range. I use a 18 oz pink bottle that fits perfectly in my stroller cup holder. Missing the cute graphics on your old SIGG bottle? Try a U-Turn 2 Tap bottle. The only come in 27 oz, but have beautiful illustrations by Laguna Beach artist Shane Towley. I have the green "Hope" bottle and find it to be the perfect size for car trips. Finally, if you want an insulated bottle to keep your beverages hot or cold I like the bottles from ThinkSport. They come in two sizes and incorporate a mesh screen to keep ice or loose tea leaves from clogging the drinking spout. I think I may have to get one of these for my husband to replace his SIGG hot beverage mug.

While new SIGG bottles are being produced without BPA in the liners, they have lost me as a customer. The SIGG CEO recently released an apology statement and they have instituted an exchange program to replace your old bottle with a new BPA free bottle. I think the most ironic part of this issue is that we buy things like SIGG bottles to try to lessen our impact on the environment and we end up hurting ourselves. Sometimes it feels like you really can't win, but I still want to keep trying!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Final word on Orbit Baby safety: We're sticking with them!

Hopefully this is the last chapter in the Orbit Baby vs. Consumer Reports debacle. It appears Orbit baby has won a decisive victory! Consumer Reports should be ashamed of themselves for neglecting to follow manufacturer guidelines and then failing the product. I can't even begin to imagine the panic this caused among thousands of Orbit Baby parents, including myself. Yesterday I spoke with the manager of my local baby gear store who shared that CR's baby department is a complete joke that regularly wreaks havoc in the baby gear industry. After this performance I have to agree. The good news is we don't have to give up our much loved Orbit Baby Infant travel system, the thought of which nearly brought me to tears!

Dear Orbit Baby parent,
As I mentioned in my last letter to you in regards to the Consumer Reports testing of the Orbit Baby Infant Car Seat, we referred this matter to NHTSA, the government agency responsible for car seat safety. I am pleased to share the following information:

Update September 1, 2009: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tested the Orbit Baby Infant Car Seat for compliance with all crash testing requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 213. NHTSA confirmed that the Infant Car Seat passes these tests.

NHTSA also independently verified:

The middle shoulder harness slot is the appropriate slot for the size of the official CRABI 12 test dummy.
The knob on the car seat Base should be turned to engage the StrongArm™ tightening mechanism to achieve the regulated seat belt tension for compliance testing.
Therefore, our Infant Car Seat not only passes our own tests in independent labs, it also passes tests conducted by NHTSA, the government agency that regulates traffic safety.

Orbit Baby maintains that Consumer Reports did not properly follow the Infant Car Seat instructions when they conducted their tests. (Our full response can be found here.) As an Orbit Baby parent, I believe that this issue highlights the importance of following car seat instructions, as well as the need for parents to educate grandparents, babysitters, and other caregivers on proper car seat usage.

Please be sure to take advantage of these helpful resources on our website:

View Car Seat installation videos
Read the Orbit Baby article on "The Correct Harness Position for Rear-Facing Car Seats"
Download Orbit Baby product manuals
Orbit Baby’s position on car seat safety can always be found here
Email us with any further questions at
Thank you for your support of Orbit Baby.


Joseph Hei

CEO and Co-founder of Orbit Baby

Loving Mini Boden for fall!

Shortly after Pooka was born a friend sent us some onesies and bibs from Mini Boden. They were adorable and I hurried to the site to see the other styles they had for summer. The selection was cute, but I wasn't bowled over and Pooka already had a full summer wardrobe so I didn't order anything. And then along came the fall collection! I nearly had a cuteness overload, and immediately set about filling my cart. And then I saw the total at the bottom of the cart and sheepishly went back to remove several items. Apparently I am not the only one to notice the fabulousness of the collection, as several of the items I was coveting are already on backorder. What I love about their clothes is that they are classic and remind me of things I wore as a child. They will also be great pieces to hand down to siblings or friends. Some of my favorites are the Applique Pinafore, Applique Dungarees, Babycord Bloomers, and the Baby Tights. Can't wait for ours to get here!