Teeny Tiny Tuna Patties

This was another attempt to feed LongJohn as well at home as he eats at daycare. He ended up not being a huge fan of these (despite, of course, him loving them at daycare), but I enjoyed them so much I’ve made them for myself and others since. It’s a great easy lunch when the thought of another boring sandwich just does not appeal. Not to mention that it’s one of those great flexible recipes that requires no measuring. The only ratio that is really important is one egg to every can of tuna you use. Other than that, play around!

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When I’m doing stuff like this, I always start with my seasonings: what do I want the flavour to be? In this case I have some chives, garlic chives, tarragon, and sage growing out in my garden so that was an easy choice.

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Other good options would be diced caramelized onions or green onions, shallots, fresh rosemary, basil … you get the picture. Chop those babies up.

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Tip your handful of fresh herbs into a bowl with about half a cup panko bread crumbs (you can use regular bread crumbs but I like the crunch of panko). Season with salt and pepper, maybe a little bit of onion and garlic powder if you’ve got ’em.

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Tip in as well some grated parmesan cheese, to your preference.

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And an egg! One egg for every can of tuna ensures maximum patty cohesion.

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Mix it into a gross paste.

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Now, your can of tuna: this is a chunk white albacore.

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Break that up and chuck it in the mix as well.

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Now melt a gob of butter and a dash of vegetable oil (to keep the butter from burning) in a large frying pan and let that heat up.

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Form the tuna paste into patties any size you like. These ones are about 2″ in diameter and I ended up with 8 in total.

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Slide those patties carefully into the hot butter and let them fry!

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Flip them after a few minutes, or when the bottoms are a nice golden brown.

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When they are brown on both sides, slide them onto a piece of paper towel to drain and cool slightly before taking a HUGE BITE.

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I served these with some plain yogurt mixed with Dijon mustard and those avocado fries I made in the last post.

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Fun Food Friday: Baked Avocado Fries

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Did you know that these are a THING?

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I was looking for a way to make it easier for LongJohn to grasp slippery avocado without totally. smushing. it. EVERYWHERE. and I found out that people BAKE the suckers after BREADING them. I got very excited about that. Then I looked at the price of avocados in this country and felt less excited. But LongJohn needs his superfoods …

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The trick here is to use underripe avocados, because otherwise they go a little too squishy after baking. These were perhaps a little past their prime but they did a decent job.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F, set the rack in the centre of the oven, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pit and peel your avocados and slice them lengthwise into nice long “fries.”

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Grab a bowl with some flour, another with some panko (seasoned with salt and pepper and whatever else you crazy kids can come up with), and a third bowl with a beaten egg (go with the ratio of one egg for every avocado you use).

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Dip an avocado fry into the egg, then the flour, then the panko, and lay them out on the baking sheet.

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Spray the fries with some cooking spray (sounds weird, I know, but trust me – it’ll make the panko go all nice and golden).

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Bake for 20-25 minutes, flipping the fries halfway through, until the panko is gloriously gold and they’re nice and crispy. You can see that my fries were a little softer than they should be in that my spatula took chunks out of them in the flipping process.

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I served these up to LongJohn with some tasty tuna patties, a dijon-yogurt dipping sauce, and a small mountain of fresh fruit … but you can do them however you do.Baked Avocado Fries 13

Sponge Paint Shirt Making

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It’s baby season again. I know at least five expectant mothers, and it inspired me to try a different type of fabric printing. As much as I love the effect of screen printing, it’s not a feasible method for one-off productions – you really need to be working in bulk for it to be worth it. But thanks to our Silhouette Cameo cutter, I’m able to create a detailed design for much smaller projects.

First, I began with the cutter and some adhesive vinyl, and I cut out my designs.

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I am using the vinyl as a stencil, so the design itself becomes the negative space.

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I repurposed a few letters from a rainbow baby design to decorate the raptor pen.

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Next, I used transfer paper to cover the design, and a squeegee to make sure it was firmly attached.

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Now I could remove the backing to the vinyl and stick it onto the pre-washed onesie. I used a fondant smoother as a squeegee here.

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I very carefully peeled off the transfer paper and made sure all the vinyl was stuck down well. Because my designs were close together on the vinyl so as not to waste space, some of the designs came pretty close to the edge. I added some hockey tape as a protective border to ensure that I didn’t colour outside of the lines too much.

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Remember of course that fabric is porous, so if you’re pushing ink onto it, you have to protect the back side of the shirt. I cut little rectangles out of a plastic bag and shoved one inside each onesie.

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Now for the application! I am using regular cellulose kitchen sponges, which are very soft and have large holes in them. This will produce something of a vintage, faded effect on the onesie, because you’re not producing as much pressure as you would while screen printing. If you wanted something a little sharper, use a finer sponge, like a cosmetic sponge. They also make sponges specifically to apply paint and ink so you could use one of those as well.

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I’m using my Speedball fabric screen printing ink, because that’s what I had on hand, but you could use any form of fabric ink or paint and you’d probably have a similar result.

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Dabbing a little bit of ink on the sponge – don’t want too much all at once.

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Deep breath – ready?

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Here I gently dabbed the ink into the negative space on my stencil, dabbing a few times to ensure I got everything covered.

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Then I started experimenting with blending colours.

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It got a little tricky when all the cut-outs were so close together.

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Now I had to force myself to wait overnight for these to dry properly before I could see what they looked like.

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Okay I cheated: I pulled them off about four hours later. So this is the dried ink just after removal of the stencil. Everything is pretty sharp, but you have to wash this AGAIN to get any loose ink off.

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Here are my designs after another wash and run through the dryer. You can see that the ink is sort of faded in the corners, like a vintage t-shirt. TADA!

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Baby Butt Butter (hahaha, BUTTS)

Sorry, I got another baby post for you. I promise that magic pie is next.

Latergram: Mr. Jaunty. #alidoesit

A post shared by Alison Bell (@alidoesit.herself) on

LongJohn is going to daycare (NEXT WEEK OMG OMG OMG) and I gotta make sure I send everything with him that he needs over the course of the day. One of those things is diaper cream (or butt butter, which is a much better term). I’ve been making my own for a while and I’ve tweaked it to a point where I’m pretty happy with it. My recipe also allows for substitutions when you run out of things, which is handy. Because I run out of things OFTEN. The secret to a good oil-based lotion consistency is to use the correct ratio of solid oils to liquid oils, and everything after that is golden.

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As long as you use a 3:1 ratio of solids:liquids, you can do pretty much whatever you want, in any quantity. So let’s get started, shall we?

Gather yourself 1 tablespoon beeswax1/4 cup cocoa butter,

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1/4 cup mango butter (or shea butter),

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1/4 cup coconut oil,

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and 1/4 cup grapeseed oil (or sweet almond oil, or extra virgin olive oil).

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Tip all those things into a double boiler and let them melt.

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When the mixture is uniform, remove it from the heat and add in 2 tablespoons vitamin E oil – you can get this in the pharmacy, either in a bottle or in capsule form.

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You’ll also want to tip in some essential oils, about 15-20 drops (in total, not each). I used a combination here of calendula, chamomile, lavender, and a bit of tea tree oil.

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Next, stir in 1-2 tablespoons zinc oxide powder (I ordered this from Amazon). I find this is the magic amount to avoid leaving too much white crap everywhere, and I’ve also never had any issues using this amount with cloth diapers. If you’re not a fan you can leave it out altogether. As I said, this is a flexible recipe.

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Now leave this oily goo to cool. You don’t want it to cool so much that it solidifies, because you want the finished product to be scoopable with a finger.

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I find that putting it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes is a good start. Then you get this solid bit around the edge but it’s still thick and liquid-y in the centre.

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Next, grab your hand mixer or immersion blender and a strong spatula (because the butter tends to solidify hard on the sides of a cold bowl) and give it a good beating, scraping down the sides as much as you can. Whip it until it looks like cream cheese icing. Now you’re done! Alternatively, you can pour the totally liquid butter into a mould for a stick-shaped solid, and use it kind of like deodorant on your baby’s butt, but(t) you will find that it melts on your hands quite a bit when you’re doing that.

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You can see how a few seconds on my arm and the butter just melts, which makes it easy to spread around and it sinks in nicely – I’m not a fan of gooey baby butt crap.

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But(t) even though it sinks in nicely it still forms a very nice moisture barrier, as you can see from my hands after I started to clean up my post-butter-making mess.

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I tried to pipe the butter into this tiny container in the hopes that I would make less of a mess doing so than I normally do, but I failed. So I ended up making just as much of a mess and now the butter looks super weird.

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Weird looking or not, it still does the job!

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Sea Creature Floor Pillows 2 of 2 (with Better Cheater Box Cushions)

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Phew. This was a long time coming. LongJohn went through a period of time where he was particularly uncooperative so getting this done was a bit of a challenge. As you know, a while back (a WHILE back) I made a whale floor cushion for grown-ups to sit on while hanging out on the floor with LongJohn.

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My two assistants.

With the second old pillow I had, I made him a boxfish. Why a boxfish? Well the pillow is rectangular, and I’m making a box cushion. So it makes sense to make nature fit my plan. Plus I had a gorgeous scrap of blue jacquard that looked very similar to a boxfish in pattern. That pretty much settled it.

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I only had a small piece of it though, so I had to carefully hoard my trimmings. That’s why some of the bits and pieces I’ve tacked onto this sucker look a little weird.

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So here’s the stuff I planned to use for the snout of the fish.

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Here you can see the bits I got for the tail. And then I happened to have some gorgeous orange stuff with a bit of embroidered detail on it I decided to use for the rest of the fins, so I loosely cut out basic shapes.

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Don’t forget the eye, which I made out of felt.

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I freehanded the sewing of the fins.

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And once they were sewn I trimmed the excess, turned them inside out and sewed lines in from the scallops for further separation. I realize that’s a terrible description – hopefully the picture makes more sense.

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Then I stuffed it!

Boxfish Cushion 11Definitely trim the excess when you’re sewing otherwise when you turn it right side out it won’t look right.

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Here’s the tail. The tail was definitely the weakest of my half-assed derivations.

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Especially seeing as I wasn’t paying close enough attention and didn’t sew it far enough and it came undone. Rather than fixing it properly I just ran the machine over it a bunch of times. I’m now passing it off as a war wound from some battle the box fish had with whatever predators they deal with.

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Stuffing the snout.

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Because I only had *just* enough fabric, I didn’t have any leftover to hem the edges of my open seam, so I rummaged through the basement and found some gray grosgrain ribbon that I folded in half and sewed over the raw edges.

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Now for the complicated process of attaching the fins to the whole shebang. This was wayyy easier than doing it with that stretchy whale fabric.

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Turn everything inside out and securely pin everything in place. Sew, sew, sew!

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Now the eye …

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Everything is attached except for the side fin and the snout, both of which will be hand-sewn because they’re hella awkward and not on seams.

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Also the tail, which is not on a seam either. I cut a hole in the side and stuffed that in.

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That was easy to sew with the machine.

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Next I take the corners and flatten them so the seam is in the middle. Then I sewed across to make an isosceles triangle, with the base being the height of the pillow.

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There’s my pretty box corner, with the tail attached!

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Now the job of hand-sewing on the snout and fin.

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Complete! LongJohn loves it, and we enjoy having a second place to plant our butts.

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The Canadian Car Poncho

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There’s the idea that you shouldn’t put your kid in a big puffy snowsuit in their carseat because the snowsuit doesn’t allow you to do up the straps as tight as they need to be and that could be unsafe if you were to get into an accident. Accordingly, they sell these things called “car ponchos” for small children, and they’re all fancy with faux fur trim and buttons and snaps and zippers and whatnot and they cost like SEVENTY BUCKS. Seriously? Eff that. Also, this is CANADA, and here it’s always colder than it is in other places. So most of those fancy car ponchos are wayyy not warm enough to combat that howling wind when it’s minus twenty.

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I figured, seeing as I’m doing all this sewing these days, why not make my own? At the fabric store near us, fleece is pretty expensive, usually about $7 a metre, but at IKEA, you can pick up a POLARVIDE fleece blanket for $5.99, and they’re almost 2 metres. They come in a variety of colours depending on the store and the season, and sometimes they go on sale and they’re even cheaper. I picked up two, for layering.

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FOR THE LAZY: Just use one blanket. Sewing two together is less than easy.

One side of the fleece has little round flibbety things that stick out, so I cut them off using my rotary cutter.

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FOR THE LAZY: Leave ’em on.

Then I went through a million permutations of how to layer the blankets together so that the raw edges were inside the blanket. But it was much too complicated for me so I just folded each in half on the short edge and flipped them so the folded edge of one blanket was against the open edge of the other.

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FOR THE KEENERS: Sandwich the open edges inside so that the folded edges show on both sides.

Then I started sewing the blanket together, starting with a straight line right down the middle, followed by another that bisected it perpendicularly.

I kept going, dividing each un-sewed section in half and sewing through it, then I sewed around the edge. I did this to keep the different layers from bunching around each other. Four layers of fleece is hella bulky and it was really tricky with my little pink machine.

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FOR THE KEENERS: Maybe try a bias binding on the outside edge, or sew your lines radiating out from the centre at angles.

So now I have this big bulky blanket with four layers of thin fleece all quilted together. I need a head hole in the middle.

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Here I am doing a very scientific measurement of LongJohn’s head diameter using a salad plate. It’s a little big, but babies heads grow alarmingly so I know it’s better to go too big here than too small.  If you’ve ever tried to shove something too small over an angry baby’s head then you know what I mean.

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Then I used the salad plate as a guide for cutting out the centre hole.

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I waited until everything was sewn together before cutting out the hole because I knew I wouldn’t necessarily be able to line up all four holes properly if they weren’t already permanently stitched in place.

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I’m trying to figure out what to do with the circle I have left. Any ideas?

The resulting hole was a bit jagged (cutting through four layers of fleece at once with a circular blade is also less than easy). But it was easily tidied up with a pair of scissors.

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Then I had to consider the hood. I was considering not doing a hood but babies don’t wear scarves and I didn’t want LongJohn’s neck all exposed to the elements, especially seeing as the head hole was so big.

The VITMOSSA blanket, also from IKEA, is only $2.99. It’s a thinner fleece with a bit of stretch, and I figured that if I doubled it, I’d get a decent flexible hood.

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I measured a distance of slightly over half the way around the circle and I cut a length of the blanket accordingly.

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The idea here is that if I fold the piece over itself, the seams line up and the hood forms naturally.

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Because I want this thing to be reversible, I opened up a few of the centre seams in the poncho so I could sew the hood into the space in the middle.

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Then I folded the rectangle that I cut out in half across the short side again. Inside-out.

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And sewed up the two open sides perpendicular to the fold.

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Turn it right-side out and then line up the two seams.

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Tada, a hood! It has a pointy top so I would not recommend making this out of white fleece, if you know what I mean. Just to be politically correct.

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FOR THE KEENER: Sew down the pointy top.

Then I pinned it into the head hole of the poncho.

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You can see here that it fits between the two colours of fleece.

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Pin, pin, pin.

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The hard part here was now sewing the hood into the poncho (that’s six layers of fleece, if you’re counting). I had to shove so much bulky blanket through the little arm of the sewing machine. And then rotate it as I went around in a circle. Slow and steady was the best course of action here.

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Once finished, you can see how it works on the gray side …

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… and on the red side. I actually had to go around on the red side again because I’d missed a layer in my excitement.

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FOR THE LESS LAZY THAN ME: Be more careful and get all the layers sewed at the same time.

And now the test on my model.

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As you can see it’s roomy in the neck at the moment but I can always pin or clip that closed for now. He’ll fill out soon enough. He’d wear the poncho like this when I was carrying him or he was walking around. Which hopefully is far distant in my future.

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Then here he is in his high chair, which is standing in for the carseat (because it’s freaking cold outside today and I’m not going outside just to take a picture for you guys). The back of the poncho flips over the back of the car seat and the front part can be twitched aside while you do up the straps snugly against your little one. Then you just tuck it back down again and your kidlet is warm and snug!

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I’m making another one for a friend with a much bigger baby (makes a great gift!) and I’m confident my head hole size (22cm diameter) will be entirely appropriate. I also have enough left of the VITMOSSA blanket to make a thinner, warmer-weather poncho too!

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A Panacea for Winter Skin

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Mmm … paste …

Thanks, climate change. When I first moved to Ottawa over twenty years ago, winters were long and dark and dry and COLD. Like, -30°C cold. Now they’re still that cold, but interspersed with warmer, sunnier days where everything melts, potholes form, and we start to believe that the worst is behind us. For like, two days. And then it gets really cold again. And our skin really pays the price for all this temperature variation. So here’s an easy, quick and relatively cheap solution to our winter skin woes, one that everyone in the house, including the baby, can make use of. If you have eczema you might find this a lovely soothing lotion.

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In a double boiler, or a heat-safe bowl over a pot of simmering water, plop 1/2 cup coconut oil and 1/4 cup shea butter. Let that melt.

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While that’s on the go, take a heaping 1/4 cup oats (rolled or quick, not steel cut), and use a food processor or spice grinder to reduce them to a fine powder.

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Once the oil and butter have melted, remove the bowl from the heat and let it cool for a while, until the sides start to harden. If you live in a cold place, pop some plastic wrap over the top of the bowl and chuck it outside in the snow for a bit. Or shove it in your freezer if you’re impatient. Full disclosure: I left mine outside too long and it froze solid. What you’re looking for is something mostly solid but still mixable. If it’s too liquidy then the oatmeal will sink before it’s properly mixed in.

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Sometimes having winter right outside your door is actually a convenient thing. Sometimes. But not very often.

Tip in a few teaspoons vitamin E oil and 5 drops each lavender and chamomile essential oil. The essential oils are optional if you’d prefer to go scent-free.

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Then plop in your ground oatmeal.

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Give that a serious whaz with a hand mixer until everything is uniform.

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Spoon it into a container and leave it for a few days to allow the oatmeal stuff to work its way into the oils. This lotion is a little grainy when you first rub it in, so I prefer to put it on at night, but it soaks in nicely.∗

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∗If you’re not a fan of the grains of oats, you could try a few options (I haven’t tried these but they seem logical): you could infuse the oats in the oils as you heat them and strain them out, or leave the powder in there and it might be a bit softer. Or you can take the oats out altogether and use oat straw extract – Avena sativa – instead, but this stuff is pretty pricey.