Sweet vegetables from Mama Couture

mama_couture_veggies

How darling are these handmade vegetables from Mamma Couture? I love the different materials and shapes, and the sweet details like the little face on the peas. There are 13 different vegetables that come in their own fabric carrying bag, and the vegetables are available to buy separately as well. So pretty and so fun for the children! Ava loves cooking and grocery shopping for her doll family these days, and she agrees that these vegetables make a perfectly healthy dolls diet.

mama_couture_doll

Cambridge mum Eva, a passionate sewer and professional pattern cutter, is the creative wonder behind Mamma Couture. Eva collects materials from all over the world, creates her own original patterns, and sews every piece by hand. The production is always limited to a few exclusive pieces, and each piece is made individually, and thus unique. Besides her darling vegetables, she also makes adorable dolls, designed to bring comfort and be loved by children of all ages. So sweet!

xxx Esther

A day trip from Paris – Versailles

Louis14

Living in this lovely city of Paris is great… but it is easy to forget all the great things to do and visit just outside the city. A couple of weekends ago we jumped with some friends on a commuter train (the RER B) and within 40 minutes we had arrived in front of the stunning chateau of Versailles, known for its beauty and also the over the top extravagance of the Kings and Queens of France who lived there.

The children were amazed by the opulence of their surroundings and how crazy it was that this whole chateau was built just for one man and his entourage to live in! Good old Louis the 14th sure knew how to live it up!

Versaillesfront

The main palace is amazing to visit, but with a whole gaggle of children in tow, we opted for a visit of the gardens surrounding the palace and a visit to the smaller Trianon Palace together with Marie-Antoinette’s domaine, which has been restored very recently.

It was a lovely day: we picnicked, played hide and seek between the manicured hedges, strolled through the different gardens, and had a good look around Marie-Antoinette’s retreat.
kidsVersaillesGarden
neptun
We finished the trip with a boat ride on the Grand Canal, just like Marie Antoinette would have done, I am sure.

rowboat
These kind of day trips make me realise how lucky we are to have so much history right at our doorstep! Visiting Versailles is so easy, even if you are just visiting Paris for a week!

- Emilie

Kid Libs, Mad Libs for kids

mad libs

My kids discovered Mad Libs for the first time this holiday and now I’m wondering what took me so long to introduce them! The giggles coming from the kids’ table are so, so cute. Not to mention, they now know the difference between a verb and an adverb, a noun and a plural noun.

The kids have been playing with the Kid Libs version which are great for kids aged seven and up. And the nice thing about the game is that it can be played by as many people as you want. I’ve even caught Easton playing on his own and then laughing at his stories! We have a little road trip coming up this weekend and I’m planning on bringing a few Kid Libs with us in the car — I think it will be the perfect thing to entertain a captive car audience. You can buy Kid Libs Mad Libs from Amazon (US and UK ).

x Courtney

I lost Ava on the beach!

beach_gurski

Yesterday, I took our 4 children to the beach because it was hot and humid and the beaches in the Netherlands are windy and fresh. I met up with our friend Maud and her two children, and we were lounging and chatting and drinking fresh fruit juices and watching our children play. You get the gist. At some point, when Pim had asked me to play beach ball with him for the gazzilionest time, I finally got my lazy bum up from the deckchair for some tennis with my boy. After 3 minutes I looked around, and I noticed Ava was missing. Gone!

I started to walk around, looking for her. Nothing. I checked the water. Nothing. I went up to the beach club, nothing. And then I started to panic. I started to run around, calling her name. I called the alarm number, I went back to the beach club, where the part time manager was a police agent, and who took my calls from the coast guard (!). He tried to calm me, assuring me that she would be fine, she would get back. But the only thing I could focus on, is on that tiny chance that she wouldn’t be allright! I don’t think I have ever been so afraid in my life. In the meantime, there were loads of people (other mums) helping me search. Maud was running all over the beach and to the streets. But she was gone!

After a few minutes (in which I died a thousand deaths), my hero policeman finally got a call that she was found. Safely, further up on the beach. Quite a very far walk away!

Thankfully, she was safe. Tired, but safe. And I learned a few things, that I wanted to share with you here…

1. Beaches can be busy. In our case it was! Ava lost her way, and couldn’t find our spot again. So she started to walk, looking for us. What I usually do (and stupidly forgot this time), is to look for an anchor point — a certain flag, pole, bright umbrella, any reference that is noticeable enough for a child to find their way back to our spot.

2. Children should always wear a phone number on their arm. My other children were wearing their RingRings, but Ava had taken them off and I hadn’t checked / noticed. Stupid.

3. When children loose their way on the beach, they generally start walking away from the sun and the wind. So best to start looking in that direction. (So true — in our case, this is exactly the direction in which Ava went).

4. There’s an Amber alert app for your phone, in which you can save a current portrait photo of your child and other crucial information for when your child goes missing. I’ve had this app on my phone for a while now, but I never filled out my children’s details until now. Apparently, finding a decent photo of your missing child and recalling crucial information like length and eye colour is super difficult if you’re in a state of total stress and shock.  So best to do this now.

Hopefully none of this is ever necessary, but I thought to tell you just in case. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

xxx Esther

(Artwork by Andreas Gursky)

 

Knitting loom

IMG_8201
Have you ever heard of a knitting loom? Well, I had not, at least until recently, when I had the chance to catch up with Erika from Miko Design. She told me how she discovered knitting again, thanks to these nifty little things.They are sold at HEMA over here in France and in the Netherlands. You can also get them off Amazon.
Since then we have been looming away at our house – it is seriously easy and strangely addictive. Both my girls now have a new pair of leg warmers and we are in the process of making a poncho. Hilariously, we have no idea what size it is going to be, so it might become a present for baby Marlow or fit Coco perfectly, who is now 8.

As you can tell, we are weaving loom novices, but YouTube is full of knitting loom tutorials, as, for example, this one or this one on how to knit a hat.

Coco

Have fun, it is a great way to get back into knitting or, in fact, learn how to knit!

- Emilie
P.S. The lovely jumpers the girls are wearing were not knitted on a knitting loom but are from Babaa Knitwear.

Baby & Me Magazine, my favourite childhood items

childhood favourites at Baby & Me Magazine
This month’s issue of Baby & Me Magazine features the best and most stylish of children’s products in the 2014 Style Awards. They handed out awards to winners based on their criteria of iconic design, good looks and innovation (you can see the winners here).

This month they asked me to round up some of my personal favourite children’s products — the products we have used and loved in our family, ones that I hope to keep forever and pass down to my grandchildren. The products shown above are a few that made the cut. You can find my column in this month’s issue here.

x Courtney

 

Portable sleeper for newborns

 

fisher price sleeper

fisher price portable sleeper

portable sleeper, folded

We’re visiting my husband’s family in Lake Tahoe this week where the kids are having loads of fun playing with all their cousins.  My sister-in-law recently gave birth to her fourth baby, a little girl called Ruby, and we’ve been enjoying spending time with her and getting lots of newborn snuggle time. I can’t believe Marlow was ever that tiny! Or that sweet and calm for that matter. : )

My sister-in-law has a little portable baby bed she uses for the baby, and she told me it’s the number one thing she would recommend to anyone having a baby. I love recommendations like that!

Not only does the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper fold-up easily for travel or storage purposes (or simply for moving from room to room), but the cocooned shape and inclined position of the bed is perfect for keeping new babies feeling secure and comforted. I remember my babies always hated being put down to sleep on a flat mattress and they would often wake immediately after being put down, which is why I think this little bed looks like such a perfect solution.

The sleeper is available from Amazon (US and UK ).

x Courtney

Apple Eve Pudding

Eve Pud

Now I know the French are known for their fancy pastries and cakes, but the English are hard to beat at simple, wholesome, easy-to-make desserts. One of my favourites is Apple Eve Pudding, a variation on Apple Crumble. Instead of crumble you add a sponge batter on top of the apples. I love the way the sponge slightly soaks up some of the juice from the apples. It makes it wonderfully moist.
The funny thing is, Apple Crumble is still being served all around the country, and I think Eve Pudding has almost been forgotten in England (correct me if I am wrong)! Here’s the recipe:

6 apples
200 g of butter
150 g of sugar
4 eggs
200 g of flour
1 teaspoon baking power
1 slug of milk

Peel the apples and cut them into chunks and put them in a oven proof dish. Heat the oven to 180°C.

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add eggs one at a time. Fold in the flour with the baking powder to make a batter that can just about be dropped over the apples (it you think it is a bit too stiff and a slug of milk to get the right consistency). Drop over the apples making sure they are all covered and bake in the oven until the top of the pudding is golden. Serve warm – we usually add a good spoonful of vanilla ice cream.

P.S. different recipes call for raisins and cinnamon to be added to the apples, others for vanilla to be added to the batter. We like the simple version of the recipe but I think the variations are endless (blackberries mixed in with the apples? Could be delicious, no?)

- Emilie

P.S. Oh, I forgot to mention: best served with custard, ice cream or a good dose of single cream.

Painting rocks!

ivy painting rocks
We’ve been staying at my family’s beach house on Bainbridge Island this week, where the water is cold and the beaches are rocky. The kids are in heaven! We have all spent the past few days collecting rocks on our beach walks, and today, while Marlow napped, we sat down in the shade to paint them. It was a fun afternoon activity and one that we all enjoyed.

The results from our rock-painting session were not overly impressive, so I thought it might be better to share some more inspiring images of other painted rocks, in case you are hoping for some inspiration beyond the typical painted ladybird! All images found on Pinterest:

painted rocks1
I love all the different faces in this image. (My boys were especially into painting faces – they wanted to make ‘pet rocks’.)

grid-cell-3344-1402697046-4

Love the bright colours and patterns here. (Image found here.)

abc painted rocks

Paint the alphabet! Fun and educational. (Image from here.)

f0738111637ae6ccba1648f1dc554472

Thought these were cute!

painted owls

Love these painted owls!

We used acrylic paints, and mixed our paints inside sea shells since we didn’t have paint palettes. It worked perfectly! Hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

x Courtney

Sweet shadow puppets from Nogaravin

nogaravin_shadowpuppetsLast week our oldest daughter Sara and I visited the Kleine Fabriek, the children’s fashion and lifestyle trade fair here in Amsterdam, where we met our lovely Polish shop member Noga Ravin. I’ve always loved the look of Noga’s ‘Doggy Bags‘, but it was nice to discover her original and innovative range of products in person.

 

Her newest invention are these shadow puppets, made out of thick felt and so eminently simple. Sara and I were immediately playing with them at the fair! (And no, that’s not my hairy arm in the video above. ; ) ) There are five fun designs in six different colours, and a velcro closure ensures a fit for all sizes and ages. Cute, don’t you think? Family fun guaranteed!

xxx Esther

Psst: find an exclusive 15% off to Nogaravin here, this month only.

Playtime Paris, a quick recap

IMG_4962

Playtime Paris is one of my top events of the year. Usually Esther, Courtney and I get together, talk, lounge, catch up, plan and do all the things you would normally do if you lived in the same city. This time the girls did not make it over and it made me miss my lovely girlfriends a lot — meeting up for Playtime has become a bit of a tradition.

IMG_4963

But even without my partners in crime Playtime was still so much fun to visit. It is so much fun having a peek at what people have designed for next year. It is also great discovering new brands and having a good catch up with some of our collaborators and friends. There are such talented people out there and it is such a pleasure seeing their work.

IMG_4966

Here are some of the highlights from the show:

1) Velveteen – this has become one of my favourite brands. Lovely, relaxed designs with a little twist to them that makes it stand out.

2) Hucklebones – the details going in these clothes are amazing and everything is so original and well crafted.

3) Bobo Choses – these guys just never get it wrong. Since we first discovered them 5 years ago every collection has been inspired and fun!

4) Macarons – talking to these guys makes me want to be a children’s clothes designer.

5) Elfie – these two girls are some of the nicest girls around and their collection is cute, whimsical and always full of little surprises in the details.

5) Milk and Biscuits – my favourite new discovery. The designer is the lovely Kate from England who now lives in Shanghai. She had some of the funkiest, spirited fabric designs I have seen in a long time.

IMG_4969

Cannot wait for the next event.
- Emilie

Croquet

croquet-game1

I have a new game obsession for this summer and it is… croquet! It was partly brought along by reading ‘Alice in Wonderland’, but also because it just looks like a lot of fun. Apparently it actually used to be an Olympic sport — back in 1900 and in only one Olympic competition — but still! It also makes me think of cucumber sandwiches, victoria sponges and afternoon tea on the lawn. Basically… summer in England!

It’s also the perfect game to play with the kids and adults, as long as no one takes it too seriously… It is pretty simple and you can always team up.

I picked up our set here!

- Emilie

GG* Crêpe Shop!

crepes for sale
GG* crepe game
Kukkia is a toy brand from Japan, which in my opinion is one of the best in the children’s market. The Kukkia toys are beautiful, yes, but what I love is that they are simple enough to allow children’s imaginations to do the work. Many of their toys are classic concepts (like building blocks, wooden cars or dominoes!) but they put a modern twist on everything, adding innovative details that really put the toys in a league of their own.

The GG* Crêpe Shop is a perfect example. They know that children like to play ‘cooking’ and ‘shop’. Many of us have little play kitchens for our kids with chef pans and fake food. But Kukkia have taken the concept a bit further, creating a set for children to make  their own crêpes and set up a little crêpe shop, all the while being encouraged to learn and develop their motor skills along the way.

ivy's crepe

making crepes

The Crêpe Shop set comes with three different fabric crêpes, each with a different fastening: velcro, tie or button. The idea is to encourage children to practice tying bows and fastening buttons in a fun way. So clever! The set also comes with wooden and fabric food toppings, a wooden spatula and a ‘hot plate’ that also doubles as a chalkboard sign when it comes time to ‘sell’ your crêpes. Again, so clever.

GG* crepe shop
quin's crepe

Ivy has been making crêpes for everyone in the family. Her favourite customer is Quin (who prefers the sweet ones over the savoury!). : ) The GG* Crêpe Shop and other Kukkia toys are available to purchase from Abacus Kids or from Sisters Guild.

x Courtney

* This post was sponsored by Kukkia, a brand we have loved for years (even before they ever reached out to us). Thanks for supporting the brands that help to support this blog! : )

Bastida — clever clothes that grow with your child

bastida1

bastida2I remember reviewing Bastida over four (!) years ago, and writing about how much I liked the concept behind this new brand from Barcelona. The idea of Bastida is that all of the clothes in store are adjustable by way of clever zippers, buttons and strings, so they can fit smaller size to bigger size — one piece, good for several years, and several children.

bastida3

Alicia from Bastida recently contacted me again and I had a peek at her now expanded collection. It is still so innovative and clever, and so cute too! There are now pretty tie-up dresses, cool zip up hoodies, and ingenious onesies that fit newborn babies until they’re one! (I love this photo of Polona‘s baby boy Talan, featuring the Bastida onesie.)

It is so nice to see brands developing and companies expanding over the years. Definitely one of the highlights of our job! I can’t wait to see how Bastida is going to develop further…

xxx Esther

Djeco mini games (perfect for traveling!)

djeco_mini_games
My good friend Kim always brings the best gifts for my children. She recently visited us from London, and again managed to bring something awesome! She spoiled each of my kids with a Djeco Mini Game, and they are such a big hit. With the vacations around the corner, and so many of us traveling to faraway and exciting places, I thought they were just too good not to share.

djeco
Djeco Mini Games are a variety of 30 cards, all bundled in a pack, with each of them featuring yet another old-fashioned brain teaser. There are card packs with ‘spot the ten differences’, ‘find the missing piece’, ‘sudoko’, ‘maze’, ‘connect the dots’ etc etc — so much fun (also for adults)! And perfect entertainment for in the back of the car, on the plane, in the train, in a restaurant… You name it. I’m definitely going to pick up a few more (if indeed we manage to get away with our house renovations in full swing).

You can find a good variety of the Djeco Mini Games at PSikhouvanjou, Little Citizens Boutique, and My Little Day.

xxx Esther

Tortustick, a fun toy for kids of every age

tortustick

I popped into Eenymeeny yesterday to pick up a few craft/activity books for the kids (we have a 9-hour daytime flight on Friday!) and this Tortustick game was out on display. Marlow immediately sat down and started playing with it, and to my amazement she actually sat still for a good 45 seconds. : )

I ended up buying it because I figured that not only will she enjoy playing with it, but it will appeal to the bigger kids as well. The game comes with a set of cards with different patterns, and bigger kids can use the magnetic stick to drag the colourful balls around the maze to match the patterns on the cards.  A fun toy for kids of every age (around 2 and up)!

x Courtney

Wearing lipstick!

courtney-adamo-babyccino-lipstick-orange-nyc-

courtney-adamo-babyccino-lipstick-orange

Apart from playing dress-up with my mom’s lipstick when I was little, I have never been a lipstick girl. I tried lip gloss when I was in college, but I could never figure out how to keep my hair from getting stuck in my lips, especially in windy Chicago! (Is there a trick I’m not aware of?) And I’ve always felt that a bold coloured lipstick made my lips look even bigger, making me look a bit clown-like.

So when my friend Joanna from A Cup of Jo asked me to test out some lipsticks for a beauty tutorial on her blog, I laughed her off and told her I don’t look good in lipstick. But she persuaded me to try, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised when I tested them out. There is something about lipstick that makes you feel flirty and fun and can make you look instantly more put-together, even with messy hair and sleepy eyes. : )

The lipstick feature is up on A Cup of Jo. We tested out three different orangey colours. Which one is your favourite? Do you have others to recommend? (I still haven’t bought a lipstick yet so any suggestions you have are welcomed!)

x Courtney

p.s. How pretty is this dress by Ace & Jig?! The dress definitely steals the show.

Do (or would) your kids share a bed?

boys in their bed

I’ve posted a few photos over the years of my boys asleep in their bed, and usually when I do it raises some interesting comments and questions about my boys sharing a bed. Do they really share a bed? Have they always? How did you get them to sleep in the same bed? Do they wake each other up in the night? Do I recommend it?

It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately because Marlow is now starting to ask to sleep with Ivy, and while I don’t want to risk messing up her good sleep habits, I’m thinking I might get rid of Marlow’s cot and let her join Ivy in her bed.

I love that my boys share a bed. Perhaps it would be the same if they each had their own bed within the same room, but those two boys are so close and I really think it has a lot to do with the bond that is created by sharing a bed. I think there’s something magical about bedtime, a time when they know they have to be quiet and play peacefully, no tattle-telling or fighting over toys. Whatever quarrels they have during the day are completely tossed aside at bedtime. It’s like there’s a mutual understanding between them that at bedtime they join the same team: boys versus their parents. I’ve always put them to bed around 7:00 for this reason. I know it’s early, but I figure they’ll end up talking or playing quietly together anyway, so why not make the most of it?!  We often find them asleep, lying side by side under the same book. Or sometimes we find a whole heap of little toys under their covers, evidence of some cheeky playtime before they fell asleep.

We didn’t make the decision to put the boys in one bed; they decided all on their own. When Quin, the younger one, was 6 months old we moved him into the room with his older brother. By the time he was 18 months old, we gave him a matching toddler bed like his brother’s. We joked they had beds like Ernie and Bert from ‘Sesame Street’!

boys' old bedroom

But… Quin never slept in his own bed. We would tuck each of them into their own beds, but every night we would come upstairs to find them in the same bed together. Like this…

boys in one bed2

or like this…

boys in one bed

Every single night!!

So when it came time to move into our new house, I gave the boys a choice: they could each have their own beds, or they could have one big bed to share. And of course it was an obvious decision.

The boys sleep so well together. No complaints about bed hogging or snoring. It’s like they just figure out their little place in bed and know how to sleep together (Quin always likes the flatter pillows and Easton always sleeps on the left side of the bed. They’re like a couple of old men with their little quirky ways!) I’m sure at some point they will decide it’s no longer ‘cool’ to share a bed, but for now we are happy with this sweet bed sharing arrangement. Here are some other benefits worth noting:

  • It makes traveling easier because they always sleep together and can comfort each other in new places. (We have never heard either of them say they were scared.)
  • We’ve never had a problem with scary dreams or other sleep issues. They must feel comfort knowing they have each other so near.
  • Easton often reads books to Quin. It used to be simple picture books, but now Easton reads his chapter books to Quin and I can only imagine it is beneficial for both of them to be reading together like this.
  • When guests come to stay, we can use the boys’ bedroom as a guest bedroom because the bed is big enough for adults.
  • One big bed takes up less space than two single beds, so for space-saving reasons, it’s worked out nicely in their little bedroom.

We will definitely let the girls sleep together as well, and I really hope they’ll sleep as well together as the boys do, and hopefully it will strengthen their relationship even more. (They already have bedtime conversations from their separate beds, but I can’t wait until they’re snuggled into the same bed, reading the same books, and sneaking in a few minutes of extra play.)

So tell me, do your children share a bed? Would you consider it?

x Courtney

Travel Kids – by Lalé and Babyccino Kids

Co-branding Babyccino / Lalé  - Photos enfants - 2013/05Finally school is out for summer over here in France. Of course, we are sad not to see our friends for a couple of months, but seriously, the break is very welcome and needed!

We have great plans, ranging from the kids flying on their own to Italy (!) as unaccompanied minors, to holidays in the French countryside and possibly some beach time and surfing. We will see how plans pan out,  all I know is that it is going to be fun! Do you have any fun plans for this summer? I am excited to hear!

Travel Kids - Lalé pour Babyccino - 2014/05

Travel Kids - Lalé pour Babyccino - 2014/05

Talking about traveling:  we still have a couple of our Travel Kids left, which you can order via the (all renewed!) Lalé website. Our travel packs are made in collaboration with one of our favourite designers, Lalé, and we are so thrilled on how they turned out! They are perfect to throw in your bag to go on trips — be it planes, trains or automobiles. My kids are super excited to wear the eye mask and and neck cushion on the plane, just to have something cozy to snuggle up to!

I do hope you have a great summer!

- Emilie

Home & Kids (and a house renovation!)

Home_and_kids_lampWhen we moved to Amsterdam 6 years ago, we thought we would leave after a few years, so we never ended up buying a place for ourselves. We found a nice little house for rent, in a nice little neighbourhood, with a nice little backyard which is connected to other nice little backyards by way of a romantic alleyway. So our children have direct and save access to heaps of nice little neighbouring kids! We fell in love with the house and the neighbourhood, but sadly our landlord told us a year ago that he wanted his house back. (We were also outgrowing the space since we had two more children after moving in here!) So we were preparing to move again and leave our beloved house and neighbourhood, until… our sweet 94-year-old neighbour told us she wanted to sell us her house!

She bought the house when it was being built in 1953, and had lived there ever since. First with her family, then alone after her three children left the house and her husband passed away. Until, at the end of last year, she lost her eyesight, broke her hip, and had to move to an elderly home. She loved her house, and wanted another family to love it as much as she did. And this is why she decided to sell it to us. So sweet!

We’ve been renovating the house for a few months now, and hope to move in later this summer. It’s such a big job and so exciting — it’s the first house we have ever owned! We’ve been designing, selecting materials, fittings, tiles… and of course I’ve been secretly looking around for some new ‘details’ as well. ; )

Home and Kids is one of our shop members and I particularly like their style. I found the black metal wire lamp in the photo above in their shop, and am so in love with it! I can’t wait to see it in our new house, but for now it looks perfect on that vintage side table next to our couch. I also am eying this mirror for our toilet, these wire trays and baskets for my new office (!!), and this Paris pillow for the couch.

There is also a wonderful children’s decor and gift selection, where you can’t go wrong with finding presents, toys, or other desirable little things like these cool Amy & Ivor mocassins that have Casper’s name on them.

In fact, I’m going to place a little order immediately, as sale is now on!

(Oh, in case you are interested — here are a few photos of our house renovation…)

(more…)

Older Posts »