Last weekend, Tamar (my husband) and I spent a few great days together in the wonderful capital of Denmark, Copenhagen. We really enjoyed our stay (albeit we had quite some rain!), and I’ll definitely share some of our favourite discoveries here very soon. In the meantime, I wanted to post about something fascinating I noticed in Copenhagen…
Even though it rains a lot in Denmark, and it can also be quite cold in winter, the Danes believe it is super healthy for their children to spend most of their day outside. Every time a baby or young child naps during daytime, it sleeps outside. For this purpose, there are special prams that are much bigger than the practical pushchairs we tend to use here in the Netherlands (f.e. the Bugaboo). I was chatting to a mum and she told me that Scandinavian children consistently sleep in their prams for daytime naps until they are at least three years old! It is generally believed this is healthier for the children, and also that they sleep much better outside. Amazing!
Even when it rains, the babies sleep in their prams. They all have a huge (black) cover that completely covers and protects the sleeping child. When out and about, and a child wakes up and wants to sit, there are are special banana shaped pillows to support it in the back. Also, prams (with the sleeping baby inside!) are often left outside of shops or cafés, while the parents shop, sip their coffees or have lunch inside.
Another thing I noticed, is that children of walking age all own a special one-piece ‘outdoor suit’. It’s like a thick, warm rain / snowsuit that is worn on top of the ‘indoor clothes’. I’m told that often, the ‘indoor clothes’ are very easy-to-wear: often these are leggings and long-sleeved tops or all-in-one jumpsuits, made out of cosy cotton jersey or thin wool knits. When the child goes outside, the ‘outdoor suit’ is simply put on on top of the cosy (and easy-to-layer) indoor wear. So practical! Even when it’s raining or snowing, Scandinavian children spend most of their day outside.
Tamar and I were so inspired by all of this. We pledged to take our children outside even more, and definitely be bothered less by ‘bad weather’. (We even went to a department store to check out the ‘outdoor suits’!) Because as the Scandinavian say — there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!
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Once again, we have a great selection of awesome prizes to win this month. Here are the details:
Sur ton mur is offering a CAD $190 gift voucher to spend on their collection of signed, limited edition art prints and original works of art by talented Quebec illustrators.
To celebrate their first birthday, Desmond Elephant is giving away a £100 voucher this month to spend in store. We love their playful designs and functional pieces!
From Babies with Love is a ground breaking baby boutique — 100% of the profits of the shop are donated to the charity SOS Children, and are used to build and run children’s villages around the world, where SOS foster mothers care for orphaned and abandoned children. So good! This month they’re offering one winner a £100 voucher for to spend on their collection.
Little Concept has picked out one of their favourite outfits for one lucky winner! How gorgeous is this jacquard skirt from Hucklebones?! With a luxurious finish, it is fully lined and has a comfy adjustable waistband. To complete the look they are giving away a lovely ruffle blouse made from silver spot chiffon, also from Hucklebones.
To read more and enter to win, click over to our giveaways page. Good luck!
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This book is for my son, Elias. No seriously … it is. I met David Mackintosh at a friend’s place recently and when I sussed out he was the Author/Illustrator responsible for Marshall Armstrong Is New To Our School – I had to tell him about how Elias loved that book – he even slept with it by his bed for quite a long while, which in Elias’s world means it was VERY special (and probably a bit magic)! So David (very sweetly) sent Elias his newest book, Lucky , and it is a book we all really enjoy and laugh out loud to!
David combines illustration with photo-montage and bold typesetting for a distinctive look which is pacey to fit with the story-telling – you can’t help but go into character when you read this book and when you go back to read it again you spot quirks and little jokes in the illustration that first time round you missed.
But what David does so well is capture a child’s voice and way of thinking. The story, told by our hero, is about how a kid’s imagination can play Chinese-whispers with itself. One idea turns into another and before you know it imagination has turned into reality. There is also an underlying story here of brotherly love and maybe even a question of what ‘lucky’ is? At least the grown-up in me can see that this boy – disappointed by his ‘luck’ not paying off as he imagined it would – is really a very lucky boy indeed.
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A few people have asked lately for tips on going back to work following the birth of a baby, because let’s face it — leaving the baby bubble and heading back into the real world is a challenge for EVERYONE (I defy anyone who says that they did not have even the smallest bit of anxiety about this).
I went back to full-time work after my first daughter turned one and again after the second was one year old, and both times it was such a big change that came with its own set of new challenges. (I am an animation producer during the day and do my best to write for Babyccino at night ;)). I am happy to be back at work; I enjoy my job and I enjoy earning my living and working with interesting and inspiring people. I did have to make some compromises, especially in the first few years, but in the end, I managed not to literally combust, which I am quite happy with! So here are a couple of things that worked for me:
1. Be organised. I am possibly the least organised person in the world but dealing with kids and work has made me (moderately) more so. Spending Sunday night planning out dinner for the week and making sure that everyone has a stack of clean underwear (including me) makes the rest of the week so much easier. Basically it eliminates a lot of stress.
2. Don’t try to be perfect. Don’t worry about things not being perfect. Good enough is often absolutely enough. If you have forgotten to get wrapping paper and you have to wrap a present in newspaper, no one is going to care or suffer. If the flat is sometimes a bit messy just because you don’t have the energy, it is not going to have any long term damage on your kids.
Roll with the punches and don’t be too hard on yourself. I have decided that it is all about marketing: if you come home and announce that tonight is going to be super exciting because you are going to have cereal for dinner, kids will feel like it is a treat not a let down.
3. Stick with what you know (at least for a wee bit of time). Going back to work is going to be stressful, so if you can, it could be a little bit easier if you can go back to a job you know, with people you know and a routine you know. You will not have to prove yourself as everyone already knows what you are worth and it just take a bit of pressure off you.
4. Take it easy on yourself. In my case, I started working full time when I was 25 and had my first child at 32 and the second at 34. Considering that I will be working until 65 (possibly longer) I still have the biggest part of my career ahead of me. So I decided not to stress for the first couple of years and take the foot off the gas a tiny little bit. If that means my career stagnated a bit when my children were small, then so be it – there is still a lot of time ahead of me.
5. Surround yourself with a good network. Again this varies so much from person to person, but if you have family you should not be ashamed of asking them for help. In my case, I live in a city far away from my family, so I worked hard to build up a strong base of babysitters and friends. Sharing a babysitter with friends who have kids the same age works for us; it’s cheaper and if one parent is late someone else can help out. With older kids, having someone who helps with homework is key and if you can, you should think about having a cleaner. There is nothing better than coming home to a clean house and clean children. Basically whatever works for you is good, but the network needs to be trustworthy and strong. It needs to survive the unexpected!
6. Don’t feel the need to over do it. A lot of women (myself included) feel like they have to compensate and almost prove that having a child has no impact whatsoever on their working schedule. Unfortunately that is not true, so it might be better just to own that than to try and make everyone happy. Sometimes it is inevitable when a deadline looms, but often people are happy enough to postpone a meeting or conference call if it concurs with your children’s pick up time or dinner. It will mean that you will be less frazzled and more concentrated and everyone is a winner. Chances are your colleagues have similar priorities.
7. Treat yourself. Be it a manicure, driving or walking to work with music on at full volume, an espresso in the bar around the corner, or an hour of yoga at lunch time – find sometime that gives you a chance to relax and re-tank. I go to the cafe around the corner from school after school drop-off and have a cheeky coffee or two. Mornings in our house are hectic and so it gives me 20 minutes to gather my thoughts, talk to friends and get on my way. It is a small thing, but it is enough to give me the energy to move on and conquer the world. ; ) I think us woman have a tendency to forget ourselves with all the demands from work and family. The key it to scrape out one little moment that has nothing to do with work or family and is just for yourself – it is all part of self-preservation.
8. Above all, do not feel guilty. Here is the thing: in most countries at least 60-70 % of mothers work, for all sorts of different reasons, but mainly to support their families. My theory is that women since the dawn of time have been working, so there is no way that that you going back to work is going to mess your children up. (Conversely staying at home is also not going to mess them up). Of course you will miss them and they will miss you but you being happy is, in the long run, going to make your family happy. If you don’t impose your guilt on your children the chances are, they are going to be fine (possibly after a bit of a readjustment period) and so will you! Let yourself enjoy being back at work; it is not hardship, but something that defines you as much as your relationship, your family and your friends.
These tips are just based on my personal experience by the way, so they might not work for everyone! Would love to hear if you have any insights, because there definitely cannot be too many! As I mentioned in a previous post, there is no right or wrong way of approaching going back to work or indeed deciding not to go back, for everyone the right choice is a different choice!
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These images from the new collection at Elfie are just so springy and happy! Not to mention so English – don’t you love the pairing of floral dresses with lace cardigans and the wellies worn with shorts! I also love all the colourful felt party hats. Bring on springtime. Not long to go!
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Petites Pattes are a UK based hosiery brand with just the cutest collection of baby socks imaginable. The brand’s philosophy is ‘to introduce an interactive experience between the customer and the product by offering unique designs’ and we can’t agree more — the darling patterns and colours, which can all be mixed and matched, are so sweet! Socks come in darling giftbox packages and make the perfect little baby present. And then there’s also a family gift box — how sweet is that?
Available through Scout & Co.
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Germany is in so many respects so much further with responsible and sustainable processing and production methods than many other countries here in Europe. There’s such a strong local manufacturing of eco products, with use of honest materials, but the research for new, innovative materials, which allow new product design and at the same time leave less of a footprint on this world, is a trend I’ve also been noticing in Germany. I’ve written about the admirable production processes of the German clothing label Macarons before, the wonderful eco-wines of Weinreich, but also toy manufacturer Gommini is such a company.
Gommini uses Valchromat for their toys, a high-quality, solvent free, wood-based material which contributes to an efficient and responsible environmental management and encourages sustainability. The products are then treated with a purely natural oil, resulting in a very smooth and pleasant feeling, ‘soft’ surface. I love the modern look of their products.
We gave our children the Minigoms play scene for Christmas — a selection of 2D buildings, landscapes and openings that can be assembled and combined in different ways. The toy is not offering a fixed scenario — it can be used in all sorts of manners, allowing for the input and creativity of the child. It can for instance be a stable for the Schleich animals, a garage for the cars, a city for the train track, a house for the Playmobil characters, etc. It’s been a grand success by all means — it’s easy to assemble, wonderful to play with for all ages, pleasant to look at, and easy (flat) to store.
If you’re ever looking for an evergreen kind of playhouse for your children that will stand the test of time, then this Gommini Minigoms playscape is certainly something to keep in mind.
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A few weeks ago, sweet Lenneke, from the gorgeous Dutch mother & child jewellery line Lennebelle, came over to our house with her husband Joey to shoot some photos and the little video above for her beautiful series ‘The Mama Stories’, in which she regularly interviews a mama about motherhood and her lifestyle choices. It was a really fun day, and I got a deep respect for Lenneke, who was 36 weeks pregnant with her second child at the time (now over 38 — I’m waiting for baby news!), and Joey, who is such a talented photographer / videographer. It’s so nice to get to know all these wonderful people through our job, entrepreneurs who seek the adventure and fulfilment of making something beautiful, and Lennebel is definitely a testimony of the talent and energy of the couple behind the brand.
I have shared some photos of the day below, you can see my children (and me!) wearing Lennebelle‘s beautiful bracelets and necklaces. And you can see more photos and read the interview here if you’re interested!
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I like vintage kid’s books – one day I’ll write some more about that, but suffice to say it’s quite a habit. I always argue with my husband that I’m cheaper then other wives – I don’t need Jimmy Choos! I spend literally NOTHING on cosmetics! But he argues that we need to buy a bigger house to store the books and so it turns out that even a penny-book obsession can get out of hand.
You see there is a snowball effect with my purchases – when I stumble upon an illustrator (usually) or author that I think is brilliant I start trying to track down more and more of their books and so one purchase can turn into 3 or 4 or more!
I discovered Dahlov Ipcar when I stumbled upon a copy of My Wonderful Christmas Tree and thought it might be good for our Advent Book Calendar. I loved her illustrations so much that I searched for more and discovered that a few of her books had recently been republished and bought back to life with remastered artworks by Flying Eye Books, and so I bought I Like Animals for a little boy who does.
What hit me first is the use of colour – this book feels right in keeping with today’s fashion – a coral pink, khaki-mustard, forest green and petrol blue – Some pages printed with all and others using just one – the result is striking. Not so much of a story but rather lists of the different animals and where you’d find them. It’s a really lovely book to look through.
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As I’ve written before, it always surprises me how much pressure our society puts on baby sleep. It seems that from the moment babies are born, the questions inevitably roll in from friends, family, co-workers, and even strangers in the supermarket: ‘how is he sleeping?’, ‘how long is he sleeping between feeds?’ and even ‘is he sleeping through the night?’. I remember fielding these many questions after the birth of all of my babies and consequently feeling guilty that I couldn’t astound them with stories of my amazing sleeping baby. My babies never slept through the night until they were around one year old — they usually slept in bed with me and nursed on demand, which is something that always felt natural to me and worked for our family. Apart from the pressure from others, I never really minded that my babies weren’t ‘perfect sleepers’.
Sometimes I wonder if all of this pressure for babies to sleep through the night has a knock-on effect on whether they eventually do. I wonder if these societal expectations encourage parents to turn to techniques that might not necessarily feel natural and that in turn interfere with our children’s natural sleep development. In her new book, The Happy Sleeper , Heather Turgeon aims to teach parents that babies have an innate capacity to self-soothe, as well as the brain machinery to sleep well, and that by being more mindful and open we can encourage children to do exactly that.
We’ve asked Heather Turgeon to share some tips for raising happy sleepers. I love that these tips are more about creating a positive association with sleep and less about following strict methods that might not feel instinctive. Here are her tips below:
1. Build a good relationship to sleep. Schedules, feedings, nap issues…it’s easy to get caught up in the mechanics of sleep, but think about your children’s relationship to sleep (they have a one, just like they have a relationship to food). We influence our kids’ feelings about sleep in our subtle choices of language and tone. If we approach sleep as a “must do” or even a negative consequence, by saying things like, “You have to go to bed!” or “You’re cranky, do you need a nap!” with an anxious tone, or give kids a time out in their beds, it grows into a negative association. Instead, talk about sleep as the fascinating subject and welcome treat that it is. Sleep is something we get to do, not something we have to do. The more we convey that to our kids in small moments, the healthier their relationship to sleep for the rest of their lives.
2. Know that sleep is not learned, but habits are. Sleep is a natural, biological human activity—it doesn’t require “training,” because it’s programmed deep in our children’s brains. But even though sleep itself isn’t learned, the habits and associations around sleep are. Those habits include where your child sleeps, her specific routine, her blankets and loveys, and the sounds, sights, and feels of her room as she falls asleep. Our little ones are creatures of habit and their brains are primed to follow and latch on to patterns. That means (for good or ill), that what you do one night, your child usually expects you to do the next! The best sleep patterns stay the same from bedtime through the rest of the night—bedtime sets the stage for everything.
3. Do a “last call for stuff”. If you have little kids, you know the amazing and random statements they make after bedtime: “My bunny jumped out of the bed,” “I need the water filled exactly to here”… Last week my son called me in and said, “My toenails are pointing inward!” One really helpful idea is to make a “last call for stuff”—in which everyone knows it’s time to gather the right animals, fill glasses, blow noses and ask questions. Once the lights go out, remind your kids that they’ve already had their last call, and now they’re in charge of their own “stuff.”
4. Work with your child’s biology. There are certain facts about our kids’ biology—use these to your advantage. For example, little babies are ready to sleep after about 90 minutes of awake time because they have a very strong “sleep drive” (the amount of time before the pressure of sleep builds to warrant a nap or bedtime). The internal clock is very powerful after the age of 6 months, and it likes consistency. Having a regular bedtime and routine harnesses this power.
5. Run sleep patterns by two criteria. When my partner and I do sleep consultations, we get asked whether certain sleep patterns are okay (like baby coming into bed for the last half of the night, child only napping in the stroller, or baby only sleeping in the parent’s arms). There’s no “right” way to sleep (look at how differently people sleep all over the world!), but a good sleep pattern meets two criteria: 1. People are sleeping enough (except in the case of having a young baby), and 2. The pattern works for everyone involved. If your child starts the night in her own room and joins you at 2:00 a.m., everyone still meets their sleep needs and feels happy with it—no need to change a thing. If one or more of you isn’t sleep well this way, time to change. The good news is that sleep patterns are adaptable regardless of age (remember, they are learned!).
I don’t know about you, but her first tip particularly resonated with me. I definitely need to be more mindful about the way I talk about sleep. I’m sure I’ve said things like ‘if you do that one more time, you can go straight to bed’ (making bed be a punishment). Ooops! It makes so much sense why this is exactly what you shouldn’t do!
p.s. The image above is one of my very favourite photos found on Pinterest. Isn’t it the sweetest?
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We’re moving house this week (!!) and have spent the past month paring down our belongings and clearing out all of the stuff we’ve accumulated over the past four years. It’s really kind of appalling how much stuff one family can collect into one house. And I thought we lived quite minimally. Ha!
Anyway, we’ve made several trips to the charity shop giving away lots of toys that don’t get used or haven’t stood the test of time. This exercise has made it even more clear to me that kids really don’t need loads and loads of toys to be happy — just the basics: legos, Schleich animals, and Kapla blocks for the boys, and dress-up clothes, dolls and a doll’s pram for the girls. Their favourite things!
I wanted to quickly mention how much the girls love their retro-style dolls pram from The Tipi. Not only is it beautiful to look at, but it’s really well made and sturdy in design — something we will certainly be taking with us to the new place and hopefully something we’ll keep forever for future grandchildren to use!
Alright – back to packing!
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Valentines day is tomorrow already and a DIY is in order! Tila has a few very good friends in her kindergarten and I thought it would be nice if she gave them something tiny to let them know how special they are to her.
So I bought a box of plastic animals (the whole box of about 15 animals cost around 5 euros) and decided to make them into magnets and pins. Tila also wanted me to paint them but you can easily just leave them as they are (especially if they are hand painted, like Schleich figurines) and only glue magnets and/or brooch pin-backs on one side.
I painted them with Montana spray cans but you can easily go with acrylic paints (just don’t forget to use a primer first to prevent chipping). If you decide to spray paint, apply several thin layers and wait a few minutes between coats or until completely dry to the touch. (Don’t spray too close like I did or you’ll get one very thick layer of paint that will take ages to dry! Spray about 15-20 cm away.) After the final coat is done it’s best to wait overnight or at least a few hours before gluing the magnets and pins on. We also added tiny hearts on their behinds (except for the lion, because the boy it’s meant for hates hearts. But we still hid one on the back ; ) .)
PS The glue I’m always using and is also on this photo is UHU’s Bastelkleber and I absolutely love it! I used it on almost every surface already and I think it works even better than super glue plus it’s solvent free and transparent when dry.
To read more from Polona, go to her cute blog Baby Jungle!
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There’s something funny that I have noticed: when they pretend play, my children (and their friends) often use the past tense.
I’ll give an example. Playing goes something like this (imagine, in this case, lots of Playmobil characters and horses with accessories, and a completely engaged couple of friends, moving different horses and characters around):
[CHILD 1] I was the horse riding teacher at the manege, and you were the student… And I had the white horse…
[CHILD 2] Yes, and I had this black horse, with this brown saddle, and the brown pony…
[CHILD 1] Yes, and I had the other black horse as well and the two grey ponies with these saddles…
[DISPUTE — change to present tense]
[CHILD 2] No! That’s not fair because now you have two horses and two ponies and I only have one horse and one pony, so I want to have one of the grey ponies with the saddle!
[CHILD 1] OK but I’m the teacher so I want to have the horse blanket for my horse then!
[CHILD 2] Alright then…
[RESUME — back to past]
[CHILD 1] OK so I had the white horse and the black horse with the blanket and the grey pony, and I was riding the white horse when you came for a lesson on your black horse and you said ‘Please teach me to galop and to jump over these hurdles?’
[CHILD 2] ‘Please teach me to galop and to jump over these hurdles?’ And then my horse saw your horse and they became friends, so their stable had to be located next to each other…
It’s really such an interesting way of communicating, and I find it fascinating that they use this special past tense while negotiating their pretend activities and to outline the ‘stage’ in their pretend play. I even developed a little theory about it — I think that if in play, children use the past tense, it’s more of a ‘done deal’ (since it basically ‘happened’) and evokes less arguments. (In the case that it does, the argument are settled in the present tense, only to go back to the past tense quickly after.)
I also noticed that it seems to happen more in girls’ pretend play then that of boys– the above (fictional) example could well have been played by Sara and one of her girl friends, where Pim with a boy friend is more likely to build giant Lego rockets or marble tracks or dinosaur parks or things like that, without much discussion or negotiating at all. However, Pim and Sara can play together for hours, cleverly combine dolls and horses with knights, war and dinosaurs — and then they do use this special past tense then.
I just wonder — does any of you also recognise this phenomenon? Or is this something that just happens in our little family? I would love to hear more about it — I find it so sweet and funny!
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Finally it happened. Finally it snowed here in London. As it is the way of the Englander – it seems we have been discussing this possible event for weeks – the postman, the lady in the supermarket, my next-door neighbour, my Mum – we do like to talk about the weather in this country and SNOW is a rare and exciting event. Apart from halting all forms of transport the bare splattering of snow transforms our landscape and of course for children … well there is nothing quite so heart-warming as their excitement as they look out of their windows when woken to the words of ‘it’s snowing”.
As we have been waiting for the snow (which sadly only lasted a few hours) I dug out the snow-themed books we had on our shelves and I thought I’d share them with you:
by Roy McKie & P.D. Eastman
This is a ‘Beginner Book’ from 1962, which means it is simply written using short, repetitive words that a child just learning to read can manage. The main focus is on pictures, which have a bright and bold primary palette and really express the fun of kids playing in the snow.
The Story of the Snow Children
by Sibylle von Olfers
I’m a big fan of the art of Sibylle von Olfers and this story of the Snow Children is (I think) one of the most enchanting examples – the story of a little girl called Poppy, who is tempted by the fairies of the snow to visit the Snow Queen. The berry-red of Poppy’s coat and mittens ping of the page against the tealy blue, gold and crisp white of the fairies snowy world. It is remarkable that a book published 110 years ago feels so fresh.
One Snowy Night
by Nick Butterworth
This is a story from Percy the Park Keeper – a gentle series that my children really like. The story sees Percy taking in the park animals one-by-one as they shiver and suffer from the cold one snowy night. I think I like this one as it reminds me a little of our own household with my children creeping into our bed one-by-one at various stages of the night (except in our house it doesn’t need to be snowing!)
The Snowy Day
by Ezra Jack Keats
I can’t believe I haven’t written about this book yet! It is one of my favourite books. The story itself is a simple tale of a boy going out to play in the snow and worrying it won’t be still there when he wakes the next morning but what makes this book special is the bold colours and graphic layouts – each page is a surprising piece of art. I only recently learned that the book was also groundbreaking. Published in 1962, The Snowy Day was the first full-colour children’s book to feature an African-American protagonist. Keats had previously only illustrated other Author’s books and it occurred to him that his own minority was never featured so he changed it and he won the prestigious Caldecott Medal for doing so!
I’d love to hear what your favourite snow-themed books are? I’m optimistic that we’ve not seen the end of the snow – we still have some tobogganing to do and a snowman to build!
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The concept is simple: once a year, a photo can be placed in the harmonica-style notebook, and a little story can be written on the page behind, highlighting key events that took place that specific year. There’s space for 18 photos, and to see all of the portraits after each other will give such a sweet overview of the growth and development of the child.
For Casper’s once-a-year book I got the special edition Once A Year Book which comes in a gorgeous wooden box and has beautiful letter-pressed covers featuring an owl or (in our case) a fox. I have Once A Year Books for all of my kids, and I think that once they’re 18 they will make such an amazing overview of their childhood! (They make very special newborn gifts too, especially this special edition with the wooden box and matching letter-pressed gift tag!)
PS Laikonik kindly offers our readers a 10% discount– just enter code “LAIKONIKBABYCCINOLOVE” at checkout!
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Celia from La Coqueta sent over her new spring/summer lookbook today and it has me longing achingly for spring! I know it’s still only February, but the tiny signs of spring are starting to crop up. There is sunshine at the end of this wintry tunnel!
As always I love the entire collection, but I think my favourite piece is the Manilva dress. It’s just so perfectly simple — you just can’t beat a white cotton dress in the summertime. I also love the grey draped linen Osuna dress, also so timeless and easy to wear. For boys, I’m loving all the colourful cotton shorts and suspenders! And don’t even get me started about those floral baby rompers. Somebody get me a baby (mine went and turned twenty over night)!!!! : )
Celia told me this collection was inspired by a simple, clean lifestyle — a return to the basics. So good, right? I think this might be my favourite collection yet!
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This week we thought we would offer some fun tips for getting kids to eat… because every once in a while it’s good to have a trick up your sleeve to outsmart the kids at mealtime.
- Sprinkle a little bit of cinnamon on apple slices. My kids eat apples, but they LOVE them with cinnamon. And if I add some raisins to the mix, it’s like they’re eating apple pie! Cinnamon also works on porridge, pears, sweet potato, frothed milk (babyccino!), and even on toast.
- My dad used to play this game with me when I was a child, and now my children play it with us: When eating soft-boiled eggs, teach your kids the practical joke of turning the empty egg shell upside down after they’ve eaten it to trick someone into believing it’s a new ready-to-eat egg. I swear, my kids eat the egg quickly just so they get to do the trick! (Oh, and don’t forget to act surprised!)
- Make faces, or stories out of the food. Just be creative — broccoli or green beans for hair, a sausage for a nose, tomatoes for the mouth (and mozzarella for the teeth!), mashed potatoes for the bow-tie, etc. So fun! (‘Oh no! You’re eating his eyes! Now he can’t see anything!’)
- A few years back I got a stash of vintage fondue plates from the ’70s, and my children love it if I use those for their dinner. A little dish in each section (a bit of left-over pasta, some slices of banana sprinkled with cinnamon, a hard-boiled egg, some raw veggies — anything that you can find in your fridge!) — I think it’s their favourite dinner — they eat everything so well. And it’s really easy and fast to prepare ; ).
- Offer your kids a bowl of frozen peas for a little snack — my kids prefer to eat them frozen rather than cooked. Marlow eats frozen peas like it’s candy!
- Pretend your toddler is a dinosaur eating trees (broccoli) or a mouse eating cheese or a bear eating fish, etc. Somehow pretending they’re an animal gets them to eat the food on their plate with added gusto.
- Make frozen fruit lollies — insert a popsicle stick or toothpick into sliced fruit (watermelon, kiwi, peach, pineapple, strawberries, a banana, etc.) and stick it in the freezer. Easiest ice lolly you’ve ever made.
- Make DIY dinners (meals that kids can make themselves) like fajitas, stuffed pitas, summer rolls, pizzas or any kind of flat breads or crackers. They seem a lot more inclined to try and test new things if they can assemble it themselves. You can also just serve finger food items and let the kids have fun dipping: guacamole is a great way of eating avocado, houmous a great introduction to chickpeas, etc. I have even made beetroot dips, yogurt dips, broccoli and parmesan dips — basically dips out of everything in my fridge. The fun of being able to dip, rip and roll makes eating a lot of fun.
- Let your kids help in the kitchen. You are more likely to eat something you have personally slaved over and are super proud of. Be it being the person who has pushed the button on the blender or having mixed the salad dressing or cut the vegetable etc. It also takes away a lot of “prejudices” — if you have made your own pesto (which all kids love) you are less likely to protest about eating basil, pine nuts or garlic…
Please share your food tricks — we can never have enough of them!
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In the run up to Christmas I spotted a Maria doll on Mamma Couture’s Instagram feed (a ‘Maria’ doll meaning Maria from The Sound Of Music, complete with her own guitar!). I just knew Ivy would love this, so we ordered one for her for Christmas and it has been a huge hit.
The dolls are all handmade by Mamma Couture’s creator, Eva, who is happy to take custom orders on dolls if you have specific requests. I think it’s such a sweet idea to create a doll based on a character your child loves. It has certainly encouraged lots of ‘Sound of Music’ themed play scenarios with all her other dolls… and lots of ‘Do Re Mi’ sing along sessions too! (You can contact Eva for custom orders.)
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kidO magnatabs is an ingenious toy that works with little metal beads which are permanently sealed in the plastic magnatab base and a magnetic pen that brings the beads to the surface once you draw over the base. The geometric creations simply erase with your finger once you’re done. It’s incredibly simple, but it’s the kind of toy that my kids pick up all the time — Casper (2) loves playing with it as much as his big sister Sara (9) does.
The kidO magnatabs are great for traveling as well — it doesn’t take up a lot of space in your luggage and will keep children perfectly entertained in the back of the car, the train or the plane. I got ours at the adorable brick and mortar children’s boutique Big & Belg here in Amsterdam, but Perfectly Smitten sells it online, or you can get it from Amazon (US or UK ).
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At the moment, mostly governed by the cold, dark nights, we feel like we deserve something nice and warm, and apple crumble is a firm favourite. I have developed a little technique about making a super easy apple crumble. We make a huge batch of crumble and then freeze most of it. Then it is all ready to use! We just cut up an apple or two into some ramekins, sprinkle on the crumble and bake them while we are eating – seriously simple.
Here is my recipe (if you can even call it that):
300g of plain flour
200g of unsalted butter cut into small pieces
150g of sugar
Put it in a bowl and rub the ingredients together until it resembles bread crumbs (some people use a mixer but I use my children because they love doing this). You can also add 2 teaspoons of cinnamon or replace some of the flour by almond powder. Some people like adding oats to the crumble, though I am not such a big fan of this!
I bake my crumbles at 180° until they are golden brown. Honestly they are mostly golden just when we have finished our main course, it is almost like magic