The Bee who Spoke

the bee who spoke
ivy reading a bee who spoke
Our friend, Al MacCuish (who we’ve mentioned before here and here), has recently released his second children’s book, and this past weekend we finally got the chance to read it.  The Bee Who Spoke  is a beautifully illustrated story of a girl named Belle and her adventures in the French countryside, where she meets a talking bee and is introduced to the wonders of nature. Not only is it a charming and engaging story, but one that is educational and inspiring too.

I sat down on the sofa to read the story to Ivy, but a few pages in, I was surrounded by all four kids who had nudged their way into our story-telling session. And not only that, but the boys were so inspired by the story, they set out to make drawings of flowers using their spirographs (see below).

stensil drawings
It’s a true sign of a great children’s book when it inspires a good drawing session after you read it. Don’t you think?

Courtney x

Scones!

Scones_1

Last week I was thinking of something new for breakfast (the children had a few days off from school), and suddenly the idea of scones came to mind. Scones are not a traditional Dutch dish, but I’ve learned to appreciate a good scone in the years I lived in London. Here’s the recipe I used (this BBC Good Food recipe but with a few modifications). A grand recipe, we all agreed on! (And it makes your kitchen smell heavenly, if anything!)

scones_2

Ingredients:

  • 350g flour, plus more for dusting
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 85g butter (cut into cubes — didn’t bother)
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 175ml buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • beaten egg, to glaze

Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Tip the flour into a large bowl with the salt and baking powder, then mix. Add the butter, use your fingers to rub the butter in the mix until it looks like fine crumbs.
Put the buttermilk into a jug and heat in the microwave for about 30 secs until warm. Add the vanilla and sugar, stir, then set aside for a moment. Put a baking sheet in the oven.
Make a well in the dry mix, then add the liquid and combine it quickly with your hands – it will seem pretty (really!) wet at first. Scatter a royal amount of flour onto the work surface and tip the dough out. Dredge the dough and your hands with a little more flour, then fold the dough over 2-3 times until it’s a little smoother. Pat into a round about 3 to 4 cm deep.
Take a 5cm cutter and dip it into some flour. Plunge into the dough, then repeat until you have four to six scones. By this point you’ll probably need to press what’s left of the dough back into a round to cut out another four. Brush the tops with beaten egg, then carefully place onto the hot baking tray.
Bake for 10 to 15 mins until risen and golden on the top. Eat just warm or cold on the day of baking, generously topped with jam and clotted cream (or butter).

Bon Appetite!

xxx Esther

 

Cool new products from Muddy Puddles

3in1_Scampsuit_MuddyPuddles
muddy puddles
muddle puddles explorer jacket2

A few years ago a Swedish friend told me: there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. That year I ran out and invested in a big, warm, waterproof parka, and I swear it changed my entire outlook on winter. Having proper outdoor clothing is really essential to making the most of the harsher wintery weather. (Can you tell I’m really trying to psych myself up?)

Muddy Puddles completely embraces the great outdoors, no matter the weather. They ensure that kids can be properly dressed for every outdoor adventure, come rain or shine or even snow! I’m loving their new collection of gender-neutral outdoor wear, and I’m so impressed with all the handy features like zip-out fleece inserts in jackets (no need to buy a rain coat AND a warm winter jacket!). And how great is that 3-in-1 waterproof suit? Perfect for rain or snow, and seriously cute with the pointy pixie hood. I picked one up for Marlow and I just know she’ll get so much use out of it in the coming months.

Muddy Puddles is one of 30 shops who will take part in this year’s ShopUp event. A great opportunity to check out all their great products in person!

x Courtney

A fun way to use all those conkers your kids have collected

conkers
conkers and tights
filling tights

My friend, AC, is one of those wild outdoorsy types (in the coolest of ways, of course) who embraces the outdoors, no matter the weather, and comes up with the most creative and fun ways to entertain her kids. She’s such a fun mama, and I’m really hoping she’ll rub off on me a bit in the coming colder months when we all start to get a bit stir crazy sitting indoors!

Anyway, I’m loving her recent idea for what to do with all those conkers the kids have collected. Fill up a pair of tights and create your own ‘massage octopus’ as she calls it. How fun is that? You can read her blog post here and find lots of other inspiration and activities on her blog here.

x Courtney

The importance of handwriting

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

There are a lot of things I like about my kids schooling in France —  there are also a lot of things I criticise. Compared to the children of my Anglo-Saxon friends, school seems to be so rigid over here.

One of the things I found unnecessarily strict here is the importance placed on handwriting. Children learn how to write in cursive script and are given bad grades if this is not done well. I never understood, how, in 2014, this made any sense and have been quite vocal about this to the teachers and other parents (who must roll their eyes at yet another foreigner lecturing them about their archaic teaching methods).

But the other day Violette’s teacher (who has been teaching for 34 years) made a very interesting point. Apparently 15 years ago the national curriculum had stopped the emphasis on handwriting, as it was thought that the use of keyboards was going to eliminate the need for writing by hand. They have now completely revised this stance based on a lot of research, as it seems that students taking notes by hand remember and analyse the material they are being lectured on a lot more than people typing notes. If you type notes, you have a tendency to write down the lecture word for word. If you write it down by hand, you are already analysing and interpreting the lecture, which in turn makes it a lot easier to remember it and learn from it. I thought that was so interesting! I found this article about a similar study here.

This is actually the saving grace behind the French education system: there is almost always some kind of theory behind the madness, even if it does not always seem obvious to a bystander!

- Emilie

PS. The above photo is of Coco’s homework, who is in the equivalent of 3rd grade. They are now starting to write with a fountain pen (I did not even know those things still existed!)

Unusual Creatures, a fascinating book

Unusual_creatures_1

Unusual_creatures_4
Unusual Creatures  is a super cool book, written by Michael Hearst and published by Chronicle Kids. It carries the intriguing subtitle ‘A Mostly Accurate Account of Some of Earth’s Strangest Animals’, which is totally applicable because the fifty amazingly special animals which are described in the book are truly fascinating!

Did you know that the Humpback Anglerfish, which lives in the dark and cold ocean deeps, carries luminescent lanterns on his head to attract their prey (which they then devour with their long and sharp teeth)? Or have you heard of the Giant Gippsland Earthworm, which averages one meter (3 feet) in length but has been found as long as 6,5 meters (22 feet)!!! A worm! The Tardigrade on the other hand is tiny; it’s a microscopic animal which lives in water all over the planet and is considered one of the world’s toughest animals. It can survive 1000 times more radiation than any other animal as well as temperatures of over 150ºC (300ºF) and under -240ºC (400ºF). It even survived a 10 day trip in outer space, without spacesuit of course — in which it even managed to lay eggs!

Unusual_creatures_3

Unusual_creatures_2

If you love trivial facts like these as much as we do (Pim is especially captivated by this book!), then this book is for you. Oh, and the Unusual Creatures website is also very cool. Have a look!

The book is available through Amazon UK  and US .

xxx Esther

New Autumn/Winter collection at Caramel Baby & Child

caramel baby AW14
Caramel Baby & Child was one of the very first children’s labels I discovered when I became pregnant with my first baby back in 2004. I used to sneak into their little boutique just to hold the beautiful baby clothes in my hands… and always walked out feeling extra excited for my baby to arrive!

Ten years later, the clothes at Caramel still excite me. Season after season, they come out with a collection that is more beautiful than the next. I always pop in to Caramel if I need a unique baby gift or to find an outfit for a special occassion.

How gorgeous is their new collection? As always, it is timeless and beautiful with charming details and a modern feel. Just perfect. I’ve chosen to share photos of the children’s collection, because my gosh – how beautiful are the little models?!, but their baby collection is equally stunning.

x Courtney

P.S. We’re excited to welcome Caramel Baby & Child to this year’s ShopUp event. If you came to last year’s event, you’ll remember how gorgeous their booth was! Mark your diaries (December 3rd & 4th) and look out for them there.

Star Sisters

Star SistersFor my daughter Coco, one of the biggest discoveries in her (relatively short) life has been reading. It has been lovely to observe how absorbed she gets into a book and how she cannot put it down — so grown up!

We were recently sent a copy of Star Sisters and the Royal Wedding by the lovely Jennifer Blecher. It is a cute book about two friends with magical necklaces who go on adventures and help other people, in this case, sorting out a Royal Wedding. Now, Coco is a girl who does not really like fairies and princesses (at least that is what she claims) but in this case, she read the book in one swoop.

I love Jennifer’s explanation on why she wrote this series of books: After a stressful day, she was sick of reading books to her daughters where girls were too snarky for their own good. She wanted something that was based on kindness and friendship. So she went about writing her own series — and, judging by Coco’s reaction, that was a very good move…

- Emilie

A big giveaway just for moms over at Puj!

moms are beautiful

The lovely team over at Puj have just announced an inspiring Moms are Beautiful campaign and a big giveaway just for moms! They recently asked a few mothers to take part by submitting a quote about motherhood to help to share the ‘moms are beautiful’ love. I was thrilled to be asked and so happy to take part! (Celebrating mothers is something we should all do more often, no?)

courtney adamo_quote

I sent over the above quote because it’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as a mother, and something I continue to remind myself at different stages of my parenting path. It can sometimes feel like we mothers are constantly inundated with information and tips, whether it’s from the latest how-to books or whether it’s the advice we hear from other mums on the playground. (I, myself, am guilty of passing on advice and sharing opinions. I have also found myself on the receiving end of it too.) In any case, I think it’s important that we mothers give ourselves a bit more credit and that we trust our intuitions and be assured that we really do know what’s best for our children.

You can click over to Puj to read other quotes about motherhood, check out the great prizes to win and enter the giveaway here.

x Courtney

Peanut butter cookies dipped in chocolate

peanut butter cookies and chocolate
marlow making peanut butter cookies
chocolate covered peanut butter cookies
Remember the super easy peanut butter cookies I blogged about a few months ago? The recipe with only three ingredients?! Well, last week I decided to add one more ingredient… and oh my goodness it was a good decision! I melted down some dark chocolate and dipped the cookies half way in. Yummmm !!

x Courtney

p.s. Marlow’s cute skirt is from Lalé. Available here.

Pillow stamping at the Snor Festival & Yvestown Fair this weekend!

pillow2I’ve known the fabulous Yvonne from Yvestown for a few years now and I just love everything she does. Her wonderful blog, her beautiful book, and her inspiring Yvestown Fair. Together with the wonderful girls from Snor Publishers (remember these cool activity books I blogged about), they’re organising a fun event this Sunday, and when they invited Babyccino Kids to join, of course we said yes!

pillow3 pillow4 Processed with VSCOcam with p5 presetI will be there, offering the opportunity to stamp pillow cases like these ones I made with my kids. Such a fun activity (and I love the results!!).

Snor_festivalI really hope to see you there if you have the opportunity to come? I have a limited amount of pillowcases with me, so if you want me to reserve a pillow-stamping-placement for you, just send me an email and I will save you one!

xxx Esther

 

Weekend Getaway: Brussels

Brussels is only about 1.5 hours away from Paris and about 2 hours away from London. You can just jump on a train and it will take you directly to this lovely city. I have spent some great weekends there before having kids and would love to go back to show the family around. So I am super excited that one of Esther’s friends, Majolein, offered to put her top recommendations together for us.

at La Piola

Marjolein:

Brussels is known as the European Union’s capital full of grey (boring) buildings. It is less known as one of the greenest capitals in Europe, full of parks and beautiful places to visit for adults and kids. It is not one of those cities where you fall in love with it at first sight like London, Barcelona or Paris, but once you get to know it, you will certainly enjoy it.
Nine years ago I moved here and I now live with my man, my 3-year-old daughter Livia and my 5-month-old baby boy Mats. Coming from the Netherlands, I speak Dutch to our children, and their father, born in Brussels, speaks to them in French.
I hope you will come to spend some days in this nice city and will enjoy the tips below:

SEE:

Palace of Justice. Close to the Avenue Louise stands the immense Palace of Justice with a large golden roof. From this square you have a nice view over the city, going as far as the Atomium. You can take a glass elevator from here to go down to the streets below. From there you will be a 10 min walk away from the famous Fleamarket at the Place Jeu de Balle at the end of Rue Blaes. It is at its biggest on Sundays, but is open every day until 14:00.

The Musical Instruments Museum This is a great place to visit for children with over 7000 instruments to see and try. On the roof terrace you have a nice view over the city, while enjoying a coffee or some lunch. Around the corner from the museum is the Royal Palace  with the Warande Park  opposite of it.

Brussels is famous for Manneken Pis, the peeing little boy statue wearing many different costumes. Children (and grown ups) will go, take a look and have a good laugh.

From here it is not far to go to the Grand Place, the most famous square of Brussels with its beautiful buildings. There are lots of places here that sell the famous Belgian waffles and chocolate. Close by is Jeanneke-Pis,  a cute little squatting girl statue.

The Toy museum is another, not so well known, fun place for kids situated in an old house. Kids are allowed to play with all the toys in the museum.

The Children Museum has a play ground next to it and some goats.

Museum of Natural Sciences for Children is full of all kinds of stuffed animals and the largest dinosaur gallery in Europe.

You can’t leave Brussels without going to the Atomium, an iconic building from 1958 depicting an ice crystal. Moving staircases link the different spheres and from the top sphere you have a 360 view over Brussels.

In Mini Europe  you can visit the whole of Europe and all it’s famous buildings in one day. The easiest way to visit is by car or with the Hop-on-Hop-Off bus or Metro line 6 to Heizel/Heysel.

PLAY:

The Bois de La Cambre  is a huge park, especially worth a visit on a Sunday when no cars are allowed and it becomes one big leisure and playing area. Skates and bikes can be rented here during the summer months.
In the middle of the park is a small pond with an island and a restaurant called  Chalet Robinson on it. It is reachable by a small ferry boat and is a perfect place to have lunch. You can also rent boats here. The park hosts several playgrounds and children can ride ponies.

The big playground Plaine de Jeux Renier Chalon is open every day (in July and August even until 21:00) with nice benches for parents to rest on. The ice cream van passes frequently in summer and makes a nice little music that all the children will recognise.

ParcTenBoschParc Tenbosch is also highly recommended. A small oasis of three hectares. It has plenty of lawns, lovely wooden benches, gentle slopes, a playground and sand pit for children and lovely trees, flowers and winding paths. Very much recommended if you need a little break, lie in the sun, want to have a picnic or let your children play.

EAT:

Balmoral

Le Balmoral looks like an American dinner with retro colours and is children very child friendly.

In the Rue Americaine there are two places to eat crêpes: Au P’tit Breton or the more modern Westend Bruxelles.

Gusto is a good Italian restaurant. I also highly recommend La Piola, which is one of my favourites.

For delicious pizza ‘al taglio’ (squares of different flavours cut at the spot) go to Mamma Roma (and some more locations in town).

You can find some great Asian food at Lucy Chang.

There are also many places for brunch, like Chez Franz or try one of the Pain Quotidien branches in town.

Another good place to go with kids, even early in the morning, is the huge Café Belga. During the weekend there is a market until 13:00 next to it and opposite there are ducks in the ponds waiting for you to feed them.

SHOP:

If you want to stay away from the high-street shops you will find nice places in the following streets: Rue Franz Merjay , Rue Darwin , Berkendaelstraat and Place Georges Brugmann all in the Ixelles neighbourhood. At Place Georges Brugmann you wll find the beautiful high-end children shop: Claude Hontoir. For toys good to Oli Wood Toys.

ClaudeHontoir

After visiting all these places you deserve some cupcakes and you can buy them at the cute shop: Lilicup.

If you are in town on a Wednesday there is a lovely market as of 14:00 at Place du Châtelain.

You can continue your shopping experience via Rue de l’Aqueduc, Rue du Tabellion, Parvis de la Trinité , Rue du Bailli. A route full of nice shops of all kinds: clothes, toys, food (delicious ice cream at Rue du Bailli 35), children, interior (like Zao on Rue du Bailli). You will also find cafés to have a drink or bite to eat.

Grasshopper  is a huge and beautiful toy shop in the centre of town, open every day till 19:00.

SLEEP:

Les Chambres de Franz and La Nuit Americaine  are two B&B’s located in Ixelles, one of the nicest neighbourhoods in town. In the first one ‘Le Studio’ is fitted to stay with children and the second one has an extra floor with a double bed.

Vintage Hotel is in a very good location and has 29 vintage style bedrooms with family rooms and inter-connecting rooms are available.

 

Smallable’s 6th Birthday! (And discounts to celebrate!)

smallable birthday
talc
herschel

I remember when Smallable announced their launch six years ago! It was an exciting time in children’s shopping — an online department store with hundreds of the best brands of children’s clothing, toys and decorations all in one place. It was one of the first shops to offer such a stylish, curated selection of brands, making it easy to find unique products for your kids. In fact, six years later, it remains one of the very best still.

It’s been really exciting to watch the growth of Smallable over the years — they started at a time when we were also quite new, so it feels a bit like we’ve grown together. We are thrilled to wish them a happy 6th birthday!

To celebrate, Smallable is offering some exciting discounts this week (see below) and are offering a free candle to the first 200 orders of £160 or more.

smallable discount codes

The perfect excuse to do a little back-to-school shopping! (The selection of winter coats and accessories have me (almost) excited for colder weather!)

xx Courtney

Context Travel – Tours around Paris

Sacrée Coeur

This weekend we went for a little adventure around Paris — the sun was out and it was the perfect day to discover Montmartre. It is ironic how, when you live in a city, you sometimes know less about it than all the tourists who visit!

We were delighted when Context Travel invited us for a tour around Montmartre, one of my favourite parts of Paris. The tour was tailormade for children, full of entertaining scary stories and legends. Our personal tour guide, Anais, was lovely, bi-lingual and could answer every single question that we asked her and, believe me, she was asked a LOT of questions!

We followed the path that St Denis (patron saint of Paris) walked after he, unfortunately, had his head cut off by the Romans. The legend says he walked from the bottom of the hill right to the very top, holding his severed head in his hands. The Sacrée Coeur was built on top of his final resting place (I do hope I have remembered this correctly!).

rue de l'abavoir

Following the path of St Denis we discovered the houses that Picasso and Van Gogh lived in and and got a glimpse of what Montmartre was like in the late 1800s (there were a LOT of cafés, cabarets and drinking establishments as Coco noticed). We saw the vineyards, the cobbled streets that are so different from the rest of Paris, and the hidden gardens and artist lofts. We walked up and down hill for 2.5 hours and could have easily continued!

vineyard

At the end of the trip we sat on the steps of the Sacrée Coeur and drew pictures of all the things we had seen on our walk. On the steps we also had an amazing view of Paris and of a street artist dribbling a football whilst hanging off a lamp post (nothing unusual in that).

Sacréé Coeur View

We did finish off the journey with a little ride in the Funicular which is part of the Paris metro. It is such a cute, random little train, that it is well worth the metro ticket it costs to use it.

Funicular

Such a fun way to discover Paris, I highly recommend it!

- Emilie

 

In løv with this tea!

løv0 løv

When I was in Paris a while back I noticed this supercool shop in Le Marais, filled with beautiful candy-coloured tins filled with… tea! Løv Organic is a French tea brand, and offers beautiful tins filled with amazing tea blends, all certified organic.

løv1 løv2

I’ve gotten so into this tea lately – the flavours are so exquisite and it’s just such a pleasure to go through the tea making ritual with such a beautiful product.

løv3 løv4 løv5 løv7 løv6

We love the Apple Cinnamon Fruit Tea, the Vanilla Rooibos, the Løvely Night, and the Wild Berry Fruit Tea. The great thing about these teas is that they are tannin-free, so my kids can enjoy them safely — they really love drinking tea! Plus — these teas make wonderful iced tea too. Perfect for this time of year, when some days are cold and some days are hot!

løv9 løv8

So, now back to work with a nice cup of Spicy Citrus Fruit Tea… : )

xxx Esther

This post was kindly sponsored by Løv Tea, a brand we have always loved and respected.

Cool 10 IS shoes

10is_2 10is_1

My Little Square teamed up with cool shoe brand 10 IS and is offering these exclusive, limited edition (and super stylish!) velour shoes, printed with a patchwork of old persian rugs. I got a pair for Sara and she loves them!! Handy detail is that they open with a little zipper at the side of the shoe, so need to tie up all the laces every time. Snatch these great shoes up while you still can — they’re only going to be available for another two weeks, exclusively at My Little Square!

xxx Esther

Bamboo baby clothing from Panda and the Sparrow

panda and the sparrow
We’ve moved Marlow out of her cot and into the big bed with Ivy. The girls started sleeping together this summer after Marlow started refusing to sleep in her travel cot, and it was working well so we decided to let them continue once we returned to London. It’s funny because I was excited to take the cot down and create more play space in their room, but once it was down and the space was cleared, I suddenly realised… that’s it! my baby is no longer a baby! Gosh it went so quickly. (Remember when she was sleeping in our bed?)

I don’t know if it’s her personality or if it’s because she has three older siblings to mimic, but Marlow seems to have skipped a few months of her babyhood. No more cot, no more diapers, no more sippy cups. I’m just waiting for her to hand over her dummies and tell me she’s too big for those as well. : )

Thank goodness she still fits into her little all-in-one baby pyjama from Panda and the Sparrow. I love a baby in a one-piece suit. So snuggly and sweet! The baby clothes from Panda and the Sparrow are made from bamboo and organic cotton, making them extra soft, hypoallergenic, breathable and thermal regulating. Not to mention, I love the stripy designs and great colours!

Panda and the Sparrow is a new brand created by two mothers earlier this year and we’re excited to welcome them to the ShopUp event in December. Mark your diaries (December 3rd & 4th) and look out for them there.

x Courtney

p.s. A previous post with my thoughts about bed sharing.

Glasses for Sara!

sara_glassesWith two very nearsighted parents, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Sara started to complain about not being able to read the letters on the digiboard very well from the back of the classroom. So I took her to an optometrist, and sure thing: he measured a 1.25 nearsightedness.

I remember very well, that when I was about 10 years old, I had so much trouble reading the blackboard and the subtitles on the television that my mum scheduled an appointment with the schoolnurse for me. Admittedly, the whole aspect of having to wear glasses was appalling to me at the time — gosh, how I disliked that poor schoolnurse when she told me that I very much needed a pair of glasses. Glasses were definitely not as cool then as they are nowadays!

Thankfully, glasses are considered to be very fashionable and stylish these days and Sara was beyond excited when she was told she could pick out a pair. So we got her this darling purple beauty, which I think look so, so good on her. (But which also make her look so, so much more grown-up!)

When we picked up her glasses from the store last week and she put them on her nose for the very first time, she experienced that feeling that I remember so very well – the revelation! So much light, colour and detail to be seen! To be able to read the street signs! The pavement looks so much bigger! A whole new world! So sweet. Next day, she was so proud to show her glasses to her class, her teachers and her girlfriends. And I’m so very proud of her!

xxx Esther

The Dopper bottle

SONY DSCIn the Netherlands, schools don’t provide a cooked lunch so my children leave the house every day with a backpack with a packed lunch and a bottle of water. Recently, Sara has been complaining about her current water bottle making funny sounds when she drinks, so I’ve been on the lookout for a replacement. And I found it! The Dopper is a Dutch design water bottle, with an ingenious 2-in-1 function of bottle and cup: the cap becomes a cup when you turm it upside down.

The design and idea of the Dopper stems from the growing frustration of the founder of Dopper, Merijn Everaarts, with the enormous amounts of plastic waste (the ‘plastic soup’, floating in the ocean). Merijn organised a design competition and the clever idea of Rinke van Remortel was the rightful winner. The Dopper is produced following the principles of the Cradle to Cradle philosophy and consists of no harmful substances. It can easily be cleaned, and is dishwasher safe.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Also – 10% of Dopper sales goes to the Dopper Foundation, which invests half of its proceeds in water projects in Nepal and the other half goes to water and plastic waste education projects.

An admirable bottle, don’t you think?

xxx Esther

Petit Bateau Rain Cape

PetitBateau_raincapeOh my, how adorable is this little Petit Bateau rain cape? And so practical for the coming months! We are a huge fan of the well known yellow rain coats (we have them for all of our kids!), and this new rain coat is just the perfect translation of this classic for any sweet little baby. (Do you think Casper would still fit in?)

xxx Esther

Older Posts »