New Spring/Summer collection at HATCH

HATCH maternity wear
The new spring/summer collection at HATCH has arrived and it’s as pretty as ever! So many pieces that are both stylish and comfortable. Whether you’re running errands or going out on the town, and in fact whether you’re pregnant or not, the clothes are easy to wear and flattering at the same time.
Hatch spring collection
The thing that’s brilliant about the HATCH maternity label is that it’s designed to suit and flatter a pregnant body, and yet the pieces work and look great even after pregnancy. Because let’s face it, our bodies change after we’ve had a baby (and, at least in my case, change forever) — our hips become wider, our bellies aren’t quite as flat, our breasts…. (sigh). The clothes from HATCH are designed to adapt and flatter with these changes in mind.
HATCH3
I’m especially loving the jumpsuits in this season’s collection as well as these comfortable-looking trousers. And, while I know it’s an investment, I really like the cool cocoon shape of the trench coat — a classic style that can be worn for years, pregnant or not.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

Courtney x

The sweetest hair bows from Free Babes

super cute hair bows
hair bows from FreeBabes
FreeBabes
Free Babes hair bows
Aren’t these just the prettiest hair bows? They’re all handmade by Etsy shop owner, Hillary Denham, who reached out to us recently from Colorado, USA. I just love all the different colours and fabrics, and I also love that the little schoolgirl bows come in two-packs, which is perfect for when your girls wear braids or little side buns (like the top photo).  So sweet!

Courtney x

Vriendenboek (A Friends’ Book)

Esther van de Paal vriendenboek Snor vriendenboek Esther van de Paal Julie Summerbelle Snor(All photo credits: Yvonne Eijkenduijn of Yvestown)

I’m super proud to announce a little project I’ve been working on with my friend Julie Marabelle (the super talented lady behind the well known brand Famille Summerbelle) and Snor, the coolest publishers here in the Netherlands: we made a Friends’ Book!

vriendenboek Esther van de PaalNow, if you’re not Dutch (or Belgian, or German) you probably have no idea what a Friends’ Book is… Our ‘Vriendenboek‘ (Friends’ Book) consists of 31 double pages with pre-printed questions — one to be filled out by the owner of the book (the ‘This is me’ section), the rest is meant for 30 friends and/or classmates. There are passport-like questions (like name, address, length, hobbies, sort hair, favourite school subject, etc), but also more creative questions such as ‘What is the nicest thing you and I did together’, ‘Draw your dream house’ or ‘This is what my bed looks like’. There’s  space for a photo, which is carried by a character in underwear that can be dressed with the cool clothes stickers that come with the book.

vriendenboek Esther van de PaalThe book is typically aimed at children of the age of 4 to 12 (primary school age), and the idea is that it’s a record of a specific year in your childhood, a record of your friends, but also of the zeitgeist of a specific era. My dad just emptied out his basement and he dropped of some boxes of stuff my mum had kept for me, and coincidentally I found my own friends’ book from 1984/85. It’s just brilliant reading the answers! Some examples: best film: Annie, E.T., Ghost Busters, First Blood (!). Best pop group: Wham, Duran Duran, UB40. What I want to be: Farmer, Housewife, Truckdriver, Horse Stall Cleaner. And goes on. So good! I wonder what has become of all of those childhood friends. I hope they are living their dreams! : )

vriendenboek friend's book vriendenboek06 vriendenboek friends' bookJulie and I have been brainstorming and designing to come up with a modern, cool and good-looking friendship book filled with fun and interesting questions, and it is finally here. And I’m so happy with how it turned out! The way the paper feels, the way the colours turned out, the quality of the stickers in the back — it’s all beautiful!

vriendenboek13 vriendenboek friends bookAt the moment, the Friends’ Book is only available in Dutch… You can get it here for shipment in the Netherlands, or here for international deliveries. And hopefully it will soon be available in English, and other languages as well!

xxx Esther

PS All the beautiful photos above are by my friend Yvonne from Yvestown. Thank you Yvonne (and your neighbours Josefien and Pauline, such sweet models)! And a big thank you to my Dutch blogging friends Bubbelmint, Oh Marie!, Moodkids and UrbanMoms for their lovely reviews. Julie also wrote a nice blogpost about our book, with great photos, here.

Bobo Choses — not just for kids!

Bobo Choses for mamas
Bobo Choses_jumping
Bobo Choses
I think by now we all know (and love!) Bobo Choses. Their collections every season are both fun and stylish with playful graphics and easy, wearable styles. But did you know they’ve recently come out with some pieces for women too?

I know it’s a little cheesy to match your children, but I have to admit that my girls think it’s really the coolest thing ever to match their mama. When we were in Portugal this past week the girls asked me every day to wear my yellow stripy skirt like theirs! So I finally gave in and we wore our matching outfits on the last day of our holiday, and it was really quite fun. Some silly photos here to show for it. : )

Courtney x

My Dad’s a Birdman by David Almond

My Dads a Birdman 1
My Dads a Birdman 3

My kids are aged 8, 6 and 3. They still all enjoy picture books but the two older ones really like me to also read chapter books to them before bed. It can be quite a challenge to find ones they like – they really hate anything scary and are sensitive to creatures, monsters, even some kinds of wizardry – basically any stories with evil as well as good are just not up their street. It can be tricky to find stories aimed at their age-group without any baddies!

My Dad’s a Birdman is a great find.

Set in the North of England, Lizzie’s Dad is preparing to enter the Great Human Bird Competition and her Auntie Doreen is getting cross about it. You see Lizzie’s Dad is taking his entry quite literally – building wings of feathers, eating flies and feathering his nest. You see Lizzie and her Dad are getting over the death of Lizzie’s ‘Mam’ and that can be tough on grown-ups as well as kids.

The story is funny and silly but the grown-up reading this will see a sadness in this story of grief, how we deal with it and how sometimes, just sometimes, kids become the grown-ups.

My Dads a Birdman 2

Lizzie is a wonderful character with a huge empathy & understanding. Whilst she has the intelligence to understand her father’s actions she can also see the love of her Auntie Doreen condoning them. She is accepting of other people’s coping mechanisms and the book is great at demonstrating our differences with dealing with difficult situations.

But have no fear of worrying your children with stories of a mother no longer there – my children didn’t really pick up on this ‘back-story’ until we had nearly finished the book, they were too engrossed with the story of this fantastical competition.

Polly Dunbar (who illustrated the lovely Penguin ) provides soft and gentle illustrations, which make this book perfect for children (like mine) moving from picture to chapter book. Available from Amazon (US and UK).

-Mo x

Chateau Vaux le Vicomte

VauxThis weekend, there were a lot more smiles in Paris than usual – spring has finally arrived! The trees are starting to look just a little bit greener and the thermometer is slowly reaching 21 degrees – the magic number when it is possibly to sit outside in a T-shirt.

The terraces of all the cafés in Paris were packed this weekend, so we decided to venture a little bit further afield and jumped on the train for a day trip to one of the lesser known chateaux close to Paris, Vaux-le-Vicomte.

True, it is not the easiest chateau to get to. If you are taking the train, you need to jump on a commuter train to Melun (about 50 minutes outside of Paris) and then either take a shuttle bus or a taxi. But the trip is absolutely worth it.

Vaux4

Vaux-le-Vicomte was build slightly before Versailles and the gardens were landscaped by the same landscape architect, Le Notre. Rumour has it that, when Louis XIV visited Vaux-le-Vicomte, he was so jealous of the beautiful chateau,  he promptly threw the owner, his finance minister Le Fouquet, into jail (arrested by no other than D’Artagnan, head of the Musketeers). Le Fouquet was then kept in prison for the rest of his life together with the Man with the Iron Mask. All pretty exciting stuff, don’t you think?

Vaux3

Vaux2The grounds are very easy to explore and the highlight of the trip is the visit to the chateau, where you can rent period costumes for children. We just went up to the reception desk and rented the costumes for 4 euros each. There is truly nothing better than dressing up as a Musketeer or a Renaissance Lady whilst exploring a chateau.

It is a much more accessible chateau for families than Versailles is; it is so much smaller and there aren’t really any crowds. I really do recommend it, especially if you need to get away from the bustle of Paris!

– Emilie

PS. Apologies for the blurry photos, I just snapped these photos on my phone!

Tuesday Tips: how to survive the first months of pregnancy

how to survive the first months of pregnancyI’ve been very lucky during my pregnancies — they have always been fairly easy. I was (of course?) extremely tired in the first months, and feeling nauseous here and there (especially when brushing my teeth or when I smelled the exhausts of cars), but overall, I have actually always really enjoyed those nine months.

But it’s not so easy for all of us — over half of the pregnant women suffer from worse pregnancy sickness. Feeling nauseous during the entire day, vomiting even. (And then there’s Hyperemesis Gravidarum, a rare but extreme form of morning sickness, characterised by uncontrollable nausea, vomiting, and dehydration.)

Our lovely Helen, who runs the Babyccino Kids Shopping Portal, is currently 21 weeks pregnant with her third baby, a little girl. (See photo above!) I’m so excited to have a little baby joining our Babyccino Kids team this summer!

Helen did suffer from pregnancy sickness until a few weeks ago, so I asked her to share her experiences and tips to cope below. (I would love for you to share your advice in the comment field below as well — it’s always so helpful to know that you’re not alone!) So here goes:

– For me, the mornings were the best. Around 10ish the nausea would kick in, getting worse through the day to a peak in the evening. Everyone is difference but ‘morning’ can be a bit of a misconception. If you do suffer the classic symptoms in the morning, apparently having some crackers on the bedside table, ready to eat before you rise, is the way forward.

– For me morning sickness lasted past the first trimester, until week 17/18, but many people feel relief as they get to the second trimester. If you really struggling, finding you can’t cope and especially if you’re vomiting often, don’t suffer in silence and don’t be afraid to go to the doctor.

Eating little and often. Plain, not too oily and definitely not too sugary. Lots of plain carbs seem to be what the body wants — bananas, avocado on toast, plain toast.

Fresh air

Rest (!)

Drink a lot. Helps avoid headaches too.

Ginger. Specifically fresh ginger and lemon tea helped me. (Peel and thinly slice ginger, pour boiling water over and add some slices of lemon.) Ginger beer or ale is a perfect treat, especially if you do manage to make it out to a social function and don’t fancy ordering mineral water all night. And although some can find it a bit much, but I found that mint tea helped to settle my stomach.

– For me the biggest challenge of the first few months – especially when it’s not your first – is getting dinner on the table. Thinking about food is awful. And then you have to eat it! Make life easier for yourself with services that provide you and your family with healthy food options – be it a service providing home-cooked meals or visits to your local deli.

Floradix (http://www.salusuk.com/products/floradix.html). It could be a coincidence but I have suffered less from exhaustion this time (and I discovered floradix after I had my second baby).

– If you are working mum and IF you feel comfortable with it – you could tell your employer in confidence in these early days. Often we don’t want to tell before 12 weeks because what if it goes wrong? What then? With the knowledge of your situation your employer can help make sure you don’t get any additional concerns in those first tough few months and frankly, if things don’t end up happening as you hoped, you’ll probably need to tell them at that point anyway!

Thank you, Helen!

xxx Esther

So Awesome Wallet cards

So Awesome wallet flash cards so awesome alphabet cards These So Awesome wallet cards don’t just looks beautiful, they’re also super practical. A selection of cards the size of a credit card, made from durable, easy-to-clean, biodegradable and kid-safe (non-toxic, food-safe) plastic, are kept together by a re-closable ring. The size makes them super easy to throw in your handbag or nappy bag. They can be kept together and read as a book, or they can also be played with individually. So fun! I have found them especially handy when we’re traveling, or in restaurants. Casper and I like to play with the Color and Shape cards — I ask, what colour, and he says ‘blue’. For all the colours. ; )

xxx Esther

 

 

A Spy Birthday Party for an 8-Year-Old

Elias Spy Party 1

This year Elias wanted a ‘Magic’ birthday party. Not being a member of the magic circle myself I was thrown a little by how I was going to pull that off – so I started to brainstorm other possibilities with him – we decided upon a ‘Spy Party’ and I immediately got Pinteresting.

There were so many brilliant ideas that I just knew this party would be fun to organize – and it really was but I did have to be more organized then I usually am for parties and with 8-year-olds I knew I couldn’t pull the wool over their eyes – the spy games would need to be good.

Elias Spy Party 2

First we sent out an invitation inviting his guests to attend Spy School. Included in the invite was a fake moustache (to ensure no one suspected them) and a Cipher Wheel to decode the secret password. I downloaded a template for the Cipher Wheel here and just ‘re-branded’ it a little.

Elias Spy Party 3

Then it was time to plan the actual party! We decided to break down the party into 8 parts – 7 tasks for the ‘spies’ to complete before the final challenge – this was the order of the day:
Arrival – Spies are given their identification tags (1) and scanned (2) to ensure they are not bringing any weapons into Spy School. They then needed to choose a Spy Name by picking one word from one jar and another from another and then this was stuck into their ‘fake’ passports – I got these ideas from this great blog post and they even had downloadable printables! – Inside the passports was a list of the tasks they would need to complete – I stickered them as they passed each level (but actually I’d recommend using a stamp for that bit – the stickering was a little fiddly!).

Task 1 – Observation: My husband had a lot of fun setting up a table with a Playmobil ‘scene’ on it – he tried to make it quite detailed. The kids were told to study the scene as they would need to observe if there had been changes to it later on. We set this up in our living room were we did the arrival and it was a great game for them to be getting on with whilst we waited for everyone.
Task 2 – Interrogation: Downstairs into our cellar (usually a place for laundry but on this day it was Spy HQ!). Another idea from the above blog – each kid had a character, animal or famous person stuck on their backs – they had to walk round and ask each other questions to try and find out who they were – but the answers could only be yes or no – the kids found this one pretty hard and we had to give them some helpful tips but they all managed in the end.
Task 3 – Code Creating and Cracking: We taught them a way to write a hidden message by writing or drawing something small with a light blue crayon and then scribbling all over it with a red crayon so you can hardly see the blue message. Then take a sheet of red acetate and hold it over the message and you will see the blue message clearly. They had to create a message – then swap with a friend and try and discover what had been written or drawn.
Back to Task 1 – Now we went back to the observation table – in the meantime my husband had made 6 changes and they had to discover what as a team. They loved this one.
Task 4 – With 7 boys and a girl we knew by now they’d need some running about so this was Time Trials. I got my husband to take the kids over to the park to do some races for 15 minutes. Whilst they were gone I roped my Mum and Dad into setting up task 5 …
Task 5 – Laser maze. When the kids arrived back we made them wait outside the door and explained the next task – getting through a laser-maze without breaking it. Our hallway is a perfect corridor for this – we used red crepe-paper and washi-tape to create a maze for the kids to climb through – it looked great and the kids really enjoyed that surprise to come back to – tip if you do this: put some lasers very low down – the kids quite quickly worked out they could slide through underneath most of our maze.
Task 6 – the controversial one … Target Practise. I have never bought these ‘exciting’ Nerf guns for Elias although whenever he goes to anyone’s house who has one he really loves them. I’m just a pacifist and don’t like boys playing war but … they do anyway – my boys often take sticks or their fingers and shoot eachother. I remembered how much fun I had with water-guns as a kid and knew that I would be making my son’s day if he got to have a play with some of those ‘exciting’ guns. So I bought the littlest one I could find (3) and a second one with a laser (4) (because that seemed quite Spy like) and we set up a small target (5) back down in the cellar – they all got a go with the laser gun first and had to try and score 100 points on the target and then they had a go with the small pistol – there were strict rules to not shoot at fellow spies and actually they all really enjoyed it. Elias had about 5 days of carrying these guns around with him after his party and now they are at the bottom of a toy box somewhere and don’t seem to be too exciting anymore – maybe he got the shooting out of his system for now!
Task 7 – Bomb detonation. By now the kids were ready for some food and drink – I made chocolate brownies and ‘bomb’ biscuits and we put sparklers in the brownies to detonate them. (Whilst they were eating I sent my Dad and husband on a little mission to get something ready for the next stage).

Elias Spy Party 4
Task 8 – The final challenge. I bought out a suitcase that was locked with a 4 number padlock. The kids were told there was another bag inside this one with a 3 digit padlock on it and that their party bags were inside the 2nd bag. In order to get their party bags they would have to crack the codes. They were given a ‘Top Secret’ box with some helpful tools inside. There was:
● A clip board with a pen and paper with 7 boxes ready to input the numbers as they found them.
● A piece of fabric with 8 pins in it.
● A couple of code-crackers – A number code, an alpha code, a piece of the red acetate.
● A mobile phone – yes an actual phone (can you imagine how excited they were)
…and this is where the genius of this task was – again credit due entirely to this blog who introduced me to QR codes and this generator. It was really simple to set up; I could just input the questions to our ‘treasure hunt’ and then fix the QR codes up so the kids could scan them to get their next clue – they felt like real proper spies!!! Just a little tip – when you create the codes I copied them into a document and printed them and just wrote at the top of each code where I needed to hang it – this won’t ruin the clues for the kids as it will only say the location they have already reached but it will help you to remember which clue to pin up where! At each location the kids got a spy task to crack to get the number and the next clue where to go. Most of these clues we did as code-cracking tasks but my favourite one (and this is what my Dad and husband were busy with whilst we ate cake) was the bomb detonation – we filled our trampoline with 50 black balloons and the kids had to pop them to find the number – it was a little scary having 8 kids on a trampoline holding pins but luckily no injuries and lots of fun!
So they cracked the code and secured their party loot – each got a pair of spy-glasses, invisible ink pen, note book and some popping candy.
We were shattered at the end – it was full-on but I think it was the most fun party we’ve ever done!

(1) I bought these clips to create ID tags
(2) This scanner was not too expensive and really added to the official feel of entering Spy School – the kids have also enjoyed playing with it since.
(3) We bought this Nerf Gun and this (4) laser version and this is actually a very nice (5) target practise

‘Smartypants: Pete in School’ by Maira Kalman

Smartypants book

There is so much I want to tell you about Maira Kalman. She is my current ‘book-creator-crush’ – I have loved everything I have read by her – adult books or kids books.

Maira Kalman was born in Tel Aviv but moved to New York aged four. She is an author, an illustrator, a curator and just a brilliant, brilliant voice and mind. She has a style and stream of consciousness like no other author I have ever experienced and as everything she writes is also illustrated the whole experience of looking through a Maira Kalman book is an energizing joy – her books always make me laugh but can be thought-provoking and also touching to draw a tear.

Smartypants 2
Smartypants 3
The stories often don’t follow a clear path – you need to commit to her style and prepare to jump around a little but when you do you go on a journey which is just about as delicious as a salt-beef and pickle bagel – which brings me back to her Jewish / Bronx routes – which gives her work such a rich tone – I’m not sure you can be funny like Kalman unless you are Jewish and from the Bronx (but I may be wrong on that?).

So to choose a book to review was the hard thing here – I’m sure I’ll tell you about some more soon but I picked Smartypants: Pete in School because it is the book that makes my kids laugh loudest and what better reason to spread the love?

Pete is the dog of Poppy & Schmookie Wise – he eats everything. One day he turns up at school and starts causing havoc by eating his way through Poppy and Schmookie’s classes – until, called to the principal’s office, he eats a Big Book of Everything and ends up really smart …. The story is funny but the characters – Poppy, Schmookie, the teachers and of course Pete you will just love. Kalman, talks in asides (if she was on Instagram she’d be the hashtag queen!) and goes off on tangents, which lets us get to know these characters in a deeper way.

Smartypants 4

You can buy Smartypants: Pete in School here, but I warn you it could spark a book-buying-spree!

-Mo x

PS: If you want to know more about Maira Kalman you can hear her 2007 Ted Talk here (it’s perfect!) and books for grown-ups by her are The Principles of Uncertainty, which is a compilation of her columns for The New York Times. And the Pursuit of Happiness  is her year-long investigation into American democracy and lastly (my personal favourite) is My Favorite Things which was created to accompany her curation of the artifacts at the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. The book explores the significance of objects in our lives and combines personal objects and artifacts from the exhibition. Lovely.

Summertime simplicity, by Soor Ploom

Ivy in Soor Ploom
Ivy and Marlow wearing Soor Ploom
Ivy and Marlow in Soor Ploom
girls in Soor Ploom
Marlow_Soor Ploom
silly girls in Soor Ploom
Can we start talking about summer yet, or is it too soon?! At least we can start buying cute summery pieces in preparation for the warm, sunny days ahead, right?

Soor Ploom is one of my very favourite brands for girls and I think their pieces sum up those sweet, simple summer days in the most perfect of ways. The pieces are so effortlessly beautiful, breezy, and just so adorable — a perfect mix of gorgeous fabrics and simple, easy-to-wear shapes. Just look at this season’s collection — everything is just so, so pretty.

Soor Ploom SS15
girls outside in Soor Ploom
girls outside wearing Soor Ploom
green dress by Soor Ploom
Marlow outside wearing Soor Ploom

Photographer Sarah Winborn was in town from Berlin recently and stopped by to take some photos of the girls. I couldn’t help but dress them up in their new Soor Ploom pieces and pretend the weather was warmer than it actually was. ; ) I hope you don’t mind me sharing some (loads of!) photos from last week’s photoshoot.

The new Soor Ploom collection is up online and available in limited quantities. Ivy is wearing the Jade Philomela Dress and the Gingham Playsuit, and Marlow is wearing the Ines Romper in the pretty sunspot fabric.

Courtney x

All photos are by Sarah Winborn. You can view her website here and follow her on Instagram here.

Tuesday Tips: Bringing up children Bi-lingually

IMG_8495Having bi-lingual children is great — it is so impressive to see them jump from one language to the other seamlessly. For our Tuesday Tips series I wanted to jot down a few things I have learned about bringing up children with two languages (though I am by no means an expert). I hope they help and I would love to hear your tips and your experiences!

I was born in Germany to a French mother and an Irish Father who had met in San Diego. So we were tri-lingual: I went to a German school, my brother and I spoke German together (and still do), but my father spoke English to us and my mother spoke French. It was a great experience and something I am so grateful my parents insisted on, because, my gosh, I really rebelled as a kid. We were living in this teeny village in Germany and I did not want to be different from all the other kids. But every time I answered back in German to my mother, she did not answer me until I repeated myself in French… so I did not have the choice!
Interestingly, I have always gravitated towards English. I moved to England to study right after finishing high school, so English is now my most dominant language and the language I naturally felt the most comfortable speaking to my children.

My two daughters are now also totally bi-lingual, but the circumstances are very different to my German childhood. We live in a huge cosmopolitan city and, though the kids go to the local primary school (and speak French, of course), they have always had at least two other Anglo-speakers in their class and numerous bilinguals from all across the world. It is so normal for them to speak two languages, they don’t even think about it.

So here are a couple of tips:

  • Stick to the one language you have decided to speak to your child – Of course there will be moments when you will have to switch (homework for example), but it is important to stick to one language and build up a relationship with your child in that language. I read somewhere that a child needs to be exposed at least 30% of their waking time to an environment where the foreign language is spoken to be able to learn the language properly.
  • Build a network – one of the things that has been really helpful for us here in Paris is to have an English speaking network of friends. Joining the local Anglo parenting Network helped a lot. The children have grown up together and still speak in English to each other, though, when they are with French friends, they will swap back to French. It means that it feels normal for them to speak to other children, not only adults, in English even when in their home city.
  • Don’t listen to and don’t worry about myths – I have been told that bringing up my children with two languages may delay their development or might even give them a speech impediment. Total nonsense if you ask me. As long as your children are thriving and happy, I don’t see a single reason why speaking two languages should harm them. And in all cases, the benefits outweigh any potential downside.
  • Books and Films – I mostly read books in English to the girls to counteract a whole day of French in the classroom. Again it is also interesting to expose them to a different culture via books. When we watch films, we watch them in the original language they were filmed in. We also have the international BBC Iplayer to watch nature documentaries etc. in English and Netflix if we want to have a movie night and watch a film.
  • Travel – We are lucky, as we are only a short plane ride away from my family in Ireland and a train ride away from all our friends in London. Traveling to English speaking countries is really helpful as there is nothing better than emersion once in a while to develop language skills. It also helps for my children to put their second language within a context. They read books about children wearing uniforms to school, riding double decker buses and eating fish and chips, but there is nothing like being able to see and understand the culture of the language you are learning with your own eyes.
  • Reading and Writing and Music – For Coco, who is nine now, learning how to read and write in English has opened a new world to her. Again so much of learning a language is also getting to know a different culture. Listening to the lyrics of songs, reading books and also writing has been a massive step. Interestingly she has never had a formal class in English but, because of learning how to read phonetically in her French school, she managed to teach herself how to read in English.
  • Ideally I would love to send my kids to live in a host family abroad when they are 16 or 17 for 6 months. I did this when I was 17 and lived in the USA for 6 months. It not only improved my English a lot, but also it was an amazing experience to get to know a different culture.

The photo above is of my kids on yet another little trip away to Ireland. The moment they get onto the plane, they start speaking English to everyone around them.

Easter Craft: Hen Egg Cups

egg carton hen
Easter holidays are here and I’ve prepared a new Easter craft for you. This one I absolutely love because it’s so very simple that even very young children can make it, and it takes very little time to finish so it’s also perfect for those types of kids that can’t stay still for very long, like my Tila. She loved this craft and has even made one for her (boy)friend from school! (Also, it’s a great way to make use of all the left-over Easter eggs.)

Hen Egg Cups
Things you need are:
-Egg carton (you can only make 2 chicks from one carton)
-Orange and Red Crafting Paper
-Feathers (I used white and yellow)
-Wiggle Eyes (or black paint)
-Scissors
-Crafting Knife
-Glue

Hen Egg Cups
1. Cut out the edge part of the egg carton like on the photo
2. Trim the excess around the upper edge
3. Take the red paper and cut a comb (or as we call it – the crown) and an orange beak (shape of rhombus, folded in half). Check the width of the top of your cardboard’s peak for the comb first and then about a centimeter below the top for the beak. And make both a few mm narrower to leave a little room for the edges. Cut notches the notches to fit the comb and the peak
4. Put a little glue at the bottom of both pieces
5. Insert them into slots and either glue on wiggle eyes or draw them on.
6. Put a generous amount of glue on the inner side of the back part (where the should be) and glue feather on.

Now wait for it to dry and insert an egg! Give it away or not ;)

-Polona

To read more from Polona, go to her cute blog Baby Jungle!

Sweet summer dresses by Neige, from Ladida.com

Sweet summer dresses, Neige at Ladida.com Sweet summer dresses by Neige, from Ladida.com

When we were in NYC a few weeks ago we met up for drinks with Rebecca, the owner of the exquisite (and extensive) webshop, Ladida, and it was such a fun evening. Rebecca really rocks! She’s fun, honest and interesting, plus, a clever and inspiring business woman. She runs a gigantic online children’s fashion emporium, offering a well curated collection of the best high-end brands of the world. Also worth mentioning is that she has 5 small children (the littlest one is only a few months old!).

I brought back a few presents for my kids from NY, of course, and amongst them were these two matching Neige dresses for my girls that I got from Ladida.com. The sweetness! (I’ve been getting matching things from Rebecca for the past few years — remember these cute pointy hat winter coats? Or last year’s matching summer dresses?)

Sweet summer dresses by Neige, from Ladida Sweet summer dresses by Neige, from ladida.com

My girls love to match. And I love to see those two sweet sisters, tall and small, being so cute and excited together! (Of course they had to immediately try their new dresses, inside the house because it’s still way too cold outside. A prelude to warm summer evenings and impromptu garden parties!)

xxx Esther

Marie Puce, a pretty new collection

Panoplie Esther blanche Coralie poppy
Each season Marie Puce comes out with a collection that is reliably great — always so chic, always so classically Parisian, and always featuring the prettiest Liberty prints and coordinating bold colours. They make it easy to dress your kids stylishly, with basics like shorts and tees and all the coordinating accessories, and I also love that they have boys’ and girls’ outfits in matching colour ways like the outfits featured here.

Marie Puce outfit
Marie Puce outfits
Marie Puce outfit2
Like Esther has pointed out before, they also offer clothing for teens which is quite handy for older kids who aren’t ready for the harsher (often more provocative) teen brands. Not that MY kids will ever be teenagers…! Ha! ; )

In this collection I’m loving the Liberty rompers for girls, the soft cotton tees in pretty colours for boys, and all the classic sandals! I’ve just placed my order for the kids and look forward to the days of simple summery dresses, bare legs and easy, slip-on shoes!

Courtney x

A Bell for Ursli by Alois Carigiet & Selina Chönz

A Bell for Ursli 1
A Bell for Ursli 2

We talk a fair bit about social media in our house – my husband really hates it whilst I love a bit of Instagram and this can lead to some interesting debates, but this is a story of how social media got me to discover a wonderful book I didn’t know about but which was already on my bookshelf….

One of Esther’s Insta-friends posted a picture from the book ‘A Bell for Ursli ’ and she messaged me to ask if I knew the book – it just looked so lovely. It looked familiar but I couldn’t place it. Esther’s friend revealed the title and so I looked it up and by the front cover I knew it was on our bookshelf somewhere. My husband is German and so we have lots of kid’s books in German – I always look at them when we buy them (in fact I buy a lot of them purely based on their illustrations!) but then they go on the ’German Shelf’ for him to read. ‘Schnellen-Ursli’, ‘Der Grösse Schnee’ and ‘Flurina und das Wildvöglein’ – all by the same author / illustrator were all on our shelf having been bought for our eldest son when he was born by friends.

Noticing some of the titles were also in English I bought them and feel like I found treasure – what lovely stories! You see these books are real classics – beautiful tales of idyllic childhoods in the Swiss mountains accompanied by equally idyllic pictures.

A Bell for Ursli 3
A Bell for Ursli 4

A Bell for Ursli is a perfect story for this time of year – based on the Swiss tradition of children ringing cow-bells through the streets of the villages during the Spring Festival. Each child carries the biggest bell they can and ring it loudly to drive the Winter away and welcome the Spring. The village people then fill the children’s bells with treats – but only the big children can carry big bells, the smaller children must carry the smaller calves bells – the story of Ursli is of a small boy wanting to be bigger and the adventure he goes on to be so.

I think this book would make the perfect Easter present (and paired with this super-brilliantly-kitsch Playmobil set it beats almost any chocolate egg I know!).

-Mo  x

The very best raincoats (from Petit Bateau)

Petit Bateau raincoats
mother and daughter yellow raincoats
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Petit Bateau is my go-to destination for all the staples: underwear, tees, pyjamas, swimsuits and, of course, raincoats! We now have a collection of raincoats in our house that spans all the ages, some of them are so old they’re practically vintage! And I just recently got my own adult’s version, so we are now quite the bright yellow bunch as we walk around town.

What I love about the raincoats from Petit Bateau is that they have an outside waterproof material that is soft and easy to move around in (or toss into a tote bag!) and they have the softest jersey lining on the inside, so they’re nice and thick and warm, and yet still waterproof. (Most other raincoats I’ve tried have either been too stiff or too lightweight.) I also love that they seem to last so long because the sleeves are designed to be rolled up if needed or stretched out as the child grows.

Anyway, clearly we are big fans in our family. Even my husband has one… but don’t tell him I told you so. : )

Courtney x

A LEGO party for Pim’s 8th birthday

Lego Party decoration (Babyccino Kids)Birthdays are a big deal for children, and we like to celebrate it appropriately. We make a big deal out of it. Our children get a party for family and close family friends (the ‘family party’), and then they get to invite a few classmates for another party (the ‘friends’ party). For his 8th ‘friends’  birthday party, Pim had decided he wanted a LEGO party.

I honestly admit that I was a bit at a loss what to do with this theme. I mean, a strawberry high tea, a cooking party, or a disco party — I didn’t have to think long with coming up with some fun activities and decoration for those. And in the end, the interpretation of the adventurous treasure hunt of Pim’s party last year was quite straightforward as well, once the concept was there. But Lego?

And then I thought — the best thing about Lego, is Lego. We don’t need to provide anything else, than lots and lots of Lego! So we went to Ebay, and bought two second-hand batches of Lego bricks. We got loads!

Lego-party-cups Lego-Party-centerpiece Lego-Party_boat Lego_Party_decorationTable decoration was kept simple. I drew Lego faces on little glas jars, and poured orange juice inside. Pim made the center setting for the table, his name in giant 3D letters! And above the table, we strung yellow balloons, again, with Lego faces on them.

Lego birthday party - babyccinokids.com Lego-Party Lego-Party-Lego-Brick-Cake

We served rectangular carrot cake with M&M’s on them to resemble Lego bricks.

Lego Party cracker with cheese (babyccinokids.com)

And later, I prepared some ‘Lego’ cheese crackers, with cheese dots on them.

LegoParty tower babyccinokids.comAnd then, we dunked all of the Lego on the floor and the kids could play! We gave them two ‘missions’ — the first one was to build the highest tower in three groups of three (which were properly measured afterwards of course). Simple but super exciting! And then, we asked one group to make a vehicle for the land, one group for the sea, and one group for the air. After 10 minutes we rotated the groups, and again a bit later.

Lego_party_cleanupIt was a really fun afternoon! And a perfect party for the lousy weather as well — it was raining outside the entire time, but cheerful and bright inside!

xxx Esther

6 Easter Book suggestions

Easter books
1. The Golden Egg Book by Margaret Wise Brown
Margaret Wise Brown is probably best known for Goodnight Moon but I prefer this story for Easter – a young bunny finds a curious object (an egg) and can hear some tapping inside it – what is it? The bunny sets to investigations – some of which are quite disruptive but the little duckling that emerges is also an inquisitive little thing … a sweet little story of curiosity and friendship and of course its right in keeping with this time of year.

2. I am A Bunny by Richard Scarry
An old Babyccino favourite (see here) and if you don’t have it already this story of Nicholas the Bunny would make a perfect gift for Easter for a baby or toddler.

3. The Easter Story by Brian Wildsmith
I’m a big fan of Brian Wildsmith’s books and this book is a good way to introduce children to the more difficult religious story of Easter time. Like his other book, A Christmas Story, Wildsmith uses an outsider to the story to tell it – in both cases a donkey. The donkey in The Easter Story carries Jesus into Jerusalem and sees the whole story unfold – how he is bought before Pontius Pilate, how he is crucified and how he comes to life again with the resurrection. Wildsmith uses bright colours, which evoke a Middle-Eastern landscape and gold to show that this is a very special, precious story. Whether you are religious or not it gives a good overview to what the festival of Easter is about. Good for children aged 4 – 7.

4. Hare and the Easter Eggs (Little Grey Rabbit) by Alison Uttley & Margaret Tempest
For those of you unfamiliar with the stories of Little Grey Rabbit – Hare is quite a cheeky, brave character and here he uses his boldness to get a most special Easter treat for his friends on Easter Sunday. A sweet little story with pretty, pastel drawings. The books are in small hardback format (reminiscent of another ‘rabbit’ book which doesn’t feature here as I figured it was just too obvious) so it makes a neat little package to hide as part of an egg hunt!

5. Rabbit School by Fritz Koch-Gotha and Albert Sixtus
We have this book in German but I double-checked that it is available in English! Fritz Koch-Gotha and Albert Sixtus are both Children’s Literature legends in Germany and this book is a lovely example of why. The illustrations are lovingly detailed whilst the rhyming story tells of 2 rabbits who are off to school. At school they learn what plants are tasty and good and how to make them grow. They learn about the evil fox and how to avoid him and of course they learn how to paint Easter Eggs so they can be Easter bunnies!

6. Those Pesky Rabbits by Ciara Flood
Released at the beginning of March, this is Ciara Flood’s first picture book. The story of annoyingly nice new neighbours and a grumpy bear who is just not into being disturbed (even by niceness!). Of course those ‘peskily nice rabbits’ win in the end and we all feel rather happy that bear turns over a new leaf to not be such a grump. Not an Easter story as such but rabbits felt enough of a link to get this one in this little list!

Have a great Easter – Mo. x

Tuesday Tips: The Dummy Fairy

Marlow sleeping with dummy

The ‘Dummy Fairy’ came to our house last week and flew off with all of Marlow’s dummies! And just like that our baby became a ‘big girl’ (no more bottles, no more nappies, no more dummies!). Marlow went to bed that evening telling all of us that she’s a big girl now — she hopped into bed, fell asleep quickly and hasn’t asked about her dummies ever since! Indeed, a very big girl (sob!).

All four of our babies used dummies, so this is the fourth time the Dummy Fairy has visited our house, and in all four cases I was surprised by how easy a transition it was. I think it’s one of those things that we build up in our minds to be worse than it really is: we worry how they’ll ever fall asleep, that it will mess up their good sleep habits, we worry they will cry for hours and become very unsettled or that they’ll find another emotional attachment to replace the dummies, etc. As with any big transition, whether it’s sleep training, potty-training, weaning, or taking bottles away, I think it must be very natural for mothers to overthink and dread it, but in my experience I’ve found that it’s almost always easier than we anticipate it will be. Perhaps it’s actually us mothers who aren’t really ready? (Although in our case it’s definitely Michael who is the bigger softie. I think he would have let Marlow keep her dummies well into her teenage years! Ha!)

Because it’s fresh in my mind, I thought I would share some simple tips for taking away dummies (or bottles, even) and making it a smooth and easy transition. NB: we’ve always gone down the Dummy Fairy route, but there are other ways too that don’t involve a fictional fairy (like the concept of the ‘dummy tree‘ in Denmark and Sweden, or the idea of ‘giving’ dummies to another baby who needs them more, or Esther’s idea of leaving the dummies in the Christmas tree and asking Santa to replace them with gifts!). Here are my tips:

  • I think the most important thing is to get your child excited about the idea and to be really honest and direct with them. Start casually talking about the dummy fairy (or dummy tree, etc.) and mention that they’re getting so big and don’t really need a dummy anymore. Be really positive about it — make them feel like it’s a really cool thing to be too big for dummies! You can even discuss the benefits of being so big — like eating with the ‘grown up’ cutlery, choosing their own outfits, sitting in big chairs, eating without a bib… whatever it is!
  • If you have bigger kids, start talking to them about it too. Get their support in encouraging the little one.
  • Think about timing: don’t do it during any other transitional period, or if they’re sick, or if you’re traveling or if you have visitors in town, etc. (I always like to do these sorts of things on weekends when I know I have my husband home and we can do it together and when our sleep schedules are more relaxed.)
  • Talk to your child about the dummy fairy. Discuss that you’ll be giving away ALL of the dummies and won’t get them back. Write a card/draw a picture for the dummy fairy together (we usually write something like ‘Dear Dummy Fairy, please come and collect my dummies. I’m so big now – I don’t need them anymore!’).
  • Collect all the dummies in the house (don’t forget any strays!) and stick them in a paper bag with the card. Stick it somewhere special for the fairy to find (we hung ours on our front door) and hope the dummy fair comes to collect them (this is where the husband comes in handy).
  • In our case, the dummy fairy collects the dummies and leaves behind a small gift and a note saying how proud she is. I’ve found that giving a cuddly toy or something they can take to bed with them is a good idea because it gets them excited to go to bed and distracts them from the missing dummies — it also offers them something to grab for in the night if they wake and would normally reach for their dummy. (Although the boys got Schleich animals from the dummy fairy, and it really didn’t matter that it wasn’t so cuddly. : ))
  • Don’t make too big of a fuss about it — try to be very straightforward. Put them to bed as usual without mentioning the dummies, kiss them goodnight and walk out of the room. If they ask for their dummy, just remind them that the dummy fairy took them away because they’re a big girl/boy now. I think the key is to be firm on your decision, don’t wobble or doubt yourself. Ivy was the only one of my kids who asked for her dummy as I walked out of the door. She had a bit of a restless first night, but was fine by the second night.

That’s it! I really have found this transition to be a pretty seamless one, but perhaps we’ve just been lucky. I’d love to hear your experience with this and any tips you have to share.

Courtney x

p.s. We usually took away the dummies when the kids were between two and three. We also had a rule that dummies were for sleeping only, so they weren’t allowed out of their beds.

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