This month’s issue of Baby & Me Magazine features the best and most stylish of children’s products in the 2014 Style Awards. They handed out awards to winners based on their criteria of iconic design, good looks and innovation (you can see the winners here).
This month they asked me to round up some of my personal favourite children’s products — the products we have used and loved in our family, ones that I hope to keep forever and pass down to my grandchildren. The products shown above are a few that made the cut. You can find my column in this month’s issue here.
We’re visiting my husband’s family in Lake Tahoe this week where the kids are having loads of fun playing with all their cousins. My sister-in-law recently gave birth to her fourth baby, a little girl called Ruby, and we’ve been enjoying spending time with her and getting lots of newborn snuggle time. I can’t believe Marlow was ever that tiny! Or that sweet and calm for that matter. : )
My sister-in-law has a little portable baby bed she uses for the baby, and she told me it’s the number one thing she would recommend to anyone having a baby. I love recommendations like that!
Not only does the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper fold-up easily for travel or storage purposes (or simply for moving from room to room), but the cocooned shape and inclined position of the bed is perfect for keeping new babies feeling secure and comforted. I remember my babies always hated being put down to sleep on a flat mattress and they would often wake immediately after being put down, which is why I think this little bed looks like such a perfect solution.
Now I know the French are known for their fancy pastries and cakes, but the English are hard to beat at simple, wholesome, easy-to-make desserts. One of my favourites is Apple Eve Pudding, a variation on Apple Crumble. Instead of crumble you add a sponge batter on top of the apples. I love the way the sponge slightly soaks up some of the juice from the apples. It makes it wonderfully moist.
The funny thing is, Apple Crumble is still being served all around the country, and I think Eve Pudding has almost been forgotten in England (correct me if I am wrong)! Here’s the recipe:
200 g of butter
150 g of sugar
200 g of flour
1 teaspoon baking power
1 slug of milk
Peel the apples and cut them into chunks and put them in a oven proof dish. Heat the oven to 180°C.
Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add eggs one at a time. Fold in the flour with the baking powder to make a batter that can just about be dropped over the apples (it you think it is a bit too stiff and a slug of milk to get the right consistency). Drop over the apples making sure they are all covered and bake in the oven until the top of the pudding is golden. Serve warm – we usually add a good spoonful of vanilla ice cream.
P.S. different recipes call for raisins and cinnamon to be added to the apples, others for vanilla to be added to the batter. We like the simple version of the recipe but I think the variations are endless (blackberries mixed in with the apples? Could be delicious, no?)
P.S. Oh, I forgot to mention: best served with custard, ice cream or a good dose of single cream.
We’ve been staying at my family’s beach house on Bainbridge Island this week, where the water is cold and the beaches are rocky. The kids are in heaven! We have all spent the past few days collecting rocks on our beach walks, and today, while Marlow napped, we sat down in the shade to paint them. It was a fun afternoon activity and one that we all enjoyed.
The results from our rock-painting session were not overly impressive, so I thought it might be better to share some more inspiring images of other painted rocks, in case you are hoping for some inspiration beyond the typical painted ladybird! All images found on Pinterest:
I love all the different faces in this image. (My boys were especially into painting faces – they wanted to make ‘pet rocks’.)
Love the bright colours and patterns here. (Image found here.)
Paint the alphabet! Fun and educational. (Image from here.)
Thought these were cute!
Love these painted owls!
We used acrylic paints, and mixed our paints inside sea shells since we didn’t have paint palettes. It worked perfectly! Hope you all have a wonderful weekend.
Last week our oldest daughter Sara and I visited the Kleine Fabriek, the children’s fashion and lifestyle trade fair here in Amsterdam, where we met our lovely Polish shop member Noga Ravin. I’ve always loved the look of Noga’s ‘Doggy Bags‘, but it was nice to discover her original and innovative range of products in person.
Her newest invention are these shadow puppets, made out of thick felt and so eminently simple. Sara and I were immediately playing with them at the fair! (And no, that’s not my hairy arm in the video above. ; ) ) There are five fun designs in six different colours, and a velcro closure ensures a fit for all sizes and ages. Cute, don’t you think? Family fun guaranteed!
Psst: find an exclusive 15% off to Nogaravin here, this month only.
Playtime Paris is one of my top events of the year. Usually Esther, Courtney and I get together, talk, lounge, catch up, plan and do all the things you would normally do if you lived in the same city. This time the girls did not make it over and it made me miss my lovely girlfriends a lot — meeting up for Playtime has become a bit of a tradition.
But even without my partners in crime Playtime was still so much fun to visit. It is so much fun having a peek at what people have designed for next year. It is also great discovering new brands and having a good catch up with some of our collaborators and friends. There are such talented people out there and it is such a pleasure seeing their work.
Here are some of the highlights from the show:
1) Velveteen – this has become one of my favourite brands. Lovely, relaxed designs with a little twist to them that makes it stand out.
2) Hucklebones – the details going in these clothes are amazing and everything is so original and well crafted.
3) Bobo Choses – these guys just never get it wrong. Since we first discovered them 5 years ago every collection has been inspired and fun!
4) Macarons – talking to these guys makes me want to be a children’s clothes designer.
5) Elfie – these two girls are some of the nicest girls around and their collection is cute, whimsical and always full of little surprises in the details.
5) Milk and Biscuits – my favourite new discovery. The designer is the lovely Kate from England who now lives in Shanghai. She had some of the funkiest, spirited fabric designs I have seen in a long time.
Cannot wait for the next event.
I have a new game obsession for this summer and it is… croquet! It was partly brought along by reading ‘Alice in Wonderland’, but also because it just looks like a lot of fun. Apparently it actually used to be an Olympic sport — back in 1900 and in only one Olympic competition — but still! It also makes me think of cucumber sandwiches, victoria sponges and afternoon tea on the lawn. Basically… summer in England!
It’s also the perfect game to play with the kids and adults, as long as no one takes it too seriously… It is pretty simple and you can always team up.
I picked up our set here!
Kukkia is a toy brand from Japan, which in my opinion is one of the best in the children’s market. The Kukkia toys are beautiful, yes, but what I love is that they are simple enough to allow children’s imaginations to do the work. Many of their toys are classic concepts (like building blocks, wooden cars or dominoes!) but they put a modern twist on everything, adding innovative details that really put the toys in a league of their own.
The GG* Crêpe Shop is a perfect example. They know that children like to play ‘cooking’ and ‘shop’. Many of us have little play kitchens for our kids with chef pans and fake food. But Kukkia have taken the concept a bit further, creating a set for children to make their own crêpes and set up a little crêpe shop, all the while being encouraged to learn and develop their motor skills along the way.
The Crêpe Shop set comes with three different fabric crêpes, each with a different fastening: velcro, tie or button. The idea is to encourage children to practice tying bows and fastening buttons in a fun way. So clever! The set also comes with wooden and fabric food toppings, a wooden spatula and a ‘hot plate’ that also doubles as a chalkboard sign when it comes time to ‘sell’ your crêpes. Again, so clever.
Ivy has been making crêpes for everyone in the family. Her favourite customer is Quin (who prefers the sweet ones over the savoury!). : ) The GG* Crêpe Shop and other Kukkia toys are available to purchase from Abacus Kids or from Sisters Guild.
* This post was sponsored by Kukkia, a brand we have loved for years (even before they ever reached out to us). Thanks for supporting the brands that help to support this blog! : )
I remember reviewing Bastida over four (!) years ago, and writing about how much I liked the concept behind this new brand from Barcelona. The idea of Bastida is that all of the clothes in store are adjustable by way of clever zippers, buttons and strings, so they can fit smaller size to bigger size — one piece, good for several years, and several children.
Alicia from Bastida recently contacted me again and I had a peek at her now expanded collection. It is still so innovative and clever, and so cute too! There are now pretty tie-up dresses, cool zip up hoodies, and ingenious onesies that fit newborn babies until they’re one! (I love this photo of Polona‘s baby boy Talan, featuring the Bastida onesie.)
It is so nice to see brands developing and companies expanding over the years. Definitely one of the highlights of our job! I can’t wait to see how Bastida is going to develop further…
My good friend Kim always brings the best gifts for my children. She recently visited us from London, and again managed to bring something awesome! She spoiled each of my kids with a Djeco Mini Game, and they are such a big hit. With the vacations around the corner, and so many of us traveling to faraway and exciting places, I thought they were just too good not to share.
Djeco Mini Games are a variety of 30 cards, all bundled in a pack, with each of them featuring yet another old-fashioned brain teaser. There are card packs with ‘spot the ten differences’, ‘find the missing piece’, ‘sudoko’, ‘maze’, ‘connect the dots’ etc etc — so much fun (also for adults)! And perfect entertainment for in the back of the car, on the plane, in the train, in a restaurant… You name it. I’m definitely going to pick up a few more (if indeed we manage to get away with our house renovations in full swing).
I popped into Eenymeeny yesterday to pick up a few craft/activity books for the kids (we have a 9-hour daytime flight on Friday!) and this Tortustick game was out on display. Marlow immediately sat down and started playing with it, and to my amazement she actually sat still for a good 45 seconds. : )
I ended up buying it because I figured that not only will she enjoy playing with it, but it will appeal to the bigger kids as well. The game comes with a set of cards with different patterns, and bigger kids can use the magnetic stick to drag the colourful balls around the maze to match the patterns on the cards. A fun toy for kids of every age (around 2 and up)!
Apart from playing dress-up with my mom’s lipstick when I was little, I have never been a lipstick girl. I tried lip gloss when I was in college, but I could never figure out how to keep my hair from getting stuck in my lips, especially in windy Chicago! (Is there a trick I’m not aware of?) And I’ve always felt that a bold coloured lipstick made my lips look even bigger, making me look a bit clown-like.
So when my friend Joanna from A Cup of Jo asked me to test out some lipsticks for a beauty tutorial on her blog, I laughed her off and told her I don’t look good in lipstick. But she persuaded me to try, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised when I tested them out. There is something about lipstick that makes you feel flirty and fun and can make you look instantly more put-together, even with messy hair and sleepy eyes. : )
The lipstick feature is up on A Cup of Jo. We tested out three different orangey colours. Which one is your favourite? Do you have others to recommend? (I still haven’t bought a lipstick yet so any suggestions you have are welcomed!)
p.s. How pretty is this dress by Ace & Jig?! The dress definitely steals the show.
I’ve posted a few photos over the years of my boys asleep in their bed, and usually when I do it raises some interesting comments and questions about my boys sharing a bed. Do they really share a bed? Have they always? How did you get them to sleep in the same bed? Do they wake each other up in the night? Do I recommend it?
It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately because Marlow is now starting to ask to sleep with Ivy, and while I don’t want to risk messing up her good sleep habits, I’m thinking I might get rid of Marlow’s cot and let her join Ivy in her bed.
I love that my boys share a bed. Perhaps it would be the same if they each had their own bed within the same room, but those two boys are so close and I really think it has a lot to do with the bond that is created by sharing a bed. I think there’s something magical about bedtime, a time when they know they have to be quiet and play peacefully, no tattle-telling or fighting over toys. Whatever quarrels they have during the day are completely tossed aside at bedtime. It’s like there’s a mutual understanding between them that at bedtime they join the same team: boys versus their parents. I’ve always put them to bed around 7:00 for this reason. I know it’s early, but I figure they’ll end up talking or playing quietly together anyway, so why not make the most of it?! We often find them asleep, lying side by side under the same book. Or sometimes we find a whole heap of little toys under their covers, evidence of some cheeky playtime before they fell asleep.
We didn’t make the decision to put the boys in one bed; they decided all on their own. When Quin, the younger one, was 6 months old we moved him into the room with his older brother. By the time he was 18 months old, we gave him a matching toddler bed like his brother’s. We joked they had beds like Ernie and Bert from ‘Sesame Street’!
But… Quin never slept in his own bed. We would tuck each of them into their own beds, but every night we would come upstairs to find them in the same bed together. Like this…
or like this…
Every single night!!
So when it came time to move into our new house, I gave the boys a choice: they could each have their own beds, or they could have one big bed to share. And of course it was an obvious decision.
The boys sleep so well together. No complaints about bed hogging or snoring. It’s like they just figure out their little place in bed and know how to sleep together (Quin always likes the flatter pillows and Easton always sleeps on the left side of the bed. They’re like a couple of old men with their little quirky ways!) I’m sure at some point they will decide it’s no longer ‘cool’ to share a bed, but for now we are happy with this sweet bed sharing arrangement. Here are some other benefits worth noting:
- It makes traveling easier because they always sleep together and can comfort each other in new places. (We have never heard either of them say they were scared.)
- We’ve never had a problem with scary dreams or other sleep issues. They must feel comfort knowing they have each other so near.
- Easton often reads books to Quin. It used to be simple picture books, but now Easton reads his chapter books to Quin and I can only imagine it is beneficial for both of them to be reading together like this.
- When guests come to stay, we can use the boys’ bedroom as a guest bedroom because the bed is big enough for adults.
- One big bed takes up less space than two single beds, so for space-saving reasons, it’s worked out nicely in their little bedroom.
We will definitely let the girls sleep together as well, and I really hope they’ll sleep as well together as the boys do, and hopefully it will strengthen their relationship even more. (They already have bedtime conversations from their separate beds, but I can’t wait until they’re snuggled into the same bed, reading the same books, and sneaking in a few minutes of extra play.)
So tell me, do your children share a bed? Would you consider it?
We have great plans, ranging from the kids flying on their own to Italy (!) as unaccompanied minors, to holidays in the French countryside and possibly some beach time and surfing. We will see how plans pan out, all I know is that it is going to be fun! Do you have any fun plans for this summer? I am excited to hear!
Talking about traveling: we still have a couple of our Travel Kids left, which you can order via the (all renewed!) Lalé website. Our travel packs are made in collaboration with one of our favourite designers, Lalé, and we are so thrilled on how they turned out! They are perfect to throw in your bag to go on trips — be it planes, trains or automobiles. My kids are super excited to wear the eye mask and and neck cushion on the plane, just to have something cozy to snuggle up to!
I do hope you have a great summer!
When we moved to Amsterdam 6 years ago, we thought we would leave after a few years, so we never ended up buying a place for ourselves. We found a nice little house for rent, in a nice little neighbourhood, with a nice little backyard which is connected to other nice little backyards by way of a romantic alleyway. So our children have direct and save access to heaps of nice little neighbouring kids! We fell in love with the house and the neighbourhood, but sadly our landlord told us a year ago that he wanted his house back. (We were also outgrowing the space since we had two more children after moving in here!) So we were preparing to move again and leave our beloved house and neighbourhood, until… our sweet 94-year-old neighbour told us she wanted to sell us her house!
She bought the house when it was being built in 1953, and had lived there ever since. First with her family, then alone after her three children left the house and her husband passed away. Until, at the end of last year, she lost her eyesight, broke her hip, and had to move to an elderly home. She loved her house, and wanted another family to love it as much as she did. And this is why she decided to sell it to us. So sweet!
We’ve been renovating the house for a few months now, and hope to move in later this summer. It’s such a big job and so exciting — it’s the first house we have ever owned! We’ve been designing, selecting materials, fittings, tiles… and of course I’ve been secretly looking around for some new ‘details’ as well. ; )
Home and Kids is one of our shop members and I particularly like their style. I found the black metal wire lamp in the photo above in their shop, and am so in love with it! I can’t wait to see it in our new house, but for now it looks perfect on that vintage side table next to our couch. I also am eying this mirror for our toilet, these wire trays and baskets for my new office (!!), and this Paris pillow for the couch.
There is also a wonderful children’s decor and gift selection, where you can’t go wrong with finding presents, toys, or other desirable little things like these cool Amy & Ivor mocassins that have Casper’s name on them.
In fact, I’m going to place a little order immediately, as sale is now on!
(Oh, in case you are interested — here are a few photos of our house renovation…)
Marlow and I left the house the other day to pick the big kids up from school and only after we arrived to the school did I realise we had forgotten her shoes! I guess that is the sign of summertime. She ran around the entire afternoon with her bare feet and never complained!
Alas, there are times when shoes are required, and for this it’s a good thing for Angulus. The shoes are extremely well made, with sturdy straps and nice thick soles. Marlow has been wearing a pair of Angulus sandals passed down from Ivy and they’re still in really good shape. And many of the styles are unisex, so they can be passed down from sibling to sibling, despite gender differences.
I stumbled upon this image on Pinterest a couple days ago and knew immediately what I wanted to do with the bowl full of peaches and nectarines on my kitchen counter and the ready-rolled puff pastry in my freezer. So easy! I quickly wrote down the simple recipe and decided to make it that evening with all my little kitchen helpers. It was really a team effort – Easton helped fold the sides of the pastry and painted on the egg yolk, Quin sprinkled the sugar and helped cut the peaches, Ivy poured the honey and Marlow snuck bites of fruit while we worked. : )
Here’s the recipe:
-1 puff pastry sheet
-3 cups of stone fruit, sliced (we used peaches, nectarines, and apricots)
-3 tablespoons of honey
-1 tablespoon of lemon juice
-1 egg, lightly beaten
-granulated sugar for sprinkling
Heat oven to 190° C (375° F). Place baking sheet in oven to heat up. Place the puff pastry on parchment paper. Fold in edge of puff pastry towards center to create a half inch border; set aside. In a bowl toss fruit, honey and lemon juice. Remove heated baking sheet from oven. Place puff pastry on bake sheet. Pour fruit mixture on top. Brush border with lightly beaten egg and sprinkle sugar over the egg.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown. Enjoy!
We ended up eating the tart before dinner because none of us had the willpower to wait!
The Velib’ (the Parisian city council bicycle scheme) has had a huge impact on the city, more than anything I have ever seen. Bike paths have popped up all over the place and even the infamous Parisian taxi drivers seem to have gotten used to bikes on the road, at least they have stopped screaming at them or trying to run them down! Most people I know use a Velib’ on a daily basis, so Paris just might become another bike friendly European town — I am keeping my fingers crossed.
So now we need to get the future generation onto bikes, which is not that easy in Paris. It is quite daunting teaching a kid how to ride on a public, busy street and most family flats are too small to be able to fit bicycles in them. This is one of the reasons Paris town hall has just launched a Velib scheme called P’tit Velib’ just for kids with 4 locations in Paris. The little bicycles have the same minimalist chic look as their bigger counterparts and come in 4 different sizes from push bike to teenager bike. At the moment you can pick them up in the bois de Vincennes, bois de Boulogne and the Berge de Seine. I do hope this scheme grows and comes to other locations in Paris, it is such a great idea!
Kid & Coe is a holiday rental site specifically for families. It was launched last Autumn and it’s been great watching their site and inventory of properties grow. They offer family-friendly destinations all over the world — from beach houses in Brazil to city apartments in New York, or stylish flats in London to countryside retreats in Tuscany. Most of the properties are personally owned by families, so they often come equipped with children’s toys, children’s beds, highchairs and other items to make your stay more comfortable and enjoyable.
With summer holidays so near, I thought it would be a great idea to ask the team at Kid & Coe to round up five of their favourite European destinations for summer. Here are their picks and a brief description of each place:
1. The Vejer Residence, Spain
This whitewashed hippy-deluxe residence with plunge pool is in one of Andalucia’s lesser visited characterful white towns, Vejer de la Frontera, near Cadiz, and sleeps up to 6 adults and 1 child in 4 bedrooms. It’s full of rustic, romantic character, from the cobbled stone floors to the studded front door.
From £122 per night.
2. The Gumpendorfer Residence, Vienna
A city in summer? Well, if you like art, culture and even beaches along the Danube, Vienna is a great choice. There’s even a floating boat with a pool in it nearby if you need to cool off. We love this central apartment which sleeps up to 2 adults and 2 children and is well equipped for small children.
From €90 per night.
3. The Heerlijkheid Van Marrem Residence, Belgium
Don’t let anyone tell you that Belgium’s boring. This stunning and unique renovated carriage shed has been lovingly turned into rustic chic lodgings sleeping up to 23, and is perfect for a deluxe family celebration. Play in the flower-filled fields or day trip to Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges and Brussels. It’s ideal for a break with friends, too.
From €675 per night.
4. The Karl Kunger Residence, Berlin
Another great city and another great city pad: this loft apartment set in a former factory building sleeps up to 4 adults and 1 child and combines a sleek, modern interior with serious comfort. It’s close to a large park for sunny picnics, 10 minutes by S-Bahn from the city centre and near to the famous Badeschiff for yoga and days spent playing in the water.
Price on application.
5. The Agrari Residence, Greece
This stunning family villa with a pool, sleeping up to 14, is set on a hillside in the quiet south of Mykonos overlooking the Aegean Sea and Agrari beach. It’s a heavenly retreat for a family or two, with a main villa plus three separate guest studios. Grab some friends, pack the suncream and bring the kids!
Price on application.
Don’t they all look amazing? I’ll be spending the summer with family in the US, but I’m definitely taking note of these destinations for school holidays in the Autumn. I’m thinking the Heerlijkheid Van Marrem residence in Belgium would be so fun to book for a holiday with friends! Esther, Emilie are you in?!
Easton (aged 9) has always, since the time he could speak, been obsessed with nature and animals and especially sea life. One of his first words was ‘dolphin’ and by the time we was three, he knew the names of all the different whales and sharks! As a result, some of his favourite books are ones about the sea.
While he now mostly reads chapter books, both for school reading and for pleasure, I still catch him reading some of his favourite picture books, especially the books about sea creatures and animals. I thought I would split up his list of favourites into two groups: picture books and chapter books.
Here are some of his favourite picture books:
1. Manfish : This sweet and beautifully illustrated book tells the story of Jacques Cousteau from the time he was a young boy up through his adult life and film-making career. Easton wants to be a marine biologist when he’s bigger, and I think he really relates to the young boy in this book.
2. Zoo-ology : I have now bought three different copies of this book because it’s one of the most read books in our house (I often find it under the covers in their bed!), and I keep replacing the book due to broken bindings or torn pages. The book features more than 300 animals, each page featuring a different type: feathered, nocturnal, large, small, underground, etc.
4. Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea : This fact-filled book takes you down from the surface to the very bottom of the sea, showing you all the crazy sea creatures who live in each ‘layer’ of the sea.
6. Stuck : Another Oliver Jeffers favourite. My boys think it’s hilarious to see all the things that Floyd gets stuck up in the tree in the effort to get his kite down.
7. Small and Tall Tales of Extinct Animals : Easton is fascinated by extinct animals and by the thought that some of the animals on our planet will one day also become extinct. This is another great animal picture book that shows extinct animals and gives a brief description of each.
And here are some of his favourite chapter books:
1. The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket : I haven’t read this book, but Easton told me it’s very funny and it’s about a boy who floats and can’t control his floating, even when he wishes he could be normal and please his parents.
2 & 3. The BFG and James and the Giant Peach : Both by Roald Dahl, both brilliant and imaginative. What I love about the Roald Dahl books is that there is a teensy element of something slightly scary. I remember reading The BFG and The Witches when I was little, and being slightly scared but also totally intrigued.
5. The Harry Potter books: My mum reads these to my boys when she comes to visit. So far she’s read the first three books, and they have loved them. Quin (aged 7) can get slightly scared at times, but Easton can’t get enough.
6. Where the Red Fern Grows: I selfishly read this to the boys last summer because I wanted to re-read the story I loved as a child. It was one of my favourites! I will encourage Easton to read it again on his own, because it’s just one of those magical books, and probably best read on a sofa all alone, where tears can fall freely.
7. Tom’s Midnight Garden : I bought this book after receiving several reader recommendations to do so. We’ve only just started reading it, but Easton wanted to include it in his list and I have a strong feeling he won’t regret doing so.
Easton isn’t the most enthusiastic reader, especially when it comes to chapter books without pictures… but we’re getting there. He seems to be especially drawn to simple or silly stories, mostly featuring boys as the main character. If you have other book suggestions to share for this age group, please do so below.
p.s. You can see previous posts in this series here: