Colourful cashmere accessories from Olivier Baby and Kids

Olivier Baby cashmere bonnet
Olivier Baby cashmere snood
Olivier Baby bear hat
cashmere snoods
I recently got the kids cashmere snoods and I honestly don’t know what took me so long to catch on to this convenient fashion trend. Snoods are so much easier than scarves. Hands down. (I can totally understand now why scarves were banned from Emilie’s girls’ school! They’re a pain to keep wrapped around the neck, and often end up dragging in the dirt, falling off and getting in the way.) Snoods stay put and keep kids warm, all the while looking super cute!

Olivier Baby & Kids is a great place to pick up cashmere accessories for kids in a variety of pretty colours. I love the baby bonnets as well as the snoods (so handy with the strap under the chin), and how fun are all the colourful pompom hats?

Apparently it’s supposed to get colder before it gets warmer here in the UK, so it’s not a bad idea to stock up on winter accessories, especially now that the sale has started.

Courtney x

This month’s Giveaways!

This month’s four giveaways are especially lovely! What a good way to brighten up the month of January?! Read about each of them below, and visit our Win page to enter…

mamaowl giveaway

MamaOwl was started by a Danish mother living in London who wanted her baby to stay warm during the colder winter months. Having begun with her favourite brand, Engel, the collection has now grown to include many of our most loved alpaca, merino, and lambswool brands as well as not-to-be-missed organic cotton pieces. MamaOwl offers a wide range of organic and natural wool clothing for babies and children up to 8 years. From hats and scarves to leggings, jumpers to sleeping bags, choose gorgeous, warm pieces from the likes of Misha + Puff, FUB, Serendiptiy and babaà.
This month MamaOwl is offering one lucky winner a £100 gift card voucher.

lennebelle giveaway
Lennebelle Petites is a beautiful jewellery collection celebrating the special connection between mother and child. These are gorgeous, delicate, wearable pieces, born out of a mother’s love. Designer Lenneke was inspired by the desire to appreciate the small things — those little bits of everyday magic, and the knowledge that our children help us do that – as you can see in these sweet films.
We just love the matching mother-child bracelets. How perfect, then, that Lennebelle Petites are offering one winner just such a set this month! The winner can choose their design and preference of 18K gold or silver.

smallshires
Smalls is a British range of the softest, non-itchy luxury merino long sleeve tops & vests with gorgeous subtle detailing, equally good as outerwear or base layers. Smalls supermerino is machine washable, temperature regulating – keeping you warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot – and breathes like a second skin. It’s moisture wicking, flame retardant, anti-allergy & itchy label free for kids 2-12 years. So perfect! This month Smalls are offering one lucky winner one long sleeve and two tanks, you can take your pick of sizes and colours! Perfect for ski season!

greenberry kids giveaway

Greenberry Kids offer a playful, colourful collection of stylish & comfortable quality clothing for children from 2 to 6 years. Here you’ll find the finest pieces from Korean brands; such a fresh selection with fun designs and unique shapes!
This month Greenberry Kids are offering one lucky winner a £100 shopping spree on their site!

To enter any or all of these awesome giveaways, just visit our Win! page over on the shopping portal. Good luck! x

Tuesday Tips: Preventing Sibling Rivalry

Easton and Quin in Venice
adamo kids

We’ve decided to dive straight in to our new ‘Tuesday Tips’ series with a weighty discussion about sibling rivalry! We hope you’re up for it, and we really hope you’ll share your tips and experiences too. Here goes…

Growing up in a big family, the eldest of five children, I remember how important it was to my mother that my siblings and I were friends. It was a worse offence in our house to hurt your sister’s feelings than it was to be told off in school or to forget to do your chores. Get in a fight with a schoolmate and you were given a stern talking to. Get in a fight with your sibling and you could feel the deep disappointment before she ever said a word. My mom always maintained that her biggest goal as a mother was to raise children who liked each other, and it was this goal, above others, that guided her parenting practices throughout our childhood.

I remember when I was pregnant with my second baby and we found out we were having another boy. Sitting there in the ultrasound clinic, it became immediately apparent what my mother had been talking about for all those years. The only thing I could think of was how much I hoped my two boys would become the best of friends. Becoming a mother of two, I could feel the focus of my parenting shift: it became less about me and more about them. A loving relationship between my children became, and has remained, my biggest commitment as a mother.

Over the years, as our family has grown from two to now four kids, it’s become even more apparent how much my children are shaped by each other, how their individual personalities are so influenced by their birth order and relationships with their siblings. (Do you remember this post and the article in Time Magazine noting that children are more shaped by their siblings than by anyone else?) Even more reason to ensure that the relationships between my children are happy ones.

Here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way:

1. Don’t compare your children, not even to raise ambitions: Try to resist the temptation to make comparisons with the hopes of encouraging your child to do something. For example, at the dinner table when my kids are eating and Ivy is sitting there eating VERY slowly, my first instinct is to say something to Ivy like “Ivy, hurry up and eat your broccoli. Look at Marlow – she’s eaten all her food already”, but I have to bite my tongue here because I don’t want to create a competition between the girls or pit them against each other.

Thinking back on my own childhood, I remember one sunny summer’s evening, standing with my mom in our backyard watching my three brothers play basketball. My middle brother was so clumsy; he was short, even shorter than my youngest brother, and he couldn’t make a basket no matter how hard he tried. My mom just sat there smiling and encouraging them all. Never once did she let on that my youngest brother was better than my middle brother, not even to light a little fire under his behind. Looking back on it, I think my brother just played because he liked playing with his siblings. He didn’t play to win or to be good at it. And I think my mom didn’t care if he was good either. She was just happy to watch them play together.

2. Resist the temptation to intervene:  My natural reaction as a mother is to step in and make sure things are always fair and right, to ensure the older ones aren’t coercing the younger ones into doing what they want, or that the younger ones aren’t just breaking down in tears to get their way. But I’ve learned that actually my children play better when they know I’m not going to get involved in their little disputes or sort out their disagreements for them, and that in most cases when they sort things out for themselves, they usually do so in a pretty fair and decent way. If my kids are playing outside in the garden or upstairs in the playroom, they tend to play better knowing I’m not within earshot of whining or tattle telling. Of course if an argument becomes physical, or if someone’s feelings are really hurt, I will step in. But if they’re fighting over toys, or arguing over who gets to choose the bedtime story, I have learned that sitting on the sidelines and letting them work out their differences is the best approach.

3. Encourage your children to empathise with each other: I was talking to Esther a few days ago and she explained that whenever one of her kids comes to her complaining about their brother or sister being cranky or mean, she tries to encourage them to understand why their sibling is acting this way — perhaps they’re tried, or hungry, or not feeling well (usually it’s something quite simple like this). Esther told me that she wants her kids to understand and empathise with their sibling rather than to immediately feel attacked or be angry with them. Isn’t that so sweet? It’s something I hope to start doing with my kids too.

It also got me thinking about my own siblings and how whenever I have a small argument with one of them, I can usually understand their point of view almost before I start to feel defensive. (Perhaps my mom used the same approach as Esther!) I think it’s such a great problem-solving technique; if only we could employ this with every relationship and with every argument!

4. Encourage your children to share a bedroom (or even a bed): I’ve written before about how my boys share a bed, but I think many of the same benefits can be said of simply sharing a bedroom. I think by giving your children a shared space, it naturally gives them a sense of being on the same team. They have a shared responsibility of keeping their room tidy, making their beds, putting the books away, etc. Plus, the bedtime chats before they fall asleep are just so sweet; the bonding that takes place during this ‘secret’ hour can only bring siblings closer.

5. Ask your kids to help you by helping their sibling: One of the obvious downsides of having several children is the lack of one-on-one time with each of them. It is something I’m constantly aware of and always trying to improve on.  The benefit, however, is that your children rely more on each other, and it creates a sense of teamwork between them. I remember when Marlow was born, I asked for a lot of help from the older kids with her, and it helped to encourage a nurturing relationship with the baby and it built up their confidence as care-givers to their younger sister. I don’t always have time to sit down and read with all of my kids in the afternoons, but I will ask Easton to listen to Ivy read and help her with words she doesn’t know, or often Quin will read to Marlow, or Easton to Quin. (My mama heart!)

6. Allow your kids the opportunity to negotiate their own way with each other: I always use bath time as a perfect example of this. I usually put all my kids into the bath together, and while it’s a bit of a squeeze for them all, it is the perfect time for them to learn important life lessons: like vying for space, sharing and swapping toys, arguing over who gets to sit closest to the faucet and negotiating who must get out first based on the previous bath, etc. Not only do they learn to love and play and care for each other, but also to argue, negotiate, and share.

I’ve recently noticed a new dynamic in our family: because Easton now spends more time reading and doing homework in the afternoons, Quin, who is normally Easton’s playtime pal, is left to play with Ivy or Marlow. The relationship between Quin and Ivy is a somewhat ‘new’ relationship, and I have to admit it hasn’t really been smooth sailing. I guess it all comes down to pecking order and Quin, being the eldest in this relationship, becomes the dominant ‘player’, and Ivy ends up being bossed around or somewhat bullied by Quin (who has always been the sweetest, most loving little boy). I’ve been watching this relationship unfold from a distance and noticing that it is certainly a bit of a rocky one. I’ve decided that it’s important for the two of them to learn how to play with each other even if it means the occasional argument needs to happen, and I’m hoping that it will only strengthen the bond between them, and of course help with other relationships in the future. (At least I’m hoping — I’ll let you know how it goes in a few month’s time.)

 

So, those are some more general tips and experiences that have worked in our family. I’d love to hear your experiences and any tips you would like to share.  Please leave your comments below.

Courtney x

 

Tuesday Tips, a new series

ten kids

Over the years we’ve been asked by readers to share our thoughts and tips on parenting-related topics. Whether it’s a question about something basic like potty training, weaning or dining out with children…or something slightly more complex like preventing sibling rivalry or raising healthy eaters, we’ve received these questions somewhat apprehensively, as we didn’t quite know how best to respond.

Apart from the odd post (like views on electronics or co-sleeping) we have mostly shied away from writing these more advice-driven parenting posts. I think it’s because none of us have ever felt qualified enough to offer advice (none of us have ever officially studied or read up on these topics). And yet… the questions keep coming. Which got us thinking: perhaps it’s not about reading all the books. Perhaps it’s the actual trial and error of raising kids that makes a mother an ‘expert’? And perhaps, even more than that, maybe we don’t necessarily want an expert’s advice; maybe we’re more interested to hear how other like-minded mothers approach all the many parenting stages and challenges.

Between the three of us, we have spent the past ten years birthing, sleep-training, weaning, potty-training, feeding and raising ten children! That’s ten years of parenting, learning, discussing, questioning, adapting and becoming generally more confident as mothers. Perhaps we do have a trick or two up our sleeves? (At least for parenting young kids — we’ve got a lot to learn about the next stages…. like teenagers… yikes!!!)

Actually, the more we think of it, the more we realize that all mothers, regardless of how many children they’ve had, are experts. Don’t we all have some tips we’ve learned along the way? Wouldn’t it be fun to create a platform where we can all weigh in with our tips and suggestions (and questions!) so that we can all learn and benefit from the wisdom of other mothers?

We would love to start a weekly series here on this blog where we pick a parenting topic and shed some light on what we’ve learned and what has worked for us (not in a preachy way, but in a hopefully helpful way). We would love for this series to encourage healthy discussion and to prompt even more questions and topics to discuss. And of course we really hope you will all chime in with your own tips and tricks. We’re super excited to kick it off!

In the meantime, please feel free to offer suggestions for topics we can cover. We’ve got a list from previous questions but would love to hear your suggestions so we can start to organize these topics. Also, if there’s a question or topic we don’t feel qualified to shed light on, we’ll try to seek out a mother or expert who has the experience and insight to share. This is going to be so fun! Our first ‘Tuesday Tips’ post will be up later today…

Love,
 Courtney, Esther and Emilie

Girls on Tiptoes

Girls on Tiptoes leotard
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girls on tiptoes3
girls on tiptoes4
I’ve always been really reluctant to sign my kids up for classes and activities that take place on weekends. I just find the weekends to be such precious family time and I’ve never liked dropping kids off at classes (or even birthday parties for that matter) where it divides the six of us up. We’ve never been a boys-go-to-football/girls-go-shopping kind of family — we all really prefer to spend the two days together.

But this September I finally gave in. Ivy has been asking to take ballet classes for years now, and because the only available beginner ballet classes take place on a Saturday I had to make an exception to our weekend rule. So… Ivy now does ballet on Saturdays and she literally looks forward to it ALL WEEK LONG. Consequently, the ballet obsession has rubbed off on Marlow, and now, at any given point, you can be sure that at least one of my girls is wearing a tutu or ballerina leotard! (To think there was a point in my life where I had two boys and was only surrounded by trains and dinosaurs and building blocks!)

Anyway, with ballerina fever running rampant in our house, we’re really happy to have discovered the range of ballet and gymnastics wear from Girls On Tiptoes. The brand was started by three Polish mothers who have created a range of pretty-yet-playful pieces offering something more modern than the average pale pink leotard. The site, with its dreamy imagery, is mostly in Polish, but the shop is easily navigable, and I have a feeling it’s only the beginning for this great brand. You heard it here first. : )

Courtney xx

Weekly book reviews by Mo (she’s back!)

Mo de Graaff

Do you guys remember our friend, Mo, who used to be a contributor here? You might remember her stunning children’s room with the dark walls, or the Cops ‘n Robbers birthday party she threw for her son, or her lemon curd recipe, or, my favourite, her Christmas Book Advent Calendar idea?! We were so sad when she told us she was too busy to continue writing for us (or perhaps too bogged down with baby number three!), and honestly we’ve missed her ever since.

So, we’ve begged and pleaded and asked her to come back…and, lucky us, she’s agreed to return as our weekly book reviewer!!

There is honestly no one better for this job than Mo. She is the biggest children’s book enthusiast I know and always gives the best book tips. She once told me that she never reads a children’s book for the first time without her kids — she likes to wait to read it with her kids so she can experience it at the same time they do. Isn’t that so sweet?

You guys, we are in for a treat. I can’t wait for her weekly posts — I’ve been needing some book inspiration in my life! This week’s post is up next…

Courtney x

Little Auggie pajamas

Little Auggie robot pajamas
Girls in Auggie robot pajamas

I have always loved the baby and children’s bedding at Little Auggie. The prints are so sweet, the colours so fresh, and I love the way they mix and match patterns and textiles to create the most gorgeously styled little beds.

Little Auggie have recently launched a line of children’s sleepwear to compliment their bedding collection, and I love that they didn’t just stick with the blue robot print for boys, but created a pink version for girls too. Because who says robots are a boys’ thing anyway?

Courtney x

p.s. Wooden robot ‘cubebot’ toy is from e-Side.

Organ donation and one mum’s incredible story

Last month at our ShopUp event, I had the pleasure of meeting fellow London mum, Louise Hannon. We started talking about children and life in London, and she told me her incredible story about her son’s illness, his life-threatening surgeries at Great Ormond Street Hospital and his heart transplant through organ donation. We spoke about organ donation and how important it is to spread the word about it. Did you know that, according to statistics, more than 90% of us would consider donating our organs and yet, here in the UK, only about 30% of us are registered? It all comes down to spreading awareness.

Here in the UK, more than 10,000 people need a transplant and three people die every single day waiting for one. In the US, there are more than 120,000 needing a transplant and 17 people die each day waiting for an organ. Also, one organ donor can save up to eight lives!

I was so moved by Louise’s story, we asked her to share her story with us and she very kindly agreed. Here is her story, a rather brief re-cap of a very tumultuous past 18 months:

On 28th January 2014, my six-year-old son Joe had a life saving heart transplant at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. This was due to the amazing generosity of a lady who, through organ donation, chose to save other’s lives in the event of her death.

Louise and kids

Up until summer 2013 he had been a non–stop little boy, full of energy, who loved being outdoors, playing football and climbing trees. We had just moved to South Australia when he suddenly became unwell, and Joe received a diagnosis of ‘Dilated Cardiomyopathy’ – serious heart failure that would most likely require transplant in order for him to survive. We were utterly devastated and struggled to deal with the news especially being on the other side of the world away from friends and family. Calling our parents back in the UK to tell them the news was incredibly hard and the first of many difficult phone calls we had to make to them over the following months.

After a month in Adelaide Women’s and Children’s Hospital Joe was repatriated back to London in a medical jet in the hope that he would receive a heart transplant more quickly in the UK. However, Joe’s heart transplant did not come as quickly as we had all hoped and he continued to decline despite the maximum IV drugs he was on. It was frightening to see how quickly his heart was giving up and the effect this had on him as he lost huge amounts of weight and would lie listlessly on the bed unable to really talk to us. We were desperate to get the phone call each day to say a heart was available. We were also aware though that when a heart did come that meant a family somewhere else would be experiencing tragedy and this was such a difficult process to reconcile ourselves with.

We were told his only option now was to undergo open heart surgery for a ‘Berlin heart machine’ to be fitted to keep him alive until transplant. He had a number of serious complications whilst on the machine requiring further surgery including pneumonia and bleeding into his lungs. There was a huge amount of uncertainty as to whether he would pull through and we literally held our breath for weeks willing him to fight and get better. Our four months in intensive care was an awful experience of watching him suffer horribly. I naively hoped that, though unconscious, he wouldn’t suffer pain. I hoped that it was only us suffering as we watched and waited to see if he would recover. The reality was that he was often conscious and very distressed, unable to speak or swallow due to the breathing tube in his throat. We would watch him cry and feel completely helpless. This was the hardest part of the entire ordeal.

photo of Joe after his stroke

His biggest complication arising from the Berlin heart machine was the severe stroke he suffered on Boxing Day, 2013, which is one of the most significant risks associated with the Berlin Heart machine. After the first brain surgery to relieve the bleed in his brain we were told he would not survive and we asked my parents to bring our three year old daughter up to the hospital to say goodbye. They operated for a second time as a last ditch attempt and he miraculously survived, but was left paralysed down his left side. A heart finally became available a month later and Joe had his long awaited transplant. We then began the arduous road to recovery, involving rehab to help him learn to walk again and use his left arm. Joe spent a total of six and a half months in hospital, enduring thirteen operations and a further six weeks in a children’s neurodisability rehab centre.

joe in hospital

He is truly a living miracle and we are hugely proud of all that he has battled through at such a young age. We are slowly coming to terms with what has happened to our family in the last eighteen months and the far reaching effect this has had on all our lives. We never thought something like this would happen to us. We had coasted along in life ticking off our plans for career, children, and travelling, believing we were in control of our lives and future. As Christians, this experience has taught us we need to rely on God who is the only one who has ultimate control and it has been a hard test of our faith.

Joe takes lots of medicines every day and will do so for the rest of his life. He can now walk short distances and has returned to his old school part time. Day to day life holds lots of challenges for him that can leave him angry and depressed. He is much more volatile as a result of his stroke and tires easily. We also live each day knowing that a heart transplant is a palliative option, not a cure, with the average life expectancy being ten years. As we near the first anniversary of our son’s transplant we think about the woman who donated her heart to him and the family she left behind. To see our son in the garden kicking a football around again or playing with his sister reminds us of the incredible gift she gave us. (Below are some photos of Joe since coming home from the hospital.) 

Louise and family

joe

louise with kids

Please consider signing up online for organ donation, for yourself and your children that in the unfortunate event of an untimely death, a second chance at life for others can be brought out of tragedy. Signing up for organ donation costs nothing but could mean everything to another family facing their worst nightmare.

To read more about organ donation and to sign up in the UK, click here. To sign up for organ donation in the US, you can click here. For international registry, click here.

Louise, thank you so much for sharing your story with us, and we wish you all the best with your two beautiful children.

Gorgeous tutus from Tutu du Monde

Tutu du Monde tutus
Let’s talk about tutus, shall we? Santa Claus brought new tutus for the girls this year and now it’s an all-consuming topic in our house these days. Marlow nearly had a meltdown a few days ago when I explained that she could not wear her sparkly new tutu out into the muddy garden! She has hardly taken it off since Christmas.

We’ve written about Tutu du Monde before (here), but I just thought it was worth mentioning the amazing quality as well as their beauty. I did a little clear-out/organisation of their dress-up trunk after Christmas and realised that so many of the other dress-up dresses or tutus are torn or broken, but not the ones from Tutu du Monde — they’re all still in pristine condition, despite being worn and played with for years and years. (Marlow still wears Ivy’s first tutu from 4 years ago!) The tutus from Tutu du Monde might look gorgeously delicate and detailed, but they are as sturdy and hard-wearing as they are pretty.

Below are a couple photos of Ivy on Christmas day. The sweet girl — all she wanted for Christmas was a pair of tap shoes so you can imagine her delight when Santa gave her a ‘tap dancing tutu’ as well. The sweetest!

ivy wearing tutu2
ivy wearing tutu

Courtney x

Charming Korean clothes & accessories from Greenberry Kids

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I probably don’t have to write very much about Greenberry Kids. I’ll let the gorgeous products in the photos above do the talking! Aren’t you in love with everything in this shop? The raccoon knee socks, the mustard yellow jumper, the baggy cotton trousers… I mean, everything (including the price tag)!

Greenberry Kids is a London-based and family-run web boutique sourcing the most charming and unique brands from Korea. I bought the raccoon knee socks for the girls for Christmas and they’ve proven to be the biggest hit!

Their winter sale is now on, and I’m already excited to see what they’ll have in store for spring. Oh spring… sigh.

Courtney x

Draw a map of your city

Quin drawing map of London
Quin drawing
map of london
In the days leading up to Christmas when the kids were home from school and looking for activities to keep them entertained, I suggested they draw a map of London with all their favourite things to do and see in their city. We had an extra piece of poster paper lying around and I suggested they draw the map and paint the details. I gave them some rough guidance about the layout of London and where some of the important monuments are, but for the most part, they really took the lead to draw their city all on their own. They looked at some maps of London and some guide books, but again they did most of it all on their own and a lot of it from memory. I was so impressed with their drawings of the buildings and love the way their map of London turned out. I also loved seeing what they included on their map — Big Ben and the London Eye, of course, but they also included Ruby Violet ice cream parlour, Thanh Binh (our favourite Vietnamese restaurant), Hampstead Heath, their dad’s office, Maltby Street Market, our favourite pizza restaurant, and of course Emirates Stadium, home of their favourite football team.

Easton drawing map of London

It took the kids a good couple hours to finish their map and they stayed really engaged with this activity throughout the whole process. They also learned a bit about their city — we talked about distance and direction and the layout of London, and they now have a better idea of where everything is in relation to our house.

Plus, I love their map so much I’m planning on getting it framed to hang in our entrance way. Such a sweet visual representation of the way they view London.

Courtney x

 

Christmas recipes from the archives

We’re going through flour, eggs and butter at an impressive rate here in our house right now. There are just so many yummy treats to make (and lots of little helpers around the house to help lick the spoons clean!). Here are some of our favourite Christmas treats from the archives…

butterhorns
My mom’s Butterhorns (cinnamon rolls). We make these on Christmas morning and eat them while they’re warm, straight off the tray!

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Æbleskivers (Danish pancakes)! We eat these throughout the year, but I think they are traditionally eaten at Christmas time.

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Emilie’s ginger biscuits — spicy, crunchy and perfect to dip into a cup of tea!

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Kristina Kringle — the taste of Christmas!

View More: http://maudfontein.pass.us/tlt2

Esther’s Dutch Pepernoten recipe. So fun to make with the kids!

chocolate mint patties

Chocolate mint patties (or ‘mint patios’ as we call them in our family).

cranberry muffins

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread (or muffins). So good!

cinnamon swirl buns

Cinnamon swirl buns!

sugar cookies

Our favourite sugar cookie recipe! We’re planning on making these today. It’s my family’s Christmas tradition!

Which recipe tempts you the most? My mouth is literally watering as I type… !

Courtney xx

Chic sweatshirts for mums (and papas!) at émoi émoi

maman poule
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Boy am I a sucker for anything French. I really never thought I would wear a sweatshirt with a slogan, but when that slogan is written in French it suddenly just looks so much more chic, no? And how could I resist the Maman Poule (‘mother hen’) version? I love it!

These ever-so-chic sweatshirts are available from émoi émoi, and there’s also a version for papas too! (Christmas gift?)

Happy weekend everyone!

Courtney xx

Merino wool basics from Smalls

smalls merino wool
smalls merino wool long underwear 2
smalls long underwear
I was just thinking the other day how nice it would be to find thin, stretchy merino wool tanks for the kids to wear under their clothing as an extra layer of warmth on these cold winter days… and literally the next day I discovered the range from Smalls. It could not be better timing.

Smalls is a new British company started by two kiwi mums now living in the UK. They’ve created a range of the softest, non-itchy New Zealand merino wool base layers perfect for this time of year. Their merino shirts and tanks are thin and naturally stretchy, easy to layer under other clothes for extra warmth. Equally, they’re stylish enough to wear on their own — the colours are all so nice.  And as if that’s not enough, Smalls supermerino is machine washable, naturally breathable, flame retardant, anti-allergy and itchy label free!

The range is designed for kids aged 2-12 years old. I’m thinking of getting one for each of my kids!

Courtney x

Our favourite Christmas books

We keep our Christmas books tucked away on the bookshelf behind our sofa all year long until the start of December when we dust them off and stack them up on our coffee table. I think the fact that they’re hidden away for 11 months of the year makes it that much more special when we finally bring them back out at Christmas time. The kids pounce on them like they’re a long-lost treasure, each one finding their favourite book in the stack.

Don’t you just love this time of year with all the traditions — the favourite books and Christmas songs, the family recipes passed down from generations, the special ornaments carefully unwrapped and hung on the tree, everything drumming up feelings of nostalgia and anticipation and… magic!

I asked each of the kids to choose their favourite Christmas books, and apart from a small argument between Easton and Quin over a shared favourite, they each happily narrowed it down to one. I quickly snapped some photos on my phone, and here they are:

Dear Santa
Marlow loves the Dear Santa book with its lift-the-flap features.

Ivy's favourite christmas book
Ivy chose Olivia Helps with Christmas , which has been her favourite for the past couple years. We always laugh because Olivia tries to help, but isn’t very helpful. Classic Olivia!

quin's favourite christmas book

Quin chose The Night Before Christmas because I think he’s on a mission to memorise the whole story before Christmas! (I normally don’t read this one to them until Christmas eve, but we’ve broken the rules this year for Quin.)

Easton's favourite christmas book

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree is the book the boys argued over because it’s really both of their favourite, but Easton won in the end and got to take a photo with the book. : ) This really is such a cute rhyming book and a very sweet story too.

Some other favourites in our family are:

1. Christmas in Exeter Street , about a house that gets filled to the brim with visitors on Christmas eve. There are so many people in the house – even a baby sleeping in the kitchen sink!
2. The Polar Express , a classic!
3. The Twelve Days of Christmas , a beautifully illustrated book based on the song — we can’t help but sing when reading!
4. My Wonderful Christmas Tree , another beautifully illustrated counting book.
5. Christmas in Noisy Village , an Astrid Lindgren book that perfectly captures all the sweet activities leading up to Christmas. The illustrations are so good!
6. The Christmas Wish , a new-to-us book this season which the kids really love (especially Ivy), featuring photographs of a little girl on a snowy adventure to find Santa.
7. The Snowman , which isn’t technically a Christmas book, but still captures the magic of this time of year.

Please share your favourites below!

Courtney x

My thoughts on TV and other electronics

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I’ve had lots of questions recently about my parenting ideas, especially when it comes to electronics, so I thought I’d answer the most common questions in one post. I want to emphasise that this is what works in our family and for our children. I know it won’t work for every family… and it may not work forever for us. As our children grow, so will our parenting style. Below are some answers, and as always I welcome your thoughts and comments.

1.) Do your kids ever watch TV?

Almost never, except for the World Cup and the Olympics. But let me explain a bit… Both my husband and I grew up in big families and in homes without cable TV. Growing up, my family had a really old television that on good days, broadcast three channels. As a young child, I watched the occasional Sesame Street show, and sometimes, if the antenna had blown in the right direction, we could watch cartoons on Saturday morning with clear reception. Watching TV was not something we did as a family. Instead, we played a lot outside (I grew up on a farm), and we played a lot with each other (a benefit of having loads of siblings). Apart from the odd conversation where I couldn’t contribute my views on Doogie Howser or the Wonder Years, I don’t think I missed anything. I am really thankful for a childhood filled with imagination and adventure and I hope to create the same sort of upbringing for my own kids.

We don’t have some absolute no-television-whatsoever rule. We have a TV. We just aren’t really interested in TV. And we keep it in a cupboard—out of sight, out of mind. I also encourage my kids to play and find creative ways to entertain themselves without a screen. There was a short period when we allowed the boys to watch Scoobie Doo on Saturday mornings. After a few months I started noticing that, instead of crawling into our bed and enjoying a slow-paced morning, they would wake up and run straight downstairs to sit in front of the television. They stopped helping to make pancakes, couldn’t be bothered to set the table, and were cranky at breakfast time. It was then I decided that I prefer Saturday mornings without Scoobie! It really only took a couple weeks to break their interest and they went back to helping with the pancakes.

We DO let the kids watch the occasional movie, usually an old Disney classic (Robin Hood, The Rescuers, Peter Pan!) or one of the pretty films by Hayao Miyazaki, etc. In my dreams we would live in Australia or somewhere sunny and my kids would play outside and would never sit in front of a screen. But… a good family film on a cold, dark winter’s day is a nice treat every once in a while. Now that my kids are on school holidays I’m looking forward to the next rainy day so we can all sit down and watch ‘The Sound of Music’. My favourite!

2.) How do you keep your kids from the commercialisation of Disney? Do they ever ask you to buy them t-shirts with Disney princesses or super heroes on them?

I think I’m lucky with this one in that my kids never ask me for Disney t-shirts or Disney toys. Living in Europe I think we have less exposure to these things (and they don’t see them on TV). We also try to keep our kids out of shops. Most of our groceries are bought online, clothing is bought when the kids aren’t around and we avoid malls at all cost (which is easier to do when you live in a big city).

Even if they were to ask, I’d be unlikely to buy these things (mean mama, I know). Perhaps they don’t ask because they know they won’t get, but I like to think they are generally not interested. Here again, our policy is not absolute. I once bought Ivy some Hello Kitty underpants and this year I bought some miniature ‘Frozen’ figurines for the Advent Calendar. But… I rarely buy the kids anything pink or plastic, branded or battery operated, and I hate the idea of kids being sold to everywhere they look or feeling like they must have the latest branded toy.

It’s not always easy (given my business), but we try not to make a big deal about ‘new’ things—especially clothes or toys. We hardly ever give them a new toy unless it’s a special occasion, like a birthday or Christmas, and even then we only give them a few things, placing emphasis on quality over quantity.

My kids are young and so I’ve been able to influence their wants for now. I know that may change someday and so will my strategies, but I hope the values will stick with them.

3.)Do you let your kids play electronics? Do you bend the rules for educational games on the iPad?

Not really. We believe electronics are addictive. No matter if it’s a Nintendo game or an educational one on an iPad, once picked up they are hard to put down. And you rarely walk away from a long session on a device feeling wonderful—mostly the opposite. I notice this firsthand — I have to give myself breaks from my iPhone and remind myself to be more present. Like other addictive things in our lives, limiting our children’s exposure to electronics just makes sense to us.

We also believe they get only one childhood and the rest of their lives to be tethered to a device if they choose. Their education, their careers and their social lives may demand it some day, but for now we would love for them to find joy in the ‘real’ world. And most importantly — play together! Every once in a while, they will ask to play a game on the iPad or watch a movie because they are bored. When I tell them to go play, they might moan for five minutes, but then ten minutes later I’ll find them building towers or playing games together. If we gave our kids an iPad every time they told us they were bored, there would be far less imaginative play in this house!

As above, we know this all will change someday. Already Easton has math homework on the computer three times a week and I’ve noticed how it has changed the play in our house on those afternoons. As our kids grow our parenting style will grow with them, but we will always maintain our focus on family, friends, nature and activities.

4.) Do your kids fight? Do they moan? Do they throw fits? Do they nag, make messes, and sometimes torment each other?

Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes. Do I feel compelled to reach for my camera in these moments? No. Does anyone? My photos are about celebrating the joys of bringing up kids — the simple and the beautiful things in life. I would never pretend parenting isn’t hard work. It is. It is the most difficult and the most important work in our lives. I choose to focus on the positive side of family life and I hope it comes across as honest and loving (and hopefully inspiring too).

Courtney xx

p.s. I’ve written before about electronics here, a post which stirred up quite a healthy debate!

Stay warm with cosy knitwear from Miou

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Brrr… It’s so cold all of a sudden! No snow yet here in London, but we’re waking up to a frosty lawn every morning and I’m sending the kids off to school layered in knits!

How gorgeous is the knitwear from Miou? The colours are so rich and the baby alpaca wool soooo soft! I got this coat for Marlow which she wore as an outer layer during the Autumn and is now wearing under her jacket as an extra layer of warmth. It’s so perfect. Plus, how adorable are the hats? My favourite is this one with not one, but two pompoms!

And oh my goodness, that little snuggly baby suit!! Scrumptious.

Courtney x

Soor Ploom, a beautiful brand for girls

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Last month, the talented photographer, Sarah Winborn, came all the way from Berlin for a little photoshoot at our house.  She took photos of our home and family for an interview I did with the Little Years blog. You can read the interview here — I answered questions about work and family, including my least favourite bits about motherhood… and also my favourite thing too! Of all the interviews I’ve done, I think this one offers a really honest reflection of my thoughts on parenting. Also, that top photo Sarah took of Marlow — it melts my heart.

In these photos the girls are wearing outfits from Soor Ploom and I wanted to include a mention of this brand because it’s one of my very favourites. That suspender skirt Ivy is wearing might be my absolute favourite thing she’s ever worn. I LOVE it (and so does she!). You can find Soor Ploom at these stockists.

Courtney x

Scoot Basket

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Scooter basket

I don’t think I know a scooter-riding child who wouldn’t love one of these Scoot Baskets on their scooter! My girls each have one and they love filling their baskets with little nature finds on our walks in the park (lately they’ve been collecting pretty leaves, nuts, and sticks).

The Scoot Basket easily attaches to any scooter with two velcro straps and stays in place perfectly. It also looks quite cute on their little scooters, don’t you think? Available from Scoot ‘n Pull, which also sells the Scoot ‘n Pull strap.

Courtney xx

The ShopUp, a final recap in photos

The ShopUp girl kneeling
I know we’ve already shared loads of photos from the ShopUp, but Lesley Colvin took so many great ones, we can’t help but share a few more! Whether you were able to pop in or not, we thought a little recap might be a fun way to either let you re-live all the fun or give you a little glimpse of what you may have missed. Here’s a recap in photos and a few thank-yous we would love to make:

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How gorgeous is the Chelsea Town Hall? We were so happy to have this pretty venue as a backdrop for all our wonderfully stylish shops!

ShopUp 2014 Kid&Coe

A big, big thank you to our main sponsor, Kid & Coe! The founder, Zoie Kingsbery Coe, flew in all the way from New York to be there, and it was such a great opportunity to talk to her about her business. They were passing out discount vouchers? Did you get one? I can’t wait to put that to use!

ShopUp cookies by Bees Bakery

ShopUp cookies by Bee’s Bakery, which were as delicious as they were pretty! We handed them out to the first 100 visitors and they disappeared quickly!
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Another big thank you to Maggie & Rose for setting up the cutest craft activity station, providing loads of arts & crafts entertainment for the little ones.

ShopUp 2014 band on stage
ShopUp dancing

Big Gilbert and the Little Angels is THE cutest band, offering great music and a lively evening of fun and dance! It was the highlight of Wednesday evening, second to our amazing shops of course. : ) Oh, and it helped to have the delicious sparkling wine from Weinreich and yummy macarons from La Dinette!  So much goodness in one evening!

La Coqueta at ShopUp
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ShopUp signs
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Lastly, we are so thankful to all our amazing shops and to all the wonderful visitors who came.  It was wonderfully busy with both happy shoppers and happy shops. We felt so inspired to have all that amazing talent and creativity under one roof and so proud to support these independent brands. It was also so nice to meet our readers and friends, some who flew in all the way from Germany, Turkey and Spain! Thank you all so very very much.

We’re already looking forward to the next one! You too? xx

All photos by our wonderful (and talented!) friend, Lesley Colvin, who deserves the final thank-you! 

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