There are people in this world who know how to throw a birthday party for their children with panache (Esther being the prime example). Then there are people like me, who draw a blank when it comes to entertaining 10 kids in my house for a few hours! (I am really good at entertaining adults, by the way: I can mix up a mean cocktail and know how to put together a great playlist to get the party going. I don’t understand why I am so intimidated by kids parties!)
Anyway, help is at hand as my absolute favourite birthday supply shop My Little Day finally came out with their very own book about birthday parties. You can find inspiration for party themes, recipes and a whole list of games divided up by ages, which is super practical.
The little hitch is that the book only exists in French, but even if you only understand a little bit, it is totally worth it. I actually think it is really interested to see what games children play in France (I did not know half of them)!
P.S. My Little Day also does amazing party kits.
Coco and her friend overlooking the sea and the coast of Marocco on Paloma beach
I have just been away on an amazing break with the kids, and I would love to tell you about it. (To put it into context, we Europeans have been having one of the worst winters I can remember and all we wanted to to was to shed the jumpers and socks and shoes and put on the flip flops and skirts.)
Tarifa is a beautiful little town on the most southern tip of Spain — it is so close to Africa you can see the Maroccan coast most days, a mere 20 km away. The town itself is lovely — it is an old walled city. But it is the surrounding beaches around Tarifa that make this place amazing — the beaches are empty, clean and beautiful, the food is incredible and cheap and everyone loves kids. It is super relaxed and the whole area has a bit of a hippy, surfer vibe to it, just what you need to let go and have a good time. I could have stayed on and on, and a week felt like 2 days, so here is just a little list of the few places I discovered (if anyone has any other tips, please do share!):
We actually rented a house, as I went with a friend and her two children which was lovely and had everything we needed. But we did also discover some hotels, which looked really nice.
The Hurricane Hotel is a great little boutique hotel with a chilled out vibe. It has an amazing pool, a great restaurant and is right on the beach. Basically the perfect combination. It is about a 6 km drive out of Tarifa town.
Hotel Dos Mares is close to the Hurricane Hotel and maybe even a bit more child-friendly. For example, the pool has a nice, shallow paddling area. You can rent little bugalows that line up along the beach.
Camping Torres de la Pena is a nice budget option and if you don’t fancy camping, they also rent out some bungalows. The beach bar is super relaxed and literally on the beach, so kids can play while parents drink a good café con leche.
The kids hanging out at the Hurricane Hotel pool.
Tarifa is a seriously sport location, all day long you can see wind- and kit- surfers sitting on top of their VW buses watching the wind for the perfect moment to take off. The place we were recommended was the Club Mistral,which gives lessons to older kids. They also rent out boards for windsurfing, kitesurfing and plain old normal surfing. You can pick up cheap body boards for kids pretty much anywhere and they are a serious amount of fun as there are little, non scary waves most of the time.
Hurrican Hipica: Horses are everywhere and there is nothing more peaceful than going for a ride on the beach. We loved the Hurricane Hipica, run by a group of super efficient girls, one of the best maintained stables I have ever seen. Violette, who has just turned 5, had her first riding lesson there and it was possibly the most exciting thing ever.
Firmm Dolphin and Whale Watching: One of our big, major highlights was a boat trip out into the straights of Gibraltar to see dolphins. We thought it was going to be a tourist trap, but it was the opposite. We were surrounded by dolphins doing summersaults all around us. It put the biggest smiles on all of our faces. It is also not unusual to see whales. The Firmm boat trips are great as they are part of a research organisation, which uses the trip to collect data and makes sure that the trips are respectful to the animals.
Since coming back and doing a bit of research for this post, I have found out that there is a lot of rock climbing to be done in and around Tarifa. There are even little rocks which could be a lot of fun to explore with older kids. I didn’t really find a website, just different blogs talking about it!
It is also very easy to jump on a boat and go on a day trip to Marocco which is a mere 20 boat ride away. It is something we sadly ran out of time to do…
Not the best photos of the kids on horses on the beach. Note the surfers in the water behind them.
Beaches, beaches, beaches, what more can one want? We stayed close to Bolonia Beach and it is very easy to understand why the Romans decided to build a town on this beach. It is so beautiful. The beach is incredibly clean and has a massive sand dune at one end that is a huge amount of fun to climb and run down.
We also visited Zahara Beach on a recommendation of an Instagram friend and did not regret it, we spend a whole morning body boarding on little waves and then had some tapas in the town itself.
Another beach between Tarifa and Bolonia is called Paloma Beach and one of the most amazing things to see is the wind picking up and the kite from the kite surfs flying up in the air - Actually really beautiful, though I suspect I would be ripped of my surf board and fly off into the air with the kite, it looks like such a hard thing to hold on to.
Little orange tree on a square in Tarifa town.
Anyway, a lovely holiday and so close and yet a world away from the rest of Europe.
Before I had children, I genuinely thought that when I had children I would be producing miniature clones of myself. Even after I had them, the thought lingered on. After all, I had two girls, they looked similar to me, why would they not be similar in character?
Fast forward 7 years and I cannot help laughing about how wrong I was. Not only are my two girls nothing like me, they are also nothing like each other. One of them can pick up a stick and give it a complex life story that is longer than a Harry Potter novel. The other one will see the same stick and see nothing but a stick, and have a great time poking random things with it. Experimenting, she calls this.
One girl is easy going and off with the fairies, the other one is headstrong like a bull. As my grandmother once said, at least I was not boring and did not mass produce. Not quite sure where I am going with this, but I am quite interested to hear if you were as naive as I was and thought you were going to produce mini versions of yourselves.
P.S. Quick disclaimer: I am incredibly glad that my children are nothing like me, that would be sooo boring!
P.P.S. The above photo was taken last week when we were in the south of Spain. On the left, headstrong Violette, on the right dreamy Coco.
My daughter Coco’s first word was ‘Why???’. And seven years on, it still might be her favourite word!
Now, the problem is, the questions are slightly more complex at seven than they were at, say, two. The universal answer of: “because I said so” does not really cut the mustard anymore, especially when being asked things like: “But why did people think it was a good idea to cut each other’s heads off during the French Revolution? Why did they think that this was a solution to make the country a better place?”.
The book Big Questions For Little People is perfect for all of these types of questions. It even asks questions your child might not have thought to ask yet!
The book is curated in aid of the NSPCC (The UK National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) and people like Tracey Emin answers question about art, Heston Blumental about food and Jarvis Cocker on music. If those people don’t know what they are talking about, no one does!
- Emilie x
I called this post a Week Away Travel Guide as opposed to a Weekend Away Guide, as Nosara, Costa Rica is not the kind of place most of us can pop over for the weekend. But I can pretty much say with confidence that if I could pop over there quickly for a weekend, I would probably be there all the time! It looks so amazing and sounds like such a great place to take children on a wonderful adventure.
Now imagine after growing up in California, then living in Australia, you decided to call Costa Rica your home! How incredible does that sound? Shelly, the author of this post, did just that: She now lives in Nosara, Costa Rica and it sounds like the perfect place to travel to!
In her 40-something years of life, Shelly has been a world traveler, waitress, writer, magazine editor, non-profit founder, entrepreneur and artist. By sheer luck and twists of fate, these paths have led to and helped define her latest, greatest and most challenging role as wife and homemaker; mother and teacher to Pixel, Robert and Beckett; and hostess extraordinaire. Shelly is the author of The Book of Questions for New Parents and the blog Kitchen Ranch. Here is her guide to Nosara, Costa Rica:
Nosara, located on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, has recently enjoyed some very favorable press. National Geographic named Nosara as one of the top surf towns on the planet, a BBC Travel Segment included Nosara as the best beach in Costa Rica, and the New York Times raved about the world class waves in their travel section.
It is not surprising to me that this small and dusty jungle town is getting attention; Nosara is perfect. I know that is a bold statement, but after living here I feel confident in making it. The beaches, the ocean and the jungle backdrop are awe-inspiring. (more…)
We are on holiday! Yes! But I need to work the first week, which is not so fun. So my girls have been going to mini holiday ateliers which you can find all over Paris — little art classes and theatre classes that teach kids essential survival skills like making shadow puppets. Not a skill useful to have during an apocalypse but, none the less, a great skill to have if you want to design your own characters and put together your own little plays.
All you need is cardboard paper (preferably black), scissors, some tape, some skewers and some imagination. Cut out the characters and props and tape on a skewer (you might want to cut off the sharp tip). Hang up a white sheet and shine a lamp at it. You then make the shadow puppets appear between the lamp and the sheet.
Voila, a shadow show can commence. Also if you need some inspiration, do have a look at the French silhouette aninmation film, Prince and Princess.
P.S To all those Paris dwellers out there: the atelier my daughters went to was at Attrape Nuages a brilliant little theatre school in the 11e arrondissement!
Way back when, we lived in the USA. I was around 8 years old and I still remember it as clear as day, it made such a huge impression on me. I mean, the ice cream shop carried 33 different flavours of ice-cream and we got to eat our lunch at school wrapped up in a brown paper bag!
But I do think my most favourite memory is the trip we took around the US in a big old Chevy and went camping everywhere from Dakota to Colorado. It was so much fun (the first night we put up our tents, the family in the next tent heard us jabbering away in French and invited us over to eat our first ever smores!).
Anyway, my brother and I spent a lot of time in the back of the car on that journey and there were exactly two things that kept us from skinning each other alive: Uno and Mastermind. Do you remember this game? It’s a great strategy game in which you need to guess your opponents code, so it is a bit like breaking the enigma code, but for 7 year olds. It is addictive and perfect for 2 siblings, especially those with a competitive streak in them!
I am always on the lookout for new craft books, for the simple reason that we like crafting so much but often do need a little boost in inspiration. This great new book is by the same lady as Let’s Make Some Art. It is such a great way of introducing children to creating new art and using other things (namely fingers) to create shapes. I also love the little video that goes with the book and also the little online games.
This craft idea is so simple I almost did not write about it, but I quite liked the result, so I wanted to share it anyway. Last weekend was Violette’s birthday and she had gotten it into her head that it was going to have a bunny rabbit theme and that we were going to have carrot cake cupcakes (we used Courtney’s amazing carrot cake recipe). I, on the other hand had gotten it into my head that it would be cool to have some rabbit cupcake toppers (I just need to point out that rabbit cupcake toppers are pretty much the only impossible thing to find in Paris!)
So Coco and I made some, and we had a great afternoon of painting, cutting and glueing. First Coco painted a picture of a rabbit. We then scanned it in, scaled it down and multiplied it. We printed it out and cut the little rabbits out in circles. Then we glued 2 together and sandwiched a tooth pick between the 2 pieces of paper.
Voila, the party can begin!
I love this new idea that Little Fashion Gallery has come up with: Fashion Packs. If you buy several of the same items from their lovely Little Fashion Gallery label at the same time, you get a bulk buy discount. A bit like buying from Costco, but infinitely chicer!
If you are in any way a follower of Instagram or read Babyccino Kids on a regular basis, you might have noticed that we all have been suffering from a very, very cold winter which has continued long into April. Well, this weekend was the first sunny weekend in 2013 and I think EVERYONE in the whole of Europe went outside and smiled.
We were challenged by some friends to a game of Molkky in our local park. Have you heard of it? It is the best – it’s a bit of a Skandinavian skittles, perfect for parks and gardens as you throw a piece of wood at the skittles, as opposed to rolling it. (As an aside, it is also really good for learning how to count in your head, as you need to get 50 points exactly).
I can just imagine a gang of Vikings playing this somewhere along a fjord…
This post is actually written for some of my favourite ladies, Courtney and Esther, who have a favourite shop here in Paris. They literally go there every time they come. In fact, I sometimes suspect that they might be visiting me just as an excuse to visit Merci, the fantastic concept shop which happens to be very close to my flat.
And now they might never come visit again, as Merci has (finally) started an international online shop, full of amazing linens, the Merci clothes line, wall paper, these cool picnic napkins and many other bits and pieces.
Merci was started by the same people who founded Bonpoint many moons ago. It actually functions as a very stylish charity shop: all the proceeds of the shop are invested in educational projects in Madagascar (but certainly does not look like any charity shop I have ever seen before). Hopefully the online Merci is not the end to a wonderful friendship
It is pretty hard not to be a Marc Boutavant fan if your are a kid or, indeed, a parent. My kids read Mouk again and again and again. What I like about his style is how every picture is so full of details, you can never get tired of looking at them.
Have you seen the train puzzle designed by Marc Boutavant yet? If you put all the pieces together it is 6 foot long! Every puzzle piece is a different wagon full of different animals and worlds.
If you want to know more about Marc Boutavant check out his top 10 children’s books recommendations which we wrote about on Babyccino a while ago.
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• Happy Easter!
I think it is hilarious that during the coldest, wettest, dreariest spring that has hit Europe in the last 40 years, the trend is bright, flashy, happy neon. It is just as if the fashion industry has predicted the weather!
Bright colour is key over here in Paris at the moment, so it brightened my day when I saw the latest shoe design by my favourite French children’s shoe company, Clotaire. Now, I have already raved about Clotaire Shoes, but their latest design is so cool, I am going to rave about them yet again.
Clotaire is a little label run by a couple of people who had enough of paying too much for nice, simple and cool childrens’ shoes. It is such a simple concept: they offer 3 different types of shoes, in fab colours, together with some super cute socks and funky shoes laces. The shoes can be worn by girls, boys and even their moms and can be partnered up with trousers, skirts and tights and whatever you feel like. Reasonably priced, funky and multi-functional: all words I like to hear!
I guess we are all really into crafting these days here at Babyccino Kids, as here is another recommendation for a craft book. I reckon the truly terrible weather we have been having is keeping us cooped up inside and crafting is the only way we are keeping our children (and ourselves) sane. I do think you can never have enough craft books and this book has quickly become one of my favourites. A Craft A Day, by Sarah Goldschadt, features 365 sweet crafts. Most of them are easy and do-able by everyone without any special equipment, which is something my kids absolutely love — a success is pretty much guaranteed.
How cute are these little suitcases by Mimilou? In our home, little suitcases to store treasures are a very valuable commodity. Every night when I do the last round of picking up all the miscellaneous items left around the flat after a good days playing, I find little suitcases filled with little bits and pieces.
Now, I don’t know if it is only my kids, but the love these girls have for putting random stuff in a bag is immense. You can find little pictures they have drawn, mixed in with a broken doll leg, a little fluffy toy and some little books. It makes no sense to a grown-up, but to my kids these are real treasures. So I have decided to go with the flow (within limits of course). I’ve just decided we need pretty little suitcases for them to fill up. At least that helps me ignore the chaos inside.
We recently visited Esther and Family in Amsterdam, and it was a such a great trip! So great, that the whole train carriage on the way home had to listen to my kids’ lamentations about how Amsterdam is so great and Paris is not!
I know what they mean– it is so nice discovering a new city and, as a tourist, you have the luck to only see the good sides of a city and Amsterdam has many, many good sides. It is beautiful and small, and super accessible with kids. You can rent bicycles all over the city and the choice of different bicycle types is incredible.
We stayed for four days during which time Esther and I put the world to rights, crafted and dreamt up some serious crafting projects for sometime in the future, the children got on famously and we visited some of Amsterdam’s sites. We visited the Artis Zoo and saw some lions, giraffes, wallabes, zebras and seals basking in the spring sunlight. We took a boat ride around the canals and learned all about the history of Amsterdam. We went to play in the Vondel Park which has some great play structures. We ate little pancakes and waffles fresh from a market stall. We did not even make it to the Nemo Science Museum, but check out Esther’s Amsterdam tips as she has some great ideas.
Above, the Vondel Park. And below, the giraffes at the zoo, which we stayed looking at for ages! I don’t think I have ever seen a giraffe as up close before.
Such a great trip and if you ask my daughters,(and 20 other people on our train), it’s the only place to be!
I wrote about MakeDo (whose concept is simply genius) a good while ago… so I thought I should just mention to you the London Bus ‘Find & Make’ Kit. I do need to mention that I might be mother to the biggest double-decker London bus fans in the world. My girls would actually travel to London just to get on a bus and sit at the top level. If they then get to sit on the two front seats, right over the drivers head, they are in heaven!
But how cool is this kit? You will find stickers, a plastic-safe saw and clips. All you need to add is whatever is in your recycling bin (we actually had to go to the local shop and ask for some cardboard boxes, but even that was fun!). There is also an inspiration booklet included in the packet, enough to give you an idea on how to structure the project, but also vague enough to let kids do things their own way.
I have to confess, I have a strange addiction to note books. Now, I know I should have moved on to some paperless device, but my handbag feels empty without a notebook where I can write down lists, plan my future and try to sketch ideas for projects!
The problem is that often when I have a notebook and have written all of these important things in it, I promptly mislay it. I then get a new one, start a new list and lose that one too. At some point or another, I might get a fourth notebook just because it looks so lovely, write down an essential recipe in it and then that one disappears as well! Only to find one of the old ones back. In the end I usually have 4-5 notebooks on the go and have no idea where that world changing lemon cake recipe might be, or the pattern for a beanbag I tried to sketch, or the random ideas for Babyccino posts I might have jotted down….
Nice notebooks will always stay one of my favourite things and here are some I really like: The simple kraft covered booklets from Muiji, the famous Moleskine, the colourful Leuchtturm and the cute little Field Notes Booklets pictured above.
Little Fashion Gallery has been one of our favourite web boutiques ever since Babyccino began. I think it is one of the first webshops I got to know and it has consistantly been my stop for lovely kids clothes. And recently I even got some pieces for myself!
I was super excited when I heard that Little Fashion Gallery were bringing out their own label! And they did not miss a beat — the collection is full of fresh colours, lovely basics and fun accessories! I particularly love the little cardigans that my kids have been wearing almost every day since the sun started poking out behind the clouds. Also check out the darling little boater hats!