Five second rule

In my house, one of the first rules my children will quote is the famous ‘five second rule’. It is the rule that, if any food has fallen on the floor in the kitchen, it can possibly still be eaten f it is picked up very quickly.  (They learned very quickly that the five second rule did not apply to the lovely streets and boulevards of Paris!)

I always thought the five second rule was a complete myth and just a good excuse for tired parents not to have to go fetch yet another cookie or throw away a sandwich with just one bite in it, but turns out I was possibly wrong. Scientist at a British University have found proof that the five second rule could actually be true! I love it!

Now I am wondering, is the five second rule just a European thing? Or even maybe just an English thing?

- Emilie

Nina and the Little Things

A few weeks ago Esther and I met up in Brussels to go to the new Little Fashion Week trade fair. One of the absolute highlights was meeting the super talented Italian designer Eloise Morandi. Esther had been following her and her brand Nina and the Little Things for a few years and I got to discover it for the first time. Such a treat!

Nina is a little girl who wears a red hat and a red dress, and who wanders around thinking about Little Things. Around this world Eloise has created cards, art, games, rag books, flip books and bags which you can have a look at in the online shop. I am sure there is much more to come! Have a peek at Eloise’s blog – it is so fun to see a designer having a great time playing around with her creations!

- Emilie

Ginger Biscuits

Ginger Biscuits (otherwise known as Ginger Nuts) must be the Irish equivalent to Esther’s Pepernoten – spicey, really crunchy and perfect to dunk into a cup of tea. This is my grandmother’s recipe and I have been eating these ever since I can remember! It makes up to 80 biscuits, but don’t worry, they will disappear fast.

  • 225 grams of butter
  • 340 grams of demerara sugar or other brown (you can use white if stuck, or in France I use cassonade)
  • 1 generous tablespoon of golden syrup — honey does not work as well
  • 1 egg
  • 450 grams of self raising flour (or use plain and add baking powder)
  • 2 tsp ginger (depending on taste)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (depending on taste)

Cream the sugar and the butter and add the egg and the golden syrup. Sift in the flour and the spices. Make little balls with you hands (I always have volunteers for this part), place them on a buttered tray and press them down. Bake for about 15 minutes at around 170°C degrees.

- Emilie

PS. Whilst I was putting together the post, I had a little search on the internet for Ginger Nut recipes and found this little video. I always forget that baking is actually just science. Who knew that more butter makes a chewy biscuit and more sugar a snappy one?!

Blog2Print Photobook

As you might have noticed Esther, Courtney and I quite like to blog. In fact, it was Courtney who introduced me to the concept of blogging way back when our eldest kids where only a couple of months old. Since then, we started Babyccino, but have also continued our personal blogs documenting all major events in our family lives for about 8 years now. It’s fun to browse through our personal blog, but I suddenly realised the other day that, though I had spent a lot of time documenting our lives, there was no physical photos for my kids to look at. Everything was virtually kept on the world wide web. What happens if suddenly blogspot ceases to exist? I literally would have nothing!

I did a bit of research and found that you can now print your blog and make it into a book, in my case all 8 years worth of photos. It was the best Christmas present for my children! They have spent hours looking through the book and discovering themselves as babies. The photos are not the greatest quality and I cringe at the silly little sentences I wrote to go with the blog posts,  but this book really is special.

- Emilie

Head Lice woes

Lice – they are the bane of my life! I even dream of them. I guess because we live in a big city, lice are unavoidable. I have tried lotions, potions, shampoos, some of them ecological, some of them positively radio-active! I even managed to spend a crazy amount of money on a real jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise (difficult to find in France) because I read somewhere on the internet that I could get rid of lice with it.

This weekend the schools in our area decided to organise a collective delousing campaign. We were all asked to delouse our children on the same weekend. The hope is that this will stop the lice circulating — at least for a while. I am interested to see if this is successful, but it is really nice to see how everyone got on board!

So here are some tips I have gotten to prevent lice. (Once you have them, I find that the only thing that really works is brushing the hair with a fine tooth comb in front of a good movie!)

Lavender essential oil: Lice seem to be sensible souls who do not like the smell of lavender, so I drop a couple of lavender essential oil drops onto the girls’ pillows. That way their hair smells good and I think it does help to keep the lice at bay. I have also been told that teatree oil helps.

Braids: I told my 93-year-old grandmother about my lice issues and she looked at me incredulously and asked why my girls’ hair was not braided at school. I had never figured out why, in the olden days, all the little girls had nice, tight braids… It prevented lice!

Cleaning linen, and everything in the house: It is such a pain, but it helps. Every time there is even an suspicion that someone might have lice, we wash and clean our bed linen and towels and spray the sofa and armchairs.

Apart from that, I just freeze when I see anyone scratching their heads and throw my hands up in despair! I am interested: Do other countries also have the lice problem? How do you deal with it?

- Emilie

P.S Above is a photo I took of Violette pretending to be scratching her head and having lice. She got a bit annoyed with me because she was in the middle of measuring something, but I think the annoyed expression goes with the theme…

Madame Pamplemousse and her Incredible Edibles


Sometimes I have slight nostalgia pangs to the days when my children were cute, cuddly little babies, but I do love seeing them grow up and start discovering new things all the time; books being one of them. We did a huge tidy up in the kids room over the holidays and gifted all the Peppa Pigs to my goddaughter and we’re now advancing onwards and upwards to chapter books.

Coco has really caught the reading bug and is plowing through books. It has been great discovering with her some new authors, one of them being Rupert Kingfisher and his book Madame Pamplemousse and Her Incredible Edibles, the first of a series of books. It tells the story of Madeleine who meets Madame Pamplemousse, the best cook in Paris and together they work to stop her evil uncle Monsieur Lard. Seriously fun to read, even for Mamas!

- Emilie

Klorane Dry Shampoo


I have been travelling a lot lately in planes, trains and automobiles… which has been a lot of fun, but the one thing that has suffered a little bit is my hair. Waking up in the early hours and getting my girls ready and out of the door to catch a train does not leave much time for styling and by the end of the day my hair looked distinctly lacklustre.

I read about Klorane Extra Gentle Dry Shampoo on a Cup of Jo a while ago and decided to give it a go without much conviction, but, seriously, it works! Now, my hair did not feel any cleaner, but it looked great, clean and with a bit of a bounce. This, in turn, made me feel a little bit less travel weary!

If you are in France you can pick up the dry shampoo in most Pharmacies, but you can also order it off Amazon.

- Emilie

OMY Colouring poster

There are not many better things to do on a rainy day than some colouring! It has been grey and miserable a lot lately here in Paris, so we have had a couple of weekends where we have spent most of the day in our pyjamas, drinking tea (me!) and crafting. One massive success project is the OMY Colouring poster that I have hung up in our hallway. (I wrote about these a long time ago, but since I did, many more versions have been added). All day long when we walk past it, we stop and colour a little part in. Funnily enough grown ups (me!) seem to find it as mesmerising as children do.

We have the Giant Atlas Poster which has the added bonus that the kids are learning a little bit about which country is where, but I also love the Map of Paris which could be an excellent introduction to the city if you were planning a visit!

- Emilie

Family life in Paris


I often am asked what it is like to bring children up in Paris and what I like and don’t like about it, so I thought it could be fun to write down some of my experiences! These are just random things that I have personally observed..

Playgrounds and Parks: There are not many and there is especially not a lot of green grass for the kids to play on. Most neighbourhood parks are small and consist of flowerbeds, a play structure with benches around it and no swings! Kids go play and the parents sit on the sidelines reading books. The Parisians are definitely not helicopter parents – children entertain themselves or play with their friends. It’s nice as the kids are really independent, but it is not so nice when they start throwing sand at each other’s faces and there are no grown-ups to intervene.

Schools: I do find the the school system of a country defines the country a lot. Like most French school children, my children go to the local French school around the corner. The standard of education is high, and the children are challenged and marked at a very young age (the word evaluation is used a lot). Interestingly this is not only something that the teachers impose on the children, but something that is actually being asked for by a lot of the parents. For example, teachers are not really supposed to give the children homework, but it is apparently often the parents who insist they do! Schools are also not a place for the whole family to socialise, but only the children. Parents drop their children off in the morning and rush of to work. At the end of the day, we pick up the children at the school gate, but there is not a lot of chatting going on… (My personal theory is that there is a belief in France that the education of children is responsibility of the state, not of the parents, so schools are not a place for parents to get involved). I might be wrong, but I do have the feeling that there are a lot more full-time working mothers in Paris than in other big European cities I know. This might also be the reason why there is less involvement from the family in school life.

Restaurants: Though it has improved a lot, Parisian restaurants do not cater toward children. Children are welcome though, as long as they tow the line and sit down and eat. Maybe I am mistaken, but not that many of my French friends take their kids out to eat. People cook a lot and have people over for dinner, even in the tiniest apartments.

Apéro: One of the favourite things to do over here is to have people over for apero (short for aperitif) which are pre-dinner drinks. My children have even been invited over by their friends over for an apero instead of a playdate! Usually there will be champagne or wine, beer, sparkling water and Champony (a sparkling apple juice in a champagne bottle) for the kids. Foodwise often you serve paté, foie gras and some good saucisson. It’s the perfect event to have with kids and parents, it starts relatively early and you are not required to serve real food for everyone.

Food Shopping: Parisians still go to the market on a Saturday or Sunday and buy their meat at the butchers, their bread at the bakers, their cheese at the cheese shop and their vegetables at the green grocers – it is one of the things I love about this city!

These are are just some personal observations. Other people might have had completely different experiences, which would be lovely to hear by the way!

- Emilie

Above, a photo of Place des Vosges, which is a typical Parisian park, which is beautifully landscaped, but definitely not full of rambling nature…

Gratin

Gratins have been around since the invention of the stove I reckon. If you think about it, a lasagne, cauliflower and cheese and a haché parmentier are roughly the same thing: some carbohydrates or vegetables mixed in with a béchamel and potentially some cheese, stuck into an oven until it all turns into a beautiful melting pot of a dish, covered with a bubbling crust.

A good gratin is a staple dish in our house, as it gives new life to leftover pasta, potatoes or vegetables. I mostly use either single cream for my bakes or a tomato sauce to bind the main body of the dish together and then top it with grated cheese. I then stick it in the oven, which has been preheated to 180° and bake it for 30-40 minutes until it is golden brown on top and bubbling.

I don’t think I have ever eaten a bad gratin and, eaten with a crispy green salad, it is a really lovely meal.

- Emilie

Above is a gratin I made the other day with broccoli, potato and some lardons!

Famille Summerbelle new mugs and trays


I am a huge, long-standing fan of Famille Summerbelle as I really do admire the craft and hard work that goes into making each one of their beautiful pieces. (Remember this video?)

Famille Summerbelle  has just brought out a new range of mugs and trays and I am very partial toward the Paris designs. I love giving people nice souvenirs of my beautiful city and nice souvenirs like these are really not easy to come by.

- Emilie

Christmas crackers from Toast

Our Christmas is a bit of a cultural melting pot. One of my brothers lives in Germany, the other in Ireland, my parents are based in Italy and we arrive from France. Of course we all like to bring along some traditions from all of our countries, so we have these hilarious meals where we start off with foie gras which we drink with German Sekt (sparkling wine) and finish up with mince pies and panatone topped off with a good port. The stilton lands on the cheese plate beside the parmesan and there are furious debates about whether Scottish oatcakes taste like sawdust and should never be eaten with gorgonzola or if this is the best fusion food ever.

One of the traditions I do miss from my time in London are Christmas crackers, which are really hard to get in France, not to mention Germany or Italy. They are so much fun to pop! Thanks to the wonderful world wide web, I have started ordering them online form the UK. This year I have decided on the Toast Christmas Crackers which come filled with a little hat, an old recipe and a little gift. Don’t they look lovely?

- Emilie

Emily Ulmer

I take a lot of photos nowadays, as I always have my phone on me. I actually sometimes get told off by my kids for taking too many and told to put the phone down! Ha!

It is so easy nowadays to snap away, but telephone photos are just not the same as photos taken with a real camera. I was really excited when the lovely LA-based children’s photographer Emily Ulmer popped round the other day to take photos of the kids. She caught them so perfectly on camera and got some lovely shots of them, so much nicer than anything I could ever get with my little telephone. It just isn’t the same, is it?!

Emily is in London for the next 10 days and still has a few spots available. I highly recommend her!

- Emilie

A weekend trip to Barcelona

We just came back from a (long) weekend break in Barcelona, and I really wanted to jot down a few notes about our trip  - it was so great!

We took the night train from the centre of Paris down to the Spanish border and did one switch onto a train direct into the centre of Barcelona. It was cool – imagine falling asleep in Paris and waking up to the view of the Med. The train was certainly not the Orient Express – but it was a real adventure. l loved lying in my little berth listening to the train whistle through the night!

We stayed at possibly the best place in Barcelona to stay with kids – a boutique youth hostel. Casa Gracia is right in the centre of Barcelona, we were able to walk everywhere. It is beautifully decorated, the rooms have up to 6 beds which is perfect for a family and there is a kitchen if you feel like you want to quickly cook some pasta. If you don’t feel like cooking, you can join in on the evening buffet meal. A huge breakfast is included in the price of the room. It was so relaxed and easy!

We took the kids to the Parc Guell which was an instant hit. I had brought along some water colours so we spent the afternoon painting the view, the mosaics or whatever we felt like painting. The next day we spent the day wondering La Rambla and getting lost in the Bari Gothic with its tiny medieval streets. On the 3rd day we walked as fast as we could to the beach and soaked up the sun, the sand and the water. Wearing a bathing suit on a beach in Europe at the beginning of November is pretty special! We had a late lunch at a cute restaurant overlooking the beach, and then we picked up our bags, jumped on a train, had dinner in the very cute and sleepy town of Cerbère on the French/ Spanish boarder, jumped on another train and woke up in Paris again!

- Emilie

PS. I just found out there is a night train that goes directly from Paris to Venice, so there might be another trip soon on the cards…

PPS The photos above are: the view over Barcelona from the Parc Guell/ a house designed by Gaudi/ Violette concentrating very hard on a water colour in the Parc Guell/ jumping in the waves in Barcelonetta.

What do babies and rockets have in common?

Since Coco started to speak, ‘why’ has been one of the main words in her vocabulary. I thought it was a phase, but it has been going on for 7 years and counting! A lot of questions I can still answer, but some are now starting to get a bit too complex and we have started to resort to looking up facts together on the internet.

During one of these searches, we stumbled upon a video called “What do babies and rockets have in common?” which we loved (I personally had never even thought about the similarities between rockets and babies, apart from the fact that they are both pretty noisy).

It is based on a book by Marcus Chown called “What a Wonderful World“, which is actually for adults and full of interesting facts (so that we can pre-empt all the WHY questions).

- Emilie

La Botte Gardiane

This post made me think of Esther, as we discovered the beautiful shoemaker “La Botte Gardiane” together. These shoes have been around for half a century, but only recently a shop opened up close to me, and we gravitate towards it whenever Esther is in town. The shoes are handmade in the Camargue, a region of France where wild horses still roam and the local cowboys are known as Gardians.

The children’s boots are as well made and as beautiful as the grown up collection and I love the “solidness” of them. They look like they can deal with some rough weather and keep little feet warm and dry. And for all you lucky readers living in the Southern Hemisphere the leather sandals are lovely too!

- Emilie

Mango – for Kids

I am a high street fashion chick at heart and not a lot of things make me as happy as a high street bargain (have you seen the HM Isabel Marant collection?). This is why I am always happy when a high street label starts doing kids clothes. Not many have done it as well as Zara, but Zara’s biggest rival Mango might be a close contender. Sure, not every design is perfect, but I love the cute little skirts, little dresses and jackets.

Perfect for the winter, especially as my girls seem to be going through a serious growth spurt and I think they might be my height way too soon!

- Emilie

Exciting new spaces in Paris

For once I am giving the urban planners of Paris a cautious thumbs up: this summer not one, but two new public, urban spaces opened! And, to boot, they are great for the whole family.

On the right bank, after being a massive building site for a long while, the new Place de La Republique is finally ready. It is hated by all taxi drivers, who get stuck at the red lights, but it is loved in the neighbourhood. Some of the top attractions are the toy library, where you can borrow for free anything from chess to stilts to baby toys. There is also a great little water park for children right beside a lovely café/restaurant. The new trees are still small and their could be more play areas, but in general this space has some great potential.

Over on the left bank a much bigger project is slowly coming together: a long stretch of the banks of the Seine (from the Musée d’Orsay to the Pont d’Alma) has been closed down to traffic and now is solely pedestrian. It is not quite finished yet, but there are already amazing play areas and great restaurants on barges and along the banks. It is such a treat to have access to the river, something that was really lacking in Paris.

It is so nice to see an old city like Paris still constantly evolving and adapting to its population!

- Emilie

Bread dough, fresh from Paris bakeries

I have been in France six years now and I feel that I’m now getting to grips with the country. I have figured out the school system, the tax system and the obsession with dossiers. So now, I am always thrilled when I discover something new! This weekend, it was the fact that you can walk into almost any French bakery (and there are many) and ask for baguette dough, already bashed around and risen to perfection. It costs the same as a loaf of bread and the possibilities are endless.

I made a couple of trays full of fresh pizza and some foccacia with the leftovers as we had friends over for dinner. I think it would be lovely to pick up the dough one night and then bake some little rolls for breakfast. Someone told me that you can even buy brioche dough, which you can then roll out, fill and experiment with. Voila, you learn something new every day!

I am wondering, can you  do the same in other countries?

- Emilie

Easy and delicious Pad Thai recipe

My daughter Violette is going through one of these major no-food phases. She isn’t eating anything, and mealtimes are taking a life and a day.

I know I should ignore it, but it is difficult, especially when I have gone to great lengths to cook something special. (I think she took the biscuit when she announced she did not like bread anymore: because baguette was too crusty and normal bread too soft!)

She did, however, eat her body weight in a bowl of the best Pad Thai I have ever made, so I quickly wanted to post about it, just in case anyone else has a non-eater in their midst. I left out the radish, the dried shrimp (as I did not have any), and the chilli (I added some chilli sauce for myself and Coco later). I also used spring onions instead of Chinese chives. Even this simplified version was delicious and easy to whip together.

I always forget how much children (and adults) enjoy eating with chopsticks and slurping noodles – the novelty factor never wears off!

- Emilie

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