l’Asticot waterproof coats

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I’ve been looking for a winter coat for Pim, and it’s not the easiest job. Plenty of cool choices around, sure… but I do have a little list of requirements.

Children here in the Netherlands are often exposed to rain — not only because of our wet climate, but also because (despite that wet climate) the Dutch like to cycle a lot. So when I’m looking for winter coats, I look for waterproof coats. Other characteristics I look for in the winter coats for my kids are: a simple silhouette, a neutral colour (so it can be passed down to siblings), warmth (obviously, but without being overly thick or puffy so it doesn’t restrict children in their movements), natural materials, and practicality. Also, the coat needs to be strong and durable (I bought a new winter coat for Pim last year and it’s full of holes already!), and, well, it has to have a certain ‘cool’ to it — of course!

Casper has already been wearing the above l’Asticot waterproof winter coat for a few weeks, and I really love it. It meets the above characteristics easily: it’s made of 100% organic materials, it’s warm (lined with organic polar fleece, and with a longer back, warm cuffs and high collar and hood), it’s not puffy, it’s machine washable, it’s durable, and it’s cool, with the contrasting stitching and lining. So… I actually just ordered Pim the exact same coat!

Now, I’m not saying it can now start raining (or snowing) here in Amsterdam, but if it does, the boys are ready for it!

xxx Esther

Wool and the Gang, cool knitting kits

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I’ve been feeling so much like knitting lately, so the Wool and the Gang kit I ordered came right in time! I’m going to be knitting the Mini Tartan Hula Hoop for Sara, and if I hurry a little I might just be able to finish it before Christmas.

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Do you know Wool and the Gang? It’s a super hip company, providing über cool knitting kits with everything one might need for one project — wool, needles, the pattern, and very easy-to-follow instructions. (If you love the Wool and the Gang designs but are not so into knitting, you can also purchase a ready-made piece, knit with love by one of the ‘Gangstas’, a global-wide team of knitters.)

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I love their branding, the quality of their materials, and their belief in handmade and sustainable fashion. Knitting their projects is so fun!

In spring, I made the Sailor Jumper (modeled by Pim below, after a rough and dirty game of football!) and I love how easy it was to knit that jumper and how nice it turned out when it was finished.

pim_WATGThe Wool and the Gang knitting kits make really great presents too — everything comes wrapped in a cool paper bag, and anyone who has an interest in knitting (even if they’ve never knit before!) I’m sure would love to receive a kit like this.

xxx Esther

Cosy house suits for my boys from Shampoodle

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It’s getting so chilly here in Amsterdam… It’s been warmer than usual for this time of year, but this weekend it was definitely time to get all of the woollens out of the storage boxes. Our house has big steel windows — very cool (but also very literally so)!

Speaking of staying warm… I recently ordered our boys each a Shampoodle ‘Home’ suit — a sweater and pants made of warm, organic knit cotton to keep them cosy and warm in the winter months. And they’ve been living in them! I have a lot of trouble convincing them to take them off for a wash. (My husband wondered if I could order him such a suit as well. A lot of the Shampoodle styles come in adult sizes, but sadly not these Home suits… I would have, otherwise!)

Shampoodle is a socially aware Swedish brand known for their comfortable clothes which are equally perfect for boys or girls, young and old. The clothes are are designed for an urban life style and are perfect for playing, inside or out.

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And of course… I couldn’t resist ordering this adorable teal coloured friendly Ghost romper for Casper — that was a given, right?? ; )

xxx Esther

 

Casper, potty training (and a sweet onesie from Piupia)

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Unlike his girlfriend Marlow, who basically potty trained herself when she was 1 ½ year old, Casper isn’t into the potty thing at all. When his daycare decided a few weeks ago that now that he’s 2, the time is ripe for him to be potty trained, I agreed to give it a go. We’ve potty trained all of our children between the age of 2 and 2 ½ so it sounded like the natural thing to do. But he clearly wasn’t ready — he hated the idea and didn’t like the potty at all! So we decided to try again in a little while…

Advantage of it all, is that I can dress my ‘baby’ in bodysuits just a little bit longer. I just love those skinny little boy’s legs sticking out of those nappy filled onesies!

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Piupia_4Here are a few photos that I took of Casper wearing his fox body from Piupia. Super soft and cosy, and made entirely out of certified organic cotton. And here’s a photo of Casper in a Piupia onesie a year ago. Sigh — what’s the deal with our babies growing up so quickly?

xxx Esther

More snaps from The ShopUp

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‘The day after’ has never felt so good! What a fabulous event it was… The ShopUp 2014 was buzzing, fun and wonderful and we’re still feeling the warmth of the amazing atmosphere of everyone and everything there. What an amazing selection of beautiful products and what a heartening gathering of inspirational people it was!

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We’ll be back with more photos later, but couldn’t wait to share these collages from some of our Instagram snapshots now. I think they do reflect the atmosphere of the event so well!

xxx Esther

 

Pim, in ABC123me

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When we were visiting Maud Fontein in her studio a few weeks ago, she took a few photos of Pim and I just love the way they turned out. They really show Pim the way he is — sweet, funny, and so at ease with himself. Also, I see a glimpse of a bigger Pim in there (and he’s a cutie)!

The cool corduroy jacket and trousers he is wearing is totally up his alley — he loves to wear things like that. Both are available from the new boys clothing brand ABC123me, which still offers a small but promising collection of high quality, easy-to-wear clothing. (Pim’s shoes are from Dutch shoe brand De Vries.)

xxx Esther

LileSADi, cool products with attitude

LileSadi_2 Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 15.25.46I recently discover Lile SADi, a Dutch (Rotterdam based) label with super cool and contemporary products. Founded by Dinah and Sarah a few years ago, Lile SADi’s collections cover graphic wallpapers and prints and wonderful kitchen and home accessories.  All products are manufactured here in Europe to keep craftsmanship and individuality alive.

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Dinah and Sarah recently came out with a children’s collection and I so like all of the wonderful patterns and prints! So pretty and detailed and fun, and still so in style with their other work. How cute are those rabbit leggings? (Ava loves them!!)

xxx Esther

 

Wonderful Weinreich wines (and a free taster at the ShopUp)

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My friend Nina (who I’ve only met quite recently but feel I’ve known forever) is not only one of the coolest and sweetest people I know, she also has an amazing occupation: together with the family of her husband Marc (whose last name, very suitable, is ‘Weinreich’ — ‘rich with wine’) she runs a vineyard in the Bechtheim region in Germany.

The Weinreich vineyards are located in the Wonnegau district of the Rheinhessen wine region, the largest German wine region located on the left bank of the river Rhine. Using the traditional methods already used by Marc’s grandfather, and respecting the natural conditions of the local soil and vineyard, the Weinreich family creates powerful Rieslings, Silvaner and Burgunder wines (without additives).

The Weinreich wines are really very very beautiful in their character, strong, individual, and full in their taste. I’m not at all an expert, but I love a good glass of wine and the Weinreich wines truly are amongst my favourites.

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Nina and Marc have two little boys, Henri and Toni, and they live a fairytale life surrounded by beautiful nature, the vineyards, and with super cool tractors to play with all day long. We visited our friends earlier this year and our kids loved it there so very much. We hope to be able to go back soon!

Sooo… If you would like to have a taster of these beautiful wines and fall in love with them like I did, then do come to the ShopUp tomorrow evening where we’ll be serving a complimentary glass of Weinreich Riesling Brut (festive bubbly bubbles!) to each visitor. Oh, and to compliment that glass of bubbles… we will also serve yummy macarons from La Dinette and cool crunchy cookies from Bee’s Bakery. Another fantastic reason to come to the King’s Road tomorrow, isn’t it? Hope to see you there!

xxx Esther

 

Last minute advent activity calendar

adventTomorrow is the start of advent — only 25 days to go ’til Christmas! We do have an advent tradition in our family — my mum always had an advent wreath on the table with 4 candles in a circle, and one candle was lit on every Sunday in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and then a fifth candle in the centre was lit on Christmas day. But we’re not accustomed to the advent calendar, the countdown calendar with 24 pockets filled with little presents or candy, counting down to Christmas day. I think this might have to do with Sinterklaas, who’s in the country till the 5th, overlapping the first days of advent and overdoing, possibly, the idea of giving.

Where I love the idea of getting ready for Christmas, slowing down and focussing on togetherness and goodness, I don’t really want to overflow our children with goodies after the feasts of St. Maarten (candy) and St. Nicolas (candy and presents). But I want them to experience extra warmth, fun, and also to comprehend the fact that they have a lucky position in the world.

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Yesterday I spent some time working on a super last-minute advent calendar without gifts, but with ideas for fun, sweet, and genuine activities to make the weeks before Christmas extra special. I printed everything on grey card stock paper, folded and closed them with round sticky dots on which I rubbed transfer numbers beforehand. It’s nothing super fancy or special at all, but the simplicity reflects what I would like our advent to be!

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Maybe you would like to play along? I’ve made the file I used into an advent activity calendar PDF. There are 29 activities, so you can choose the ones you like best. Just download, print, cut and fold, put a number on them and hang on the wall.

Enjoy, and happy first day of advent for tomorrow!

xxx Esther

 

Cute crochet friends from Leggybuddy

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Leggybuddy is a Swiss company started by designer Suzanna Pezo Sommerfeld. She’s a mother of a little boy and co-owner of a young and very cool looking design agency in Zurich. As if that is not enough to keep someone busy, she recently launched Leggybuddy, a line of adorable hand-crochet animal characters with, as the name implies, beautiful long legs!

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Suzanne designs and makes all of the product samples herself in her Zurich-based studio, and then they’re hand-crocheted in Europe using all natural materials like cotton and wool. Leggybuddies come in a small and large size, and are often wearing adorable little costumes so they can be dressed and undressed. Outfits are also available separately, and they’re all beautifully hand-crocheted as well, with sweet details like contrasting stripes and little pockets.

leggybuddy_3 leggybuddy_5Casper and Ava love their Leggybudies — I find it so sweet that Dorian the mouse is easily transformed into a beautiful Christmas princess just by changing his cool crochet dungarees (with pocket) into a little red party dress with matching booties. There’s also a bottle (impressively crocheted as well!) and I’m also impressed by the amount of patience Ava is displaying towards feeding Prince Froggy and Dorian — she’ll be a good mama one day!

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It’s obvious my kids love their Leggybudies. And I really like to have them around too — they’re such cool looking toys to have on display in our living room!

xxx Esther

This post is sponsored by Leggybuddy, a wonderful European brand and also a member of our shopping portal. Thank you for supporting the brands that support our blog!

Foxy felt slippers

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Loving these foxy felt slippers, created by shaping organic wool with soap, water and hand pressure. A traditional craft handed down over many generations, and here coming to life in such a darling, contemporary product! They are really lovely in every detail, with their little ears and sweet tail. The sole is made from suede so it’s anti slip and everything is sewn together with tiny little cross stitches. They are presented in a little drawstring bag made from organic cotton, so they make a perfect present. Adorable! And… the price is not bad! : )

Available from The Dandy Kid.

xxx Esther

 

My Minestrone soup recipe

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Minestrone soup is one of my favourite dishes for this time of year. It’s not the fastest thing to make, as it involves lots of cutting, but I always make loads so I have enough to feed two families or I have plenty of leftover for another day. It’s good to freeze portions as well!

I love the fact that it’s so entirely full of goodness (I took the above photo of all of the ingredients yesterday before I started cooking, just to show you how good!), and the little pasta shapes inside make it one of my kids’ favourite meals as well — Sara calls it ‘pasta soup’.

Here’s what you need:

  • 3 to 4 onions
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • A red chili pepper (you can use only half if you want to make sure it’s not too spicy for the kids)
  • 4 to 6 medium carrots (or a bunch of summer carrots without the green)
  • A bunch of celery
  • One fennel
  • Two medium courgettes (zucchini)
  • One large aubergine
  • A big handful of green beans
  • 3 to 4 peppers in different colours
  • 1 or 2 leeks depending on size
  • Mushrooms
  • One or two potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 white cabbage
  • Two tins of mixed beans (like kidney beans, boretti beans, I always like chickpeas as well), drained
  • Two tins of tomatoes (you can add some fresh tomatoes as well if you have them)
  • A squeeze of tomato puree
  • A few hands of small paste shapes (I use macaroni)
  • A bunch of (fresh) thyme
  • 3 large bay leaves
  • Olive oil
  • s&p

To serve / for topping:

  • A bunch of fresh basil, finely chopped
  • Fresh parmesan
  • Olive oil, s&p

Wash the celery, carrots, cabbage, leek, fennel. Cut of the ends — the parts you would normally throw away — and put them in a pot with water on the stove. Bring to a boil and let simmer while you’re chopping and slicing all the veggies. (This is part of my newest no-waste policy — I try to minimise waste and to use as much of the vegetables as I possible can. Our rabbit helps as well by eating the green of the carrots!)

Clean and finely chop the onions, garlic and the red chili pepper. Chop celery, slice carrots, slice leek, and chop fennel. Chop tomatoes, aubergine and courgette (zucchini). Clean beans and cut in pieces. Finely slice the cabbage. Peel and chop potatoes. Clean mushrooms and cut in pieces (you can leave the small ones in one piece).

In a (very!) large stock pot, heat a generous amount of olive oil over low heat and gently sauté the onion, garlic and chilipeper. After 10 minutes, turn the heat up to medium low and add the celery and carrots. After a few minutes, start adding the other vegetables one by one: the leek, the fennel and the cabbage, the potato and pepper, the aubergine and courgette and finally the mushrooms, the tomatoes, and the green beans. Each time let the new vegetable sauté for a few minutes before adding the next.

In the meantime, take the pot with the vegetable stock off the stove and remove and discard all off the vegetables with a slotted spoon. Pour the stock through a sieve in a bowl.

Add the tins of tomatoes, the tomato puree and the vegetable stock to the veggies. Add more water if necessary — the liquid has to cover all of the vegetables by a few cm’s (at least an inch). Add the beans and the pasta shapes to the pot, and the thyme and bay leaves. Add salt and pepper.

Bring everything to a boil and let simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the green beans, potatoes and carrots are soft and the pasta is cooked. Stir regularly and add water if necessary. I like it if the veggies still have a bite, but I also like it when it’s cooked a bit longer (or the the next day) when the veggies are all soft and the pasta is slightly overcooked. Yum.

Add more salt and pepper to taste, and to serve, sprinkle with good olive oil, basil and freshly grated parmesan. We always have crusty bread and salty butter on the table as well.

Bon appétit!

xxx Esther

 

Simple leaf print-splash art

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Did you ever splash drops of ink on paper using a toothbrush? My mum taught me this technique when I was a child and suddenly, when Ava and I were picking up pretty leaves the other day, I remembered how fun it was. All you need is an old toothbrush and some coloured ink. Dip the toothbrush in the ink lightly and use your thumb to spray little drops of ink on the paper. Don’t move the leaves when you’re doing it!

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When you’re done, carefully remove the leaves from the paper. Voila! So pretty!

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Your thumb will we coloured for the next few days. I think my mum used liquid water colour, ‘ecoline’ for this, which is probably a better idea if you have it handy. If not, a coloured thumb is actually pretty cool we thought : ).

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Pim and Ava made a few very pretty leaf print-splash paintings (or whatever you would call them), and they look really cool on the wall of my office. Simple is best, isn’t it?

xxx Esther

 

The Little Things… A Doll Hospital!

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For this post in the The Little Things series, we made something I think every little boy or girl will love: a doll hospital!

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This is such a fun project to make, and it’s really quite simple. Also, most of the materials we’ve used are recycled!

A trip to the local greengrocer provided us with the (future) hospital beds. With simple white paint (I used primer which was left over from our house renovation) I painted the vegetable boxes, and with red acrylic paint from the children’s craft box, I made a red cross on each bed.

From old pillowcases I made white mattresses, sheets and pillows for the beds. And I couldn’t resist painting a red cross on the sheets with fabric paint.



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And then — how ADORABLE are these free downloads for a DIY nurse cap and doctor’s prescriptions? Sara from SakaDesign made them for us again. She’s so talented!

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I painted a similar red cross on a simple white suitcase (which we bought), to create a doctor’s case. And, of course, every respectable doctor’s case needs some serious doctor’s necessities!

The pharmacy around the corner kindly gave us a syringe, some plastic containers, a measuring spoon and cup. The simple bandages and plasters came from our first aid kit. We glued a strip of paper in the lid of the doctor’s case to hold the prescriptions, and filled the plastic containers with colourful ‘pills’ (M&Ms!!). We also put a thermometer, a scissors and a stethoscope in the case.

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And here are Doctor Ava and Doctor Juul, ready to heal some very sick baby dolls! As you can see, they take their task rather seriously. ; )

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The girls played for hours with the doll hospital. It was such a huge succes! (And I’m thinking, wouldn’t it make a very sweet holiday gift as well?)

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xxx Esther

PS –  This is the newest post in a series which is called ‘The Little Things’. Thank you Maud Fontein for taking these beautiful photos, and Sara Musch for the adorable download. The girls’ outfits are from Mabo Kids!

 

My adventurous children (for the Waddler photography competition)

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Waddler has been one of our favourite children’s clothing brands — Philip and Marina started their brand after a wonderful stay (of a few years!) in South America, and they have put all of their sense of adventure, respect and amazement of the world around them, and their love for life in general, in Waddler.

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Courtney already shared the photography competition Waddler is holding in cooperation with Plan South America and in which they are challenging parents to photograph their children (dressed in Waddler) and show their individuality and adventurous nature. I accepted the challenge, especially since I’ve never been to South America and would love to go!

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Here are the photos I took of Casper and Ava having fun in the forest last week , and discovering the little wonders of this natural playground around them. What a joyful time we had! Of course I hope we win the competition, but in any case, I’m happy with these photos and the memories we created while making them.

xxx Esther

 

New house storage boxes from Famille Summerbelle

PinkMustardHouseBoxesInsituSide BlackBlue2BoxesInsitu 4BoxesFamille Summerbelle just came out with these adorable house storage boxes. I just love how clever and decorative they are. Yes please for my office, which is in need of organisation!

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Plus — a perfect present for the holidays, don’t you think?

xxx Esther

Sara, growing up (and Marie Puce)

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Sara is now 9 1/2 — not long before we’ll have a teenager in the house! It’s crazy to think back to the moment when we first found out we were going to have a baby. Tamar and I were living in Brussels at the time, we had just gotten married a few months prior, and I vividly remember the moment we looked at that pregnancy test, first seeing nothing, but then slowly, that (wished for) stripe appeared.

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And now, 10 years later, here she is, our first born, a beautiful girl, with the most gentle and caring character. Realising how lucky we are to have her brings tears to my eyes! She, being the older sister, has as much influence on her little siblings as we have. She is always positive, sweet, looking after the little ones…

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I love seeing her grow up (and up she goes! She’s such a tall and skinny girl!), and to see her character evolve, to see her learn about life, taking it all in, being happy with the world around her, with her self, her family and her friends. Also, I love to still see the child in her, who loves to play, to build huts, and to climb trees. It’s such a wonderful age, these years between childhood and adolescence!

Last week we were visiting the pretty Park Middelheim in Antwerpen where I took these photos of Sara.  I think they capture that feeling of ‘mature childhood’ so perfectly: the understanding on her face in the first photo, but also the curiosity and the joy in the last photos.

xxx Esther

PS How perfect is that dress (one of Sara’s favourites) and those boots, both from Marie Puce — cool and fashionable, but still innocent and girly!

Pretend and play with Fanny & Alexander

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Last week, Courtney and her family were visiting us in Amsterdam, and we had such a lovely time. Eight children, who have known each other all of their life, together in one house. You can imagine the amount of fun we all had!

Ivy and Ava are one year apart, but these girls are the best of friends. They bond over dolls, drawing, and mischievous behaviour in general. The sound of their girly giggles throughout the house was just wonderful!

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When a few toys arrived from the fabulous toy makers Fanny & Alexander, all the way from Argentina, the girls proved to be the perfect models. Ivy instantly fell in love with the wooden camera — taking photos of all of us (and showing them to us on the ‘preview screen’ on the back of the camera — pretending, of course!). Ava’s new canvas school satchel (which fits beautifully thanks to the adjustable straps) of course needed to be photographed immediately.

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Fanny & Alexander is a brand based in Argentina and aims to develop nostalgic toys and children’s accessories. They work with local artisans to produce objects that are simple yet beautiful and are made to stand the test of time. Their collection is about capturing that unique feeling that childhood is all about and to encourage pretend play and creativity. Ivy and Ava are big fans, and so are we!

The beautiful products of Fanny & Alexander are now available at Shak-Shuka, or check other retailers here.

xxx Esther

This post is sponsored by Fanny & Alexander, a brand we highly admire for their dedication to developing unique and durable children’s toys and accessories. 

Happy Holidays shoot by Maud Fontein (again at the ShopUp!)

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Here are my four babies photographed by Maud Fontein for this year’s Happy Holidays shoot. They’ve grown a bit since last year, haven’t they? I’m always impressed by how Maud can take such sweet photos of all my kids — she is so wonderful, makes children so quickly at ease. My kids actually look forward to going over to Maud’s — they know they’ll be in for a laugh (which does have to do with the fact that Maud lets me sit on a whoopee cushion!).

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Maud also (very quickly!) took some portraits of the kids individually. So sweet. I love how their personalities show so well, Sara already getting so big…

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Maud will be joining us this year again for the ShopUp, and she’s already taking bookings for her happy holidays shoots. I love this year’s theme! So if you’re in London on December 3rd or 4th, you can have your babies photographed this way as well. : )

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Also — Maud will again be bringing these great Christmas Cards Toolkits (designed by Vivian from de Liefdesfabriek) to London. Filled with 20 cards, black envelopes, masking tape, stickers and a white pen — everything you need to turn your photos into a beautiful holiday card. As you can see, I already started mine!

xxx Esther

Our 2014 Gift Guides!

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 12.01.24It’s almost incredible that it’s that time of year again, but yes it is. Christmas is creeping up on us. Only 7 weeks to go!! Time to get organised…

We’ve tried to make selecting presents for the little ones in your life as easy as possible, by creating four Gift Guides filled with amazing gift ideas. There’s one for boys, one for girls, one for baby, and then there’s a super handy guide with adorable stocking stuffers as well.

So handy! (I’m the number one fan of these guides!) And If I can give you an idea —  you can also forward these guides to your family. Especially uncles love receiving these kind of emails ; ). Enjoy the guides!

xxx Esther

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