My son Henrik loves to sculpt and make figures and creatures out of clay. In the morning when he wakes up he is thinking of new guys to make and when he comes home from school all he wants to do is build new figures. I have to tell him to stop sculpting to eat his meals. You might say he is borderline obsessed with it. One of his favorite things to do is watch instructional videos on how to work with clay, or interviews of his role models: Ray Harryhausen and Tim Burton (he calls him Tim Burgan). I find clay EVERYWHERE in my house! But I enjoy watching this little boy create and be so passionate about his claymation figures.
Because Henrik makes so many different claymation figures, we buy A LOT of clay. He has long since grown out of play dough or other clay that dries. He needs to work with clay that is long lasting and has a lot of oil in it, called plasticine. Several people have asked me where we buy our clay, so I thought I’d share with you where we get ours. We have discovered the best place to get a wide range of colors and larger amounts of clay at fxsupply.com. Henrik also uses armature wire for the skeletal structure of his creations. You can buy the wire here.
It’s so entertaining everyday to see the new creations he comes up with. These are just a small sampling of some of his figures.
Last weekend I had the amazing experience of attending an Alvaro Sanz photography workshop in a lovely town by the sea in Asturias, where I live. He is a very talented Spanish photographer, and travels all over Spain and abroad with his incredible workshops. Alvaro is also Nanook’s father, so he had this idea: when he travels, he takes photos of a little karibu toy which he later shows to his son when he gets back home. That way there is always a connection between the travels, the father and the son. Isn’t it a lovely idea?
So that little Karibu has already been to Morocco, France, Sweden, all over Spain and more… and always comes back home with a picture!
I love the idea. Thanks Alvaro for being so inspiring, always.
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.
Esther has already raved about Sylvanian Families, but I thought it was worth mentioning the Sylvanian Families Campervan. I gave it to Ivy for her birthday last week and it has since become the most fought over toy in our house!! All of my children think it is just the coolest thing. (Can you blame them?! Even I am secretly sneaking in a little playtime with it!)
Coincidentally, one of her friends also gave her the Camping Set, which goes perfectly with the Campervan. So cute!
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.
I love the idea of this new hospital box from maternity label, Hatch. It’s a box of luxurious hospital necessities for new mothers to wear after they’ve given birth. The box contains a knee-length nightgown designed to feel like your softest t-shirt, as well as a grey jersey robe, a pair of Cosabella black briefs (full coverage, but still pretty), and a pair of luxurious grey cashmere socks.
I think it would make for a lovely gift to give yourself as you’re gearing up for labour… or for your husband to give to you! I don’t know about anyone else, but the outfit I wore after giving birth was always the last thing I thought about before I went into labour, and I often ended up snatching my husband’s t-shirt and throwing back on the outfit I wore into the hospital. There was nothing special about it at all. I sort of like the idea of adding a bit of luxurious comfort to the equation, and feeling that bit more elegant in the special first days after your baby is born. (Not that I will be doing it ever again! But still!)
We recently hung a bird feeder in the apple tree right outside our kitchen window, and it has been so much fun to watch all the garden birds help themselves to the birdseed. There are moments where we can spot three or four different birds taking turns flying up to our bird feeder, meanwhile pigeons (and squirrels!) help themselves to the seeds which fall onto the ground. The kids love pointing out the different birds we spot in the garden, which is why I knew they would love this new British Garden Birds Poster from Finch and Robin. The poster details 10 different garden birds, and we’ve hung it right on the wall by our kitchen table so that we can reference it every time we spot them.
I also like that £2 per poster is being donated to the RSPB Scotland to help save wildlife.
How cute are these espadrilles from the Spanish brand, Slowers!! Ivy and I recently got a pair of matching ones (see photo) in the mosaic print and they are so fun — I’m not sure which one of us loves them more!
I like that they’ve taken the traditional Spanish espadrilles and have given them a bit of a modern twist with the fun prints and colours…
Slowers is a small brand inspired by slow and rural life. They believe in creating shoes which are both natural, cool and comfortable, ideal for long summer walks in nature. They make espadrilles for men, women and children, and they’re all handcrafted in Spain and made from organic cotton and 100% natural jute fibres. (If you’re interested, you can read some interesting bits about the history of espadrilles here.)
I love the look of leggings on little boys, and these ones, by new Californian brand Mason and the Tambourine, I just couldn’t resist! All the leggings by Mason and the Tambourine are handmade in California out of an excellent quality, organic cotton (with 10% lycra jersey for stretch) and printed with non-toxic, water-based soy ink.
On a side note, when I was taking these photos of Casper, I suddenly realised he was 7 months old this week! Still so little, but at the same time he’s getting so big. He is the most delightful little boy, always smiling at everyone, super snuggly, chatting and laughing out loud when we play with him. He now sits at the table with us, in his high chair, and is loving it. We’re so lucky to have him with us!
I’m a big fan of the Chewbeads new line of necklaces and bracelets for children called juniorbeads. Elodie is in love with the glow in the dark necklace and bracelet and always puts it outside in the morning for a charge. They are stylish and also double as a brilliant toy for teething babies. So clever!
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.
Whenever we go on a beach holiday, I like to pack turkish towels instead of normal beach towels because they take up less space in your suitcase, they’re less heavy when wet after a long day at the beach, they dry more quickly… and they’re super cute!
Yesterday I was in the Conran Shop with my mom and we stumbled on these large linen bath towels by FB Collection from Frescobol Carioca, and I couldn’t resist picking up the cute pink and white striped one. I love how multipurpose they are — they can be used as a scarf, a shawl, a sarong, a blanket or a beach towel. The perfect thing to have at the beach! (Can you tell I am desperate for a sunny, beach holiday? Desperate!!!).
Last week was May break here in the Netherlands, and very last minute my husband and I decided to book tickets for an 8 day trip to Portugal — we just had to escape the dreary weather here in Amsterdam for a bit! The evening before we left we booked a car and a hotel for the first 4 nights, about 100 km north of Lisbon. Leaving the planning of the trip to the absolute last minute in the end worked out perfectly well, we had an amazing time! Maybe you would like to hear a little bit about our adventures? (more…)
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
It was Ivy’s birthday yesterday and she had a few friends over after school to help her celebrate. I have decided to embrace the girly princess stage she’s in right now, and so we had a proper Fairy Princess Party complete with lots of princess dresses, pink balloons… and fairy wings!
I didn’t plan any games for them to play — I simply let them dress up and run around the garden. It’s amazing what fun they can have with some simple balloons and some imaginative play. (And it helps that the weather was nice enough for them to be outside.)
The fairy wings were a big success! The girls loved ‘flying’ around the garden with them, and it was a special thing for them to take home from the party (rather than a goodie bag or party favours).
You can buy the fairy wings from Belle Enfant — they are handmade in metallic gold fabric and have soft elastic straps to keep them in place. So cute and really such a big hit with the 4-year-old girls!
I went to visit the Rasselfisch boutique in Stuttgart a few weeks ago and kind of wished there wasn’t a certain someone waiting for me in the car because I would have ended up with a lot more than only a couple of things. It’s one of loveliest boutiques I’ve ever seen. Full of little treats in every corner — I had to use all of my moderate-shopping strength!
And there is something I saw and just can’t get out of my mind – the most darling vintage inspired baby cots which are actually their own creations. They are divine!
The cots are made of a light wood called MDF and custom made in Germany. The height can be adapted to the parents’ bed height and you can also choose your preferred colour and type of bed – with legs, with rockers, with wheels — there’s even a co-sleeping cot bed. It’s true, beds of this size (80×40 cm or 90×50 cm) don’t last that long but they have also thought this part through – you can buy a matching lid and turn the bed into a toy storage (or the co-sleeping one into one gorgeous looking kids’ book case). Perfect or what?
La Coqueta is a new London-based boutique with a gorgeous collection of clothing and shoes from Spain. I stopped into the boutique last week and was blown away by all the lovely details of the shop (see the clever window display below!) and of course the beautiful, timeless pieces in the collection. From the sweet cotton knitwear collection for babies to the adorable smock dresses for girls, and the smart shirts for boys to the colourful range of shoes.
I picked up the most gorgeous little outfit for Marlow (see below) as well as this sweet dress for Ivy. What struck me most was the price point – quite reasonable considering how elegant everything is. I suppose, in that regard, it’s in keeping with traditional Spanish clothing: it is affordable, timeless clothing kids can wear to a party as well as to the playground. Because, from what I know from my travels to Spain, there is no distinction between playground and party wear. Spanish children are always well dressed.
So sweet, these simple (but strong!) graphics by Dutch company Tapete. I’ve known Judith Vulkers, the owner and designer, for a few years now, and she is as lovely and down-to-earth as her designs are. It’s not easy to create simple, strong and straight-forward prints for t-shirts that stay stylish and cute at all times, but Judith always succeeds!
Tapete designs are printed on great quality shirts — some in a soft, velvety flock; some in wonderful, funky neon colours — whatever emphasises the atmosphere of the print most. The shirts and prints truly stay in great shape, wash after wash after wash, and have a darling, snug fit.
I love Casper’s Tapete elephant shirt (see photo above)! And for the summer, I think I just can’t resist that yellow tractor tee — too cute!
When you live in the UK, rain boots are serious business. They aren’t just an accessory for the odd rainy day, but a necessity year round. Even at the children’s schools they’re required to have a pair of wellies on hand for wet, rainy days… which means that all of my children have a pair of wellies at home and a pair at school. I even have a few extra pairs in the back of our car! And of course my husband and I each have a pair as well.
Over the years I have bought many different pairs of wellies from many different brands and I’ve come to the conclusion that the Hunter boots are the best bang for your buck. They’re not the cheapest but the quality is really good. And unlike other boots which quickly get holes in the toes or soles, the Hunter boots have nice thick soles which are sturdy and which also provide good traction for slippery surfaces. Boots you can pass down from one child to the next!
Hunter recently sent a few pairs of boots for the kids from their colourful festival range, and as you can imagine – the kids love the fun, bright colours. (Ivy hasn’t taken her pink pair off in three days!) I keep catching a glimpse of the colourful boots in our back hall and it really does brighten things up around here.
When I was in Amsterdam with Esther last month, we sat down one evening to make some cute stripy skirts for the girls. (I should clarify – I did a bit of ironing, and Esther did everything else!!). She whipped up three skirts in one evening and I was so super impressed with how quickly you can have results! The girls were wearing their new skirts the following day! Esther explained the simple steps to me… but of course, like with anything else, you can’t fully learn how to do something unless you really sit down and do it yourself. So I was determined to come back to London, buy some cute fabric and learn by doing.
My mom is here visiting us so I figured it was the perfect timing to do so. Together we set up my sewing machine and sat down one evening for a little sewing session. It is surprisingly easy! And I must say, quite addictive!
I thought I would share the steps for how to make a super simple elastic waistband skirt (taught to me by Esther). My sewing lingo is very basic, so I’m not even sure if I can properly explain it… but I figured my basic steps might be helpful for other beginner sewers.
- Cut the length of fabric you think will be suitable for your child’s height. (I’ve made a few skirts now for Ivy and I think my favourite length began with a 46cm length of fabric. The length of the pink skirt in the photo below is longer, roughly 52cm). Remember to wash the fabric first so you know how much it is going to shrink (or allow for shrinkage if you don’t wash it first).
- The width of the fabric will become the waist/width of the skirt (the elastic will determine the size of the waist, determining how much fabric gets scrunched by the elastic). Widths of fabric differ – the wider the fabric, the fuller the skirt will be. (The floral Liberty print skirt pictured above has a 135cm or 54″ width.)
- Fold your fabric width-wise with the inside of the fabric on the outside, matching up the two outside edges. Sew a basic seam along this edge (about 1.5cm from the edge). Now you will have a loop of fabric with one seam. (You can iron the flaps of the seam down so they are flat against the fabric – this help keeps things looking tidy and also helps when sewing the hem and waistband over the seam.)
- Create a hem at the bottom by folding the bottom edge up (about 1cm) once and then folding again (about 2.5cm) to create a neat hem (where you don’t see any of the unfinished edge). Iron the folds, and pin the folding down so that it stays straight and in place. (You can measure while you do this to ensure the hem is straight and remains the same thickness all along the bottom). Then sew the hem in place.
- Create a waist band by doing roughly the same thing as the bottom hem (only it can be thinner, about half the width of the hem). I’ve been using elastic which is 9mm wide, so I just need to make sure the waistband is wide enough for the 9mm elastic to fit through easily). Iron the folds and pin down so that it stays straight when you sew it. Sew it together, leaving a small gap at the seam of the skirt for you to get the elastic band into the waist.
- Insert the elastic into the waistband using a safety pin pinned to the end of the elastic. Work the elastic all the way around the waistband and cinch up to your desired waist size (make sure the elastic doesn’t get twisted). Sew the elastic together so that it makes a loop within the waistband.
- Finish the skirt by sewing shut the gap of the waistband.
And that’s it! It’s so basic. The skirt consists of one seam, one hem and one elastic waistband. Easy peasy! I hope my instructions haven’t confused you. If you have any questions, just ask in the comments section below.