After spending the month of October in warm, tropical Brazil (where I questioned having sacrificed space in our suitcases to pack thick, wooly jumpers), we travelled south to spend the month of November in Uruguay where the weather is much cooler and we are so thankful we made room for those jumpers! It’s late spring here — the weather is still unreliable and if you’re not in the direct sunshine it can be quite chilly. Jumpers in constant use.
Because I knew we’d be in mostly warm places this year, I packed just one jumper for each of the kids (plus a hoodie for the boys and a cardigan for the girls). Of course I packed jumpers from Babaà — they’re my absolute favourite! And not just my favourite, but really the children’s favourites as well. We particularly love the softer wool blend jumpers made with wool, alpaca and extra fine merino. They are super soft, chunky and just perfect. Not to mention, so well made that they last for year and years and years…! (Quin had a dark grey jumper which he wore nearly every single day for two years!! They joked at school that he and that jumper were inseparable. He finally outgrew it, and this blue one was the replacement.)
This year, Babaà came out with a wool dress for girls, made with the same cosy alpaca wool blend. I got them for my girls and they’ve worn them loads already (we just put them on over their summery dresses when they get chilly in the evenings! sometimes even over their bathing suit when they’re cold from a swim!).
Babaà will have a stand (for the third year in a row) at our ShopUp event in London in a couple weeks. It’s the perfect opportunity to see and feel her collection in person.
p.s. In the photos above, the kids were playing with their wooden cameras from Fanny & Alexander, a gift from the designer, Delfina, who is also staying in Uruguay this month (just down the street!). Both Marta (from Babaà) and Delfina are two women who I deeply admire, both professionally and personally, and I am so happy I was able to feature them both together like this. x
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Every month we have some fantastic prizes to win from our amazing and lovely shops. Of course November is no exception! Can you believe it’s nearly December… Maybe you can tick off something from your list with the below!
Bamboo-blended baby accessories specialists Nest Designs are giving one lucky winner a Keira Diaper Clutch, a stylish clutch which cleverly folds out into a changing pad, plus 3 sets of super soft Bib Bandanas!
Poppy & Hester have a cute range of high quality, fun-to-wear girls clothing featuring their own stylish prints. This month one lucky winner can choose any dress and cardigan, plus neckerchief scarf to complete the outfit!
SO Awesome wallet-sized cards are modern, durable and irresistible; perfect for entertaining your little ones wherever you are! Educational and safe for ages 0+, there are two sets of the full line of Children’s Wallet Cards plus My Wallet sets to be won!
Head on over to our WIN! Page to enter! Good luck everyone!
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I have always loved seeing my kids absorbed in an intricate game of their own making. There is something so special and touching about the imaginary worlds that children are able to create in their own heads, and encouraging creativity and imagination is one of the best ways to nurture our children. (I recently watched my two boys pretending to be dinosaurs in the front yard, so absorbed in their role play they didn’t even notice me nearby. Long may this imaginative play last between those two!!)
The film is a colourful, nostalgic journey of childhood creativity. The kids and I watched this on repeat several times and giggled along with the joyful robotics and t-shirts doing the hula (and the rubber gloves for the cow’s udder! brilliant!).
The film features a secret factory and a young factory controller (Max) who stretches and splatters, tugs and tests clothes to their limits while his little sister Louise and dog Scratch stand guard outside.
Clothes take on a life of their own, trousers dance to the beat of remote-controlled cars and a steam engine pours chocolate over a conveyer belt packed with undergarments. It is a joyful, whimsical salute to Petit Bateau’s own factory in Troyes, France, where each item they create is the fruit of a lasting commitment to fantasy and quality.
But what happens next? Petit Bateau would love you to come up with your very own version to end the story. If you can help write the next chapter to the film, you could win a set of iconic Petit Bateau outfits, including their trusty mariniere and weatherproof raincoats!
Here at Babyccino, we have donned our thinking caps and imagined our own ending to Max, Louise and Scratch’s adventures: in our heads, we see Max, Louise and Scratch returning to the factory for a second time, constructing their own tent out of striped sweaters, cotton t-shirts and sturdy nightwear. Once constructed and tested to its fullest in the factory, the three intrepid inventors set out for a night beneath the stars!
Indulge your creativity over on Petit Bateau’s Instagram by entering here. The contest ends on Monday the 30th of November 2015 and entries must be no longer than five sentences.
Good luck everyone!
The post has been sponsored by Petit Bateau, a brand we have loved for as long as we can remember. We were thrilled to be asked to help promote this beautiful new film.
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Having lived overseas in places where the sun shines warmly every day (sigh) and there are only two seasons to live in, there were times when I really missed seeing the four seasons. Here in Scotland the seasonal changes seem so beautifully apparent. Perhaps it’s because the countryside is so breathtakingly stunning here or maybe it’s because we’re living closer to nature. We certainly enjoy the slower pace of life where we can watch the leaves change colour, where the light is golden and the air is crisp.
We’re loving autumn and I’ve noticed that the girls have really embraced the season here so I wanted to share with you some of the ways we’ve brought autumn into our home through the books we read, the food we bake and the crafts we’ve made from some of our forest foraging collections.
I discovered the book Nature’s Day at The ShopUp last year and was thrilled to see a book which captures the magic of the seasons so well. The intricate bright sketchings by Danielle Kroll and the gentle writing by Kay Maguire encourages children of all ages to enjoy nature everywhere. We’ve been enjoying cosy days reading this book together pointing to the mushrooms in the book which we spotted on our walks.
One Sunday we made a special cake and chose autumn fruits and edible flowers to decorate it. The smell of pumkpin, cinnamon and cloves drifted through the house and it was super delicious. The recipe was adapted from Amy-Beth Ellice’s spiced pumpkin bundt cake found here.
I love foraging with the girls and although it’s on a very simple level we manage to gather some pretty collections. One of my favourite books is The Wreath Recipe and it was there I found the inspiration to make a sweet woodland garland with the girls. It was so super simple to make; just with a needle and some thin twine we threaded through leaves, mushrooms and moss and hung it in our living room using washi tape. It was so effective and has lasted a while. With the rest of our findings I made a small bouqet for the fireplace.
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For a while now we’ve been writing regular Tuesday Tips posts — posts in which we share little parenting insights, tips and things that we’ve learned or picked up over the years. We enjoy these posts a lot, both writing them and reading them, and especially the tips and tricks that our readers leave in the comments section (or sent by email).
But sometimes we just want to share a thought, a question, or an insecurity. Something we don’t know the answer to, but something we want to talk about and hear your thoughts on. So we’re going to start a new series called ‘Thursday Thoughts’, and we hope you will enjoy and join in (and we hope we will learn and grow from it)!
Sara is now 10 years old, and the inevitable question has come up — when does she get a cell phone? Some of her friends (including her best friend) have been given a cell phone for their 10th birthday, and apparently about a third of the children in her class now have of a phone of their own.
We are not big screen-users in our family. It seems that there are roughly two routes to take when you are raising children — you are either relaxed or restrictive about screens — we lean toward the latter. Our kids do not have an Ipad or Ipod, and hardly watch television (they do watch the occasional dvd though). But, when we are having dinner and one of the kids has an interesting question or insight that we can’t respond to accurately, we tell them to search for the Ipad and look up the answer. And, now that it’s getting colder and wetter and it’s dark early, we sometimes like to cosy up in the living room and watch a fun film together. So I guess we don’t ban out screens completely, we’re relaxed restrictive about them.
With that in mind, I always thought the age of 12 would be a good age to give my children a mobile phone. They are then in the last year of primary school, and they will have started to cycle to their school, their friends and their after-school activities by themselves. An age, I imagine, when they will need (and get) more independence, and a mobile phone might make sense. They are hopefully responsible enough by then, plus, it could come in handy at times.
As a child, I had to cycle 8 kilometers to secondary school every morning, and back every afternoon. ‘Through rain and wind’, as we say here in the Netherlands. On a few occasions, cycling was impossible — a lot of snow on the way, or a flat tyre, for example — and I would have to find a house on the way, ring the bell, and ask kindly if I could make a phone call to my mum so she could come and pick me up. I sometimes wonder, do children nowadays have a chance to develop the (social) skills to deal with these sorts of little problems in life, when they get a mobile phone at such an early age?
A friend of mine has 3 children, 2 teenage boys and a tween girl. His wife passed away a few years ago, so he has the tough job to raise his kids all alone. He has always been extremely relaxed about screens; he feels that they are such an integral part of our lives, that it’s only natural to let children grow up with them. He gave his daughter a cell phone (no smart phone though) when she was seven, so they could reach each other on the days that he was working outside the city. When she was ten she got a smart phone, and he says it’s all good.
I was talking with Courtney about this (who has even stricter views on electronics) and she nearly fainted (half joking) when I mentioned it might soon be time to give Sara a phone. She said that this is a parenting decision that is still so far away for her, that she hasn’t really even thought about it yet, but she guessed it would definitely not happen before her kids were 16, and then certainly no smart phone!
So many parents, so many opinions.
But I think I might have to reconsider mine. I wonder if maybe the age of 12 is a bit late in our Amsterdam way-of-life. If, next year, most if not all of the children in Sara’s class have a phone, should I still keep her from getting one? Even if we wouldn’t allow her to bring her phone to school yet, she could still join the class WhatsApp group, and send messages to her friends, and use it on occasions after school?
It’s a difficult decision to make, and I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions about it to help me shape my own!
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Pepa & Co is a London based online boutique, offering a collection of beautifully designed fashion, all sustainably made in, and sourced from Spain. The collection is handpicked by Pepa, the lovely owner, who has an eye for selecting a nice mix of classic and contemporary pieces — all so stylish and charming!
A highlight in Pepa & Co’s winter collection this year are the long-sleeved, organic shirts and onesies with darling Liberty collars. They are available from size 3 months to 8 years, and are so sweet, soft and cosy — and so effortlessly stylish! Baby Orla is wearing a onesie with a basic blue collar, isn’t she just divine?
I love how sweet and simple they are, and it is such a great layering piece — perfect combined with that adorable knitted all-in-one piece!
Last but not least, how sweet are those moccasins? Keeping tiny feet warm and adding the most adorable touch to little baby legs in teeny tiny tights… So cute!
PS This post is sponsored by Pepa & Co, a company we love and respect and a long-time member of our shopping portal.
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I loved Esther’s post last year about an Advent Activity Calendar! We have done a similar idea for a few years now (unfortunately not so beautifully designed!). I bought a Maileg Advent garland (a little bit like this one) and in every pocket the children find a sweet treat and an Advent activity for us to do. Lots of our activities are similar to Esther’s – designed to enjoy this preparation time leading up to Christmas: gathering pine-cones, sticking cloves into oranges, baking, making decorations, thinking of those less fortunate, making (and eating) gingerbread, watching a Christmas movie together, etc. But I also try and book a couple of seasonal activities to enjoy with the kids during these days. For some of them you need to book early (in October!) but some you can still do – most are in or around London.
- The National Trust: The National Trust usually have great festive activities at their sites leading up to Christmas – We’ve been to see Father Christmas and the Christmas animals at Hatchlands Park, we’ve listened to Christmas Jazz at Ham House, we’ve done Christmas trails, Christmas crafts and visited Christmas markets and fairs – all of which have left us with that warm festive glow. This year we’re planning to visit a Georgian Christmas at Osterley House & Park.
- Christmas at Kew: We’re fortunate enough to live close to Kew and so have always made sure we visit – it gets better and better each year – especially as now there is the Christmas illuminations trail and market. The lights lighting up the magnificent trees and plants around the garden is spectacular – the walk takes about 45 minutes but there are stopping points throughout to warm up with a hot chocolate or mulled wine.
- Christmas theatre: I always look out for a Christmas show to go and see with the kids – I particularly like small theatre productions – We saw a wonderful adaption of Father Christmas (Raymond Briggs) last year at The Lyric in Hammersmith (which is back this year if you are nearby) and I always check the children’s theatres for their Christmas program: The Polka in Wimbledon and The Unicorn on Southbank. We have also watched the fabulous adaption of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s Stickman (which is back on stage this year at The Leicester Square Theatre). This year we are going to see Slava’s Snow Show – which sounds pretty fab.
- Christmas Carols: My absolute favourite place for singing carols is Hampton Court – the singers meet at the door to the palace at 6pm and then walk around the courtyards stopping to sing along with a brass band – it is literally my favourite Christmas Activity – we have done it for the last 6 years and every year it gets better organised; now there is a stopping point for a mince pie and a mulled wine (I think you are getting an impression of what good organisation means to me – food and drink!!). But despite having the ticket-opening date in my diary I missed tickets this year – you really need to book as soon as they go on sale. So I’m looking for a fun Christmas Caroling event, do you know any? We will take the kids to the family carol service at St. Paul’s, which is also lovely (but no mince pies or mulled wine …)
I’d love to know what Christmas activities you try and fit in during Advent time.
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It’s autumn and the streets are lined with the most beautiful leaves. They’re just too pretty not to be picked up! So for this The Little Things post, we decided to make use of what is so readily available in nature: we’re making beautiful leaf lanterns with Casper and his friend Mees.
For this project, we need semi-dry leaves (just put leaves in a heavy book and leave for a few days to keep them from curling — it’s best to use paper kitchen towel sheets if you want to avoid stains on the pages of the book). It’s fun to use leaves in different shapes, colours and sizes (don’t forget to collect some tiny ones too). You also need a few clean glass jars, and decoupage glue like Décopatch or Mod Podge.
What a fun little project — so easy with such pretty results. Now that the evenings are getting darker and colder, we love lighting candles in our homes to bring in warmth… And our little boys are super proud to see their creations on the table of course!
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 for letting us use your beautiful new house! Casper’s reversible vest is from Nieva, his pants are from Macarons and the shirt is from Mabo Kids.
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Last year at the ShopUp, a sweet lady came up to me, presenting me her beautiful business card and telling me about the brand she was setting up, a collection of luxury children’s fashion and knitwear called Omibia. She told me she hoped that next year she could join us for the ShopUp, and I told her I most certainly hoped so too! And now I’m so happy to say that indeed Omibia (and that sweet lady called Mercedes) will be there, with their first beautiful collection.
Omibia aims to create beautiful baby and children’s clothing of the highest quality and style, but without compromising the manufacturing process, which is respectful to the people, places and the natural processes involved. All items are made entirely from certified organic and natural fibres, like luxuriant baby alpacas, or soft cottons. I personally love the beautiful colours, patterns and detailing of the knitwear collection — Mercedes kindly sent us some samples to test over the year, and the quality of those knits is truly amazing and the fit is superb.
I can’t wait to meet Mercedes again in London next month, and this time with a collection worthy to be discovered!
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I wrote my first post for Babyccino on 29th November 2009 (I can’t believe it – almost 6 years ago!) and it was about an idea that I had to wrap up 24 Christmas themed books to create a Christmas Book Advent Calendar. Well the idea is still going strong in our house and as I get the books out this year and dust them off ready for wrapping – I thought I’d do a little updated post on it.
We do a couple of different advent calendar ideas in our house but the book idea is still my favourite and has become a tradition that the children (and I) really look forward to. Unwrapping a Christmas story every evening before going to bed has such a cosiness about it – perfect for the time of year, when evenings are dark and cold. Reading the story – whether just fun or poignant – gives me the opportunity to slow down, even if just for a few minutes and snuggle up with my kids to soak in the magical atmosphere of Advent. I treasure those moments and I’m sure my children do to.
I thought I’d share with you some pictures from the past years – they are all pretty bad quality I’m afraid, as we always read at night-time and I very rarely have my proper camera to hand, so they are just grainy phone-snaps but looking at them I can’t wait to wrap the books up again.
Over the years, as the kids get older, we’ve added to the Christmas book collection so now I get to choose from a bigger pile – I thought to share our list with you – even if 24 advent books is a bit extreme, you may enjoy one or two of these stories over the festive period:
- Bear Stays Up for Christmas (Karma Wilson & Jane Chapman). If you know the book “Bear Snores On” then you will recognize the characters in this book. I’ve always thought that maybe those clever advertising people who came up with that lovely John Lewis ad (with the bear and hare) may have read this book at some point ….
- The Fir Tree (Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Sanna Annukka). This is a longer story – so needs a while to read it (maybe could be done over 2 nights?) – I always wrap it as one of the earlier days so we have more time to finish it the day after if necessary. It is a lovely classic fairy-tale, which is exquisitely illustrated (an heirloom book).
- Snow (Roy McKie & P.D. Eastman). This appears to be out of print so currently very expensive on Amazon marketplace (but prices always change). It is not a Christmas story specifically but snow and sledging always feels seasonal. This is a good book if you have a child who is just learning to read as it is a first reader book so a good one for some subtle practise!
- Petunia’s Christmas (Roger Duvoisin). I’m sorry another out of print one (but much cheaper at the moment on Amazon!) – I collect Duvoisin books as I love his illustrations and story-telling and this is a wonderful story of the silly little goose that we already know.
- ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (Clement C. Moore). We have 3 versions of this book – my favourite is my version I had as a child, which stays at my parent’s house and is out of print unfortunately. The version I usually wrap up is illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith. I like this book to be really old fashioned and her illustrations are just perfect in my minds eye. However we do often give a small hardback version by paper-cut artist Niroot Puttapipat, which is also very special. Of course it is entirely up to you but this one is always our book to open on the 24th!!!
- Mog’s Christmas (Judith Kerr). Quite a few of our ‘favourite’ characters pop up in our advent books and Mog is no exception – I particularly like her grumpy attitude to it all – we all know someone who is a pretty grumpy about Christmas don’t we?!
- A Christmas Story (Brian Wildsmith). You may remember that Brian Wildsmith’s Easter Story crept up in my Easter book recommendations http://babyccinokids.com/blog/2015/03/31/6-easter-book-suggestions/. The story of Jesus’s birth is also told through the eyes of a donkey, which reminds us of the humility of Jesus being born in a stable with animals and simple people present but he uses bright colour and gold print to remind us just how special the story is.
- Letters from Father Christmas (J. R. R. Tolkien). I have a different version of this book, which I couldn’t find on Amazon – with pull-out letters, it is quite special but actually quite fiddly to read so I’m sure this one is a bit more practical. Not only are these letters (that Tolkien wrote to his own children in the guise of Father Christmas) super magical they show what a truly awesome dad he must have been. So imaginative, so funny and inspiring in creating this fictional dialogue that I’m sure his children found quite magical.
- Little Rabbit’s Christmas (Harry Horse). One for the little ones (having said that I think my 8-year-old still quite enjoys these stories). A story which shows the ‘other’ side of Christmas – the meltdowns, spoiled behaviour, selfishness that we have certainly seen in our own children when the excitement of Christmas finally reaches a peak and explodes. But of course … with lessons learned and happy endings!
- Lyle at Christmas (Bernard Waber). Out of print and available super cheap at the time of going to print. We love all the Lyle stories – surreal and gentle as they are. If you don’t know them I’m sure you’d love them. In this one Lyle and his family look to help Mr. Grumps, who is suffering from the holiday ‘blahs’.
- My Wonderful Christmas Tree (Dahlov Ipcar). I wrote about another Dahlov Ipcar book, I Love Animals, earlier in the year. I really love her illustrations and this Christmassy book is no exception. This is a counting book with different animals hiding in a Christmas tree and there are some quite unusual ones in there!
- I Spy Christmas (Walter Wick & Jean Marzollo). Another chance for a second hand bargain here (hardcover was £2.81 (inc. postage) when going to print. These books do feel a little dated – they remind me of when I was a kid – the objects and styling is a bit ’80s but I like a hint of nostalgia and, more importantly they are fun – I have written about many ‘looking’ books and I think particularly young children love to solve the riddles and find the objects in the Christmassy photos.
- The Empty Stocking (Richard Curtis & Rebecca Cobb). This book really answers the question – “what if I haven’t been good this year?” Uh oh!
- The Little Fir Tree (Margaret Wise Brown & Jim Lamarche). The story of a father who makes his little boy’s Christmas special with the help of a little Fir Tree – a very sweet story about Christmas traditions and making sure we remember the vulnerable, the forgotten and the disadvantaged at Christmas time.
- Paddington and the Christmas Surprise (Michael Bond & R.W. Alley). We love Paddington (books not movie, sorry!) and this one is always in our Advent line-up. Of course Paddington gets into a tricky situation but ends up saving the day and Marmalade is featured!
- One Thousand Christmas Beards (Roger Duvoisin). Another out-of-print, another Roger Duvoisin. As usual he takes a different angle on Christmas – in the story Santa is angry with all the Santa impersonators that he sees during the festive season – it’s a great story to help you answer the inevitable questions that arise when you see Santa in every Shopping Mall!
- The Little Reindeer (Michael Foreman). I really like this story – a relatively new addition to our collection. The story of a reindeer that gets lost from Santa’s crew and the boy that befriends him – quite magical.
- The Christmas Wish (Lori Evert & Per Breiehagen). I love everything about this book. The photography, the story, the fashion (I’d love to dress my little girl like Anja in this story!!!)
- The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey (Susan Wojciechowski & P.J. Lynch). An old-fashioned story of love …
- Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree (Robert Barry). Ha! Ha! Last Christmas our tree didn’t quite fit into our living room and my husband had to cut about 30cm from the top and my eldest boy said – “Oh it’s just like Mr Willowby’s tree”, and that’s how the story starts …
- The Twelve Days of Christmas (Jane Ray). Courtney bought this book for us a couple of Christmas’s ago and it is a really lovely version … I save it until quite near Christmas so we can all read it, then sing it together!
- Madeline’s Christmas (Ludwig Bemelmans). I do love Madeline books, although often a little bit ‘odd’ – this one manages to weave (excuse the pun) a magic-carpet seller into a Christmassy story.
- A Calf for Christmas (Astrid Lindgren & Marit Tornqvist). We have two Lindgren books in our German Advent collection but this is the only English one we have. It is a story that works for older children as well as the littles. A classic fable and beautifully illustrated so you get a cosy impression of Sweden at Christmas time.
- Christmas Poems (Chosen by Gaby Morgan and illustrated by Axel Scheffler). If this one gets wrapped it is often in the first days of Christmas – as it can’t be all read in one night but it is nice to dip into through the Christmas days – we sometimes leave this one out in a Book basket that we keep beside the advent calendar for all the opened books so the kids can look through them during the days.
- Father Christmas & The Donkey (Elizabeth Clark & Jan Ormerod). Another great bargain at the moment! And another story of a donkey!!! This donkey works so hard to help Father Christmas and Father Christmas rewards him with the best present he could wish for.
- Christmas Day in the Morning (Pearl s. Buck & Mark Buehner). Warning – tear-jerker! I even noticed a tear in my husband’s eye last year. I always save this one for the last days of the calendar!
- The Christmas Angels (Elsa Wenz-Vietor). We have this one in German (see German suggestions) – it is so gorgeously illustrated – this is how Christmas angels should look!
- Christmas in the Noisy Village (Astrid Lindgren & Ilon Wikland). In German, the Noisy Village is called Bullerbue and we love the stories throughout the year from them. (There is a great TV series as well in German – which if you are German you will surely know already!!!). It is such a charming story of 3 families that make up a village in Sweden and the 7 children that occupy it with their stories of idyllic countryside playing and mischief-making.
I hope that this long-list has maybe given you some ideas for Christmas stories for this year!
Also, here are some of our Advent books in German for my husband to read, I thought I’d share our favourites for any German Speaking readers:
- Weihnachten im Stall (Astrid Lindgren & Lars Klinting)
- Wie Weihnachtelt Man? (Lorenz Pauli & Kathrin Schaerer)
- Weihnachten Nach Mass (Birdie Black & Rosalind Beardshaw)
- Die Leihgabe (Wolfdietrich Schnurre & Klaus Ensikat)
- Weihnachtern in Bullerbue (Astrid Lindgren & Ilon Wikland)
- Anton & das Weihnachtsgeschenk (Ole Koennecke)
- Die Weihnachtsengelein (Elsa Wenz-Vietor)
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Remember I posted about our new Babyccino baby? Team member Helen gave birth to Orla 3 months ago, and she’s just the most adorable baby. Helen brought her over the other day (we Babyccino girls tend to work with our babies in tow), and I had so much fun with that little lady. And, I’m proud to say that I had a first — Orla was laughing out loud, a milestone! (I’m not sure if she thought I was so hilarious or my glasses were, but I don’t care — she laughed and it was absolutely delightful. And contagious too!)
Also — how beautiful are those socks and blanket/scarf from Finish brand Nieva? Nieva is a new children’s brand from Finland, producing high quality and warm — yet lightweight — knitwear. Designer Aino, a mum of two little boys herself, aims to combine timeless and practical Nordic design with the best natural materials she can source. She works with small workshops in Finland, Portugal and Bolivia, with people who work in an honest and dedicated manner and who love what they do.
The Nieva collection is perfect to layer, and often have clever touches — the baby blanket above becomes a scarf when baby gets bigger, and this sweet alpaca striped vest is double-sided knit and can be reversed for a different look. The detailing is really beautiful, and the knits are ever so soft and strong. A special gift!
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I am shocked that, for the second time this year, I am sitting in front of my computer to write a post about a violent tragedy that has hit my beloved city right in the heart. Our home is, for the second time in 10 months, right next to the site of inhumane violence. We were very lucky this time as the girls and I were sitting in a plane flying to Dublin for a weekend with friends and family. But we are back now and the air is still thick with the horror of Friday’s events.
The main reason the atmosphere is so different than during the attacks on Charlie Hebdo is that this time we, here in Paris, feel like we have been targeted for being us and for living our normal lives, so the fear is palpable. We love sitting on lively terraces, enjoying an apero and laughing. We love live music and eating in restaurants. We love talking, arguing, drinking and celebrating life and our city. This is what the terrorists so callously honed in on and they hit us right in the heart of our being.
We have all done a lot of soul searching this weekend and the impulse to flee or lock ourselves and our family into our houses is overwhelming, but we cannot do it as that would let the terror win.
I remember seeing the above photo a long time ago and it has always stuck with me. A beautiful, made up woman in Sarajevo walking through a dangerous, sniper haunted neighbourhood passed armed guards, refusing to cower in the face of danger. I am not comparing Paris to the Sarajevo of that time, but I love her spirit and I believe Parisians will do the same thing. We will continue sitting at the tables of our beloved cafés, we will continue populating our streets and taking advantage of the beauty of our city. Because a couple of cruel individuals will not scare the inhabitants of this city and threaten that lifestyle and the liberty we hold so dear.
I want to ensure that my children do not live in fear and are not afraid of walking our neighbourhood streets, and the only way I can do this is by leading by example. Hopefully I can pass this message on to them.
Top image was created by @jean_jullien on Instagram.
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We gave the kids journals for their birthdays last spring in anticipation of our big journey ahead. I had hoped they would write in them regularly (daily even!) to document the things they see and do each day. The kids were enthusiastic about the idea and they excitedly packed them into their backpacks at the start of our trip.
But… when the time came to write their first journal entry, all three kids stared up at us with a blank stare, followed by questions and complaints: what should I write? I don’t know what to write about! How much do I have to write?
We suggested they write about their day and all the things they saw and learned. And yet, they still sat there looking down at a blank sheet of paper. We soon realised that perhaps it would be easier for them if we asked a few specific questions for them to answer, and this method has worked really well over the past couple months. We start each day with the date, place and weather. We then ask 3 to 4 specific questions (tailored for each child).
Here’s a list of some of the questions we generally ask:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What new words did you learn?
- What new foods did you try?
- What was the most interesting thing you saw?
- What was the most fun?
- What was the highlight of your day?
- How did it make you feel?
We then ask them to draw something they saw, ate or did. I’m loving their drawings just as much as what they choose to write – it’s such a fun visual way to capture a memory. It is already so much fun to look back at all their journal entries from the past couple months and I’m so excited for all the pages yet to be filled! It’s going to be such a special thing for them to keep and look back on for the rest of their lives.
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Last spring when we sat down to plan our year of travel we decided to favour small towns over cities and to spend about three weeks in each destination. We thought this would keep the pace a bit slower and allow us to really get to know each place beyond the usual touristy way. One thing we couldn’t manage to avoid, however, was flying into cities or brief stays in between available flights. So when the option came up to stay in Rio for a few days before flying down to Uruguay, we took it, and we’re so happy we did.
Rio is one of the most stunning cities I’ve ever seen. Verdant green mountains jut out of tropical blue seas in every direction and skyscrapers meet lush rain forests beyond them. Rio may have its share of big city problems, but beauty is not one of them. I’m so glad the kids got to experience it too, especially after seeing shots of Rio during last year’s World Cup, and also knowing it will be the host city for next summer’s Olympic games.
We stayed three days and managed to squeeze in many highlights. Here is a recap from our time with the Cariocas.
- We were invited by i-escape to test out their Ipanema Penthouse and report back on the property as well as kid-friendly things to do in the area — a task I was excited to accept. The apartment was really spacious, in a nice building and in a perfect location, just blocks from the beach and metro. I would not, however, recommend it for families with young children. The roof terrace has some worrisome hazards and the décor is more adult than family. If you are traveling with kids there are many other Rio properties on the i-escape site and I always appreciate their stylish selection and honest assessments of their properties.
- Take the Corcovado Train up to see the famous Cristo Redentor statue. You can see the statue from all sorts of different angles around the city (we first spotted it from the airplane and you should have seen how excited the kids were!), but to see it up close is really breathtaking. And the train ride up through lush tropical trees is fun for the kids too.
- We signed up for a walking food tour with Eat Rio, and it was the highlight of our visit. We spent the day walking around Rio’s centre, trying new foods and juices (Suco de Cupuaçú!), perusing the food markets and dropping into some its most traditional restaurants. We ate crazy fruits we’ve never heard of before (one took a hammer to open), we ate a traditional Amazonian soup called Tacacá, and finished off with a big meal of ‘Carne seca com abobora e feijão de corda’. We can’t recommend this enough for food lovers.
- We took a taxi over to the Lapa neighbourhood to start our food tour, and the Escadaria Selarón was one of the first sites we visited on the tour. We loved hearing the story of the Chilean artist, Jorge Selarón, and how he covered the 250 stairs in colourful tiles collected from more than 60 countries. It was such a site to see!
- We also loved seeing all the street art and graffiti in the Lapa neighbourhood. It was nice to have our food tour guide food explain the background on some of the graffiti artists and their work.
- On Sundays, there is an amazing ‘Feira Hippie‘ (or hippie market) just one block from the apartment. There were so many great stalls and handmade products. (We bought lots of bracelets for the kids and for their friends back in London.)
- The beach! We never had a perfectly sunny day, but we still made sure to experience the famous Rio beaches with all the action and bikini-clad Brazilians (the kids still talk about the shots of the crowded beaches they saw during the World Cup last year and it was fun to experience it in person).
- Juice bars! There are many different juice bars scattered around the city offering delicious juices from a choice of tropical fruits (many fruits we had never even heard of before). Did you know you can drink cacao juice? It’s made from the white pulp surrounding the individual cocoa beans inside the cacao pod. So cool!
- We ate breakfast at Cafeína, a charming cafe with delicious breakfast treats and coffee.
- On our second day we ate breakfast at Terzetto Café, which was just one block from our apartment and served good food with lots of Brazilian specialities.
- We ate feijoada on Sunday at Bar do Beto, which was super family-friendly. We aren’t feijoada experts, but we thought the food was good and the staff was super nice.
- Our kids were tired in the evenings after exploring the city, so one night we ordered sushi to be delivered to our apartment. Locals had recommended the iFood app for food delivery, and it worked perfectly! Sushi is very popular in Brazil, due to the large Japanese Brazilian population (we were told that Brazil has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan!).
Because of rainy weather, we didn’t get to do everything we had hoped to do, but it was still a jam-packed few days. Please feel free to leave additional tips and recommendations in the comments section below. It’s always helpful for people who are looking for inspiration for future travels. Thank you!
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There’s a Bear on my Chair has very clearly become a favourite of Florence’s. She’s carried it everywhere this past week and I love it when I hear her shout, “Mama there’s a bear on my chair”, when she’s playing in her bedroom.
Ross Collins has created such an amusing story about a bear who sits unobstrusively on a mouse’s chair taking no notice at all when the mouse asks politely for him to move. After a few frustrating verbal exchanges between the mouse and the bear, and some humorous facial expressions from the mouse (which Florence loves to copy as I read) it soon becomes a story teaching the basics of ‘what goes around, comes around’.
Paired with bright colourful pages and joyful illustrations it’s a story with very clear rhyming couplets (which work really well). It’s also the sophisticated words that Ross Collins has used which makes me love it the most; words such as ‘lair’ and ‘utmost’ and when Florence asked to change into her ‘leisurewear’ this evening I nearly fell off my own chair!
This is one of those books that you will hope your child asks for at bedtime. There’s a Bear on my Chair has Florence (and I) hooked and it is no surprise that it has recently been shortlisted for a British Book Design and Production Award. I’ll keep my fingers crossed when the awards are presented later this month.
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As I mentioned before, finding the right style for a nine-year-old can be tricky. It is a funny age, when children are still children but also teenagers at the same time.
Luckily boutiques like Marie Puce have a great selection of clothes for older kids. I love their style – it is at the same time fresh and contemporary with a classic edge that works for all ages.
Here is a little selection of their current collection that I put together and which Coco, my cheeky nine-year-old gave me the stamp of approval on.
We both loved the crisp white shirt (1) that is not too girly, especially together with this cozy scarf (2). This little satchel was an instant hit with Coco who loves to carry around with her all her little bits and pieces (3). For longer day trips and sports day at school she loved this cute little backpack (4). We also fell for the perfect blue jeans that are super comfortable and work for summer and winter (5) and these funky boots were a clear winner for both of us (6).
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Our London ShopUp opens a month from today on 10 December! The event runs both the 10th (Thursday) and 11th (Friday) at Chelsea Old Town Hall. This year, we have asked our well-connected friends at The Mamahood to organise some fun and festive workshops for you, and they look amazing! You can read more on The Mamahood website, but here is a quick look at what is on offer (click the pictures to read more!):
Wreath making with Bloom and Wild:
Gingerbread making and decorating with Primrose Bakery (who will also be selling baked goods in our cafe!):
Modern Calligraphy with Quill London:
Availability is limited, so we would recommend signing up as soon as possible if you want to join in the fun. Head over to The Mamahood to see detailed information on each workshop; signing up is easy via their (super cute) website!
We have also arranged to have a customisable letter press station with Prickel Press on Thursday and a hand painted customisable card station on Friday with Betty Etiquette in the cafe. (You can sign up for these when you arrive.) They will be conveniently located next to our charity, mothers2mothers who will be running our wrapping station to help raise money for their incredible organisation.
Lastly, we are so very excited to announce that Santa himself will be visiting the ShopUp this year! He is bringing a listening ear, a Polaroid camera for photo ops, and sweet little toys for good boys and girls! Find more info on Santa’s visit here.
This year’s event is shaping up to be our best yet (we always say that, but it is always true!). Please sign up on our Facebook event page if you’ll be joining us! We’ll be posting more updates there! xx
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When we were vacationing in Morocco last week, we met a lovely British lady in a hotel who was staying there with her 7-year-old identical twin girls. We ended up following a cooking course together (tajines!) and while we were preparing the different delicious veggies and herbs, we were chatting about so many different things, amongst which how it is to raise twins. One of the things she mentioned really stuck with me, a very interesting insight that she got from a stranger on the streets of London when the girls were still babies.
She told me that a man stopped her when she was pushing her double buggy about, and said that he himself is one of a twin, and asked if he could share a piece of advice with her. He told her that if she possibly could, she shouldn’t share with her girls which one of the two in fact was the oldest. The amazing phenomenon of twins of course, is that they really are the same age, except for maybe those few minutes between the birth of the first one and that of the second. It is true that we all have a place in our families, you’re either the oldest, or the youngest, or a middle child (or an only child, like me). But with twins, there should’t really rest a position on their shoulders — they should simply be the same age.
So my new friend decided to follow the advice of this stranger, and never mentioned to her girls who was pulled out of her belly first when they were delivered by c-section. She said that at some point, when the specifics of delivering babies would occur to them and they would maybe ask, she would tell them of course, but until now the question had never come up, so she simply had never discussed it. So interesting! She also told me, that what she found fascinating, is that when the girls were immersed in roll playing and an imaginary world, they would naturally take on the roles of the ‘oldest’ and ‘youngest’ — according to how it really is! This could, of course, be accidental, but it is interesting to mention nevertheless.
Friends of ours in Amsterdam had identical twin girls this year who are now 8 months old (their 4th and 5th children!), so I mentioned my story to them and they also shared a piece of advice they got from an adult twin man — this friend of theirs told them never to speak about ‘the twins’ but to always stress the individuality of the girls by mentioning them by their own names. I can so see his point!
Raising twins is definitely different at times, and I would love to hear more interesting insights — maybe you are one of a twin, or maybe you have twins? Please share your tips and thoughts!
PS The cute photos are of my dad’s little twin brothers, dating from the 1940s. Casper looks just like them I think!
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We’ve been loving the beautiful products at Mamma Couture for a while now. You might remember the sweet bag of fabric vegetables, the cute rag dolls that come with different outfits, or the customisable dolls that we have shared with you in the past year — all lovingly handmade with the utmost attention to detail and safety.
Eva very recently launched a new series of products that she designed in cooperation with the talented illustrator Laura Doff, and I just love how pretty and poetic they are. The enchanted creatures collection exists of three stick animals: a horse, a unicorn and a dragon. They are all made out of organic cotton and dipped wooden sticks, and put together by hand by Eva, who does that with so much care and love.
Eva was so sweet to send us a stick unicorn last week just to see how we like it, and oh boy — we like it! The kids have totally adopted it as a part of their adventures in the last days. (Eva included some beautiful crowns, which are so darling and easy to wear with their elasticated ribbons). Also, the unicorn is such a good-looking toy, with that beautifully drawn head and the white dipped stick; I like having it in a corner of our living room as a fun design element!
Eva was one of the participating shops at our ShopUp event last year, and I’m so excited that she will be joining us again this year — with a whole lot of stick animals and other beautiful products of course!
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Natalie, the wonderfully creative founder of Starting With Art, has come up with all sorts of fun ways to keep your little ones busy during our London ShopUp this December! Trained both as an artist and educator, Natalie is uniquely qualified to nurture your budding artists. We can’t wait to for you to see what she has planned!
In order to whet your appetite before December, we asked Natalie to share some ideas with you about how to encourage your children to explore their creative sides through art. We absolutely love the ideas she has come up with; we can’t wait to try them ourselves!
I’m sure we all have memories of finding something buried in our mothers dresser and spending hours creating magical worlds with the found objects. These objects were never anything particularly special but always evoked a sense of curiosity. My magical moment was the day I discovered my mother’s button collection buried in one of her drawers; the pure joy I experienced as I opened a box revealing circular morsels of delight was profound. It was certainly my invitation to play, albeit a sneaky little one!
As winter draws in and we find ourselves spending more time inside, rather than those sneaky finds, we can create ‘Invitations to Play’ for our children using everyday things you might already have somewhere buried in one of those drawers yourself…
What is an Invitation to Play?
To put it simply, an invitation to play it is a set of arranged materials that captures your children’s curiosity, challenges and tempts them to examine, make and play. The way you select what you arrange will be based on your child’s age and what they are interested in.
I have added a few set-up suggestions with an art making focus; these are the starting point and as exciting as this is, we can never predict the endpoint; that is one of the beauties of children’s art making and play. There might not even be an endpoint, but rather a process of questioning and exploration; this is good too. If you want to explore the Invitations to Play you set up, then sure enough your children will dive in and absorb themselves for hours, perfect for a wintery afternoon of making.
Remember this isn’t a step-by-step guide; it is more of a suggestion of how to allow your children to explore their creative urges. Feel free to use any materials that you feel might pique your children’s interest.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Bubble wrap and paint – children love popping the bubble wrap with paint on and best of all it can be folded, paint squished and colours merged.
Cardboard, pens, stickers and tape encourage sculpture making with endless open-ended possibilities.
Post-it-notes are an excellent open-ended resource, they can be written on, used to make shapes with and they stick anywhere.
Cotton buds are excellent for developing fine motor skills and creating spots. Painting on tin foil enables a different sensory experience with fun effects. The best thing is that it also covers the table and can be lifted off with no paint residue.
5. Cork boards can be found in discount stores, watch your children create wonderful patterns with coloured pins. Again this is a brilliant way to develop those fine motor skills (just check your child is aware of safety when using these).
Threading buttons has to be a favourite. If you incorporate wire and plasticine, mini models can be constructed as the plasticine secures wire to the table.
Thanks so much, Natalie! We can’t wait to see you at The ShopUp next month! x