Joy & Joice, 100% natural, aromatherapy candles for expecting or new mamas

Joy & Joice aromatherapy candles for babiesThe months before and after having a baby are just the cosiest periods, the waiting, preparing the house, and then the delightful cocooning on the couch with your tiny newborn in your arms…

Rachel (a really cute young mum I met at the London ShopUp last December) really craved the comforting atmosphere that scented candles create during these cosy months, however she felt the pollutants and toxins that most fragranced candles release were definitely not the right choice when welcoming her new baby. Unable to find a safe enough choice on the market, she started to create her own organic candles, made solely from soy wax and essential oils.

Joy & Joice offer a collection of three candles, for pregnancy, birth and new babies, each of them using aromatherapy oils that have been used for centuries to soothe, relieve or stimulate as needed in that specific stage. Each candle is hand blended and poured in South West London, and is so pure that you can use as a massage oil as the wax softens.

What a lovely idea (and what a nice gift for a new or expecting mum)!

xxx Esther

Le Jardin des Plantes – Paris

Paris can get pretty wet and cold in the winter and sometimes it is nice to be able to seek refuge inside. One of our favourite city adventures in the winter time is a visit to the Jardin des Plantes. It is one of Paris’ largest parks (which does not mean a lot ;)) and also one of its oldest, as it has been around for more than 400 years. It houses the botanical gardens and green houses, a little zoo (la Menagerie), the Palaeontology Museum and the Natural History Museum (Galerie de l’Evolution). I have been told it also has one of the best merry-go-rounds in Paris as you get to ride on the back of a Dodo, an Ostrich and a Gorilla. It means that there is always something to do and visit, no matter the weather.


The buildings themselves are steeped in history and I always feel like I am on a film set when we wander around the large galleries full of exotic objects, plants and bones.


We often grab a pen and a pad and try to sketch some of the animals, which we are not particularly good at but it is kind of fun. ; )



Now try as I might, I have not found an English version of the Jardin des Plantes website (with is quite astonishing in 2016) so do feel free to leave me a comment if you have any questions!


Oh and one more thing —  in the winter the park and the museums close at 5pm so the last entry is around 4pm. Good to know when planning your outing.

A sweet announcement and my Top 10 Baby and Mama Products


Hello everyone. The ones that follow my blog have read the news already but to the ones that don’t I’m over the moon to share that from this summer on I’m going to be a mama of three! I can hardly believe it. If it wasn’t for the ultrasounds I don’t think I would. We are not 100% sure yet about the sex but it is probably a girl. And Tila wants to name her Elsa! I wonder why – any ideas? :)

This is also the main reason behind my absence. I don’t know why but I handled my first two pregnancy better than great but this one was something else. I refuse to blame it on my age (at 33 I’m still technically a teenager after all) but I was extremely sick in the first trimester and have even developed a giant cold that dragged for more than a month!

But it’s over now (yaaay!) and I’m feeling great and super excited about the little avocado in my tummy, all the crafts I have lined up to share, the plans I have with my blog and another news that I want to share with you very soon!

I know you’re used to reading DIY posts from me but having a third newborn in a few months I thought it would be the perfect timing to share my favorite products for the mama and a new baby minus the unnecessary clutter we so love to heap up before the baby is even born; especially the first time around – I would know, believe me. Let’s see:

Fav Baby and mama essentials

1. Onesies from Petit Bateau are the best! I still have them from both Tila and Talan and they have many more life left in them. None others that I tried by now can’t compare with the quality of Petit Bateau. You will never regret the investment.

2. I tried a couple of as-natural-as-possible baby wipes with both of my kids but when I found the WaterWipes I stopped looking. These truly are as natural as they get. They are just cotton wipes plus (boiled) water and 0.1% of grapefruit seed extract, nothing more! And most importantly – no sign of any nasty chemicals! They are also quite thick, super soft and just the perfect size and moist enough to actually do their job properly; even at the messiest “events”.
And thanks to their gentle composition WaterWipes are suitable from birth and even for cleaning baby’s face. They promise not to irritate skin so they’re also perfect for babies prone to eczema and/or nappy rash.
If you’re from UK or Ireland here are the retailers near you, other countries check on Amazon (US, DE, FR).

3. My second one, Talan, was born in winter so a winter muff was a must! I bought this super warm and cozy one from Voksi that can be, thanks to special openings for the harnesses at the bottom, easily installed into a car seat and the pram. And I love the fact it’s made of natural materials like wool, cotton and feather which is something that is truly hard to find these days.

4. I found this baby carrier right here on Babyccino Kids blog. It’s so soft and comfy for the mamas as well as for the babies – they lie in it in a natural, pouch-like fold so it can be used immediately after the birth and it can also be worn in three other positions appropriate for babies up to 2 years but to be quite honest I’d recommend a woven type if you decide to carry after the age of one because they don’t stretch and hold the baby nicely up in place when they get heavier. You can order your Combi Cotti over this email: meeloomans(at)

5. I absolutely adore Aden + Anais and I think everyone that ever owned at least one of their pieces does. Their swaddles are an absolute magic and they are the only thing that made my babies sleep! Swaddling calms babies down so amazingly that it’s the number 1 thing that I would recommend you buying. You can read more on swaddling here.

6. Besides the big swaddling blanket we also have their musys, smaller muslin squares that Talan uses as security blankets. He absolutely loves them and can’t fall asleep without at least one besides his face. It’s the cutest thing ever to see him rub one against his cheek. We also used them under his head to cover his pillow when he was a newborn. And on top of everything their designs are super cute too! And they just came out with a small clothing range for babies last year. Needless to say I want their every single piece!

7. If there is something you shouldn’t scrimp on it’s the Baby Monitor! I learned that the hard way. Trust me, you will hate yourself for the strange voices or sudden noises and beeps in the middle of the night or even wore – nothing! Your baby will scream his heart out and your monitor will stay silent. That are just a few features of cheap monitors. So after the third one I decided to get this one from AngelCare that also comes with an under-mattress movement sensor pad that sensors babies movement. And the monitor only turns on when there are any actual noises so you don’t hear every single breath, the transmission is perfect and the battery lasts remarkably long.

8. Now a few things for mamas. There are are few nursing bras I changed over the course of my three pregnancies but the brand I swear by is Amoralia. They truly do the carrying, keep the shape, give comfort and last for ages! My favorite two models are Cupcake Nursing Bra and the Second Skin Organic Nursing Bra, which is prefect as a sleeping bra.

9. After I gave birth to Talan I tried the Belly Band that help you get your tummy and hips back in shape sooner but I just found it too uncomfortable right after the birth. So I bought these Shaping Briefs from H&M and they were amazing! I just loved the feeling of everything being held in place if you know what I mean. They were super comfortable but at the same time they squeezed my abdominal area with just the right amount of pressure. Plus they made my tummy go back quite fast! I’m definitely getting a whole pile of them before summer!

10. The last but certainly not the least is this CushionChane from Ballab. It has three press-on buttons at the ends so by buttoning it up together you get a donut-shaped cushion and can use it for things like a resting place for your baby, as a sitting cushion after the birth and if you take it apart you get a really long cushion that can be used to help you sleep while pregnant, as a nursing pillow, support for babies during tummy time or back support when the baby starts to sit up on its own and so much more. And they look great as long couch pillows!

I am not a big fan of using cosmetic products with small babies or even children (even I reduced them to an absolute minimum) but there are times when they help with conditions that other things don’t. So there are two more products I wanted to mention: the Diaper Ointment from Burt’s Bees that works absolutely amazing on nappy rashes (nothing else helps the way this baby does) and the Siriderma Skin line for skin prone to eczema that we use since Talan had the eczema all over his body for the first year of his life, now he only has problem areas like his chin during winter. You can read more about it here.

I hope I helped at least someone with this list but I would be super happy if you shared some of your favorite’s! Are there any other products that you can’t live without and I should know about?


To read more from Polona, go to her cute blog Baby Jungle!

Heartcatcher DIY


As soon as the new year has come and gone, I start to get really excited for Valentine’s Day. It’s funny: I appreciate V-Day much more now that I’m married with four kids than I ever did when it was all about romance. Hot dates and jewelry be damned, I’ll take a good excuse to use hot pink paint and eat conversation hearts with my kids (Nathan, don’t misinterpret: I’ll always love a LITTLE something on the 14th!).

We made these over the weekend, when I needed a craft that I could break up and we could do around meals, nap times, etc. Though the older monkeys are at an age where they can really get into a project, I’m still limited to about 20 minutes at a time before they ask what’s next (and I am the one left immersed and interested with the baby neglected and chewing on a marker at my feet).


These heartcatchers (I totally just coined that word) make great decorations around the house, over a door knob, or as a little V-Day trinket for teachers and the loves in your life.


Watercolor paper
Watercolors + brush
Yarn/ String
Beads, feathers (or anything that’s fun to hang)



1. Paint! I like water colors for this project, because they dry quickly and you can make lots of fun effects using a limited color palette. Also, it’s hard for kids to mess up watercolors: they always look great. Let the watercolor dry completely (this can be expedited with a hairdryer if you want to speed things up).

2. Cut the paper into 1” strips vertically. Kids can do this too – it’s ok if they’re not perfect.

3.Fold the strips in half, with the painted side in


4. Make a hanger out of a piece of yarn by tying a knot in the ends of a 5-6” length. Use another length to string beads, feathers, etc. Secure them to the string with a dab of glue. Glue an I love you circle above the decorations.

5. Fold the knot of the hanger into the center of a strip and staple it to secure.

6. Pull the loose ends of the V around to meet at the bottom and match the crease of another paper strip to the bottom where they meet. Staple.

7. Pull the loose ends around again and secure the yarn above the circle where they meet at the bottom. Staple. Trim the yarn and add a dab of glue at the point of the heart over the yarn so it doesn’t come out.


8. Hang anywhere, or give away to make someone’s heart beat a bit faster.

We used sea salt to make our watercolors a bit crazier. If you sprinkle it on the color collects around the salt. Let it dry then brush it away for a mottled/ marbled effect. It’s tactile (and super cool according to Ella).



Once her heartcatcher was adorned, she decided to work on a bracelet for herself. So predictable!

heartcatcher DIY

Mo x

Welcome, Maureen! A new contributor

Maureen and family

Maureen from Pipsticks

I’ve mentioned my wonderful (beautiful, smart, funny!) friend, Maureen Vasquez (I call her Mo) several times here before. For one, she is the founder of Pipsticks – a cool monthly sticker subscription service which I love. For two, she lived near me in London and we used to get the kids together for fun craft projects like this one. For three, her London house was SO amazing (see the house tour over on Design Mom) and I featured some photos from her baby’s nursery here, with that pretty rug hanging on the wall. Lastly, she came up with the cool superhero DIY costume we featured in the YouTube video last October. She is one super inspiring woman, a really fun mum (of four young kids!) and an incredibly thoughtful friend. I can’t think of anyone better to become a regular contributor here on this blog!

Once a month she’ll share a fun craft project with us, and knowing her, they’ll be both simple and inspiring ideas (she has a knack for coming up with cool ideas that make you think ‘how have I never thought of that before?!’). I’m so excited to see what she comes up with! Her first post will be up shortly and it’s a good one. Welcome, Mo!

p.s. Mo and her family left London last summer and moved to the charming town of San Louis Obispo, California. They’re trying out the sunny California lifestyle and it sure looks good on them.  Thus, she’ll be known here as ‘Maureen in California’ to avoid confusion with the also fabulous ‘Mo in London’. : )

Thursday Thoughts: Do you share a toothbrush?

Ivy brushing her teeth

Over the past few months of travelling our family has adapted to a pared down lifestyle. Camping, in particular, has encouraged us to take simplifying to a whole new level. A few examples: we often all share the same water glass throughout the day to save washing up, we share baths/showers, we even share towels (keeping two on rotation for all six of us), and we’ll re-wear soiled clothes to avoid the laundry pile from growing too quickly. Not that any of us were overly fussy before this trip started, but we’ve definitely become more relaxed on the road (I actually don’t remember what it’s like to have clothes that smell clean!!).

It’s a good thing I grew up on a farm and don’t mind a bit of grit. We’ve tried to bring our kids up this way too, encouraging them to explore and play and not worry too much about dirt or germs.  But I can’t help thinking about our friends and families who prefer a more ‘hygienic’ lifestyle. What would they think if they saw (or smelled!) us now?!

And now for a confession: we even share a toothbrush! We have one electric toothbrush with us (with one head), which we all share.

I never gave it a second thought until I was tidying up the van earlier this week and it occurred to me that some people would find this to be absolutely disgusting. Michael has a brother who won’t even share toothpaste out of fear that someone else’s toothbrush may have touched the paste. Imagine how cringe-worthy he would find our toothbrush sharing! : )

I guess I’ve always been quite relaxed about this. When I was little, my siblings and I would use my mom’s toothbrush if we went on holidays and forgot to bring our own. In fact, I still use my mom’s toothbrush when I’m visiting her and don’t have mine handy. She’s just my mum, after all. In London the kids had their own toothbrushes (or colour-coded heads for the electric toothbrush), but during our travels it just doesn’t make sense to carry around so many different brushes. And none of us seem bothered to share.

So… where do you stand? Is it disgusting? Absolutely revolting? Or would you (do you?) do the same? Please share!

Courtney x

There was a Wee Lassie who swallowed a Midgie, by Rebecca Colby and Kate McLelland

There was a wee lassieWe had such a fun start to the week celebrating the life of the Scottish poet Robert Burns here in Scotland. Helena learned about and read Burn’s poetry in school and Florence painted tartan, danced to Highland music and baked (and ate) traditional shortbread. After school we took a trip to the library and chose some really fun picture books relating to Scotland such as Hairy Maclarey by Lynley Dodd, The Katie Morag Stories by Mairi Hedderwick and Katie in Scotland by James Mayhew.

Just as we were leaving I spotted this book which is a re-writing of the traditional tale ‘There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly’. Remember that one? It was a favourite of Helena’s when she was younger so I had a feeling this was going to be good. And it was! It is such a brilliant book!

There was a Wee Lassie who Swallowed a Midgie  had the whole family smiling! So it goes like this – the ‘old lady’ is swopped out with a ‘wee lassie’ and she swallows a ‘midgie’ rather than a ‘fly’. The hilarious twist goes on with the wee lassie swallowing a puffin, a Scottie dog, a seal, a nessie and even a loch! Together with the brightly humoured illustrations this book is generously peppered with fun! We loved the book so much we ordered it from Amazon that very same evening.

little wee lassie

PS I rather think Florence looks like a wee lassie in this photo too with her red hair up in pigtails!

Vanessa xx

A fun family word game

words in hat

writing words 2

writing words

choosing words

playing letter game

When we were in Chile in December, we coincidentally (and luckily!) bumped into another travelling family whom I have been following on Instagram for the past year. This family of four (@ouropenroad) have been travelling around South America in their westy van for the past three years (what an adventure!), and happened to be passing through our little surfing village on their way up to Santiago. We spent three wonderful days with Adam, Emily and their two girls – sunny days on the beach followed by dinners back at our little cabin. After dinner one night, they taught us a really fun charades-type of game, which we played until late that night and which has since become a family favourite over the past couple of months.

We played nearly every evening when my sister was with us over Christmas – with daily requests from the kids to play the ‘letter game’, as it’s been coined in our family, and we’ve spent many rainy afternoons inside our camper van playing over the past couple weeks. We’ve played it so many times, that we’ve now covered off every letter in the alphabet, and we’re starting again encouraging the kids to come up with new words.

The game is great fun for adults and reading-age children alike, and it’s educational too – our kids have learned so many new words which have since become regular words in their vocabulary. It’s also great for travel as you don’t need anything but some paper and pens – and a bowl (or a hat!) to hold your words. You also need an even number of people with a minimum of four (breaking off into teams of two).

Here’s how to play:  (more…)

Exquisite new Collections from La Coqueta

Villavela lookFinally the days are getting longer and the sign of spring is appearing. The bulbs are popping their heads up and the sun is shining! Every new season excites me but spring has to be my favourite. When the days are getting brighter so are the colours we wear. And when I saw La Coqueta’s new collection yesterday I realised Celia had done it again. There is something magical about her designs yet they are so simple, so wearable and of course so elegant.

Andes Look Laguna smock dressThis new collection, with its perfect sprinkling of floral and mix of bold has to be my favourite yet. For the girls I adore the eulalia skirt coupled with a simple white cotton blouse and pretty openworked socks it’s perfect for a playful day. And the bold alhama dress is the ultimate summer’s day dress.

Canillas Look Alhama dressOf course Celia never forgets about the boys. Such striking pieces with the traditional braces and the smart bermuda shorts and I absolutely love the classic goya knit!

Darro look

This season marks the launch of something unique from La Coqueta. Their Special Occasion wear perfect for weddings, christenings and confirmations is dreamy.

Special Occasion La CoquetaTaking classic designs, Celia has added a modern twist using beautiful fabrics and exquisite detailing such as French vintage lace inserts, pretty detailed sleeves and delicate necklines creating a romantic feel.

Ajamil LookFor the boys the crisp white adjamil shirt is perfectly teamed with bermuda shorts and how perfect is this dress for the girls.

Herminia lookTo complement the collection Celia has created flower headbands using dainty heads of Spanish gypsophila that have been dried and carefully woven through fabric roses and satin ribbons. And the icing on the cake, is this stunning pale pink coat making the collection truely outstanding.

Adelfa coatBoth collections are available now online and if you’re lucky enough to live nearby the boutique in Hampstead it’s definitely worth a visit.

Vanessa x

Carlito Carlita (a good give-away!)

win, carlito carlita, give-awayCarlito Carlita is a German based boutique specialising in traditional clothing hand-picked from a selection of small, unique European labels. The collection ranges from 3 months to 10 years (so it’s a perfect destination for those looking to dress siblings in a matching fashion), and consists of classics like button-down shirts, sweet dresses, shorts with knee socks, boleros and tights, frilled collars, bloomers, and suspenders.

carlito carlita
This month Carlito Carlita are offering one lucky winner a voucher for £100 to spend on their site. I just had a look at the new collection which is starting to come in, and saw some darling items (amongst which super cute swimwear with a Vespa print!). To enter to win, click here. Good luck!

xxx Esther

Kiehl’s Overnight Hydrating Masque

Ultra_Facial_Overnight_Hydrating_Masque_3605970494407_4.2oz.So here is light and fluffy post for your Friday. Esther and I hung out last weekend as she was in town for the trade shows. We spent a lot of time giggling and being a bit ridiculous, and this year we decided that, instead of spending our night in the bars of my neighbourhood, we would have a fun night in watching a chick flick with a face mask on. We even did a yoga class to set the tone.

The face mask we chose was Kiehl’s Overnight Hydrating Masque (mostly because the guy selling it to us was very charming and persuasive we just could not say no). In this case we were right to listen to him – it really worked. We did a whole home facial with a cleanse, a scrub (as our new best friend, the Kiehl’s sales man recommended) and then we added on the masque for the night. Especially in the winter when our skin gets so dry, this overnight masque really did the trick.

The next day we were fresh and ready to face the world – it has been a really fun weekend (and we really missed you, Courtney!). Here is a little photo of us at the end of the busy weekend — exhausted but happy!

Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset

Emilie x

Sweet and easy snowmen on our window

Snowmen craftOur children don’t have school on Wednesday afternoons, so I had all four of them at home last week. It was rainy and stormy outside, so we lit a fire and engaged ourselves with a little craft project. While my children were cutting out snowflakes, I took a quick look at Pinterest for inspiration and thought it would be fun to make some fun and friendly snowmen.

snowmen4 snowmen craft project snowmen craft projectFirst the children finger-painted the snowflakes with white gouache on black paper (Casper created a snowstorm!). Then they cut out a circle and a body from simple white paper (I traced the circle for the smaller children). From coloured paper they made a scarf and the orange carrot nose.

snowmen craft project snowmen1It was a quick and easy craft that all my children really enjoyed, independent of their age. They are all so proud of their snowman! We haven’t gotten any snow yet here in Northern Europe (a fact I suppose you can be thankful or sorry for) — but for now at least we have some cute snowmen on display on the window!

xxx Esther

Once Upon a Northern Night, words by Jean E. Pendziwol and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Once upon a Northern LightEvery line in this beautiful lullaby is peaceful, calming and mindful. Just like a lullaby should be. Once Upon a Northern Night is an ode to the wonder and the beauty of a snowy winter night and as we have embraced winter here in Scotland we have really enjoying snuggling down with this book.

Once upon a northen night cosy readingAs a child lays sleeping the first signs of snow poetically fall until the earth is covered in a white blanket. Pendziwol transports us to a world of the great outdoors at night. She welcomes us to the animals. To the mother deer and her fawn, to the great grey owl, the snowshoe hares, the auburn fox and the teeny mouse. And she paints a picture of a world in white and magic transcends.

A Mother deer led her fawnWith careful descriptions and gentle, reassuring illustrations from Arsenault the calmness of the night transudes from each page. Once Upon a Northern Night is a serene bedtime read.

Two snowshoe haresAs much as we love reading the book together, Florence also likes to snuggle down and watch this lyrical adaptation. The music is so soothing.

reading Once upon a Northern LightThere is something very special about this book. It would make a wonderful addition to a child’s library. Once Upon a Northern Night is available in all good bookstores or on Amazon (US) and (UK).

Sweet reading,

Vanessa xx

p.s. In these photos Florence is wearing her new Babaa jumper that I picked up for her at the ShopUp last month. It’s a cosy new favourite!

Tuesday Tips: Introducing a second language in a single-language family

Babyccino Kids
Over the years, I have received a few requests to explain how it is possible that all four of my children speak English, even though we live in the Netherlands, we solely speak Dutch at home, and, from the age of four, they attend public Dutch schools like all other Dutch children. Our children speak and understand English — maybe not fluently like a native English speaker, but they can follow and initiate conversations on a very functional level without problems. So here’s what happened.

My husband and I are both Dutch, born to Dutch parents and raised in typical Dutch villages in the south of the Netherlands. We met through mutual friends when I was in my final year of my study in Delft, and less than a year later we moved to New York together, the beginning of a 7-year adventure of living abroad in three different countries.

Sara and Pim were born when we lived in England, and by the time we moved to Amsterdam, Sara was 2 years old and spoke both Dutch and English. At the time we weren’t sure if we would stay in the Netherlands, so to keep all options opened we entered Sara in the nursery of the British School of Amsterdam when she turned three.

She stayed there until she turned four, and then started a Dutch primary school here in the neighbourhood. The reason for this was very much a financial one — Dutch schools are state funded whereas the British school is a private tuition with steep yearly fees.

That year in the British school was so much fun for her, with so many great activities for a three-year-old, that we have repeated this for all of our children (Casper is currently attending the nursery of the British school — he will start the Dutch primary school in the fall). So what we (sort of accidentally) have done, is to make use of the fact that the British school offers a nursery from the age of three, whereas Dutch schools start at the age of four. The private fees that we pay in that bridge year we would have otherwise paid to the Dutch daycare, so financially it didn’t make much difference. And the big bonus is — they all got a really nice kickstart in English! So this is how we activated their second language.

To sustain their English, we have done a few things: we have always worked with English speaking nannies or baby-sitters; we let the children watch un-dubbed (English spoken) films, and even though we don’t speak English to our children, we do read to them in English (for instance, I’m currently reading Harry Potter to the bigger children, and I do so in English).

The result is, that our kids continue to speak and understand English pretty well. I actually have also noticed that they pick up written English quite easily as soon as they comfortable read in Dutch. What also helps their language development is meeting up with our English speaking friends. Like last summer, we spent a week camping with Emilie and her girls, and the children were super comfortable speaking English all day.

So here you go, this is what we have done, and it seems to work. Do you have any tips about introducing a second language in a single-language family? If so, please do share, we would all love to hear!

xxx Esther

PS Photo of a memorable trip to Belgium with the entire Babyccino clan. Still a favourite!

My favourite sunsreen — Aesop’s Protective Body Lotion SPF50


I have applied sunscreen every day for the past five months. It’s become a normal part of my morning routine: brush teeth, wash face, apply sunscreen. The sun is so harsh here in New Zealand that sunscreen is necessary even on cloudy days! I picked up this Aesop protective body lotion last summer before leaving London and it’s one of my favourite beauty discoveries. I love the smell of it and love that it’s lightweight, non-greasy and easy to apply. Even my husband has started using my pump, preferring it to anything else we have. I’m going to need to pick up a new bottle when we’re in Australia next month — where Aesop was created!

Courtney x

Maths with Lego


I am always looking for more ways of teaching maths in a tangible way to my kids. This is partly because one of the slight disadvantages of the French school system is that teaching is very academic. It is also because I want the children to understand at an early age how genuinely useful, fun and actually simple maths is. It is such an important lesson to know, because you suddenly understand why you are studying all this “nonsense”. Teaching math is not an easy task with my two – they would much rather disappear into the wonderful dreamland of their books, than think about numbers.

A friend of mine sent me this link which I love! A teacher did a brilliant layout of how to use lego to easily understand fractions and square number. The girls and I had a little session tonight working on fractions and it really worked.

Now it isn’t 100% fool proof – I went away to let the girls play around with their fractions and I came back and they had made excellent furniture for their lego houses with my 1/8, 1/4 and 1/2 which they proudly showed me! … But I still think some information sank in. ; )


Thursday thoughts: are some kids naturally more naughty than others?

cheeky marlow

My sister recently just spent a couple weeks with us here in New Zealand and toward the end of her stay, she looked at me and asked ‘do you think Marlow is more naughty because she was born that way, or do you think it’s because she’s the youngest and she’s been allowed to be?’. It’s an interesting question and one which I couldn’t actually answer.

I’ve always thought Marlow was just born with extra cheek and a bit of a naughty streak. Not really naughty in a bad way, but more of a cleverness and curiosity that can sometimes lead to trouble. She seems to have more of this curiosity than the other children have ever had. After all, none of the other kids ever had a problem with drawing on walls, climbing onto kitchen counters, cutting their own hair, escaping from her car seat in the car, etc. In fact, when Marlow cut the entire left side of her hair off last year and came walking into the room as if nothing had happened, all three of the other kids were so upset, they were crying hysterically. They couldn’t believe she would go that far.

So, while I’ve always felt like this is just the way Marlow is, my sister raised a good point. Could it also be that we’ve fostered this personality? Being the youngest of four children, she naturally has different parents than our eldest children had at her age. We are more distracted with the other kids so there are more opportunities to sneak under the radar and to get into trouble without us catching her. Maybe we’ve also become a bit relaxed with our discipline over the years and are more forgiving of her behavior. Another element I’ve noticed is that even when I do discipline her, she often turns to her older siblings for love and support, and mama becomes the ‘bad guy’ (receiving disappointing looks from all the children). I mentioned she is clever – she knows exactly how to play the ‘baby of the family’ card. : )

Could it then be a youngest child thing? Perhaps it is in our family, but I know it’s not the case in others. I’ve had many conversations with friends who tell me their ‘naughty’ child is their middle child, or even their eldest. So the birth order argument doesn’t always hold true. (On a side note – I find the study of birth order and children’s personalities SO fascinating! I even took a class on it in college. ) Maybe it goes back to my initial thought that some children are just born with a bit of extra cheek…

I would love to hear your thoughts. It’s an interesting nature versus nurture debate. Do you happen to have one child more mischievous than the others? If so, which number child is he or she?

The photo above was taken this summer by Sara Welch who happened to capture my children’s personalities perfectly. 

Gingerbread Wonderland by Mima Sinclair

Ginger Bread WonderlandWe’ve had such a cosy winter holiday spending our days with the fire lit, reading books and baking in the kitchen. We’ve made our favourite chocolate brownies, delicious soups and even roasted chestnuts on the fire – delicious! We also made gingerbread (for the first time ever).

Helena was gifted Gingerbread Wonderland for her birthday and we really enjoyed looking through the ideas over the holidays. It wasn’t until we had a few restful days in the New Year that we decided to bake from it and we are addicted! We found the recipes to be quick and easy and there are even variations for dairy and gluten free.

gingerbread creationsIt was really difficult to choose what to make. Every idea is super sweet. Look at these mini houses. Wouldn’t they be perfect on the side of a hot cocoa and I adore the speculaas. I’m going to remember to make these next year for Dutch Sinterklaas.In the end, we decided to make the gingerbread garland but instead of making hearts and gingerbread men, we made stars so it could be used to celebrate New Year.

gingerbread garland on wallIt was so effective – almost too pretty to eat! Helena had a great idea that we could make the heart garland for Valentine’s Day. Who says gingerbread is only for Christmas? I think it’s a great idea…..

Gingerbread Wonderland is available from Amazon (US) and Amazon (UK).

Vanessa x

Sweet illustrations, by Laura Uy

Laura Uy illustrations Laura Uy illustrations

Laura Uy is a Canadian illustrator with such a lovely, playful style. Her work mainly focusses on greeting cards and prints, which make great decor pieces for children’s rooms. I love that bear in the photo above, so whimsical (the gold stars are hand-painted and make the print extra pretty).

Laura Uy illustrations Laura Uy illustrations

Laura’s greeting cards have such sweet illustrations with the cutest puns. There are cards for all sorts of occasions (loads for Valentines, too!), and they all bring a smile to my face. Lovely to send, to receive, and to keep!

xxx Esther

Our secret to road trip survival: David Walliams’ audio books!

car journeys
David Walliams audio books

We’ve been doing A LOT of driving over the past five months, something that might seem seriously unappealing to most parents, especially with a carload of restless children, but which we’ve found to be quite fun and exciting. The secret lies in David Walliams and his hilarious audio books. The kids actually look forward to long car drives, and Michael and I find it really relaxing to hop in the car, explore new territory, have a car full of quiet children (!!) and be entertained along the way.

David Walliams narrates all his books himself, using hilarious accents and comedic delivery. The stories, while often funny and sometimes even outrageous, are also endearing and warm. The children’s favourites so far have been Awful Auntie, Billionaire Boy, and Gangster Granny, but it was difficult for them to choose favourites as they have loved them all. Walliams has just come out with his newest book, Grandpa’s Great Escape, and we’re all looking forward to our next road trip to hear it.

We use the Audible app on our phone to download the audio books and it’s been super handy. We alternate David Walliams’ books with more serious stories, just so the kids don’t come to think that all books are hilarious and whacky. (Some of the more serious books we’ve heard this year have been ‘The Secret Garden’, ‘The Call of the Wild’, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and the stories in the C.S. Lewis ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ series.

Courtney x

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