Tuesday tips: Open-ended play and evergreen toys

Evergreen Toys

Today for Tuesday Tips I would like to talk about toys. The kind of toys that I prefer in our house are the basic, evergreen kind of toys. I like toys that are well made, with a simple concept, that can be used and combined in different ways or played with in different settings. Toys that are beautiful to look at, as opposed to most plastic, brightly coloured and battery-operated toys.

I have always had a preference for these kind of toys; I remember telling my mum when I was pregnant with Sara ten years ago to please not give me any battery operated toys! Of course, plastic toys have occasionally entered the house… (and so has Hello Kitty!), but over the past nine years, I have really noticed that the toys my children play with most (if not exclusively) are those that encourage creative and social play, and are designed with ‘open ended play’ in mind. I just love watching my four kids play together, building houses, cities, and worlds, setting the stage for the different scenarios for their pretend play.

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I do agree that typical battery operated toys have great appeal to my children at first. They will love the sounds and colours and will be so easily entertained. Often, when the toy is first given to them, they will even fight over it (these toys are designed for the entertainment of the individual child, not with social play in mind!). However, very often my children will quickly lose interest in the toy, which consistently performs the same trick over and over again. So boring! The toy will end up standing in a corner somewhere until we decide to bring it to charity. Such a waste! Heirloom toys are not always the cheapest investments to make, but if you consider that they will be played with so much, for generations even, it’s all worth it. My children still play with some of my own childhood toys!

I thought it would be nice to write down a list of some tips for evergreen toys that have proven to be very successful in our household — toys that are played with by children of different ages and don’t lose their appeal, ever. I asked input from Emilie and Courtney and some of my friends, so this is very much their list as well. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts about toys in general, and please do share your children’s favourite toys!

Toys we like (for inside play):

  • Wooden marble track: the perfect toy for all ages. Small children will like to play with the blocks and start stacking them (without the marbles of course), bigger children will build intricate tracks (and parents will gladly help).
  • Building blocks: stacking and building structures, but also great to combine with other toys (f.e. Schleich animals – build compounds, zoo, etc.) or just line them up. Any ordinary blocks will do (we also like this blocks set).
  • Dolls: Kathe Kruse and handmade Waldorf dolls look beautiful, but any good quality doll is fine. And some dolls’ clothes.
  • Doll’s bed: a simple fruit crate with some small towels will do, but a baby needs a bed, of course.
  • A sturdy dolls’ pram with little pillows and blankets. Invest in a good, sturdy dolls buggy and it will be played with forever.
  • Schleich animals: wonderful quality toys, they look beautiful and will be played with a lot. Great for all sorts of adventures.
  • Wooden play barn /house /dollhouse /structure: to combine with Schleich animals, Playmobil, all other little characters that children will find or create and need a place to live.
  • Lego & Duplo: building and inventing, creating. We love the original, plain blocks.
  • Puzzles (educational ones or just the old-fashioned jigsaws!)
  • Playmobil: we love the old-fashioned characters, great to mix with all sorts of other toys (see above).
  • Kapla: some of our favourite blocks for super creative tower-building (see building blocks).
  • Dress up clothes: some old shawls, hats, dresses and sunglasses and some pieces of fabric will get you very far. Let the children be creative – no need to invest in expensive dress-up outfits, which are much less imaginative anyway.
  • Train track: a simple wooden train track (Ikea) is great for all ages – a puzzle first, then a road, then it becomes a landscape (enter Schleich and Playmobil for surroundings)
  • Garage and cars: a wooden garage appeals to most children and it a great space to store the cars.
  • Nesting dolls: my kids love these! And they make great decor too.
  • Play kitchen & kitchen toys: a wine crate on the side with circles drawn on top makes a good enough play kitchen. And a little set of pots and some mini kitchen utensils will be played with loads. (Regular kitchen utensils are just as successful, BTW!)
  • Stacking cups: babies love playing with them, and all my kids still love them in their bath!
  • Wooden spinning tops: fun for everyone and they look pretty on your coffee table.

PS Like I mentioned above, these toys are mostly for indoor play — maybe we can share some favourite toys for outdoor play and some great baby toys later.

Something I noticed in Copenhagen…

IMG_1103Last weekend, Tamar (my husband) and I spent a few great days together in the wonderful capital of Denmark, Copenhagen. We really enjoyed our stay (albeit we had quite some rain!), and I’ll definitely share some of our favourite discoveries here very soon. In the meantime, I wanted to post about something fascinating I noticed in Copenhagen…

IMG_1102 IMG_1104Even though it rains a lot in Denmark, and it can also be quite cold in winter, the Danes believe it is super healthy for their children to spend most of their day outside. Every time a baby or young child naps during daytime, it sleeps outside. For this purpose, there are special prams that are much bigger than the practical pushchairs we tend to use here in the Netherlands (f.e. the Bugaboo). I was chatting to a mum and she told me that Scandinavian children consistently  sleep in their prams for daytime naps until they are at least three years old! It is generally believed this is healthier for the children, and also that they sleep much better outside. Amazing!

Even when it rains, the babies sleep in their prams. They all have a huge (black) cover that completely covers and protects the sleeping child. When out and about, and a child wakes up and wants to sit, there are are special banana shaped pillows to support it in the back. Also, prams (with the sleeping baby inside!) are often left outside of shops or cafés, while the parents shop, sip their coffees or have lunch inside.

IMG_1100 IMG_1101Another thing I noticed, is that children of walking age all own a special one-piece ‘outdoor suit’. It’s like a thick, warm rain / snowsuit that is worn on top of the ‘indoor clothes’. I’m told that often, the ‘indoor clothes’ are very easy-to-wear: often these are leggings and long-sleeved tops or all-in-one jumpsuits, made out of cosy cotton jersey or thin wool knits. When the child goes outside, the ‘outdoor suit’ is simply put on on top of the cosy (and easy-to-layer) indoor wear. So practical! Even when it’s raining or snowing, Scandinavian children spend most of their day outside.

Tamar and I were so inspired by all of this. We pledged to take our children outside even more, and definitely be bothered less by ‘bad weather’. (We even went to a department store to check out the ‘outdoor suits’!) Because as the Scandinavian say — there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!

xxx Esther

Petites Pattes, delightful baby socks

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baby socks petites pattes

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petites-pattes-4Petites Pattes are a UK based hosiery brand with just the cutest collection of baby socks imaginable. The brand’s philosophy is ‘to introduce an interactive experience between the customer and the product by offering unique designs’ and we can’t agree more — the darling patterns and colours, which can all be mixed and matched, are so sweet! Socks come in darling giftbox packages and make the perfect little baby present. And then there’s also a family gift box — how sweet is that?

Available through Scout & Co.

xxx Esther

PS we spotted Petites Pattes at Playtime Paris — read about more Playtime Paris favourites on the fabulous Pirouette blog!

Gommini Minigoms PlayScape

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Germany is in so many respects so much further with responsible and sustainable processing and production methods than many other countries here in Europe. There’s such a strong local manufacturing of eco products, with use of honest materials, but the research for new, innovative materials, which allow new product design and at the same time leave less of a footprint on this world, is a trend I’ve also been noticing in Germany. I’ve written about the admirable production processes of the German clothing label Macarons before, the wonderful eco-wines of Weinreich, but also toy manufacturer Gommini is such a company.
Gommini uses Valchromat for their toys, a high-quality, solvent free, wood-based material which contributes to an efficient and responsible environmental management and encourages sustainability. The products are then treated with a purely natural oil, resulting in a very smooth and pleasant feeling, ‘soft’ surface. I love the modern look of their products.

We gave our children the Minigoms play scene for Christmas — a selection of 2D buildings, landscapes and openings that can be assembled and combined in different ways. The toy is not offering a fixed scenario — it can be used in all sorts of manners, allowing for the input and creativity of the child. It can for instance be a stable for the Schleich animals, a garage for the cars, a city for the train track, a house for the Playmobil characters, etc. It’s been a grand success by all means — it’s easy to assemble, wonderful to play with for all ages, pleasant to look at, and easy (flat) to store.

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If you’re ever looking for an evergreen kind of playhouse for your children that will stand the test of time, then this Gommini Minigoms playscape is certainly something to keep in mind.

xxx Esther

Lennebelle, an interview and a little video

A few weeks ago, sweet Lenneke, from the gorgeous Dutch mother & child jewellery line Lennebelle, came over to our house with her husband Joey to shoot some photos and the little video above for her beautiful series ‘The Mama Stories’, in which she regularly interviews a mama about motherhood and her lifestyle choices. It was a really fun day, and I got a deep respect for Lenneke, who was 36 weeks pregnant with her second child at the time (now over 38 — I’m waiting for baby news!), and Joey, who is such a talented photographer / videographer. It’s so nice to get to know all these wonderful people through our job, entrepreneurs who seek the adventure and fulfilment of making something beautiful, and Lennebel is definitely a testimony of the talent and energy of the couple behind the brand.

I have shared some photos of the day below, you can see my children (and me!) wearing Lennebelle‘s beautiful bracelets and necklaces. And you can see more photos and read the interview here if you’re interested!

The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-2 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-11 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-15 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-49 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-51 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-3 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-25 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-1 zThe-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-1 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-48 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-41xxx Esther

 

Pretend play — and the past tense

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There’s something funny that I have noticed: when they pretend play, my children (and their friends) often use the past tense.

I’ll give an example. Playing goes something like this (imagine, in this case, lots of Playmobil characters and horses with accessories, and a completely engaged couple of friends, moving different horses and characters around):

[CHILD 1] I was the horse riding teacher at the manege, and you were the student… And I had the white horse… 

[CHILD 2] Yes, and I had this black horse, with this brown saddle, and the brown pony…

[CHILD 1] Yes, and I had the other black horse as well and the two grey ponies with these saddles…

[DISPUTE — change to present tense]

[CHILD 2] No! That’s not fair because now you have two horses and two ponies and I only have one horse and one pony, so I want to have one of the grey ponies with the saddle!

[CHILD 1] OK but I’m the teacher so I want to have the horse blanket for my horse then!

[CHILD 2] Alright then…

[RESUME — back to past]

[CHILD 1] OK so I had the white horse and the black horse with the blanket and the grey pony, and I was riding the white horse when you came for a lesson on your black horse and you said ‘Please teach me to galop and to jump over these hurdles?’

[CHILD 2] ‘Please teach me to galop and to jump over these hurdles?’  And then my horse saw your horse and they became friends, so their stable had to be located next to each other…

etc

It’s really such an interesting way of communicating, and I find it fascinating that they use this special past tense while negotiating their pretend activities and to outline the ‘stage’ in their pretend play. I even developed a little theory about it — I think that if in play, children use the past tense, it’s more of a ‘done deal’ (since it basically ‘happened’) and evokes less arguments. (In the case that it does, the argument are settled in the present tense, only to go back to the past tense quickly after.)

I also noticed that it seems to happen more in girls’ pretend play then that of boys– the above (fictional) example could well have been played by Sara and one of her girl friends, where Pim with a boy friend is more likely to build giant Lego rockets or marble tracks or dinosaur parks or things like that, without much discussion or negotiating at all. However, Pim and Sara can play together for hours, cleverly combine dolls and horses with knights, war and dinosaurs — and then they do use this special past tense then.

I just wonder — does any of you also recognise this phenomenon? Or is this something that just happens in our little family? I would love to hear more about it — I find it so sweet and funny!

xxx Esther

Laikonik Once A Year Books

Laikonik Once a year book

I have written about the beautiful Once A Year Books from Autralian company Laikonik before, but now that I’ve started Casper’s book, I thought I should share them again. They’re just so beautiful.

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The concept is simple: once a year, a photo can be placed in the harmonica-style notebook, and a little story can be written on the page behind, highlighting key events that took place that specific year. There’s space for 18 photos, and to see all of the portraits after each other will give such a sweet overview of the growth and development of the child.

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For Casper’s once-a-year book I got the special edition Once A Year Book which comes in a gorgeous wooden box and has beautiful letter-pressed covers featuring an owl or (in our case) a fox. I have Once A Year Books for all of my kids, and I think that once they’re 18 they will make such an amazing overview of their childhood! (They make very special newborn gifts too, especially this special edition with the wooden box and matching letter-pressed gift tag!)

xxx Esther

PS Laikonik kindly offers our readers a 10% discount– just enter code “LAIKONIKBABYCCINOLOVE” at checkout!

kidO magnatabs

kid O magnatabs
kidO magnatabs is an ingenious toy that works with little metal beads which are permanently sealed in the plastic magnatab base and a magnetic pen that brings the beads to the surface once you draw over the base. The geometric creations simply erase with your finger once you’re done. It’s incredibly simple, but it’s the kind of toy that my kids pick up all the time — Casper (2) loves playing with it as much as his big sister Sara (9) does.

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The kidO magnatabs are great for traveling as well — it doesn’t take up a lot of space in your luggage and will keep children perfectly entertained in the back of the car, the train or the plane. I got ours at the adorable brick and mortar children’s boutique Big & Belg here in Amsterdam, but Perfectly Smitten sells it online, or you can get it from Amazon (US or UK ).

xxx Esther

Tuesday Tips: Potty training

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This week for our ‘Tuesday’s Tips’ series, I would love to talk about potty training. Very soon, we will be potty training Casper (second try!), so I thought it would be good timing to dig up some potty training wisdom from my personal archives and share it here with you. And to hear your tips and thoughts, of course. (Please!)

I think the first and most important question raised with regards to potty training is:

When is the child ready?

So here’s what I have learned. Over the years, I have found out that there are quite a few cultural differences with regards to potty training. Compared to the UK, where the consensus seems to potty train around the age of two, here in the Netherlands parents generally seem to wait much longer – until around or after the third birthday, or until the child itself shows an active interest in the potty. Or, until there’s no time left to postpone longer! (At the age of 4 all children here in the Netherlands need to be potty trained in order to start school. The nursery teachers told me that even then, some children are still not fully potty trained — which must be such a huge burden on the poor teachers!)

Because we lived in London when our first babies were born, I followed the English way for Sara and Pim, and they were both successfully potty trained around the age of two. After we moved to the Netherlands, I stuck with this idea and Ava was also without nappies shortly after her second birthday.

In my experience, most children are ready to be potty trained around the age of two – in general, they are communicating well enough to understand basic commends and they understand the concept of potty training. They are open to new ideas, but are also still young enough not to overthink the whole idea. (I have heard stories of potty training being a long, emotional and stressful affair with older children).

Some indications that my children were ready to be potty trained included the ability to understand basic commands, the ability to pull down their own pants, and the awareness that something was happening in the wee and poo department. (Some of my children verbally communicated that they were weeing or pooing, and some simply got up from what they were doing and stood quietly in a corner – all indications that they felt it coming or at least that something was happening.)

To give you an idea about the exact age: Sara and Ava were potty trained within a month of turning two, Pim was not ready until about 4 months after turning two. Emilie’s girls, Coco and Vivi, were potty trained before they were 2 1/2 as well, and Courtney’s little girl Marlow, exceptionally, basically potty trained herself when she was 18 months! They do say that girls are a bit faster with things like this than boys, and I think you can generally say this is true.

On a completely different note, I’ve always been quite eager to get my children out of nappies sooner than later out of an environmental point of view. (Plus, nappies cost a heck of a lot of money too!)

How to prepare for potty training?

A few months before their second birthday, I put a potty in our bathroom and sat the child on the potty for a bit before their bath. Just to get them accustomed to the idea of the potty. We started to casually speak about the potty, read books, and play with dolls (and stuffed animals used the potty as well, of course). We’re all really easy going in our household (nobody closes the bathroom door when we’re on the wc) so we would talk about how mama or papa would use the wc, and of course the bigger siblings once they were there.

Then, we simply picked a weekend where we would ‘do it’. I think it’s best to choose a weekend where there’s little else going on, when you’re home, and you have your partner, a friend or family member around to help. In general, don’t mix major happenings if you can avoid it – so don’t take the dummy away when you’re potty training or around the time you’re expecting a new baby.

A note on the weather: I have potty trained my children in warmer and colder weather, and although it is generally perceived that it’s easier to potty train during the summer (just let the child run around without clothes), I don’t think that to be necessarily true. I think that it might be better to keep the child dressed, so he/she really feels the result of an accident. More of a hassle, maybe, yes, but I don’t think it’s best to wait ’til summer if your child is ready to be potty trained in winter.

What do you need?

Some items that are handy to have around before you start are:

– At least ten pairs of fun underpants for the child
– Plenty of easy-to-pull-down trousers with an elastic waistband, such as jogging pants or pyjama pants
– A few potties – depending on the size of your house, you may want one on each floor or in each bathroom
– A sticker chart with fun stickers – you can just make this yourself, it’s just a big sheet of paper with squares on it. One sticker for a wee in the potty, two for a poo!
– Two buckets prepared with soapy water: one to soak dirty underwear and clothes, and another used to wipe the floor clean
– A portable potty and wipe-clean shoes such as Crocks or Native shoes, for when you’re out and about

So how does the process work?

I strongly believe that the most successful way to potty train quickly and successfully is to go ‘cold turkey’. Which means, take the nappy off, and don’t put it back on unless you put your child to bed. No pull-down nappies, no nappy when you go to the grocery store or music class, no matter how tempting it is. Yes, there will be accidents, a lot of them! But I really think that this way, you’re giving the child a very clear and non-confusing message that a change has occurred and that it is time to adapt: no more nappies.

So on Saturday ‘potty training’ morning, immediately after the child woke up, I immediately took the nappy off and replaced it with the cool big kid underwear (make a big fuss! so exciting!) and set the child on the potty.
The key is to put the child on the potty every 10 to 15 minutes on the first days. We always sat next to the child in the beginning to keep them entertained, reading books (I like the classic books from Alona Frankel for boys or girls ) or watching little films on the Ipad. It’s pretty full on! (This is why it’s nice to have some help around during the first days.)
And, in our case, the first days, most of the poos and wees actually happened next to the potty, so it was pretty frustrating as well. (And yes, it was so very tempting to put that nappy back on!)
But, perseverance and patience was always rewarded, and there were more and more successful attempts. When there was a wee, we made a big fuss about it (cheering and applause!), and we let the child participate in pouring the wee in the toilet, we let the child flush and wave bye bye. And of course, we put a sticker on the sticker chart!

If there was no wee, we would remain encouraging and just try again a little later. In case of accidents (many!), we remained positive but at the same time we made clear to the child that this was not the place were the wee belonged.

When you feel things are absolutely not working well after the first days trying, just go back to nappies for a few weeks and try again later. I’ve heard that some children simply don’t have the muscle control to hold their wee even at two years of age. Or they’re not mentally ready — when we first tried a few months ago, Casper hated the idea of the potty so much that he absolutely refused to sit on it so we quickly abandoned the idea. Now, he actually thinks the potty is really cool, so time for a second try (he turned two back in October). So if it doesn’t happen the first time, don’t fret! Simply take a break and try again in a month or two.

How long does the process take?

For my kids, the first days it seemed that they were just not getting it. I would dutifully sit next to them every 15 or so minutes, but still most of their wees would end up on the floor. By day three, I was so frustrated and so very tempted to put that nappy back on… But, magically, after a few days, they started to suddenly get the idea. So I’ve learned to hang in there! When the child started to really wee on the potty (in my experience by day 3 or 4), I could make the potty intervals longer, and things would really get easier. About a week after the start, my kids were all pretty much potty trained.

And I say pretty much, because there would still be the occasional accident, but less and less of them. And in the beginning, we would still have to very regularly remind the child to think about the potty. Also – in the beginning they would tell me they needed to go, but wouldn’t be able to hold it up very long, so we would need to act fast. But they have always learned very very fast!

What to do for naps?

Some kids can be potty trained during the day for years before they master holding their wee overnight. So for nap time and nighttime, we always put the nappy back on. When we saw that the nappy would be consistently dry after the day nap, we would start trying without. And then eventually, when the child would be ready, we would try without during the night as well. (Waterproof bedding is really helpful during that period.)

Out & about

Although it’s probably handier to stay around the house the first few days of potty training, there is no need to stay housebound during the rest of the process. Just make sure that when you leave the house, you have at least one change of clothes including shoes that can be wiped clean, and a plastic bag for the dirty laundry. We always brought a little potty on the road (for Ava, someone gave us a portable potty and it was brilliant!) because in the beginning of the potty training process, little children can not keep in their wee for very long, so if they need to go, they need to go! Right where you are! (On the pavement if necessary!)

Daycare

If your child attends daycare, I really believe that the staff should respect your choice and parenting method and should be willing to accommodate your efforts and work with you on potty training your child when you think it’s the right time and the child is ready.

Fallback

All my kids (and I hear it from friends too) have had a fallback about half a year after we potty trained them. For a few days (up to a week!) they start wetting their pants again! It’s crazy, but it just takes a few days and then they ‘get it’ again. I’m not sure why this happened, but it did!

So… that was a long story, but I felt it would (or could?) be helpful to write it all down. Of course these are just my experiences, and every child, and family, and parent is different. This weekend we’ll be potty training Casper, and we will see how it goes this time around!

xxx Esther

A quick morning make-up solution

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With four children to get ready in the morning for their school and daycare, lunch boxes to prepare, gym bags to collect, my mornings are a bit hectic to say the very least.  Most of the time my husband drops the kids off to school on his way to work (all of them piled up on the bakfiets!), but when I do the school run, there’s not much time (like none) to apply any make-up before we run out the door. Enter Estée Lauder Daywear Sheer Tint Release Moisturiser, a one step morning solution I swear by. If there’s no time for anything else, this cream will make my skin look smoother and more radiant. It works a little like magic — it goes on without colour, but when you apply it the tint and glow will magically appear on your skin! That, and some lip balm, leaves me feeling just that little bit more pulled together. In less than ten seconds.

As always, I’m very curious to find out about great, easy-to-use beauty products that have a nice, natural effect. Please share your favourites?

xxx Esther

Brio labyrinth game, suitable for 6-99 years!

brio labyrinth toyThis labyrinth game by Brio was one of the presents we gave Pim for Christmas and it was such an immediate success. During the courses at our Christmas dinner that evening, the kids were literally fighting over it, together with their grandfather (see photo!). So the fact that Brio markets this toy as suitable ‘for 6 to 99 years’ is really spot on : ).

brio labyrinth game

The classic labyrinth game was introduced in 1946, and it’s all about fine motor skills, reactivity and… patience. The little ball is balanced by turning the two knobs at the side simultaneously to keep it from falling in one of the holes. Different levels can be chosen by inserting a different board.

It all sounds really easy, but it’s much, much harder than you think!

xxx Esther

Pim’s bed, and wonderful Jim Flora wallpaper

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Last weekend, my husband and I did something new for both of us: we wallpapered a wall. We learned a lot about measuring, cutting, and patience, and got to deeply respect the skills of professional wallpaperers. But after hard labour I’m proud to present the results: the wall behind Pim’s bed is covered in gorgeous blue wallpaper! Pim picked this design, featuring original drawings by the late Jim Flora, because he loves music and plays the trumpet. So it’s perfect.

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I love the quirkiness and originality of the wallpaper design, and the dark colour makes his bed really stand out. The bed is made of brass and antique, we found it in France last summer, stuck in a corner somewhere at a ‘Vide Grenier’. The plexiglass Star Wars sign was found on the street when we lived in New York 13 years ago, before we were married and had children. We stored it all this time, until we had sons who would appreciate it in their room! I found the bedside table on the streets here in Amsterdam, and it displays all of Pim’s little treasures. (He is such a hoarder!) The house shelves were an investment I made a few years ago for the old room, and we still love them. The badger rug is from Molly & the Wolf.

xxx Esther

Everyday is a party! Gorgeous leather crowns from hubble + duke.

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My kids had a little party on our bed this weekend (like most weekends), and they were being so cute, wearing their leather crowns from Hubble + Duke, that I just had to take a few photos. And then, I even got them to sit still just long enough for a portrait! Yay!

Hubble + Duke crowns

Hubble + Duke is an Australian company run by three creative mums, offering some gorgeous goodies like soft mocassins, sweet rompers, adorable bloomers, and beautiful handmade apron dresses. And then, of course, there are the before mentioned crowns, which are so beautifully made and so comfortably soft. To be worn for dress up, birthdays, or just any day, because everyday is a party, isn’t it?

xxx Esther

Pretty stamps from PSikhouvanjou

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As a child I always loved stamps, but I remember them as something that belonged to teachers, not really to children. These days, I’m free to play around with stamps as much as I want to and I’m loving it. My inner child released!

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These pretty stamps are from PSikhouvanjou, and designed by talented designers Ingela P Arrhenius and Andrea Maasen. They’re darling to use to create gift wrap, cards, tags, or just about anything that requires a special detail.

xxx Esther

A healthy and yummy start of the year, with brown rice and lentils

healthy kedgeree

This recipe has it all: it’s made from ingredients you can probably find in your pantry. Also, it’s super healthy, it’s extremely yummy (my kids love it!), and it’s super easy to make (albeit not extremely quick, unfortunately). I made this for Courtney & co when they visited us in Amsterdam last month, and she has practically been begging me for the recipe ever since. Instead, I just bought her the cookbook (Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘It’s All Good ‘) but I thought I’d post the recipe here nevertheless, as it’s the perfect meal to start the new year healthily!

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 cup of brown rice
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 4 cardamom pods, crushed
  • A cinnamon stick
  • 1/3 cup Puy green lentils
  • 2 yellow onions
  • olive oil, sea salt

Heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet — add rice and spices and gently cook until the rice grains turn opaque, about 3 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and about 1 ¾ cups of water or vegetable stock. Turn heat low and let cook for about 45 minutes. Check regularly if you need to add more water! (You can also use quinoa, in that case, let cook for 20 minutes. I prefer the rice version though!)

In the meantime, cook the lentils in salted water for around 25 minutes. Drain and set aside. Peel the onion and slice thinly. Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring now and then, until totally soft and caramelised. This takes a good half hour. Set the onions aside as well.

When rice has cooked, turn off the heat and let mixture sit for 10 minutes. Uncover, fluff with fork and fold in the lentils and onions.

kedgeree2
I like to prepare a spicy vegetable / tomato dish along the side (this is where Gwyneth is loosing me — she doesn’t eat tomatoes!), for which I generally use:

  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 chilli pepper (or according to taste)
  • 5 small carrots, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 1/2 courgette, diced
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 yellow pepper, diced
  • 4 to 5 ripe fresh tomatoes, or one can of good plum tomatoes
  • (feel free to add aubergine, mushrooms, beans, leek, fennel, cabbage, etc etc)

Just sauté the onion, and chilli pepper and start adding the veggies one by one. Add the tin of tomatoes, bring to a boil and let simmer for around 20, 25 minutes. Add Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Bon appetite!

xxx Esther

PS The recipe for the kosheri is taken from Gwyneth Paltrow‘s book It’s All Good, a book I recommend! It’s available through Amazon (UK  or US ).

Super soft muslin swaddles from Bertie’s Blankets

Berties Blankets SwaddlesBertie’s Blankets are XL muslin swaddles, made by new mum Gemma Walker who decided big, soft swaddle blankets was what she wanted to make for her son Bertie — and for everyone else. Made from a special woven mix of cotton and bamboo rayon, Bertie’s Blankets are really incredibly soft. Not only that, they are also incredibly royal in size — so big, that I can still use them for Casper, and actually for Ava as well!

Bertie’s Blankets contain 30% cotton, and 70% rayon from natural bamboo fibres. Bamboo fibres are similar to those of cotton, but with many more advantages: thermal regulating (bamboo has amazing ability to regulate the body temperature), extremely absorbent (pulls moisture away from the skin), lightweight (open weave allows air to flow freely), quick to dry, naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, and anti-static. Also, the blankets have less lint and a smoother weave, making them extremely soft and super comfortable — even for babies with delicate skin and for those with eczema.

Berties Blankets Swaddle

I think they make the perfect baby present — they come in a pretty gift box, with swaddle instructions inside and other suggestions for use as well — like as a towel, a nursing cover, a blanket, a sun shade… And when baby grows they will still be so useful (I love the suggestion of using them as a turban for mum’s wet hair)! They’re easy to wash, quick to dry, and will get even softer over time — to be used over and over and over again.

xxx Esther

Happy New Year! (And let’s get organised!)

babyccino kids weekly planner final web KopieHappy New Year everyone! Here’s to a splendid, happy and healthy 2015 for all of you! Only a few more days of vacation for us, and then, on Monday, the children will be back in school and we will be back behind our computers — and behind tons of laundry to catch up with, fridges to clean and fill, birthdays to prepare, dentist appointments to make, etc. etc. This year though, we’re going to be so organised, because together with the talented Sara Betz from Litte Cube, we designed a super cute weekly planner which will help you to organise everything! We’re so excited by this, and we can’t wait to start using it on Monday.

You can just download the PDF here, and print to use. Happy New Year!

xxx the Babyccino Kids team

This month’s fabulous give-aways!

win_decEvery month we run amazing give-aways on our shopping portal, and now is this year’s last chance to win fabulous prizes! Here’s what we have lined up for you this month:

  • We have £100 of sweet girls-wear from Ses Petites Mains to give away — timeless designs created in San Francisco, for girls aged 12 months to 14 years!
  • Dutch label Koeka are offering one winner the super functional and sweet Oslo Sleeping Bag AND Florence Maxi Cosi Cover, both in the popular waffle fabric. The winner can have their choice of colour for this set worth £100!
  • Pepa & Co offer elegant, contemporary and handmade Spanish clothing brands for babies and children aged 0-6. These are pieces you won’t find on the high street. One lucky winner may choose the perfect holiday outfit to the value of £100 for your baby, girl or boy!
  • Kallio take vintage shirts and gives them a new lease on life by turning them into unique and timeless styles for children. Each piece is exquisitely re-crafted by hand in Brooklyn, NY and in limited quantities. You can now win $160 worth of unique, stylish clothing!

You can enter for all of the give-aways here; good luck!!

A Berlin Christmas market

ChristmasMarket_Star ChristmasMarket_Smoked_Salomon ChristmasMarket_Candy ChristmasMarket_Nutcracker ChristmasMarket_Roasted_Almonds ChristmasMarket_Angels ChristmasMarket_WoodWorks ChristmasMarket_Toasted_Almonds2 ChristmasMarket_NativitySceneOur new Amsterdam team-member Nina just sent me some photos of her visit to the Christmas markets in Berlin, and I just had to share them with you here! I’ve never been to a German Christmas market, but now that I saw these photos I just know we’ll have to go next year. Aren’t they just amazing? Such an atmosphere, and I love the artisanal products, and the old-fashioned candy and nuts and traditional smoked fish. Thanks Nina, for sharing!

xxx Esther

A Bag Full of Goodness, and hearty soups

Goodness_1

It’s the last day of school for the children here in Amsterdam before the holidays! I just took them there, it was still dark, and so stormy and cold and wet. In two days it will be the shortest day of the year here in the Northern hemispheres, and then, we’ll be counting down again to warmth and light.

This Bag Full of Goodness will be transformed in hearty and warm soups over the weekend, and will keep us healthy and happy! I really desire soups this time of year, and I’m always on the lookout for new, delicious recipes. Here are some soup recipes we’ve posted over the years and that have become family favourites, but I would love to get your suggestions for your favourite recipes, so please share!

  • My minestrone — full of veggies, one of my favourite soups and super healthy.
  • Pumpkin soup — my favourite pumpkin soup, the recipe comes from Courtney’s grandmother.
  • Turkish Bulgur and Red Lentil Soup — a recipe from The Guardian, delicious and healthy and I can always find the ingredients in my pantry.
  • Simple Tomato Soup — again, from the cupboard. Great for lunch, or for an easy dinner with good bread or a toasted cheese sandwich.
  • Celeriac Soup — this soup is delicious and healthy and perfect for a cold winter day. And so easy to make!

xxx Esther

PS That perfect Bag Full of Goodness is from Children of the Tribe, a cool Australian based lifestyle shop.

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